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Keep the Struggle Up

October 26, 2010

BY COYOTE SHEFF, Nevada ABC (Prison Chapter)

We have been slammed down, oppressed and confined to these prisons, ghettos and graveyards. Our stories and our lessons are manicured by the epidemics of pain, poverty, discrimination and struggle. We get poorer and the rich get richer as the story goes. There’s no justice, no rehabilitation, no freedom. We are taken to court on trumped up, bogus shit, given 20 charges for one incident, bullied into taking a “deal,” and then we are appointed a public defender ‘cuz we don’t have the money to acquire a more sufficient attorney, and in one year the person who is supposed to be representing us is a public defender, and then then next year that same person is a district attorney! So how could we really trust these people? How could we trust them with our lives? How could we be so willing to put our freedom in their hands?

It doesn’t make sense to repetitively place our lives and our freedom into the malefic hands of people who actually despise us. Will there ever come a time when we can start taking control of our own lives? When we can stop depending on the same people that oppress us, to help us? Is there any legitimate, respectable way to get ourselves out of the deleterious grips of this death machine? Is there any way to end these sentences of perpetual suffering? All the questions that come to me while I marinate in this lonely world of darkness, reflecting on the many sorrows I’ve seen. So many questions, but hardly enough answers.

The frustration leads me to sit up on my bunk and start strategizing on different ways that I can encourage my comrades in here to start taking the initiative to study and learn the law. I have a Xerox copy of Mumia Abu Jamal’s new book, Jailhouse Lawyers and I pass it out to others, trying to use it as a tool to inspire prisoners to learn how to become attorneys for the poor and oppressed. I sit here and wonder, “What else can I do? What clever ways are there to inspire people to study, to get them to learn?” Wouldn’t it be great if we could become our own attorneys, or would it even matter?

I’ve held study groups and had many one-on-one study sessions with comrades in here, where we’ve sat around for hours talking and debating, searching for tangible ways to represent ourselves and to learn how to bring ourselves out of this state of oppression, and to eliminate oppression and poverty altogether. To break through the barriers, to rise above the tragedies. Right now it’s just talk, but later who knows what it will be? Everything starts in the mind; one thing leads to another.

In this graveyard, it’s so hard to get books and literature sent in, because the administration has deliberately set so many obstacles and put so many restrictions and limits on things when it comes to receiving books that so many people in here have become discouraged and ended up giving up on trying to get books sent in. But I’ve been on an adamant mission for years to acquire all the literature I can get sent in to me, and to pass it out to as many people as I can, trying to turn this graveyard into a revolutionary university, so people in here can take all this time they have on their hands and use it to elevate their minds, reaching for higher degrees of learning, finding liberation through books. I love to be involved in all of these various acts of raising consciousness; I feel it’s so necessary in these times and situations. Not to mention that I’ve seen the lengths these pigs will go to make sure they’re keeping us confined to ignorance and stagnation. Books and reading materials are so important for us here, we who dwell in this gloomy world of degeneration.

I pass out literature on philosophy, politics, psychology, science, spirituality and I’m always passing out revolutionary materials too, and whatever else I can get, having study sessions when I can, discussing things with my neighbors for long hours into the night, all the way until my breakfast tray arrives, and sometimes, if the conversation is really good, I’ll eat and talk at the same time, every once in a while setting the tray down to pick up a book, or an article, so that I can read a passage, sentence, or paragraph out loud to my neighbor, to reinforce the stance I’m taking on certain subjects, or to help get my point across more clearly. I love to learn, I love to teach and I love to engage others. I crave the intellectual stimulation, and I can tell they crave it too.

We are here, confined to these cells, but we’ve found ways to communicate and express ourselves, to soak up knowledge and pass it on to others who we’ve deemed worthy of receiving such valuable gems. It’s miserable and depressing in here, so much atrocity and deterioration, but we’ve found ways to make the best out of a bad situation. We understand that we should never just lay down and accept this. We understand that we have to keep the spirit of resistance going strong inside of us, seeking solutions, striving for freedom, making sacrifices when the situation requires us to do so, and never giving up, never breaking down. Everybody that I consider a comrade understands this, and with this understanding we try to reach those that don’t understand, but who really need to understand. With understanding things are made clear, and when that happens, change happens.

You’ll find some of the most brilliant, most creative, most intelligent, most resourceful and most innovative individuals right here, confined to these hellholes. That’s what happens when we have all this time on our hands, with the fire of resistance burning in our hearts. We’ve been discarded by society and caged like animals, left to rot and decay, to deteriorate and fade away into a black abyss, to disintegrate into tiny fragments of nothingness. But we are here, alive and fighting to maintain our existence, going strong, with love beating in our chests. Revolutionary love. We keep that warrior spirit alive, and these pigs fear it, they hate it, and they envy it and that’s why they’re always trying everything they can to try to crush it, break it, tame it and destroy it, but no matter how hard they try, or what they do, there’s not much they can do to take that away from us.

Books and knowledge give us breath, it pumps life into our veins and activate our brains. With knowledge we are invigorated, rejuvenated and made worthy. Knowledge gets us going; knowledge is what sets us free. We use these books to quench our thirst and to feed our hunger.

Through these trials and painful situations I’ve come to learn the lessons of struggle and the importance of a revolutionary, underground education. I’ve learned how vital it is to my survival to be able to keep the fire of resistance burning in my heart. I’ve come to learn about sacrifice, solidarity and fortitude. I’ve got little baby cousins, nephews and nieces that I haven’t even met yet. I’ve fucked off my release date many times already, catching more time on my prison sentence for taking stands against these pigs and their injustices done to us. It’s hard for me to turn my back on the struggle. I’ve recently participated in a brutal riot here on my unit and I’ve got two years left before I go home, and now I’m getting letters from my moms and my brother, asking me what the hell am I doing, don’t I want to come home? They’ve made sacrifices for me, to help get me out of here, spending money on attorneys for me and everything, and yet I’m still in here caught up in the struggle and I’m conflicted, I want to go home, but I just can’t sit back as my fellow comrades stand up and make sacrifices to make important changes for everybody else. My family doesn’t understand my commitment to the struggle and it breaks my heart just as I know it breaks their heart to watch me do things that will jeopardize my release date.

But now I realize that the struggle is going to continue whether I’m in here or out there, and after all that I’ve been through and all that I’ve done, I am so lucky to still have the chance to get out of here. And now it’s time to go home. It’s for me to get out of here and do this from the other side of the razor wire.

I’m gonna do what I can to plant seeds and raise awareness while I’m still here because it’s impossible to overlook all the atrocity that’s going on around me every day. I see all these youngsters coming to prison now, little dudes as young as 14 years old! There’s no true leadership or anything meaningful in here for them to latch onto and it kills me. I see all the fakeness and foulness around here, and I’m always railing against it, trying to raise consciousness to these real issues we’re faced with. The mentality of some of these cats around here is hard for me to grasp and seems “suspect” in my eyes. The way they think, the way they act, I’m not feeling it. If you’re not striving for change or seeking solutions, or trying to elevate yourself, then what are you doing?

All I can say is that I got love for the real cats in here, I feel for them, especially the ones that have to stay here, I feel for them and will always keep them in my heart, recognizing them as kindred spirits.

I’ve done all I can to stock up all the comrades in here with good literature and to raise consciousness around here. I’ve been going at it so hard that I ended up losing two good friends out there who acted as my main benefactors, Gina and Katy. They couldn’t do it anymore, they couldn’t afford to keep making copies of books and literature for me, they couldn’t afford to keep buying books for my comrades in here, and it got to the point where they would dread getting a letter from me because I was always asking them to support me with this project or that project, on a mission to try to flood this prison with as much literature and educational materials as I can. They just couldn’t do it anymore. I feel bad that I won’t be receiving letters from these beautiful, compassionate warrioresses anymore. I feel bad that I’ve become so obsessed with my mission to raise awareness that I failed to take into consideration their needs and limitations. I will really miss them.

So, as one door closes, I guess it’s time to look on to new things and start focusing on my release date. I have to figure what I’m gonna do when I get out of here, how can I keep the struggle up from the other side of the fence, and things like that. I don’t have plans on getting rich or anything like that, I don’t care about none of that. I’ve been in solitary long enough to know that I don’t need lots of money to survive, so that’s one lesson I’ll be taking to the streets. I just want to be real and live right, helping when I can. I have a lot to figure out and a lot to think about. Two years to go, so close, yet so far away…

Until then, I will continue writing these essays, articles and zines, and things like that. This is my contribution to the struggle. I’m gonna let people know what’s going on, what we’re going through in these hellholes, I’m gonna keep spreading the truth whether these pigs like it or not, because the truth is dangerous! The truth is revolutionary! The revolution starts in our minds, so let’s get free, one mind at a time! My love goes out to all the people out there who have committed themselves to our struggles in here. Keep doing what you do, keep the struggle alive, keep it up.

If you want to be hard, you gotta go hard!

“Our expressive powers were strong and vibrant. If this could be nurtured, if the language skills could be developed on top of this, we could learn to break through any communication barrier. We needed to obtain victories in language, built on an infrastructure of self-worth.” — Luis Rodriguez (from his book: Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.) Good book, read it!

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