You are browsing the archive for anti-capitalism.

Strategizing to Defeat Control Unit Prisons and Solitary Confinement

3:01 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

An interview with author/activist Nancy Kurshan

Out of Control

Nancy Kurshan documents her lengthy battle against solitary confinement in prisons.

Author and longtime activist Nancy Kurshan’s new book, entitled Out of Control: A Fifteen Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons, has just been released by the Freedom Archives. Kurshan’s book documents the work of The Committee to End the Marion Lockdown (CEML), which she co-founded in 1985 as a response to the lockdown at the federal prison in Marion, Illinois. It quickly turned into a broader campaign against control unit prisons and human rights violations in US prisons that lasted fifteen years, until 2000.  The following excerpt from Out of Control details CEML’s origins:

I had been living in Chicago for about a year when I heard the news that two guards had been killed by two prisoners in the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, 350 miles south of Chicago. Although it was an isolated incident with no associated riot conditions, the prison was immediately placed on lockdown status, and the authorities seized on the opportunity to violently repress the entire prison population. For two years, from 1983 to 1985, all of the 350 men imprisoned there were subjected to brutal, dehumanizing conditions. All work programs were shut down, as were educational activities and religious services.

During the initial stage of this lockdown, 60 guards equipped with riot gear, much of it shipped in from other prisons, systematically beat approximately 100 handcuffed and defenseless prisoners. Guards also subjected some prisoners to forced finger probes of the rectum. Random beatings and rectal probes continued through the two-year lockdown. Despite clear evidence of physical and psychological brutality at the hands of the guards, Congress and the courts refused to intervene to stop the lockdown…

… Although the terrible conditions at the prison were striking, what drew us to Marion in particular was the history of struggle of the prisoners and their allies on the outside. When the infamous Alcatraz was closed in 1962, Marion Federal Penitentiary was opened and became the new Alcatraz, the end of the line for the “worst of the worst.”

In 1972 there was a prisoner’s peaceful work stoppage at Marion led by Puerto Rican Nationalist Rafael Cancel Miranda. In response to this peaceful work stoppage, the authorities placed a section of the prison under lockdown, thus creating the first “control unit,” essentially a prison within a prison, amplifying the use of isolation as a form of control, previously used only for a selected prisoner. That was 1972.

At this time, in 1985, after two years of lockdown, they converted the whole prison into a control unit. Importantly, because Marion in 1985 was “the end of the line,” the only “Level 6” federal prison, there were disproportionate numbers of political prisoners—those who were incarcerated for their political beliefs and actions. These included people such as Native American Leonard Peltier who had spent years there until recently, and now (in 1985) Black Panthers Sundiata Acoli and Sekou Odinga, Puerto Rican independentista Oscar López Rivera, and white revolutionary Bill Dunne. These were people we knew or identified with, activists of the 1960s and 1970s incarcerated for their political activities. Marion, like its predecessor Alcatraz and its successor ADX Florence, was clearly a destination point for political prisoners.

Kurshan writes that during the 15 years of work, “CEML led and organized hundreds of educational programs and demonstrations in many parts of the country and tried to build a national movement against ‘end-of-the-line’ prisons. Along the way the Committee wrote thousands of pages of educational and agitational literature and pioneered new ways of analyzing and fighting against this national quagmire that morphed into the proliferation of the ‘prison industrial complex.’”

Out of Control’s online version features several dozen links to the literature CEML created, as well as further documents, pamphlets, audio and video segments. Asked to spotlight a few of her favorites, Kurshan recommended: The Myth That the Pelican Bay Control Unit Has Reduced Violence, a 1995 issue of the CEML’s newsletter Walkin’ Steel, the U.N. Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, Bill Dunne’s 1988 34-page handwritten article about Marion, and an article by Kurshan herself, entitled Women and Imprisonment in the US: History and Current Reality.

In this interview, Nancy Kurshan discusses her new book and covers a variety of topics, including the growth of solitary confinement and its relation to mass incarceration, the connection between US militarism abroad and domestic prisons, concluding with the lessons that today’s human rights activists can learn from the history of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown.

Angola 3 News:         Your new book chronicles fifteen years of organizing against control unit prisons, from 1985-2000. Can you begin the interview by explaining exactly what a control unit prison is?

Read the rest of this entry →

Medical Self Defense and the Black Panther Party –An interview with Alondra Nelson

1:25 am in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Medical Self Defense and the Black Panther Party

–An interview with Alondra Nelson

By Angola 3 News

Alondra Nelson, a professor of sociology and gender studies at Columbia University, is the author of a new book released last month, entitled Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination. By documenting the multifaceted health activism of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and critically assessing the BPP’s strategy and tactics in a respectful and appreciative manner, Body and Soul presents an analysis that is rare and badly needed in US colleges and universities today. In this interview, Nelson discusses how the Panthers’ legacy can both inspire and provide important strategic lessons for today’s new generation of political activists
http://my.firedoglake.com/myfdl/wp-content/themes/myfdl_user/_inc/images/domain_blocked_default.png
In her book, Nelson writes that “the Party’s focus on health care was both practical and ideological.” On a practical level, the BPP provided free community health care services, including preventative education. Simultaneously, the BPP railed against the medical-industrial complex, declaring that health care was “a right and not a privilege.” Ronald “Doc” Satchel, the minister of health for the Chicago BPP, wrote in the BPP newspaper that “the medical profession within this capitalist society…is composed generally of people working for their own benefit and advancement rather than the humane aspects of medical care.” A newsletter published by the Southern California chapter argued that “poor people in general and black people in particular are not given the best care available. Our people are treated like animals, experimented on and made to wait long hours in waiting rooms.”

By 1970, People’s Free Medical Clinics had become a requirement for every BPP chapter. In 1972, the BPP revised point six of the founding ten-point-platform, adding a demand for “completely free healthcare for all black and oppressed people…We believe that the government must provide, free of charge, for the people, health facilities which will not only treat our illnesses, most of which have come about as a result of our oppression, but which will also develop preventative medical programs to guarantee our future survival. We believe that mass health education and research programs must be developed to give Black and oppressed people access to advanced scientific and medical information, so we may provide ourselves with proper medical attention and care.”

While citing Martin Luther King’s 1966 declaration that “of all forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane,” one chapter provides an important historical context for the BPP’s health activism by detailing what Nelson calls “the long medical civil rights movement,” that began long before the BPP. “Mobilized in response to the distinctly hazardous risks posed by segregated medical facilities, professions, societies, and schools; deficient or nonexistent healthcare services; medical maltreatment; and scientific racism, activism challenges to medical discrimination have been an important focal point for African American protest efforts and organizations. The Panthers were heirs to health activism that directly reflected tactics drawn from this tradition,” writes Nelson. Read the rest of this entry →

SOUL ON FIRE –Online play portrays Herman Wallace of the Angola 3

10:13 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Activist, writer, and actress Linda Carmichael explains that she “first wrote the play SOUL ON FIRE about seven years ago, and has had several staged readings performed since, including one Off Broadway. I had been corresponding with Herman and he knew I was an actress and suggested I write a play. It was called ‘Life’s Morsel’ and was a multi media theater play for seven characters. A lot of the dialogue was from actual letters that Herman and I wrote to each other over many years. Some of the play is fictionalized and I wrote some of his lines from ‘channeling’ him. With his approval I later changed the name to SOUL ON FIRE.”

Last year, Carmichael wrote a version for two speakers, and a performance of this new version has been videotaped for the internet. The full version is still being edited and finalized. Until then, Carmichael has just released these two short segments to give audiences a preview. One video features Carmichael herself and the other features the eminent Shakespearian actor, Johnny Lee Davenport (shown in the photo above).

Carmichael’s daughter, Lauren Muchan (previously interviewed by Angola 3 News) used some of the script for her award-winning short documentary film, “Letters to Angola,” (embedded below) which is featured on the DVD for the new British film about the Angola 3, entitled “In the Land of the Free.” Carmichael directed the voice over for Lauren’s movie, with Johnny Lee Davenport playing Herman.

Carmichael would love the play to be used more as a tool for spreading the Angola Three story. The new version for two actors is particularly easy to use for readings, and she can rewrite it to accommodate the part of Elizabeth being played by an American. If anyone wants to do a reading, please email her at this address: lindacarmichael13@gmail.com.

Linda Carmichael with the late Anita Roddick, who was a supporter and friend of the Angola 3.

What Latin American social movements can teach US activists

8:20 pm in Uncategorized by Angola 3 News

Dancing With Dynamite

–An interview with Ben Dangl

By Angola 3 News

Benjamin Dangl, author of the new book Dancing With Dynamite (AK Press), was video-interviewed by Angola 3 News this week while visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, on tour with his book, which has been positively reviewed by a range of publications and writers, including Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, who proclaimed that “Ben Dangl breaks the sound barrier, exploding many myths about Latin America that are all-too-often amplified by the corporate media in the United States.”

Dangl has previously written The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (AK Press, 2007), and contributed to Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Latin American Issues (McGraw-Hill, 2006). He has written about politics and social issues in Latin America for The Guardian Unlimited, The Nation Magazine, The Progressive, Utne Reader, CounterPunch, Alternet, Common Dreams, Z Magazine, La Estrella de Panama and more. While currently teaching Latin American history and politics and globalization at Burlington College in Vermont, he also works as editor of the news websites: Upside Down World, focusing on politics and social movements in Latin America (founded by Dangl), and Toward Freedom, a progressive perspective on world events.

In Dancing With Dynamite’s introduction, Dangl writes that “this book deals with the dances between today’s nominally left-leaning South American governments and the dynamic movements that helped pave their way to power in Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil, and Paraguay. The discussion surrounding the question of changing the world through taking state power or remaining autonomous has been going on for centuries. The vitality of South America’s new social movements, and the recent shift to the left in the halls of government power, make the region a timely subject of study within this ongoing debate. Though often overlooked in contemporary reporting and analysis on the region, this dance is a central force crafting many countries’ collective destiny.”

Dangl feels that US activists can learn much from studying this “dance,” telling Angola 3 News that “because South American social movements have been so successful in the past decade, I think it is important to learn and understand what’s been successful and to apply those strategies and tactics here, where we are facing very similar challenges.” Because the political climate in the US today is different from Latin America in many ways, Dangl argues that “these strategies and tactics shouldn’t just be taken and applied directly to our communities, but should instead be considered and made useful in our own context and realities.”

In the interview, Dangl cites several different lessons for US activists, including the need to “create the kind of social relationships within our own social movements that reflect the kind of world that we are fighting for every day. That’s been useful for neighborhood councils in El Alto, Bolivia where people work together every day, whether it’s to build roads, soccer fields, or pressure a mayor for better access to electricity and water. These kinds of social relations within the family and neighborhoods help to create the capacity to mobilize road blockades and protests when that’s needed.”

There are also lessons here for US activists seeking to push President Obama and other politicians further to the left, as Dangl thinks the question of “how to fight against a relative ally in political office without empowering the right” has been “negotiated very successfully throughout South America.”

Fortunately, US activists have already been learning from their neighbors to the south. In the book’s introduction, Dangl cites several examples, including “the 2008 occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago which drew from tactics in Argentina, the movements for access to water in Detroit and Atlanta, which reflected tactics and struggles in Bolivia, and the Take Back the Land movement in Florida, which organized homeless people to occupy a vacant lot and pairs homeless families with foreclosed homes, mirroring the tactics and philosophy of the landless movement in Brazil.”

When asked for a closing thought at the end of our interview, Dangl emphasized the larger global struggle against oppression by arguing that Dancing With Dynamite’s lessons extend well beyond the US and Latin America. “With what’s happened in Egypt with the overthrow of Mubarak, and what is going on right now in Madison,Wisconsin with the fight for collective bargaining, I think these struggles are related in the sense that they’re all about political power. With these recent examples, there is a shift in power from the government office to the streets, and recognizing that is important today in the fight for social change. In Madison, activists say they’ve been really inspired by activists in Egypt. Recognizing these common oppressors & common systems of exploitation, and working for solutions together across borders is really a solution for making the world a better place.”

–Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. We are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more.

http://my.firedoglake.com/myfdl/wp-content/themes/myfdl_user/_inc/images/domain_blocked_default.png