[Pnews] Free Black political prisoners and prisoners of war! Online forum focuses on the plight and need to support, organize for freedom fighters

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Aug 24 16:04:55 EDT 2021

Black political prisoners and prisoners of war! Online forum focuses on the
plight and need to support, organize for freedom fightersAugust 24, 2021

*by Naba’a Muhammad and Michael Z. Muhammad*

Political prisoners in American prisons have been the source of debate for
many years. And while the United States has denied their existence, Blacks,
Native Americans and others who questioned, organized and fought the evils,
genocide and bloody, deadly repression meted out by the government have
found themselves locked away.

Today many of the freedom fighters from the days of the Black Power, civil
rights movement and American Indian rights movements remain imprisoned,
sick, some dying and the U.S. government refuses to release them.
Death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal is pictured on July 14, 1995 as he leaves
court in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Nanine Hartzenbusch, pool)

“The existence of political prisoners in the United States goes to the very
heart of the racist nature of this society. To not deal with the issue of
political prisoners in the U.S. is to not deal with the true nature of
America,” Dhoruba Bin Wahad, a former Black Panther, Black Liberation Army
co-founder, and political prisoner targeted in New York and jailed for 19
years, once observed.

An Aug. 19 online discussion focused on the experiences and realities of
current and former political prisoners while discussing a tribunal planned
for October to again highlight their plight and increase organizing efforts
around their cases.

The tribunal planned for New York is part of continued grassroots work
underway to free political prisoners and continue the struggle against
American imperialism, colonialism, racism, and war, according to Black
Voices For Peace, which hosted the online discussion.

Veteran freedom fighter and former political prisoner Jalil Muntaqim, now
69 years old, talked at length about the 2021 “International Tribunal On
Human Rights Violations & U.S. Held Political Prisoners” planned for
October and spearheaded by the Jericho Movement, an organization devoted to
obtaining freedom for U.S. political prisoners and exposing their existence.

“This initiative appeals to the international community, including the
International Commission of Jurists, to call for special hearings within
the United Nations to review the cases of political prisoners and
genocide,” Mr. Muntaqim said. He first thought of the need for such a
tribunal while locked in solitary confinement. He served 49 years in prison
after conviction in the killing of two New York police officers. He was
released in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. He was a member of the
Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army. He stayed politically
active during his incarceration.

“The enemy has an outpost in our minds. In many ways, we are duplicitous
with America’s violent history because of our silence. This tribunal will
celebrate the 70th anniversary of the call by William Patterson and Paul
Robeson of genocide against the United States,” Mr. Muntaqim added.

According to the Jericho Movement, among political prisoners on lockdown
today is Ruchell Magee, who was denied parole again in June. He is the
longest-held political prisoner in the United States and the world, serving
time in California prison system for over 57 years. He is 81 years old.

He has served time related to the 1970 Soledad Brothers case and the
attempt of 17-year-old Jonathan Jackson to free his brother George Jackson
and others who were on trial and accused of killing a prison guard. Mr.
Magee was also freed but San Quentin prison guards eventually shot three of
the accused and critically wounded Mr. Magee survived. He was later
convicted of simple kidnapping.

“People have committed horrendous crimes and gotten much less time than
Ruchell. Mention that Ruchell was very young when he was arrested and he
should be able to enjoy the rest of his life outside of captivity. Add that
we as taxpayers pay to keep this elderly man incarcerated instead of in his
community, where he could make a positive contribution toward community
development,” said the Jericho Movement in an appeal for his release.

Others include Dr. Mutulu Shakur, who was sentenced to 60 years in prison
and targeted by the FBI’s now-infamous Counter-Intelligence Program as
early as 1968. “Dr. Shakur has served over 30 years in prison, and is
currently suffering from multiple myeloma (advanced bone marrow cancer). He
has been denied parole nine times and was recently denied a compassionate
release,” said the Jericho Movement. His family and friends are mounting a
campaign to petition President Biden to grant clemency in the case.

“Russell Maroon Shoatz, a 77-year-old political prisoner, is suffering from
stage 4 cancer,” said the Jericho Movement. His is another political
activist jailed for his role in the Black liberation struggle say those who
want him released.

Among political prisoners listed today by the Jericho Movement are Abdul
Aziz, Haki Malik Abdullah (formerly Michael Green), Sundiata Acoli
(formerly Clark Squire), Imam Jamil Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown of the
Black Panther Party and Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee), Joseph
Bowen, Veronza Bowers, Kojo Grailing Brown,  “Muhammad” Fred Burton, Byron
Shane Chubbock, Bill Dunne, David Gilbert, Hanif Shabazz Bey, Alvaro Luna
Hernandez, Kamau Sadiki, Larry Hoover, Abdullah Malik Ka’bah (formerly Jeff
Fort), Maumin Khabir, Eric King, Malik Smith, Marius Mason, Leonard
Peltier, Ed Poindexter, Rev. Joy Powell, Jessica Resnicek, and Mutulu
Shakir. Not to be forgotten are those who fled America and remain in exile
like Assata Shakur in Cuba.
This reward poster provided by the New Jersey State Police, announces the
federal reward of $1 million for the capture of convicted cop killer Joanne
Chesimard in West Trenton, N.J., May 2, 2005. Chesimard, who now calls
herself Assata Shakur, was convicted of the murder of Trooper Werner
Foerster but escaped from prison in 1979 and has been living in Cuba under
the protection of Fidel Castro’s government. Brooklyn Councilman Charles
Barron on May 24, 2005, is calling on the United States to rescind the $1
million bounty for Chesimard, describing her as an innocent victim of
racial bias. Photo: AP Photo/New Jersey State Police

“There are hundreds of people who went to prison as a result of their work
on the streets against oppressive conditions like indecent housing and
inadequate or complete lack of medical care, lack of quality education,
police brutality and the murder of people organizing for independence and
liberation,” the Jericho Movement noted. “These people belonged to
organizations like the Black Panther Party, La Raza Unida, FALN, Los
Macheteros, North American Anti-Imperialist Movement, May 19th, AIM, the
Black Liberation Army, etc., and were incarcerated because of their
political beliefs and acts in support of and/or in defense of freedom.”

A young vanguard of Black freedom fighters spoke during the “From Black
August to Black Liberation Commemorating the Struggle of Political
Prisoners” webinar convened by the Black Alliance for Peace.

The virtual event was hosted by Nnamdi Lumumba of the alliance.

Longtime activist Makungu Akinyela and a founding member of the New Afrikan
People’s Organization said over the  years he realized “everybody wasn’t
going to always be professional revolutionaries. So in 1990, we established
the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement with the idea that the masses of our
people needed a platform that they could organize under. That they could
organize around principles of self-determination, human rights, fighting
against genocide, fighting for the freedom of all of our people, regardless
of gender, sexuality, or sexual identity fighting against sexist oppression.

“And then, of course, we saw it as important to support our political
prisoners,” he said.

Black August is a month-long commemoration and prison-based holiday to
remember Black freedom fighters and political prisoners and highlight Black
resistance against racial oppression. It began to be popularized through
hip hop concerts among young people.

“A central element of Black August is to call attention to our freedom
fighters still held captive as political prisoners and Prisoners of War.
Some have moved into their fifth decade shackled as the longest serving
political prisoners on the face of the Earth,” observed the Black Alliance
for Peace.

“We believe Black August is about uniting the masses of our people with the
idea that there are political prisoners. They are prisoners of war,
brothers, and sisters who were willing to take up arms in self-defense of
our people’s struggle, and they deserve to be supported and not run away
from,” said Mr. Akinyela.

A young voice on the scene is Philadelphia-based activist, scholar, and
educator Krystal Strong, an assistant professor at the University of
Pennsylvania. She detailed the plight of the MOVE organization and the
lessons learned. She noted that August 8, 1978, was the date Philadelphia
police besieged the Black radical group’s compound resulting in the arrest
of 12 people, including the Move 9, members sentenced to prison for 30 to
100 years.

“What is lost in all of the noise is histories untold and underappreciated
in our Black revolutionary struggles,” Ms. Strong said. “We define this
radical revolutionary work by stories of state bias. What we don’t
understand is the revolutionary work of these organizations. MOVE’s protest
against the Philadelphia school board against educational injustice, their
protests at the Philadelphia Zoo against animal cruelty, the revolutionary
vision for respect towards all life, food justice, exercise, to being in
proper relationship with the planet.”

“And so one thing that I think MOVE’s history makes very clear to us,
particularly the history of political imprisonment, is that political
incarceration detracts from our revolutionary strivings,” she said. “The
fact that we know more about state violence against MOVE than what MOVE’s
radical visions were is a testament to the intended impact of political

“Another thing this illuminates for us is that political imprisonment
creates further harm. It spreads harms even beyond our beloved community
members and revolutionaries who are incarcerated,” Ms. Strong pointed out.

Another young presenter was Saudia Durrant, a Philadelphia-based racial
justice organizer with the Abolitionist Law Center and the Jericho
Movement. She brought fire and intensity in her presentation reminiscent of
old-time church religion. She talked about her work with young people,
demands for police-free schools, sanctuary schools free of agents from the
federal government’s Immigration, Customs and Enforcement agency, and
empowering young people to be community leaders.

“Our mission is exposing, challenging, and dismantling the American
punishment system. And we do this in solidarity with our comrades, putting
down this grassroots effort with other cities. We fundamentally believe in
doing this work to build the capacity to abolish these institutions and the
social constructs that attempt to legitimize the presence of state
violence. And believe our communities can create new methods of dealing
with these issues while politicizing our communities for self-defense,
self-determination, and independence,” she said.

“We say, educate, organize, agitate, liberate. The idea is clear that
whatever we are attempting to do, it begins with education and it ends with

Many of the activists paid homage to Min. Malcolm X as the inspiration for
their work. His teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, taught Min. Malcolm
and others sparking a revolutionary mindset, a desire for full and complete
freedom, and a nation for Black people. The Hon. Elijah Muhammad was also a
political prisoner, jailed for his teaching against the wickedness of the
American government during WWII.

His top student, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, has continued to
teach about the wickedness of America, warned of her destruction, and
exposed her warmongering, lies and wicked foreign and domestic policy. He
has also defended and supported political prisoners in the United States.

“Sacrifice is the unselfish giving of what one needs for oneself to
accomplish an end that is greater than oneself. The scriptures of the Bible
and Holy Qur’an are full of examples of sacrifice,” said Min. Farrakhan in
an address delivered during a benefit for then-political prisoner Geronimo
Pratt, a Black Panther Party leader who was eventually released after over
20 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

“It is not enough to praise Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Nat Turner, Nobel
Drew Ali or any of our brave freedom fighters. What we must do is take the
principles that they lived and died on and be willing to sacrifice to see
the end for which they lived and died. Then, and only then, will our living
not be in vain and their sacrifice not have been in vain,” the Minister

“There never has been a teacher of valid principles for the liberation and
survival of Black people in this country who has not been persecuted by the
United States government, maligned, falsely accused, vilified by this
system,” he continued. “Many criticized Elijah Muhammad, calling him
counterrevolutionary, because they did not truly understand revolution, but
romanticized about it. The root of revolution is light.

There is no motion without light. Light causes the motion of our planet.
This planet makes its revolution around the sun by the power of light
striking Earth at its equator, causing Earth to spin and producing the four
seasons. The introduction of light and knowledge to a people who are asleep
under the foot of oppression causes an idea of revolution to germinate in
their minds. There is no revolutionary who is worth his salt or his sense
that throws away his life. He wisely maneuvers in order that the revolution
may live.”

“Malcolm X was not a revolutionary until he met the Honorable Elijah
Muhammad. He was like most of us, wanting something better, but not knowing
how to go after it. Many of our people said the Muslims just want to talk
and sell papers. But Muhammad was wise; he said, ‘Yes, Brother, for now.’

How can we build a revolution without the idea of that revolution in the
heads, hearts and minds of the people? How can we get Black people to make
a sacrifice for an idea when we do not trust each other? We have to build a
record of trust among our people, which means you have to adopt principles
that encourage and promote trust.

“So the revolutionary that he was, he said, ‘Let me direct your anger to
something within you that is counterrevolutionary’—but he did not call it
counterrevolutionary. He simply said let me direct your anger to something
in you that is against the rise and liberation of our people.”

And Min. Farrakhan added, “We encourage this suppression by our
unwillingness to sacrifice, discipline and organize ourselves properly
against an oppressor and for our own liberation.”

Ms. Durrant put forth four strategies being used to free political
prisoners, including clemency, commutation, parole, and overturning
wrongful convictions.

“Communities must be organized to demonstrate solidarity, be it through
marches, rallies, community meetups, and cleanups, art in cultural
performances, organizing media content, and many other tactics to publicize
the movement,” she said.

Ending her presentation, Ms. Durrant discussed the dire medical conditions
facing political prisoners like MOVE member and former Black Panther Mumia
Abu Jamal, former Black Panther Russell Maroon Shoatz, and Native American
activist Leonard Peltier. “These are the mentors and the leaders of our
movements of our communities who languished behind bars. We know that our
folks are suffering inside, and we must honor them and commit to not
leaving them behind,” she said.

During the question and answer segment, threats confronting organizers were

“We do not have reserves for when the state inevitably targets us. We need
to out-organize our enemy. We have to learn from these histories. We have
to be a part of collective networking, particularly around the threat of
political imprisonment. We need to develop and share protocols that exist.
You know, many of us are on signal. Still, signal is not enough of a
strategy to out-organize the enemy that is in our bedrooms, our living
rooms,” Ms. Strong observed. “We need to up the ante around things like
protocols and safeguarding to the extent that we can.”
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