To: Warden of Pelican Bay–SHU
Fr: Sanyika Shakur, D#07829/C-7-112
Re: Banned Publication
It has recently been brought to my attention that my first book, Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member (Grove/Atlantic, 1993), has been added to the ever growing list of banned and otherwise restricted books allowed in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit.
This list includes, but is not exhausted with the likes of:
- Blood In My Eye/Soledad Brother – George Jackson
- The War Before – Safiya Bukari
- Guerrilla Warfare – Che Guevara
- Defying The Tomb – Kevin Rashid Johnson
- Mein Kampf – Adolf Hitler
With the exception of Hitler, i’d say I was actually keeping good company. However, that’s not the point of this letter. In fact, this letter is being sent to you in order to make a request – a mere suggestion, if you will.
You see, i’ve had an indeterminate SHU term since September of 1989. Validated as a threat to the safety and security of the institution for associating with revolutionaries. i was brought to Pelican Bay in March of 1990. It was, in fact, from this very SHU that i penned the book you have now banned – and, i might add, it was a phenomenal bestseller here in the Empire, as well as in ten outlying nations across the globe. Not bad actually since i never completed school beyond the 6th grade. Actually, my source of growth, development & awareness came by studying some of the authors you’ve also found fit to ban and exclude. Well, that is, with the exception of Hitler, for obvious reasons.
Yes, well, more to the point. … You see, I was afforded the opportunity to read the memo which instructed staff and prisoners alike that Monster was being banned because it “promotes violence and anti-government behavior”. It said that Monster was “anti-staff and not in accord with legitimate penological interests”. Was, in fact, “hostile & revolutionist in nature”. And for these reasons it would “not be allowed in Pelican Bay SHU”.
Sir, you’ll forgive me here if i come across as a little slow on the uptake, but things seem a bit confusing at this point. Well, you’ll see, this brings me to my suggestion/request – of which, given the circumstances, outlining your valiant efforts to bring this environment into accord with “penological….” nay, “legitimate penological interests”, and all – you must know & overstand that Monster is a book. A book made of paper, bound by threads & glue. That it contains cold black type. Oh, sure there’s a photo on its cover of me with an automatic weapon, but that is but a two dimensional image – easily removed.
Here’s what i suggest – a mere humble request from down here in the cellblocks where We languish in the throes of suspended animation, more dead than alive: since i am a “revolutionist”, am “hostile” & “anti-government”, & since i don’t believe in the use of solitary confinement as punishment or as a means of reform, (you may as well mark me down as being against your “legitimate penological interests”, too), given these reasons, as a living, breathing & thinking human (unlike a dead tree book), why don’t you issue a memo banning me from the Security Housing Unit in Pelican Bay!?
Think about it.
In Total Revolt!
A Revolutionary New Afrikan Nationalist