Escaping the Prism … Fade to Black: Poetry and Essays by Jalil Muntaqim

escapeprism_webJalil Muntaqim is a former member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army. For over forty years, Jalil has been a political prisoner, and one of the New York Three (NY3), in retaliation for his political activism.

Escaping the Prism … Fade to Black is a collection of Jalil’s poetry and essays, written from behind the bars of Attica prison. Combining the personal and the political, these texts afford readers with a rare opportunity to get to know a man who has spent most of his life — over forty years –- behind bars for his involvement in the Black Liberation Movement of the 1960s and early 1970s.

Jalil’s poetry deals with a range of themes — spirituality, history, and the struggle for justice; depression, humor, and sexual desire; the pain and loneliness of imprisonment, the ongoing racist oppression of New Afrikan people in the United States, and the need to find meaning in one’s life. At the same time, his political essays show him to be as eager as ever to intervene in and grapple with the events of today, always with an eye to concretely improving the lives of the oppressed.

As Walidah Imarisha states in her introduction, “This collection is not just about rebuke, but a commitment to living fully and loving completely. To exploring all aspects of humanity, all pieces that make up liberation … Escaping the Prism defies the attempts of the state to silence political prisoners, to disconnect them from those on the ground working to create change. In the context of the international Black Lives Matter movement, this roar for justice led by Black youth, Jalil’s poetic voice, and the voices of all our political prisoners, are vitally necessary to continue the continuity of Black resistance.”

Escaping the Prism … Fade to Black also includes an extensive examination of the U.S. government’s war against the Black Liberation Army in general, and Jalil and the New York Three in particular, by renowned scholar-activist Ward Churchill. In “The Other Kind: On the Integrity, Consistency, and Humanity of Jalil Abdul Muntaqim,” Churchill traces this story from the FBI’s murderous COINTELPRO repression of the Black Panther Party, through the NEWKILL operation which led to the NY3’s incarceration, to the more recent Phoenix Taskforce which orchestrated the re-prosecution of Jalil and other veteran Black activists, in the case of the San Francisco 8.

With illustrations by revolutionary prisoner-artists Zolo Agona Azania and Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, as well as outside artist-activists Bec Young, Pete Railand, Rocky Dobey, and the We are the Crisis collective.

To order your copy, visit or AK Press or Amazon

Escaping the Prism is also available as an ebook from Amazon.

You can download a press sheet about Escaping the Prism here: escapeprism_press-sheet

For more information about Jalil:

To learn about other political prisoners and prisoners of war held by the United States government:

What People Are Saying

Jalil Muntaqim’s prose and poetry analyze life within “America as prison.” Decades of sacrifice and resistance allow him to critique state oppression and social acquiescence. We are reminded here of democracy’s capacity for repression and terror through police, courts, and captivity; and the mystification and near disappearance of political prisoners who resisted such as Muntaqim, who writes that his name is spoken either as taboo or in reverence. Aided by Ward Churchill’s invaluable afterword, remember the historical and ongoing wars against dissent, and the brutal punishments activists risked in order to expand freedom. In the current debates about racism, legal duplicity and lethal violence, Escaping the Prism instructs that in our love for freedom, “let the spirit guide us.”
–Joy James, Seeking the ‘Beloved Community’

When soldiers of a nation-state return home from war, they are thanked for their service. When they die in battle, they are honored posthumously. But there are no medals for an army of slaves. Escaping the Prism…Fade to Black is a stunning anthology of rare and tender love poems, unflinching struggle poems, and requiem poetry for a people whose personhood is denied. Muntaqim’s poems as well as the political vignettes and biographical sketches contained herein should be required reading for students who wonder why the world is on tilt. For forty-three years as a prisoner of war (nearly twice as long as Mandela who was released after 27 years), BLA soldier Jalil Muntaqim has nurtured us with his pedagogy and his poetry. Thank you for your service.
–Frank B. Wilderson III, author of Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

In his powerful new book of poetry, Jalil Muntaqim writes, “my poetry is my life.” He also writes, “My poetry has a chip on its shoulder,” as well it might given the decades he has spent living in the state’s cages. Yet despite his lifelong sacrifice as a political prisoner and prisoner of war, this book is proof that Jalil’s deepest thoughts are rich and his commitment to liberation remains as strong as ever. The poems in Escaping the Prism… Fade to Black reveal Jalil’s deep determination and love, and will no doubt serve as a source of inspiration for us all.
–Claude Marks, Director of the Freedom Archives and former political prisoner

Jalil Muntaqim is known for his letters and petitions and essays. Now, for the first time, we have a collection of his poetry. The poems are analytical and tender, inspiring and angering, nostalgic and sobering. In Escaping the Prism Jalil meditates on life, love, struggle, music, and everything else that prisons contain but fail to crush.
–Dan Berger, author of Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era

Another consciousness-raising magnificently written book from New Afrikan prisoner of war Jalil Muntaqim, a man i’m proud and honored to know as a comrad and brother. The preface by sista Walidah Imarisha sets the tone with her poignant insights and clear flow, hinting at the depths to come. Then, like a building storm about to break, Jalil starts the rain of poetic words connected in combinations that put today’s so-called best rappers to shame. Bending, twisting, and redefining the colonial language in paradoxical and often mindbogglng ways that demand our total attention and a rewind of our reading in order to digest the reality of what’s written. Never have i had the pleasure of being so educated by such dynamic prose and poetry as presented here. And yet there’s more, for Jalil then infuses blogs of essays written about each contemporary malady arresting the development of our struggle for freedom, and does so as deftly as a skilled surgeon performing a total organ transplant. “Hands Up, Dont Shoot? Hell no! Fist up, fight back!” Jalil shouts from his prison cell in Attica, reminding us that an unarmed movement is a dead movement. And yet he’s not preaching, but even if he was i would listen, because he is in a position to know where the traps and landmines are buried, for he is a beloved combatant of our Black Liberation Army. As if Walidah Imarisha’s introduction to Jalil’s poetry and essays weren’t enough, Escaping the Prism is closed out by the revolutionary scholar Ward Churchill of the American Indian Movement. A cold combination of jab, overhand left, and a knockout uppercut. Ward Churchill’s footnotes alone raise consciousness, his historical knowledge of the long sixties that instruct us in ways few other comrades can. i am personally grateful to comrad brotha Jalil for his life and example. Let’s get him, and in the process ourselves, free!
Sanyika Shakur, August 3rd Communist Organization

Product Details

Criminal Justice/sociology




5.5 x 7.75



AK Press
674-A 23rd St.
Oakland, CA
phone:(510) 208-1700

Kersplebedeb Publishing and Distribution, CP 63560
CCCP Van Horne
Montreal, Quebec
Canada H3W 3H8

Also available from
Ingram and Baker & Taylor.


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