Fighting The Oppressor

By Kevin Cooper

This essay speaks to one of the many forms of oppression.
As an African American who is committed to fighting, and ending oppression, no matter where it happens, or who it happens to, I have to speak the truth. And my truth is what I have witnessed and personally experienced here in San Quentin Prison on Death Row since 1985.

I find myself in a real life-and-death situation here on Death Row, where hate, and for certain people, self-hatred, is an ongoing situation. Of course, this is not true concerning all the death row inmates, and I would be lying if I said that it was.

But what I am writing about happens enough to deserves attention.
Here, in this institution, as well as in all other modern day plantations there are only two types of people. They are the Oppressors and Oppressed! I am an oppressed person, and in truth, all the other inmates within these walls are Oppressed, even if some of them don’t think that they are, or aren’t  aware that they are.

There are certain inmates, who instead of uniting as one strong oppressed people in order to make all of our lives more peaceful and better, would rather (and in fact do) raise their fists in violence than raise their voice. They speak words of disrespect towards other oppressed inmates for whatever reason, (even if that reason is a made-up one), in order to hate and start trouble and keep madness going among us. Yet, these very same inmates refuse to raise their voice to the oppressor. They refuse to even raise an ink pen to write about the oppressor and this oppressive system of death that has us all imprisoned, and is trying to execute us—this system that is made to destroy us mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and every other type of way that it can before it murders us physically.

Whether these inmates do this consciously or unconsciously isn’t known by me or other inmates who also see this and shake their heads in disbelief like I do. What we do know however is this truth: The oppressor and his supporters love for this to happen, and they love to see it happen. They want and need to keep us oppressed people fighting each other. The good old game of divide and conquer is one of their most effective tools. These so called Brothers who are doing the oppressors’ work for them claim to know all about this game of divide and conquer, yet they still keep participating in this game to the detriment of we who are oppressed!

In 1964, the late Malcolm X stated to a crowd of people in Harlem that, “If you aren’ t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing”! He further stated, “The Oppressor is fighting you in the morning, fighting you at  noon, fighting you at night, and fighting you all in between, and you still think it’s wrong to fight them back! Why?”
This is exactly what is going on within this and other modern day plantations to one degree or another. I must also ask “Why?” As I and other inmates continue to do our part in this historical struggle for our collective human rights we do so consciously, and we refuse to do the oppressors’ work for him!

Though I and others are forced to live in such a place against our will doesn’t mean that we have given up or given in. It doesn’t mean that we will let the oppressor make us turn on each other in a negative way. We will continue to work to end all of our collective oppression as best we can.

Those inmates who choose to work against us and for the oppressor either don’t know, or don’t care that they are being misused by the oppressor. As the late Bantu Steven Biko, who is the father of Black Consciousness in South Africa, once said: “The most powerful weapon of the oppressor is the minds of the oppressed!”

Many of us on these modern day plantations refuse to give our minds or our spirits to these wholesale oppressors.  Those that do, “That’s their bad.” Only in acknowledging what is going on, can some of us avoid this trap that is easy to fall into here behind enemy lines.
In Struggle and Solidarity from Death Row at San Quentin Prison, 
Kevin Cooper  

February, 2014

True soldiers needed

From: SF Bay View
By: Amy Buckley, Dec. 24, 2013

Through the years women have played important roles in the revolutionary movement. Today it seems that women have lost interest in being a revolutionary, but it is time for that to change.


[Woman prisoner – Photo: Julie Schwietert]

Women, we have some big shoes to fill, but we can do it if we just step up. It is time to make a lifetime commitment to fighting to end oppression, injustice and inequality. It is time to join forces with our men and be true soldiers for the betterment of the world.

As women, we are most affected by capitalism and war casualties. We are also most persecuted by men. It is time for these things to stop!

Women make up 53 percent of the world’s population, so imagine the difference we can make if we unite and work together. We have so much to offer the movement. Not only are we able to organize and teach, but we also bring fresh perspective to a male-dominated movement.

We must step up and educate ourselves and our children, being willing to give our all for what we believe. Our children are the future, and it is up to us to teach and guide them, to prepare them to take over the movement and make a difference.

Our men can do only so much on their own. They need good strong women to stand with them and for them. Women who see the need for change and are ready to do whatever is necessary to bring that change to fruition.

We need you! We need women who are true soldiers, committed wholeheartedly to the struggle. Are you that woman?

How willing are you to stand united no matter what obstacles come your way? Together we can bring an end to oppression. The question is, how badly do we want it?

We live in a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Oppression rules and the oppressed can never get ahead. This has been accepted for far too long, and it is time for change.
People all over the world are beginning to unite, working together, organizing occupy movements and rallying against oppression, injustice and inequality, among other things. This is only the beginning of things to come.

Women make up 53 percent of the world’s population, so imagine the difference we can make if we unite and work together. We have so much to offer the movement. Not only are we able to organize and teach, but we also bring fresh perspective to a male-dominated movement.

As I stated previously, we need true soldiers, so allow me to elaborate on what a true soldier is. True soldiers do not allow fear to rule their lives. They understand the price they may have to pay and are more than willing to pay it.

A true soldier lives and breathes the struggle – to give up is not an option! They will gladly lay down their lives for what they believe and for their comrades. True soldiers stand unmovable in the face of adversity and give their all in every battle. They do not admit defeat for they know that every battle won brings them closer to winning the war on oppression. Are you a true soldier?

Women, for too long we have let our men fight, primarily on their own, to bring about change. It is time to step up and join our men in the revolution. We should be working alongside our men and each other, fighting as hard as they have and still are.

For every man in the movement, there should be a woman – there is power in numbers. The movement needs us!

The future of our children is at stake. It is our responsibility as women and mothers to set good examples for our children. The changes we fight for today are so they will no longer have to suffer. We owe it to our children, our men and ourselves to join the fight for change. If we don’t, who will?

Women, for too long we have let our men fight, primarily on their own, to bring about change. It is time to step up and join our men in the revolution.

Today I am calling all true soldiers – warriors willing to join the movement and fight to the end for the betterment of the world we live in, soldiers who will stand up and make a difference.
To the soldiers who are no longer with us – Marilyn Buck, George Jackson and more – and to those who are still fighting today, I salute you! All power to the people!

Send our sister some love and light: Amy Buckley, 150005, WCRCF C-Pod, 60 Stokes King Rd., Greenville, MS 38701.

Writing materials no longer allowed inside Mansfield Ad. Seg….

We received this from a correspondent who is currently in the “hole” in Mansfield C.I.:

Oct 10, 2012
Mansfield C.I.
From the “hole” (administrative segregation)
This is the last working pen we have. Guards said they no longer provide pens + they won’t let us get to our property to get pens, so this is a way to silence the entire segregation population. Isn’t it coincidental that policy changes like this occur every time I’m placed in segregation? You would almost think this is an effort to silence me, and everyone else impacted are just dolphins caught in a tuna net. So this may be the last anyone hears from me for a while, including my attorney. No pen, no outgoing mail.
As a last matter, all reading material sent to me is withheld, it would be wonderful if out of spite a million people sent reading material and overwhelmed the […] mailroom.

People: Please send this man some mail and interesting politically progressive reading materials (copies)!

Sean Swain # 243205
Mansfield C.I.
P. O. Box 788
1150 North Main Street
Mansfield, Ohio 44901

(or via

See for Sean’s writings and thoughts:

Realigning the Purpose

Sent in by John Neff

Words are not to be used lightly because they are too powerful to be guidance for personal agendas imparting the wrong message for change. Something should be said about this. A wall is being built with more obstacles being stacked in our way by those already imprisoned who fling dead labels around like reasons to accommodate their circumstances. This is an injustice to the true cause at stake here: Resistance and solidarity must arise to face the real wrongs being done; not the insignificant ones.

The words racism and/or discrimination are used too freely when they rarely apply. Too many in prison like to use these terms to describe their specific circumstances in here and it takes away from the relevant facts in this matter. There is a bigger reality here and issues that concern us all. In prison, we are ALL oppressed. We are ALL discriminated against. It is the nature of our confinement. Minorities aren’t minorities in here and yet the people use it as a slap right in the face to the rest of us suffering the same plights.

The real enemy must be identified and they wear the uniforms of our captors. It’s not fair to constantly march behind a banner saturated in an ancestry no longer known when the reason we don’t have equality is because we are incarcerated; simple as that.

The same ghosts from the past do not haunt us. It is a sham to send out half-truths or to be selfish in what the goal here is supposed to be; prison reform and shedding light on the foulness of these prisons.

In here, there is no black, white or brown as far as society is concerned. In their eyes, we are all criminals who deserve nothing except the crumbs from the soles of their shoes. That is what must be changed and where the true fight lies. Not in continuing theories of racism when this applies to every man or woman in prison. Our efforts need to focus on everything for everyone; not to point fingers at things to be used as a baseless excuse.

We are all suffering the same in our circumstances. As defined, racism means a belief that a race is superior to others. Well, that does not fit the model for reform because it is authority and society who believe they are superior to each one of us. Their actions – or inactions – prove it. This is OPPRESSION.

There seems to be a need to correct the aim of being heard and to remember the reasons for it. This cause must not live inside a bubble. This fight is not meant to include some while excluding others. The individualism expressed in this unique environment with its idiosyncrasies based in racial identity is irrelevant to the nature of reform. That is not the issues outside these walls.

John Neff #54213
P.O. Box 1989
Ely, NV 89301

Existing Isn’t Enough

Received from John Neff

It is absolute madness as the phantoms of volatility wreak havoc on even the most humble, peaceful man. Prison is doing its job for a society that does not even know it. We are now animals in our cages to be teased and the games of our captors have stretched beyond cruelty. The corrupted hands of those in charge and filthy from the criminality and torment that they inflict.

The regime that is turning us into doormats and daring us to challenge them is intolerable. Our festering hatred and need to do something about it is driving us crazy with fantasies of violence. This environment isn’t letting us change and it will not stop applying pressure. We are steadily losing bits of the infrastructure holding our humanity together while our captors continue to laugh at our impotence to do much about it; this is exactly as they designed it. If we snap, we are giving validation to their methods and more can be taken away.

Society needs to know what they turn a blind eye to and start to see this factory of discontent that it is engineering. How safe is anyone from those who only wish for retribution from the wrongs imposed upon them daily? This place has already reneged on its promise of rehabilitation. They’ve tossed hope into a landfill and buried it in self pity – then they set it on fire and the fire burns the color of desolation.

We are parlor tricks forced to dance for authority’s amusement. Our minds are being numbed by our circumstances while intellect diminishes from lack of stimulation. We jump when their schedule demands it and the cycle only worsens all the time with no end in sight. Time is trying to beat us into complacency with rules that serve no other purpose except to punish. The routine has us leaping through hoops to obey or else we will be denied the most basic necessity of life – food. Laws don’t protect us anymore or assure us of any fairness or even a measure of human treatment. The laws can be broken at will because even the courts will not intervene.

It costs too much to things right and the state budget allows the system of deference. They are given a license to oppress as long as society approves and since society doesn’t even know where its money or time is being wasted, it has no objections. Ignorance is the only way this system runs like this without a hitch.

Between the drab mountains of Nevada, in the vastness of its barren landscape, lie cesspools of the system’s disease. Prisons just like Ely State Prison that few really know about because it remains hidden from the populace by mirrors to deflect scrutiny and is draped in the layers of nonchalance by the tiny dot on the map it supports. The warden here wears his town like a ring on his fat finger and it has become his puppet to control just like he controls the prison. No one opposes his iron fist here. This is a dictatorship of “good ol’ boy” friendships and a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is always in place. All of the veneers may look clean and shiny but there are many dark facets to this world. Everything is only covered in the pristine white spackle of righteousness while many secrets are swept under the carpets of excuses that allow the system to overlook everything that is truly going on.

Currently, as a new day dawns with no changes forthcoming, the problems are glaring and staring at us to provoke us it seems. Just yesterday, a man was denied the human right to eat with no other recourse for nutrition available since the prison cancelled our purchase of supplemental sustenance through the canteen. In the past weeks, this has been the latest tool of abuse and has happened at least seven other times. Our food has even become involved in punishment and is leverage to satisfy morbid fascinations.

No one cares to fix it here forcing prisoners to improvise ways to fend for themselves behind a closed steel door. The question exists of how to stop what is happening? How fair is it that hired caretakers act this way without thought of repercussions? Isn’t their job contingent upon assuring every prisoner under their care the same treatment? The prison is well aware of the underlying abuses that take place but they just close their eyes to it acting like it never happened and let it persist unchecked. Where does a man turn when he is denied so much? When he only has his will to survive and has had enough? There is nothing left except his nature or his violence to get results for his suffering and even this is frowned upon. Yet, the abuses must be stopped somehow. The torment must exist through our mistakes – not our captors or this environment.

Contact those in charge to voice complaints or to ask questions to find out the truth. Or, write to me if you prefer!

John Neff #54213
PO Box 1989
Ely, NV 89301