United We Stand!
By Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan
Ohio State Penitentiary
June 30, 2011
Revolutionary Salute & Shields Up! It has come to our attention that the brothas at Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit will commence an indefinite hunger strike on July 1, 2011, to protest the inhuman and dehumanizing treatment and conditions they’ve been forced to endure for 25 years. Further, it is our understanding that their protest has been inspired by the successful hunger strike that two of my comrades and I participated in during January of this year, where we received massive international support from those on the outside who believed in the righteousness of our protracted struggle to fight to secure the same privileges as other condemned prisoners at Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP).
The call has been made, by those at Pelican Bay State Prison, for prisoners throughout the state of California who have been suffering injustices to join them in their peaceful strike to put a stop to the blatant violations of California prisoners’ civil and human rights. Moreover, their call made it perfectly clear that “if [California prisoners] cannot participate in the strike, then [they should] support it in principle by not eating for the first 24 hours of the strike.” While their heartfelt plea was not made to Ohio prisoners, a growing number of us at OSP have decided to join them in their peaceful protest. We hope and pray that our united stand with those brothas at Pelican Bay will have a domino effect throughout the nation—that is, where prisoners in other states, as well as their outside supporters, will come together and stand united with the oppressed soldiers at Pelican Bay.
Their injustices have been going on for far too long. How long? Too long! Twenty-five years is too long for human beings to be subjected to the cruel terms and dictates of their oppressors.
Regarding their challenges and the protracted nature of their struggle, we urge those brothas to brace themselves for the battle ahead. There will be no easy victory, yet those soldiers at Pelican Bay must be determined to stay the course and to go forward in the spirit of past and present revolutionaries to change the oppressive conditions of their confinement, no matter how difficult the circumstances may become. As Comrade George L. Jackson wrote: Revolutionary consciousness is the only real hope of those oppressed by the system.
Power to the oppressed people!
Enclosed herewith are some statement in support. In addition to these statements, I know that a growing group of us will be displaying our solidarity by refusing our three meals on Friday, July 1. We didn’t know if a longer hunger strike would help or overshadow their protest; thus we opted to support them in principle. Shields up!:
I salute and support your peaceful demonstration! Even though we’re in different state we still face the oppression that the bureaucracy known as the Department of so-called Rehabilitation and Correction imposes upon us through overtaxing us for phone calls and commissary as well as reducing food rations and things of this nature. In solidarity I give you my oath to support your cause by refusing all my meals for a 24-hour period. Stay strong and keep your heads up in your cause!
–J. (Slingblade) Lacewell
From Ohio State Penitentiary to Pelican Bay State Prison. Despite the distance, our cause is the same. I, among others here, vow to refuse my meals for at least 24 hours on July 1, 2011, in support of the non-violent protest at Pelican Bay. Comrades, you’re not alone in struggle, forward march!!
–Gary “G. Rilla” Roberts
”A Salute to the Brothas in Pelican Bay”:
Change, in the form of resistance against the countless injustices overlooked by the outside world in America’s prisons, has no doubt been long overdue. For years the mentality of many prisoners has been “only I” need to do my time & nobody else’s, but the conditions & flagrant injustices within these prisons affect all of us. We are all a part of the same fabric of oppression within these walls; we all experience the same or similar conditions in some form or fashion. That’s why I believe it’s very necessary for us to come together, put down the knives for a moment & demand the kind of meaningful change needed to produce better conditions & to combat abusive “power holders” in ways that foster collective resistance. Case in point – the brothas in Georgia (work stoppage demonstration) & the brothas out in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU). I recognize the call to action & the stance of resistance. The prison administration doesn’t care; regarding how prisoners are treated, it’s up to us to change our environment.
To all prisoners across America, wake up, stand up & dare to resist! Resistance on all fronts needs to be the action taken to bring forth some form of change. Even if it’s only a small change, mission accomplished!
Injustice will no longer be accepted or tolerated, period. May those brothas in Pelican Bay State Prison achieve their goal by taking a stand in the face of abuse, disrespect & mistreatment. As an act of solidarity for the cause & for prisoners in general, I choose to go those 24 hours without any food in support of the Pelican Bay SHU unit brothas’ demonstration.
–Ronnie “Shakur” Johnson
Here Bomani Shakur, one of the Lucasville 5, sends his message of solidarity and hope to the California prisoners who commenced a hungerstrike yesterday, on July 1:
Ask anyone who has ever been on a hunger strike, and they will tell you that the process of intentionally starving oneself is a very painful ordeal. Typically speaking, it is a protracted form of suicide; taken too far, the body will shut down and die. And yet, there are places on this planet where the idea of death is preferable to continuing down a path that offers no hope or relief from suffering. I live in such a place; I know.
In January of this year (2011), and after almost thirteen years of solitary confinement at the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP), I and several others went on hunger strike. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. However, after countless appeals to reason had failed, and after coming to the end of all that we could do (law suits, greivances, petitions, etc.) we made the decision to risk our very lives in order to bring about the necessary changes that would allow us to live as human beings. In the end, we stood firm, garnered world-wide support, and prevailed. Now prisoners in California, confined in the notorious Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison, have decided to undertake a similar course of action. To them, I say: Bravo!
In a country that incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world (over 2.6 million men and women behind bars), human rights violations are inevitable, and it falls to those of us who must suffer through the experience to stand up and speak truth to power; for, as Frederick Douglass suggested: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”
In the days to come, the men at Pelican Bay will need each and every one of us to support them, to stand with them as they seek to bring their situation to a tolerable level. What they are demanding is basic:
– Individual accountability
– Abolish debriefing policy, and modify active/inactive gang status criteria
– Comply with US Commission 2006 recommendations regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement
– Provide adequate food
– Expand and provide constructive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status inmates
Let’s come together to assist these men in their time of need and show them that their status as “criminals” does not automatically disqualify them from being human beings. In my time of need, I found this to be the truth and it reaffirmed my faith in humanity. Give these men the opportunity to feel that outpouting of compassion.
And to the men at Pelican Bay (Todd, Danny, et al), I simply want to say: Stay the course; pay attention to what you are doing; and when things get rough (and they will) , know that you are not alone. By and through the activation of what he called “Satygraha,” – or truth force – Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy in the world. In every evil that threatens us, the truth – once known – has the power to set us free. Hold on to that.
The system as it currently exists must change, and this, what you all are doing right now, may very well be the catalyst to bring about that change. Remember that.
And remember this: the first three days are the hardest; after that, it’s mind over matter. When the body is brought under control, the mind is set free to receive revelations. Be on the lookout for that; and when they come, when the truth of your situation is revealed, stay in that space. Drink as much water as you can, stay hydrated (read: coffee is a diuretic). And when the time comes, be sure to get everything in writing!
Calling all arms * Calling all arms
Ohio State Penitentiary (2011)
For the latest updates on the California Prisoners Hunger Strike, please visit: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/