July 2017 Newsletter

Greetings Maroon supporters,

Welcome to the latest installment of the Free Maroon newsletter. It’s been a few months since we last touched base, but we hope you all are keeping well and finding steady inspiration in the justice work we know you’re doing.

The national political mood seems to grow heavier and heavier by the day, via the various scandals rocking Trump’s White House and the seemingly intractable epidemic of unpunished police terrorism on black communities—exemplified last month in the acquittal of the officer who killed Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota, followed by the killing of Charleena Lyles in Seattle, Washington. But we’ve also seen cause for optimism in a number of recent developments: the release of longtime Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera; the Jackson, Mississippi mayoral victory of Chokwe Antar Lumumba, son of former Republic of New Afrika leader Chokwe Lumumba; and the Democratic primary victory of esteemed civil rights lawyer Larry Krasner in the campaign for Philadelphia’s next District Attorney, a campaign to which Maroon supporters have contributed valuable time, energy, and resources.

This month, we’re pleased to bring you a write-up from Maroon’s comrade, Kerry “Shakaboona” Marshall, on Krasner’s win, and the important role the families of Pennsylvania prisoners played in it.  Additionally, we share multiple new pieces of writing from Maroon himself: his statement of solidarity with Oscar Lopez Rivera; his essay-length reflection on his early politicization, activism, and imprisonment; and, finally, his review of newsletter editor Raphael Cohen’s recent poetry chapbook, Rebel Elegant: A Tribute To Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. We conclude with a letter to our campaign from longtime Maroon comrade and fellow political prisoner Xinachtli (Alvaro) Luna Hernandez.

Shakaboona on Larry Krasner’s Win

Kerry Marshall, AKA Shakaboona, currently incarcerated with Maroon at SCI-Graterford, whose case we brought attention to last year, recently penned an editorial examining the forces that brought about Larry Krasner’s win in the Democratic primary for the next District Attorney of Philadelphia. Shakaboona makes clear that, contrary to popular opinion pinning the victory on the financial contributions of billionaire George Soros or the work of Democratic party political operatives, it was in fact the efforts of Graterford prisoners’ families that had the greatest impact. For our readers outside of Philadelphia who may be unfamiliar with Krasner’s background and campaign, we invite you to check out this article from The Inquirer of Philadelphia on his primary victory, then give a read to Shakaboona’s commentary below.

Prisoners’ Families Get Krasner The Win

No city poll, political commentator, or newspaper editor will tell the public that candidate Larry Krasner won the primary elections for District Attorney not because of billionaire George Soros’ $1.5 million check, and not because of the endorsement of Ward Leaders, although those helped a great deal. No, Krasner won the democratic primaries for DA because of the 5,000 Graterford prisoners’ families and their coalitions who campaigned on Krasner’s behalf in the city and turned out to vote for Krasner at the polls in the thousands.

From the beginning of the DA’s race, coalitions of criminal justice reform and community organizations run by the families of prisoners formed to influence the dialogue and outcome of the DA’s race around reform of the DA’s office and the city’s criminal justice system. Those coalitions organized town hall meetings, forums, debates, and voter registration drives throughout Philadelphia. A month before the May 16th primary elections, the coalitions conducted an impressive Get-Out-The-Vote campaign for Krasner throughout many communities of Philly. This was a political campaign waged by Philly’s much-neglected grassroots, working class people—The Left! A grassroots campaign financed all their dollars.

Also instrumental to Krasner’s primary win were the 5,000 incarcerated people at Graterford State Prison, who in partnership with the criminal justice reform coalitions in Philly played an absolutely crucial role by making Graterford prison one of the political campaign stops for DA. Candidates El-Shabazz and Krasner had been invited to the prison. El-Shabazz attended an event at Graterford, while Krasner’s event was cancelled.

Every prisoner has a number of family members they can mobilize. Krasner and El-Shabazz understood what the other establishment candidates for DA did not, that by seeking the 5,000 Graterford prisoners’ and their coalitions’ support, and by adopting their DA/criminal justice reform issues, it would garner a potential 10,000 families of prisoners’ votes and thousands of ex-felons’ votes in Philadelphia, giving the lucky candidate a huge advantage in a habitually low-voter turnout DA’s race. So with an emerging powerful families of prisoners voters’ bloc in Philly, numbering at least 10,000 potential voters, and with Krasner earning their support, how could Krasner not win?

At the end of the primary election for DA, it was the will of the people that got Krasner the victory, and it was a broad coalition of organizations—like the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration – CADBI and 215 People’s Alliance —that is responsible. Coalition for a Just DA also did important work to bring voters affected by mass incarceration in contact with all the candidates through a large candidate forum and candidate questionnaire.

And the fact that Larry Krasner (a renowned Civil Rights and Criminal Defense Attorney) won the Democratic primaries is a statement by Philadelphians to city government and to the nation, that they formally reject wholesale the “America’s Deadliest DA” and “Law and Order” regime types that Philly has been accustomed to electing as District Attorney.

Maroon Expresses Solidarity with Oscar Lopez Rivera

On the recent release of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera, Maroon shared with us this brief note of support:
Comrade Oscar: It is with great joy that I send these few words of solidarity and love.

Your release is a great victory to reward the struggle that you and countless others have sacrificed in the name of; a respite for you, those closest to you, as well as those who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with that freedom-seeking humanity.

Here in the prisons of Pennsylvania, many are aware of the struggle, and a number are recounting the time spent with you at that Marion federal hellhole!

Many younger comrades are earnestly hoping they can make arrangements for you to visit this state, as well as some of its lockups. Your presence would strengthen their determination to continue to struggle for many of the same things you and so many others have sacrificed for.

Your comrade in struggle,
Political Prisoner
Russell Maroon Shoats/z

Maroon Reflects on His Youth, Activism, and Imprisonment

For our supporters who also read the San Francisco BayView, you may have already seen this deeply revealing commentary from Maroon on experiences from his youth that compelled him to become politically active, and his reflections on the circumstances that led to his imprisonment. We present a slightly revised version of it here:

Rage, Humiliation, Testosterone, Youth, and the Politics of Liberation

Steve Bloom, a comrade and veteran activist, asked me several questions regarding my contribution to “Look for Me in the Whirlwind.” The questions delve into aspects of our political struggle against oppression back in the 1960s and ’70s and are still pressing concerns.

Steve: Today, looking back almost 50 years, what do you think of the idea that in the 1960s “revolution had come” and it was “time to pick up the gun”? What is your present-day assessment of the choice by a wing of the Panthers and the BLA (Black Liberation Army) to engage in an armed offensive against the established state power in the USA, starting in the last half of the 1960s? What were the consequences? What was achieved? What failures or setbacks were suffered as a result? What balance sheet would you draw for us today?
What would you say to me today about the manner in which the Oakland Panthers chose to announce that decision to the world?

Maroon: From my vantage point as an individual who joined what Malcolm X defined as the struggle for human rights, 50 years ago… in 1967, I co-founded Philadelphia’s Black Unity Council, an organization that merged with Philly’s Panthers in 1969… that led to me being forced underground for a year and a half in the ranks of the BLA. Captured in 1972, I have subsequently been a political prisoner, serving multiple “natural life” death-by-incarceration sentences due to my political activities.

My expressions here are of a deeply felt personal nature, but time, reflection, and study has allowed me to recognize how our politics of the struggle for human rights, more often than not, are intertwined with rage, humiliation, testosterone (amongst males), and a youthful lack of clarity.

In my case, from the age of 5 until I was 34, I was consumed with a smoldering sense of rage, fed by feelings of humiliation.

I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1943. My parents, my siblings, and I lived in a mostly Black working class neighborhood known as “The Black Bottom.” Tiny row houses, treeless and narrow streets, and trash-clogged empty lots is what I most remember about my early years.

All symbols of power and authority there were white: white corner store owners, bill collectors, cops, and later, school teachers.

The only white family I knew of was the Pfifers, with their little girl who would beg for bread and their “crazy” son Paul.

At the same time, at 5 years of age, I had never heard anyone discuss anything in racial terms, or how white skin privilege operated to form my world.

In my case, from the age of 5 until I was 34, I was consumed with a smoldering sense of rage, fed by feelings of humiliation.

Seared in my memory is an event that twisted my personality into knots for decades. Something I witnessed at the age of 5. My father and I were gazing out our tiny living room window, watching two white cops brutally beat and drag a Black man to their parked patrol car, directly across the narrow street from where we stood.

At that age, I had never witnessed such violence—not in our home or my small world of vacant, trash-filled lots, alleyways, or on the one-lane streets that I was allowed to play on.

My emotions revolved around wide-eyed unasked questions that can be summed up in one word: Why?

Though everything came back to that one word, my young mind really wanted to know why were those cops beating and using such loud, forceful sounding words against that guy?

Why was my father standing so still, while I peered up to see his reactions to what we were witnessing with my questioning eyes—that never caught his attention? Why were the neighbors, who I could see across the narrow street, all watching from their own doorways and windows and, themselves as well, seemingly frozen in their movements, not even talking loud enough to be heard through our open, summer evening window?

I felt no fear, but my young mind could sense fear in my father and the neighbors. I just wanted someone to tell me why?!

My emotions revolved around wide-eyed unasked questions that can be summed up in one word: Why?

Once the cops got the Black guy in their car, one of them turned and blurted: “Any of you other niggers want some of this?” And I saw our neighbors begin to shut their doors and withdraw from their windows, while my father took my hand and pulled me away from our window as well.

Right then, at the age of 5, I determined that what had occurred was wrong. And I also immediately passed judgment on my father and those neighbors: They were afraid to do anything about that wrong, and that caused me to lose respect for all of them.

Entering elementary school the following year marks another experience that added to the warping of my character.

During one of my first classes, I failed to follow a white female teacher’s instructions on some forgotten matter, and that caused her to sharply smack me across my face, and then force me into the cramped well beneath her desk, and I had to remain there for quite some time.

I had never been slapped or otherwise beaten. My parents did not believe in or practice beating their children, nor had I ever witnessed any fighting between the two of them. In fact, aside from the two cops’ beating of the Black guy the year before, the only violence I ever saw was during a rare trip to the movies; and our family, relatives, or neighbors had no TVs to watch such things.

Thus, the slap stunned and confused me, causing me to start crying. Not from the pain, but from the frustrating realization that the teacher had displayed—like the two cops—that she also had the ability to exercise a power that was hard to resist.

My tears that day were from a powerless rage. Even as a 6-year-old, I knew something in the universe had to be out of place in order for me to be experiencing such emotions: A rage that I would harbor for decades to come, fed by a seemingly unending cavalcade of examples that I would face, or become aware of, that even my untutored mind had no problem in determining were simply wrong and unjust. A rage that for many years was misdirected.

In time, adding to my rage was my witnessing or learning of many other Black people suffering abuse in many ways. And my inability or lack of effort to resist such things caused me to expand the loss of respect for my father and neighbors into feelings of humiliation about myself and Black people in general.

And it is important to point out that once my family and neighbors began to rent, share, and buy TVs in the early 1950s, the demeaning ways Blacks were depicted on the small screen—“Mammies,” buffoons, and characters whose roles were designed to debase Blacks and afford whites a sense of inflated self-worth—left me feeling more humiliated.

In time, adding to my rage was my witnessing or learning of many other Black people suffering abuse in many ways.

Rage and humiliation fed on each other.

In my mind, Blacks were essentially cowards. I did not place myself in that category, but it subsequently provoked a decades-long quest to prove to myself and the entire world that I was justified in not placing myself amongst such cowards.

Along the way I ran into the gang culture of the middle 1950s. And from 13 to 20 years of age, the gangs of Philly were my instrument and stage that facilitated my search for a form of recognition and a level of respect that could not be denied by anyone.

The young males who were in my gang and our counterparts in rival gangs were undoubtedly harboring similar feelings of rage and humiliation, though the fratricide amongst us left little time to reflect on such things. Our male-dominated gangs were as testosterone-driven as ancient gladiator arenas.

Unlike youth groups in better-off communities, our Black gangs never had any real adult guidance or supervision. We had our “old heads,” who were always older, former gang members, but they too held firmly to the gang culture, and that never elevated beyond placing a premium on the search for recognition and respect—even after the old heads began devoting more time and energy to marriage and children.

The young males who were in my gang and our counterparts in rival gangs were undoubtedly harboring similar feelings of rage and humiliation, though the fratricide amongst us left little time to reflect on such things.

In Philly, the young Black women of that era generally displayed less of a desire to try to keep up with the testosterone-driven competition, though some did participate as a means to wrestle with their own feelings of rage and their humiliation that was compounded by the overarching cultural practices that were more oppressive and abusive towards women.

Malcolm’s “By any means necessary!” approach to the human rights struggle changed everything.

His was a new approach to the heroic civil rights struggle that was based in the South, a primarily nonviolent effort that caused me to re-examine my belief about Blacks being cowards. Still, nonviolence held little appeal for many who saw Malcolm’s teachings as more suited for serving to rid us of our humiliation and redirect our rage away from our Black-on-Black violence: seeking both our humanity and political, economic, and social changes.

Some said revolutionary change was needed. Followers of that doctrine emerged to form the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California—albeit earlier Black Panther formations were already in motion in the South, amongst the urban-based Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), and elsewhere. RAM, in particular, was heavily influenced by Robert F. Williams and his North Carolina NAACP chapter, which had practiced armed self-defense extensively in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Malcolm’s “By any means necessary!” approach to the human rights struggle changed everything.

The coming together of the “any means necessary” doctrine and an ever increasingly political strata of young Black men, who were full of rage and feelings of humiliation, proved to be a powerful formula for recruiting Black youth who remained unmoved by the nonviolent methods of the early civil rights struggles.

It is very important to recognize that Black women also harbored feelings of rage and humiliation. Given the history of the USA, Black women had to be experiencing even more rage and humiliation than most Black men! And the already mentioned heroic civil rights struggles that had been taking place in the South propelled to the world’s attention the now iconic Rosa Parks, Gloria Richardson, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and others. And in the urban areas, untold numbers of lesser-known women would populate and distinguish themselves, not only amongst the Black Panthers, but amongst the ranks and leadership of hundreds of forgotten formations.

It is very important to recognize that Black women also harbored feelings of rage and humiliation.

Still, the testosterone-fueled men usually smothered or pushed to the background those female contributions, especially in the urban areas, which were essentially youth movements that allowed, encouraged, and elevated the mystique of the “bad motherfucker.” At the same time, the women, who did more than their share to establish and sustain all these groups, placed more value on working to solve the mountain of problems and difficulties being given voice to.

The women’s closer connections to the children left them with little appetite for the usual “king of the mountain, last man standing” syndrome that the raging, testosterone-“drunk” men were practicing. And unlike the Southern civil rights struggles, the urban youth in question lacked a mass of older people who they trusted, who could afford them with a wealth of learned experiences that they could weigh while making important decisions.

Even on matters concerning armed self-defense, only practiced on the margins of the usual nonviolent Southern struggle, people like Robert F. Williams, the Deep South’s Deacons for Defense, and some lesser-known local formations had quite a number of professionally trained military veterans, who went forward to use their training to organize and lead the defense of the civil rights struggle against both the police and Ku Klux Klan. The urban formations only sporadically produced such effective armed self-defense.

After the Southern civil rights struggle succeeded in winning major reforms in voting rights, public accommodations, etc, that arena of our struggle became preoccupied with consolidating those gains, while Malcolm’s human rights struggle evolved into the Black Power/Black Liberation struggle—revolutionary doctrines and political, economic, and social programs that were almost always led by youthful Black urban men.

When I joined that urban struggle in 1967, rage, humiliation, testosterone, youth, and politics had all come together, and I found a movement dominated by kindred spirits. Our philosophies, ideologies, doctrines, programs, strategies, tactics, and practices were always overshadowed by those elements.

When I joined that urban struggle in 1967, rage, humiliation, testosterone, youth, and politics had all come together, and I found a movement dominated by kindred spirits.

We idolized Che Guevara and the Tupamaro urban guerrilla group of Uruguay; we doggedly held on to Mao Tse Tung’s quote, “Political power grows from a barrel of a gun.” We trained and practiced armed self-defense against the police, FBI, and any others we believed were enemies. Carlos Marighella’s “The Mini Manual of Urban Guerrilla Warfare” and Panther Field Marshal Don Cox instructed us on “forming self-defense forces.” Later, Cox’s urban guerrilla writings in “For the Liberation of America” reached us from exile.

By 1971, not only the Panthers, but scores of other “bad motherfuckers” across the US had taken on the police and FBI in defense of their offices, homes, and persons. They robbed banks to fund the struggle, hijacked planes to seek exile in foreign countries, staged retaliatory attacks against the police, escaped after capture, and developed an extensive and effective underground system that may never be properly exposed because of actions that could still endanger the freedom of many.

Malcolm X had been assassinated by then, but our actions paid homage to him for teaching us how to channel our rage and humiliation against those who were oppressing us.
The youthful male testosterone was stoked in other ways. Elaine Brown, who would become the only female to lead the Black Panther Party, made a record where she crooned, “Believe it, my friend, for this silence to end, we’ll just have to get guns and be men.”

Before the Los Angeles Panther head Bunchy Carter was assassinated, he wrote a powerful poem for his mother that we reworked into an oath for new recruits: “If I should fall, weapon in hand, you’ll be free, and I a man. For a slave of natural death who dies cannot balance two dead flies. If I should fail to follow our goal, may burning cancer torment my soul.”

Those of us who went underground wound up on a “run and gun” mission, and that, coupled with our rage and humiliation, further distanced us from the political programs that had kept us connected to the Black community. And since that community was not ready to join or adequately support our urban guerrilla activities, and our youthful minds could not find any way forward except more of what we were doing, our fate was death, injury, prison or exile, and all those who suffered those fates have still not been determined.

Freedom ain’t free!

Those of us who went underground wound up on a “run and gun” mission, and that, coupled with our rage and humiliation, further distanced us from the political programs that had kept us connected to the Black community.

We raged on. Every blow struck lessened our burden of suffering humiliation in silence. And those of us who survived found time to read Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth,” where the author, a veteran of the Algerian war of national liberation in the 1950s and early 1960s, who was also a psychiatrist who had a chance to study both sides of the conflict, discovered that often in liberation struggles the overarching political goals are sidetracked by the powerful needs of many amongst the oppressed to lash out against their oppressors in order to simply regain their feelings of being human.

In my case, I distinctly remember the exact moment that occurred—when I again started feeling fully human since suffering the trauma of a confused, defenseless 5-year-old, watching my father and our neighbors all being forced to stand by while the two white cops beat and arrested the Black guy, then hurl humiliating threats our way on departure.

It was after my 1972 capture. By 1976 I had been transferred to the state prison at Huntingdon due to unsuccessful escape attempts from two other prisons. Huntingdon at that time was known as the “breakin’ camp” because of its brutality. It was there in 1977 that four comrades and I took over a cell block, held the guards hostage, and then were able to escape into the surrounding mountains and forest of Central Pennsylvania.

To make a long story short, one comrade got trapped inside, another was killed on a mountainside, two others were captured that night, while I was chased through the mountains and woods for a month before being recaptured.

Once returned to the prison, I was viciously beaten. Since I had been beaten by guards previously, and that was what they would do to try to break prisoners’ spirits “normally,” I expected as much.

Within a couple days I was taken outside the prison to a court hearing, and the police presence was so large, I suspected the different agencies and departments that had obviously come together after our initial escape and during the month-long hunt were all trying to get in on “the picture,” as it were. And the press also showed up in large numbers—reporters with their microphones, notebooks, and cameras.

The court was a long way from Philly or Pittsburgh, where most of my family and supporters lived. Still I could see five of them surrounded by a lot of the cops and prison guards.

That hearing didn’t last long, and I was not allowed to say anything to my people, but was besieged by the press and gawking cops, while my handlers were frantically trying to force a way through the crowd to the waiting cars.

The reporters were firing questions my way, while I rummaged through my brain for something that would make an impact. My capture had forced me out of my run-and-gun posture, back into the political arena where words are weapons.

When the cops got to the cars, before they could get me secured inside, I turned and blurted as loud as I could: “Tell everybody the slave got caught and is going back to the plantation.” That caused the cops to slam me against the car they were forcing me into. Apparently, they were embarrassed by my continuing defiance, even after the epic, month-long chase through the mountains and woods they no doubt hunted in. They thought a “nigger” from the city would head for the first fast food place to try to rob someone, get a burger, fries, and Coke, then head for the city, not come within a day or two of the “hunters” throwing in the towel.

When the cops got to the cars, before they could get me secured inside, I turned and blurted as loud as I could: “Tell everybody the slave got caught and is going back to the plantation.”

Once back in the prison isolation cell, I began to ponder what had happened before, during and after my escape: my refusal to accept the natural life (death-by-incarceration) sentence, my earlier unsuccessful escape attempts, my growing awareness of how massive the search for me had been, and just how shook-up the angry cops and prison guards remained.

That’s when it happened! The humiliation I had been suffering all those years seemed to lift from my shoulders and land directly on that faceless mass of oppressors and authorities represented by the cops who packed my hearing, and who all had been out of their minds by how much it took to capture a single implacable rebel!

I stood up, out of earshot of anyone, and as loud as I could, shouted: “That’s right. I’m a bad motherfucker!” Then I gently laughed to myself and lay down on my bunk with a “knowing” smile on my face.

The rage and humiliation simply disappeared. I had forced the world to recognize me as a human being; and I knew it.

Since then I have again felt rage at injustices and personal wrongs I’ve suffered. But the burning, overpowering rage never again returned.

I have also been forced into degrading and humiliating situations during decades of imprisonment since that time, but nothing has been able to take away the dignity I discovered as a human being, now knowing that I am as much as anyone, and more than most.

The rage and humiliation simply disappeared. I had forced the world to recognize me as a human being; and I knew it.

I remain committed to the struggle for human rights for all of humanity. Since I’m wiser and understand more now, I can better weigh socioeconomic and sociopolitical issues, as well as the historic factors that preceded their formations. Absent the rage and not suffering the humiliation that once tormented me, I can better help formulate and carry out what is decided about the kinds of far-reaching changes that are needed.

When I recognize rage in younger people, I understand how that can dominate their thinking. The same with the humiliation they cannot easily escape or avoid, while the testosterone and its ability to cause a hard-to-control exuberance amongst young males, in particular, are dynamics I advise others to always factor in while moving forward.

I remain committed to the struggle for human rights for all of humanity.

My story is closer to what untold numbers of highly motivated 1960s and 1970s “revolutionaries” usually don’t write about or discuss nowadays. And I believe I have answered comrade Steve Bloom’s earlier questions, if one sets aside the usual self-congratulatory narratives related to how the Black Panther Party, BLA, and other related groups and formations served the communities, though they did do some of that as well.

Younger activists, and oppressed people in general, can benefit more from the veterans of the struggles from earlier generations working even more closely with them than when our veterans spent so much time on fine-tuning their ideological, philosophical positions and worldviews. The looming threats that could very well define the next 10 or 20 years demand it!

Straight Ahead!

Copyright © 2017 Pampata.

Maroon Reviews Rebel Elegant,
A New Poetry Chapbook from Newsletter Editor Raphael Cohen

Maroon has also shared with us his review of newsletter editor Raphael Cohen’s recent poetry chapbook:

My friend and comrade Raphael Cohen has produced an enjoyable, insightful, and socially useful book in Rebel Elegant: A Tribute To Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (2016, Select Start Studio, Oakland, CA). Raphy seamlessly weaves together a masterpiece of poetry, biography, and sociopolitical history and commentary on Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, once an amazing athlete, and now an unsung paragon of integrity—on and off the professional basketball court. It’s a piece of history that needs to be both recognized and studied, alongside the stories of 1968 Olympic icons John Carlos and Tommy Smith, as well as Muhammad Ali, and the present-day struggles of former 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Raphy’s book stunned me! How could I have missed Mahmoud’s career? The Denver Nuggets’ leading scorer. A practicing Muslim. An outspoken, controversial, ostracized man of integrity and progressive convictions. Someone I would love to have joined a younger Raphy in admiring and supporting.

Oh, I know how: When a firestorm was swirling around him in 1996 because of his decision not to stand for the national anthem, I had no access to either TV or radio, and reading material in my hellish Control Unit prison was also tightly censored and greatly limited.

Anyway, Raphy’s prose, poetry, commentary, and insights, as well as the large number of retrieved and assembled photographs, not only quickly brought me up to speed, but did so in a manner that seemed effortless. The gifted and hard-working author translated Mahmoud’s remarkable life story into easy, enjoyable, and valuable information.

Raphy is definitely speaking to us when he writes:

all the timeRaphael Cohen, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Russell Shoatz III, Laney College, Oakland, California, October, 2016, Black Panther Party 50th Anniversary
i tell my people
who adore hoops
and abhor injustice

look to Mahmoud


* For those interested in purchasing a copy of Rebel Elegant, you can do so here. Half of all sales from Maroon newsletter subscribers will go to the campaign. Just write “Maroon” in your purchase through the PayPal link. You can also check out a performance clip from last fall’s book launch in Oakland here and like/follow the book’s Facebook page for updates on forthcoming readings and other book-related events (events in Philly and New York are in the works for this summer and fall).
A Letter from Maroon Comrade and Texas-Held Political Prisoner
Xinachtli (Alvaro) Luna Hernandez
Several months back, we received a letter from Maroon comrade Xinachtli (Alvaro) Luna Hernandez, a longtime Chicano and civil rights leader, wrongly imprisoned in Texas, and held in solitary confinement, for the last decade and a half. Please visit https://www.freealvaro.net/for a full break-down of his organizing history and legal case, and read his moving message to our campaign here:It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.- Comrade Sister Assata Shakur,
General, Black Liberation Army,
in exile in Revolutionary Cuba

Allred Prison Slave KKKamp

Dear Sharon, Theresa, Russell, and comrades, allies & friends,

As Salaam Alaikum! In the name of the Most Gracious, Most Merciful, I salute all of you, and all our freedom fighters around the world, and those under the imperialist clutches as enemy combatants in this u.s. government’s war against militancy and dissent, and the many of us languishing and rotting away in the racist, genocidal torture tombs of the fascist amerikkkan juggernaut and prison industrial complex for the mass incarceration of the poor, mainly of people of color, who are disproportionately represented in the u.$. pri$on criminal ju$tice $y$tem. We know this system has nothing to do with “public safety,” and everything to do with capitalist corporate profiteering by our elitist rulers, the same rulers who are destroying ecosystems, polluting our waters, exterminating the wildlife, and militarizing communities of color, the borders, and their prisons. Smash the fascist u.s. police state! Free all POWs and political prisoners in u.s. supermax prisons! Prisoners, and oppressed workers of the world, unite!

Thank you for your letter and for the photos you sent me of your International Human Rights Day event in support of u.s. POWs and political prisoners. I am glad you liked the Stop Mass Incarceration art piece, and the other submission, a homage to Ricardo Flores Magon, Mexican revolutionary anarchist murdered by prison pigs on November 22, 1922, at Leavenworth prison (this piece was featured in the Certain Days 2017 political prisoners calendar, which can be obtained at https://www.certaindays.org). I look forward to your next art festival. I apologize for not replying any sooner, but we have been on a lockdown situation, and fighting off especially repressive policies under a “new administration” that has focused on intensifying their torturous behavior modification fascist techniques, targeting those of us in the “Guantanamo of Texas prison” with the aim of breaking our human will and our spirit of resistance to their gross inhumanities that are at this moment occurring behind the razor-wire fences and cement tombs. I have been buried alive here, now going on 15 consecutive years, the continuation of a u.s. fascist COINTELPRO plan of “criminalizing and gangsterizing” my legitimate beliefs and direct actions in opposition to this government’s 500 years-long policies of European and Yankee colonialism, and white colonial settlers’ occupation and land thefts of our beloved homeland (the southwest u.s., which we call Aztlan). The foreign invasion by racist colonial pigs and their puppets, resulting in war crimes and crimes against humanity, have long gone unpunished. There are many of us, of the Chicano/Mexicano revolutionary movement for self-determination and national liberation, who will never, ever stop dreaming that one day, these foreign, racist invaders and war criminals will be expelled from the soil of the Americas, and the occupied territories returned to their legitimate owners, those who plant the seeds and harvest the land for the common good and general welfare of all of humanity. Free the occupied territories of Aztlan!

I don’t know the extent of the materials that you have read about me and my history of revolutionary resistance, outside and inside prison walls. Additional details can be obtained from the following sources: https://www.freealvaro.net, “Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from Movements to Free U.S. Political Prisoners” edited by Matt Meyer, PM press, 2008, available at http://secure.pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=60, and “Can’t Jail The Spirit: Political Prisoners In The U.S., A Collection of Biographies.” I continue to lead the Texas prisoners’ human rights movement/struggles and the movement to end prison slave labor, shining the light of revolutionary resistance inside Texas prisons, even under the boot heel of these racist, fascist pigs, who have a long history of brutal racist oppression of its captive population (mostly people of color: African Americans and Chicanos), and crimes against humanity (see “Texas Prisons: The Walls Came Tumbling Down” by Steve J. Martin, available at https://www.amazon.com/Texas-Prisons-Walls-Came-Tumbling/dp/0877190909). Now, more than ever, the struggles of prisoners for human rights and human dignity will intensify with the recent election of racist, fascist, corporatist pig Donald Trump, who is pro-police, pro-prisons, anti-people of color, anti-women, anti­human rights, anti-Muslim, and the “darling” of the white nationalist/white supremacist reactionary movements who see workers as mere chattel slaves, to be used and abused at the whims of fascist corporate ameriKKKa. The traditional left-wing forces in this country have been so inept, and went bankrupt with their “neo-liberalism,” allowing this fascist pig to become president of the u.s., via electoral politics, that it now becomes our duty to fight for our freedom, “by any means necessary,” as Brother Malcolm X used to say. That means coming together and nurturing our grassroots liberationist movements against the two-party animal, which is one and the same pig, be it “Democrat” or “Republican,” eating from the same pig trough, and every four years bringing campaigns of deceit, misinformation, confusion, and misdirecting the anger and outrage of the poor and oppressed citizenry, into making them believe that there can be national salvation from these “traditional political parties.” We know these parties only represent the interests of the oppressor, capitalist class, and the u.s. oligarchy, and that their only interests are to enforce the capitalist wage theft system of “capital accumulation” and the survival of a production and distribution economic system for the enslavement, oppression, and exploitation of the working class by the one percent of wealthy owners who control government, and enact more repressive capitalist laws (and its system of mass incarceration that infuses the capitalist economy via brutal prison slave labor and slavery).

I did not intend to make this “introductory letter” a manifesto against capitalism, but I say all this just to let you know where I am coming from. Your father, my Brother Comrade Russell, and I used to correspond years ago, and I have always been inspired by his dedication to the cause of serving oppressed humanity and leading the Black Liberation struggles on behalf of African Americans. It’s a struggle that has inspired me, from Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Angela Davis, George Jackson, the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army, and many, many more “mentors” that I carry in my eternal memory and heart, in the spirit of keeping their memories alive, and leading by example, no matter the odds, even from, as I find myself now, under the boot heel of neo-Nazi Gestapo captivity in this racist, criminal prison system, operated by war criminals who “hail Donald Trump” and Hitler, and who still fly the confederate slavery rebel flag on their front porches, most of them retired military or enlisted pigs who will return to the “battlefields” in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and around the world in the service of u.s. imperialism, having nothing to do with freedom, and all to do with the “freedom” of our rulers to impose their rule around the globe and to wrap more of their global monolithic chains of bondage on the mass of the world’s humanity, subjugating workers and mineral resources of the world, for the perpetuation of their u.s. imperialist wage theft empire… I send my revolutionary regards to my Brother Comrade “Maroon.”

On a better note, Dustin McDaniel and the Abolitionist Law Center are looking into my case to see if they can locate Texas attorneys to help me fight this prolonged solitary confinement, denial of Hepatitis C medicines to cure my chronic illness, and to search for “post-conviction” attorneys to help me re-open my case of wrongful political imprisonment through the Jericho Movement/National Lawyers Guild’s “political prisoners support committee.”

For future updates on my freedom struggle, stay in contact with me, at freealvaronow@gmail.com, twitchon@gmail.com, or by writing to: Committee to Free Alvaro Luna Hernandez, PO Box 7907, Austin, TX, 78713. Your ideas and assistance in getting the word out would be appreciated.

Please also keep me updated on all your events and activities, and Maroon’s case, as well as the movement to free all POWs, political prisoners, supported by the Musa Henderson Fund and the Northeast Political Prisoners/POWs Coalition, so that I can become more involved with all of you, as we struggle and navigate through the haze our class oppressors throw in our eyes to blind us from seeing the forest for the trees!

Take care! All power to the oppressed people!

In revolutionary solidarity,
With revolution on my mind and heart,
Free all POWs and Political Prisoners in usa prisons!
Bring about real revolutionary unity amongst people of color


(Nahuatl dialect meaning Germinating Seed)
Alvaro Luna Hernandez, # 255735
James V. Allred Unit
Supermax High Security Control Unit
2101 FM 369 North
Iowa Park, TX 76367

Hasta la victoria, siempre! Venceremos!

[O]nly the prison movement has shown any promise of cutting across the ideological, racial and cultural barricades that have blocked the natural coalition of left-wing forces at all times in the past. So this movement must be used to provide an example for the partisans engaged at other levels of struggle…- Comrade George Jackson,
Minister of Defense, Black Panther Party,
murdered by San Quentin prison pigs, August 21, 1971
“Blood in My Eye”
As always, we thank you for your ongoing support of Maroon and the cause of all political prisoners. Please consider contributing to our ongoing fundraising [insert hyperlink] for Maroon. As we always say, no amount is too little, and all contributions are greatly appreciated.We invite you to correspond with Maroon regarding your thoughts and questions on his writings, or just send him some love, at:Russell Shoats, #AF-3855
PO Box 246 Route 29
Graterford, PA 19426-0246.In strength and solidarity,
The Shoatz Family and Friends