Greetings to all of the freedom fighters, warriors and honorable supporters in this struggle to End Mass Incarceration and Prison Slavery. Two thousand and seventeen has been a year of incubation for the Free Alabama Movement. Many of us have been subjected to intensified repression, cast deeper into the recesses of solitary confinement, causing us to merge into a new, stronger and more powerful incarnation of the original.
Sometime last year, the ADOC (Alabama Department of Corrections) erected what amounts to a SHU (Special Handling Unit) at Limestone Correctional Facility. Brother Dhati Khalid (“Freedom or Death”) was the first freedom fighter to be transferred there from here at Donaldson Correctional Facility in approximately May 2016. Brother Kinetik Justice, who has now served approximately 40 consecutive months, was sent there late last year. These remain the only two men who have been sent to SHU-Limestone for political reasons.
As for me, I am personally on my 10th month after returning to seg (segregation, or solitary confinement), which makes 36 of the last 41 months. At present, I am being held on “isolation” status – no contact, “Walk Alone,” no phone, visitation, books, magazines etc. supposedly under INVESTIGATION for unspecified reasons. Nevertheless, life moves on.
Many of us are excited about Aug. 19, 2017. There will be an event in Montgomery, Alabama, in addition to the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March in Washington, D.C. We MUST seize this moment in our movement.
Stokely Charmichael pointed out in his book “Ready for Revolution” the important distinction between mobilizing people versus organizing people. As organizers, it is extremely important that we seize upon the opportunity that #A19 will bring, to organize our supporters.
How do we do this?
First and foremost, we must stay on message. And what is that message? We are uniting to End Mass Incarceration and Prison Slavery. In doing so, we have to keep at the forefront of our heart, mind and spirit that slavery – which predominates over mass incarceration – is an economic enterprise system that is mathematically put together and thus capable of being scientifically taken apart.
The basic premise of this deconstructive science is simple: “There can be no slavery without the slave.” As I state in my forthcoming book, even if 1 million people do attend our events on #A19, it won’t do much good if 1 million prison workers – slaves – get right back up and continue to answer that “work call” year in and year out.
People in society are not the ones working these prison slave labor jobs, so we can’t afford to allow them to EVER entertain the impression that they can free us simply by marching. We have to put a plan in place for them to support.
The ultimate job of deconstructing slavery remains on us, the slaves. Simply stated, we have got to stop the slave labor, and our movement has to organize our supporters around our plan to launch our next round of massive strikes, whenever that date is set.
Social, political and ECONOMIC education must be ramped up
One thing I have noticed about our writings behind these walls is that, while we have written enough to fill up several universities with social and political content, we have very little material on economics. It is going to be next to impossible to build awareness around the true nature of our movement if we don’t start the process of educating on the economic factor of slavery.
Solitary confinement has its origin on the plantation as the “nigger box.” Our water has always been contaminated. As slaves, we never had health, dental or prenatal care on the plantation. Sabre Red and Cell Buster spray have merely replaced the whip.
These are but the residuals of slave plantation life. As long as there is the economic enterprise of slavery, these residuals will always exist. Furthermore, if we stopped any of them or all of them, so long as we continue to provide slave labor, slavery will remain intact.
We have to make a much more concerted effort to put the focus on the economic factors at play. When people understand how $$$ is the driver, we have to then help these same people understand how “their” money or “their” labor is what is keeping this system of slavery alive. In economic terms.
Information needs to be organized so that our loved ones can see just how their money is fueling the system; then we have to help them organize boycotts and the withholding of funds at strategic moments. For example, when our families send us commissary money, they need to know 1) how much money they are sending collectively each month, and 2) how the prison system is using this money to keep the prison system intact.
In Alabama, commissary profits are used to purchase batons, mace, handcuffs etc. When our loved ones and supporters gain awareness of this, they can better see where their power lies and how they can use it effectively.
If a prison profits $20,000 each month, that’s $240,000 each year. If they were to organize, say, rolling boycotts of every other month, that’s six months – January, March, May, June, September, November – and $120,000 that they have removed from a prison’s operating budget. These types of deficits are very disruptive to a prison budget.
When we combine these types of maneuvers with phone boycotts and incentive package boycotts, these types of tactics add up fast. These are the types of methods that we need our family members and supporters organizing year-round, non-stop.
Of course, the Great White Whale remains the workstrikes. Why? Because this is easily a $100,000,000,000 industry that WE control. That is the one thing that has to penetrate through to our consciousness: We actually control a $100 billion industry through our labor. If you don’t think that slave labor has power, just think about all of the wealth that it has created.
These are just some of the companies that we produce products for and provide services for, or who make money off of us: Abbott Laboratories, ALRT, AutoZone, Bayer, Caterpillar, Costco, John Deer, Eddie Bauer, Exxon Mobil, Fruit of the Loom, Gelco, GlaxoSmithKline, Glaxo Wellcome, International Paper, Jan Sport, J-Pay, K-Mart, Koch Industries, Mary Kay, McDonalds, Nintendo, Pfizer, Proctor & Gamble, Quaker Oats, Sarah Lee, Sprint, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, WalMart, Wendy’s.
There are many thousands more, and even more institutional investors. But these are just the products and services. We also have to look at the labor costs. Not including work releases, in Alabama there are approximately 10,000 laborers. This is the math on just one eight-hour workday at minimum wage:
10,000 x $8 per hour = $80,000 per hour
$80,000 per hour x 8 hours = $640,000 per day
$640,000 per day x 20 days each month = $12,800,000
So, just by going to work each day, five days a week, even at a minimum wage rate of $8 per hour, we are giving the state $12,800,00 each month in free slave labor. This is barbers, runners, kitchen, yard, road squads, infirmary workers etc.
Multiply that by 12 months, and the state is getting approximately $163,600,000 in free labor. And remember, this is just the cost of labor. These figures don’t include what that labor is producing. In Alabama, we are producing agricultural goods, tags, furniture, chemicals, beef, fish, recyclings, sand mines, print shop and more.
And these figures are before we ever get money sent by J-Pay, which transacts about $1 billion a year, and before we draw canteen, make medical co-pays, make phone calls etc. These are billion dollar entities, and we are the capital.
We have … got … to … get … these … numbers … before … the … people so that everyone can see our power. No state’s prison budget can withstand the loss of our collective economic might, but we have to put this shit in its proper context. Slavery is ECONOMICS! So the solution must be also.
I will close with this. In 2015, I drafted a document called FAM’s Six-Step Plan of Action 2015. What I consider to be the most important step in that plan is the establishing of one central detention facility jail prison in each state to serve as a “headquarters” for organizing – by our outside, free world support. Just go, set up shop, and start organizing. Collect contact info, pass out newsletters and pamphlets, set up conference calls etc.
Establish shifts around visitation days. It could start out as just one person, but don’t stop until that entire place has the message. Then, set a test date for a phone boycott. Set another for a canteen boycott, and another for a short workstrike. The plan is to organize that one institution, both inside and out. When that one is done, then reach out to the next one.
We can’t be grassroots with no boots on the ground. This is how outside support can help those on the inside organize under any circumstance. But these posts have to become permanent. More details of this plan will be forthcoming, but for now we have to get on to the discussion about economics. There truly is power in numbers, especially when it comes to economics.
Free Alabama Movement (FAM) Economic Challenge
What products are produced at your place of incarceration?
What service industry (e.g., call center) is located at your place of incarceration?
How many people provide labor at your place of incarceration?
How much money do loved ones send to prison accounts each month at your place of incarceration?
Approximately how much money is spent on canteen at your place of incarceration each month?
Approximately how much is spent on collect calls at your place of incarceration each month?
Would you be willing to participate in and/or help organize a bi-monthly phone and canteen boycott for the year 2018?
Send our brother some love and light: Melvin Ray, 163343, Donaldson CF 1-3, 100 Warrior Lane, Bessemer AL 35023. If you are responding to the FAM Economic Challenge at the end, send your response to Unheard Voices OTCJ, P.O. Box 10056, Longview, TX 75604.SF BAYVIEW
Last month, on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, millions of people diverted their collective attention to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Atlanta, Ga. At the same time, on the other side of the country in Las Vegas, Nevada, almost 250,000 people congregated for the start of the week long CES presentation (formerly Consumer Electronics Show), the world’s largest tech trade show. On display will be the latest technological innovations that will influence and dictate the future of the world that we live in.
Unfortunately, most of us will be more in tune with the sporting spectacle – which will afford us an emotional discharge and escape from the reality of our problems – than those of us who will be focused on learning what technologies will be available for us to continue to advance our struggle towards a solution in our digital world.
The theme of the CES platform is directed towards consumers. Ultimately, though, these technologies will be refined for policing purposes and will be used to control our lives behind these walls. And just like the consumer show, corrections agencies have their own “tech” convention every year, hosted by the American Correctional Association, where they exchange ideas and shop for products.
Commissioners, wardens, officers’ union representatives etc. shop for locks, new restraint chairs, tasers, body armor, biometric devices, surveillance equipment, new prison architecture and designs, prison movement and population management software, body cameras, cell extraction gear, riot control ammunition, leg monitor systems, all the way down to the toilets, sinks and typewriters related to controlling their lucrative hundreds of billions of dollars’ prison slave industry.
Notoriously missing from this equation is us, the very people who are being controlled by these technologies. To a degree, we have been able to make effective use of social media to wage our fight to end mass incarceration and prison slavery.
In several of my articles throughout this series promoting our Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 boycott, I proposed that we utilize this year-long bi-monthly February-April-June-Black August-October-December boycott to develop a national organization and put forth a national agenda and plan of action; create a digital storefront so that we can generate revenue from our talents, skill and abilities (think eBay, Amazon-type store); and most importantly, we need to get us an app created so that we can collect, organize and disseminate all of the information that is critical to us building awareness to our struggle and what people can do to join, support and share information about our movement.
Information on hunger strikes and work strikes pertaining to our movement all needs to be one click away on the app. Planned protests at prisons, state DOC headquarters or private companies that profit off of prisons, like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Nintendo, Starbucks, CoreCiv, Access Secure, J-Pay, AT&T, Canteen and Verizon, all need to be one click away on our app. Companies that contract with DOCs like the collect phone companies and their revenue and profits need to be one click away. And every product made or service provided at each individual prison needs to be one click away.
Right now, all of this data is scattered out all across the internet, in various books and in reports that people have no idea where to start looking for. According to a research study by the Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation at Washington University in St. Louis, in 2016, the true cost of incarceration is estimated to be $1 trillion per year, and the researchers also found that more than half of those costs are being shouldered “directly by prisoners, their families, and their communities.” That’s a lot of information scattered around.
If we, indeed, are shouldering the burden for over half of these costs, which amounts to $500 billion, then isn’t it reasonable to expect that we should do a better job of collecting this information and tracking this money so that we can better organize our movement towards bankrupting prison slavery?
I would surmise that if we contribute over $500 billion in direct financial contributions, then the other half is probably coming directly from our labor. In Nas’ song, “N—–”, he said that in relationship to our problems, we are both the question and the answer. Well, if we are the financial pillars of this system, we are both the problem and the solution. In prison slavery, we are the slave and the master.
In the December 2017 issue of Bay View, our Brother Terrance Amen stated the following: “We all know what the problems are, but very little energy and effort are focused on the solutions. We are not the ones who put ourselves in this situation, but we are the ones who continue to stay in this situation because of the way we spend our money.”
Our Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018 focuses all of our energy and effort on the solution to the problems that we perpetuate from the way that we are spending our money while in prison. Invariably, solutions create issues because solutions call for sacrifice.
Talking about a problem is easy. In these prisons, even in the Bay View, we see much talk devoted to the problem. The solutions that are offered – if one can waddle through all of the talk and find one – usually deviate far and wide from any sacrifices being made. The norm usually reveals signs of the “savior complex,” where we are calling for the politicians to fix it.
But Brother Amen also said: “Politics will not solve our problems. Black economics will.” That’s why the most important aspect or feature of the Campaign 2RTP is the incorporation of our family members and others who make financial contributions to us in prison.
A lot of people in prison simply don’t want to make any sacrifices whatsoever, and have no problem exploiting the people who love them for funds. They don’t dare educate their people about this movement, our boycotts or otherwise. This Campaign 2RTP is designed for us to be able to bypass those negative elements and engage these family members directly. Getting our app created will only make this process that much easier.
Those of us on the inside know that prisons have an economy too, as well as a culture set up to exploit those just entering the system. With prisons across the country being so overcrowded and understaffed, administrators have resorted to alternative methods to control such large populations.
One of the things that wardens and officers do is select collaborators from the population to help them control the masses in much the same way that slave owners used to do. These collaborators are allowed to control the drug, liquor, cigarette, gambling and other markets.
When the youth enter the prison, they are immediately preyed upon. Those youth who have money or financial support are steered towards drugs and other vices. Those who have nothing are recruited to gangs, the “armies” that the dealers use or, lacking these, they are turned out and forced into quasi-prostitution or they become labor slaves.
Those of us who recruit them for education and self-development are targeted by the system. When we try to build our movement and open the eyes of the youth and the people to what is really going on with mass incarceration and prison slavery, we become subject to “hits” like our ancestor Hugo Pinell and so many other warriors.
The collaborators work with the police to stop the movement but they never work with the movement to stop slavery. These are dynamics that people in society don’t know about, but the Campaign 2 RTP 2018 will serve many purposes before it is done.
Once again, I strongly recommend that as many of you as possible reach out to Queen Tahiyrah of Sign o’ the Times blogtalk radio and connect your/our families to her. Queen T hosts shows where incarcerated brothers and sisters call in from prison along with family.
Our Warrior God from Free Alabama Movement, Dhati Khalid, and the rest of the F.A.M.ily are also always tuned in. Call her at 513-913-2691 or reach out to F.A.M. and Bro Dhati at P.O. Box 186, New Market, AL 35761 and let’s all get connected.
Family support in prison requires devotion of a tremendous amount of time, money, sacrifice and other resources. Those of us on the inside have a duty and obligation to make sure that their sacrifices are worth it and appreciated.
If an incarcerated person does not have a GED, then there is no legitimate reason why they should not be in GED school after six to nine months in prison. Once they complete GED, if they don’t have an employable skill or trade, they should enroll in trade school.
These accomplishments will only help with parole eligibility and other release programs. And more importantly, they will help with self-development and with returning an asset to the community instead of a liability.
Families should encourage, support and ultimately demand as much in return for their sacrifices and support. We need to make sure that these important messages are reaching everyone, because we can’t continue to fund the institution of slavery.
Family support should also set a hard budget on how much money they can afford to send into a prison and stick to it. Too many people in prison are young when they enter and, thus, have no real concept of paying bills, child care, emergencies, elderly care, unexpected repairs etc. All they know is their needs. And, the vices in prison are strong, too, and expensive.
If an incarcerated loved one can’t stick to their budget and is constantly calling home for money, pay pals and green dots, then this is a red flag and warning sign that something is wrong. Gambling, drug abuse and wasting money in prison trying to portray an image are real problems, and the opioid crisis that is claiming so many lives in America is alive and well in the prison, too.
All of this is being financed by someone or being facilitated by someone. If this someone is you, please stop it now and help us bring everyone home from prison as soon as possible, starting with the defunding effort being spearheaded by our Campaign to Redistribute the Pain 2018.
We have talked about the problem ad nauseum. We have cried enough tears to fill up many rivers. Our complaints have been noted and ruled on, and we have held on and endured for many seasons. As my Aunt Mary in Mississippi DOC would say, “Enough is enough.” Now is the time to Redistribute the Pain in 2018.
Our Campaign 2 RTP 2018 kicks off on Feb. 1, 2018, to begin Black History Month. It is time to not only celebrate Black history but to also show that we have learned from the lessons of history that is part of our heritage by using those lessons to help solve our problems.
Dare to struggle! Dare to win!
Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun, Free Alabama Movement
Book of the month: “We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement” by Akinyele Omowale Umoja
Literature of the month: “Liberation or Gangsterism” by Russell “Maroon” Shoatz/s
Newspaper of the month: Bay View
Word of the month: Sacrifice
Send our brother some love and light: Melvin Ray, 163343, Limestone CF D-70, 28779 Nick Davis Rd, Harvest AL 35749.