Greetings Fighting Maroons!
Welcome back to our campaign newsletter, and to Black August 2018. We hope this message finds you in healthy and hopeful spirits. We also want to extend a joyful “Welcome Home!” to Herman Bell, Debbie Africa, and Seth Hayes, all movement elders who were released from lengthy prison terms over the past few months. [Pictured below] Our longstanding work to raise awareness of and advocate for our political prisoners is showing signs of success, and we encourage you to continue speaking up and out for those still locked down.
On August 23rd, 2018, our beloved father, grandfather, mentor, comrade, and friend Russell Maroon Shoatz turns 75! As we continue in our quest to have him freed from prison once and for all, we want to invite our supporters in the Philadelphia area to come out for a birthday celebration and panel discussion on Saturday, August 25th, from 5 to 9 pm, at the African American Museum, 701 Arch Street in Philly. We also want to encourage all of you to send Maroon some love this month, whether in the form of a birthday card, a letter, or reading material you think he’d appreciate. (Remember, all books need to be sent directly from a publisher, rather than from your individual address).
His mailing address is:
Russell Shoats #AF-3855
1000 Follies Road
Dallas, PA 18612
Announcing The Maroon Project
In light of his coming birthday, we’ve decided to launch The Maroon Project, a booklet filled with messages to Maroon from supporters old and new, highlighting what you’ve learned from Maroon’s writings and/or interactions with him over the years. The booklet will be shared directly with Maroon and made available to a general audience. As his daughter Sharon Shoatz writes:
To all those who have come in contact with Russell Maroon Shoatz, in Pennsylvania and beyond, my family and I would like to personally thank you for your support over the years. We are in the early stages of producing a booklet filled with messages to Maroon from YOU!
Maroon is considered a father figure to many throughout the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Many prisoners often say how his mentorship changed their lives for the better. We’ve also heard from many folks on the outside about how much their correspondence with Maroon helped develop their thinking on issues personal and political. In the interest of collecting these perspectives in a single place, and sharing them directly with Maroon, we want to invite his supporters to write brief messages, reflections, or letters of support, and help us make this a meaningful and memorable celebration paying homage to our dad.
Messages can focus on prison issues, aspects of the contemporary political landscape, insights on activism work, and/or any mentoring or support you may have experienced as a direct or indirect result of your interaction with Maroon.
Maybe you know a prisoner who is no longer here with us, but who shared with you their experiences of Maroon. Your voice is theirs. Perhaps one or some of Maroon’s perspectives, be it from his time with the Panthers, the Black Unity Council, the Black Liberation Army, or from his experiences since being locked up, have influenced your worldview, whether it was spoken to you directly or you read it in Maroon The Implacable.
Please send us your words, share with us your experiences, and express how our father has made a difference in your life or the life of those you know. While we’ll consider writings of up to 1,000 words, we’re primary looking for notes of 500 words or less. Messages, not manifestos. Feel free to address Maroon directly or construct your piece as an open letter to our family and extended support network. We also invite you to share with us any artwork you’ve created that honors or was inspired by our dad.
To be honest, you all will be educating my siblings and I. Many of you know our father in ways that we don’t! So we very much look forward to hearing from you.
We don’t yet have a hard deadline for submissions, but the sooner you can send us something, the better.
Please send your correspondence to:
The Maroon Project
PO Box 429
Englewood, NJ 07631
You can also e-mail us at email@example.com
Maroon Comix Launches!
This month, a terrific single-volume comic book celebrating the contributions of maroon communities was published by PM Press, the imprint on which Maroon The Implacable: The Collected Writings Of Russell Maroon Shoatz was released five years ago.
As stated in the official overview of Maroon Comix: Origins And Destinies:
“Escaping slavery in the Americas, maroons made miracles in the mountains, summoned new societies in the swamps, and forged new freedoms in the forests. They didn’t just escape and steal from plantations—they also planted and harvested polycultures. They not only fought slavery but proved its opposite, and for generations they defended it with blood and brilliance.
Maroon Comix is a fire on the mountain where maroon words and images meet to tell stories together. Stories of escape and homecoming, exile and belonging. Stories that converge on the summits of the human spirit, where the most dreadful degradation is overcome by the most daring dignity. Stories of the damned who consecrate their own salvation.
With selections and citations from the writings of Russell Maroon Shoatz, Herbert Aptheker, C.L.R. James, and many more, accompanied by comics and illustrations from Songe Riddle, Mac McGill, Seth Tobocman, and others, Maroon Comix is an invitation to never go back, to join hands and hearts across space and time with the maroons and the mountains that await their return.”
And as Maroon writes in his review:
“Maroon Comix is breathtaking! I say that after decades of study and practice in that arena. One who is serious about resisting the dragons that threaten our very existence will use Maroon Comix to help fashion or reinforce their place within the hydra of twenty-first-century Maroons.”
Please support the project by purchasing one or multiple copies here.
A New Interview with Maroon’s Son, Russell Shoatz III, on
Restorative Justice, Healing, and Accountability
Maroon’s son, Russell Shoatz III, was recently interviewed by Raphael Cohen, newsletter editor for the Free Maroon campaign. Conducted for Who Has Been Harmed? How Do We Heal?, a video and audio interview project created by Raphael and Adrienne Skye Roberts for the 2017-18 Yerba Buena Center For The Arts Fellowship Program in San Francisco, the discussion addresses power, harm, and accountability, offering perspectives for healing and justice that don’t rely on the carceral state, emphasizing Maroon’s and other political prisoners’ anti-retribution sentiments.
You can listen to the full interview here.
You can also watch Who Has Been Harmed? How Do We Heal? in its entirety, which includes edited excerpts from this talk as well as interview clips with artists and activists Maddy “MADlines” Clifford, Tommy Shakur Ross, Ariel Luckey, and NaTisha Hutson, here.
Please feel free to share these links broadly with your friends, families, and social networks!
Latest News on Jalil Muntaqim
Last week, a particularly in-depth article and video project on Jalil Muntaqim, former member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, imprisoned for the past 46 years, and approaching his ninth parole hearing since 2002, was published by The Guardian (UK). Written by Ed Pilkington, who has focused much of his journalistic work over the past two years on ex-Panthers still locked up, with the video produced by Tom Silverstone, this well-crafted piece highlights Jalil’s case, and addresses many of the themes around redemption and anti-retribution to which Maroon and his family have been giving voice in recent years.
[Pictured Right: Sharon, Jalil, and Ann Jaffe from Jericho]
As the article states:
“Muntaqim is one of 19 black radicals, including two women, who are still imprisoned 40 or more years after they were arrested for violent acts related to the black liberation struggle. Next year the longest-serving inmate, Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, will have been locked up for half a century. The oldest, Sundiata Acoli, is 81.
Since 2000, a further 10 black radicals have succumbed to ill health and died in prison.
The 19 incarcerated militants were all part of the 1970s black revolutionary movement. They fought for black power, they were convicted of killing for it—though many profess their innocence—and today they are still imprisoned for it.
As they grow older, and the length of their incarceration ticks up, the ethical battle over what to do with these men and women grows ever more intense.”
We encourage you to read and watch the entire piece here, then share it out broadly.
Please click here to find out more about Jalil’s upcoming parole hearing, and how you can contribute.
The campaign for Jalil is making an effort to include letters of support that are personalized and from people who are familiar with him and his work. Specific instructions for how to write a strong, personalized letter of support, can be found here. Please make sure to consult this page before writing your letter. And if you do plan on writing a letter, please do so ASAP, as Jalil’s parole hearing is scheduled for THIS MONTH!
To write a letter in your own words supporting parole for Jalil, address to:
Senior Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator
Sullivan Correctional Facility
325 Riverside Drive
Fallsburg, New York 12733
BUT SEND TO:
The Parole Preparation Project
168 Canal Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10013
The subject line should be “Anthony Bottom 77-A-4283”.
Also, please send a copy of your letter to Jalil for his files:
Anthony Bottom #77A4283
Sullivan Correctional Facility
PO Box 116
Fallsburg, NY 12733-0116.
NYC Jericho will send all returned hard copy parole petitions as well as the online petition to the above address.
Former Juvenile Lifer Suave Gonzalez’s NuStop Resource Center
NuStop Resource Center is bringing hope to a poor community in North Philadelphia that has been forgotten about by city officials. For the past eight months, under the leadership of Suave Gonzalez, a former juvenile lifer at SCI-Graterford, NuStop Resource Center has been placing ex-offenders and community members in jobs, taking the lead in effective re-entry. NuStop has also been distributing food and clothes to a population that otherwise would not have access to these resources. In the coming months a computer lab will be installed to assist returning citizens and the community in navigating the technology world. To find out more on how you can get involved, or how we can assist you, please call Suave Gonzalez at (267) 423-8424. For the brothers on lockdown, you can write to us at 2739 N. Front St, Philadelphia, PA 19133.
Free Hyung Rae
Todd “Hyung Rae” Tarselli has been in prison for over 27 years. He was sentenced to life without possibility of parole for a crime he committed when he was 17 years old. Born in South Korea, Hyung Rae’s parents died when he was just a child. At the age of 5, he entered an orphanage, where his birthdate was inaccurately recorded as 6 years old, due to a mistake in interpreting cultural age-counting. Korean culture considers a child 1 year old on the day of birth while the U.S. does not. This cultural difference in counting age was not properly accounted for during his adoption.
Hyung Rae was adopted by an American family in 1980 and struggled to adjust to the new culture, family, environment, and community. In 1992, he pled guilty to a robbery and murder. Because of the age-counting error, Hyung Rae was listed as 18 years old and charged as an adult, which severely impacted his life sentence in Pennsylvania.
Incarcerated for nearly three decades, Hyung Rae has endured some of the nation’s harshest prison conditions—including 10 years in solitary confinement (Pennsylvania’s “control units”). Despite his struggles, Hyung Rae has developed into a prolific artist, a mentor to his peers, and a staunch supporter for social justice movements within the prison system and beyond.
Hyung Rae has a wide network of supporters, trade skills, a G.E.D., and community-based organizations that will assist him upon his re-entry. While in prison, Hyung Rae underwent a personal transformation and does not pose a threat to society. Hyung Rae just had a crucial court hearing regarding his age, which could determine if he will ever be set free. We’re awaiting word on the results of the hearing, and encourage Maroon’s supporters to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for updates on how to support his legal efforts.
In Hyung Rae’s own words, “I had to grow up fast and mature in a dehumanizing environment. After nearly three decades in prison, what has always inspired me, and still does today, are the many examples of men and women who refuse to become indoctrinated into the prison culture of violence and apathy. Prisons are a dehumanizing and brutal place that leaves little room for rehabilitation or self-improvement, and it is nearly impossible to maintain your own sense of self and humanity. Yet, there are countless examples of people who rise above prison and not only better themselves but also others around them. It is the undying human spirit that wants to become better, to do better. I have discovered in the most unlikely of places what it means to have a sense of self, to maintain your own humanity and find the strength to rise above the madness.”
Free Hyung Rae!
We conclude, as always, with our heartfelt thanks to YOU, our community near and far, for your unwavering support. We also invite you to consider donating to our ongoing fundraising on Maroon’s behalf.
All donations, no matter how large or small, have an impact and are deeply appreciated!
We look forward to YOUR contributions to The Maroon Project and to updating everyone soon on its development.
In gratitude, courage, and solidarity,
The Shoatz Family and Friends