The following appeared in the Prison Letters section of Overthrow Volume 6 #4 , December 1984/January 1985 — it was scanned by as part of the Arm the Spirit archive project (thanks!)
Back in – on or about 1971, after the jail house rock rebellion in N.Y.C. where every house of detention was taken over by prisoners, who had not been disarmed of their sense of outrage, a few of us were transferred from Branch Queens House of Detention to Riker’s lsland and placed in the segregation unit, where Sekou Odinga sits sharpening his sword now. Among us were some brothers who – indicted in the famous, or infamous Panther 21 case along with 31 other brothers – simply refused to surrender and submit to the systematic beatings and torture that pigs with baseball bats, ax handles and night sticks issued as the brothers who surrendered, stepped out offering no resistance. Those of us who didn’t give up were not made to kneel on the ground with our hands cuffed behind our backs while the state-issued robots struck us. Among us was the brother Dr. Curtis Powell.
One night when we went to “sick call,” Doc and I happened into this state prisoner he’d met earlier in his incarceration, who had recounted when he had first met Doc he took for granted that the brother was insane because he had listed his occupation as a physician. He was really amazed to discover that “by golly,” Powell was indeed a doctor after all. After telling us that story, he asked Doc how he was doing – or something to that effect. Doc replied, ”we are being railroaded … I am on the train.” The practitioner’s brows arched and lost for a moment, he turned to find relief in the face of a “correctional officer” who had just entered that section of the hallway. After speaking, the state practitioner asked the jailer, “Do you know Powell here? The doctor?” the jailer answered, looking at Doc, “weren’t you in C-76?” To which the Doc answered, “I’m in 1-a.” To which the state practitioner replied, “He doesn’t know where he is, he thinks he is on a train.”
We all bad a good laugh at that, the practitioner at the irony of a member of his profession being a crazy nigger after all. Doc and I had a good laugh because it shows just how an interpretation sticks; he was crazy when he tried to convince the interpreter that he was in fact a doctor of medicine. And now that that fact was confirmed, he was crazy because he thought he was on a train. A lot of such interpretations have resulted in trips to the mental wards, shock therapy, thorazine, and psychosurgery, performed by real psychos, and under a dominant alien culture there is bound to be misinterpretations. The fact that one group of people are to be a society’s menial class, and be subjected to institutional put-downs, and sanctioned to violence is a misinterpretation of common decency or better put, a mis-interpretation of acceptability for sure.
There is not one social topic that can be discussed free of the stench of racism. Social problems such as housing summon visions of our colonies called ghettos, unemployment, raises the spectre of what the media terms ‘discrimination.’ Health care brings to mind that infant mortality among New Afrikans is double that of Americans, that 50% of Native American women have been sterilized; not by one Ronald Reagan running from one reservation to the next with a knife, but by thousands of dedicated practitioners who were at work under the regime previous to what has been termed a mandate, and have sterilized over 20% of New Afrikan and Puerto Rican women as well. How can we address crime in a land where there has never been a white executed in the murder or rape of a black? How can a victim of Diana Ross concert mugging or a rape or a mob attack see such an experience in the light of historical conditioning and how can the sheepish mob behind the crimes of Hiroshima, Korea, Vietnam, Nicaragua and South Africa, not take responsibility for these crimes and not take responsibility for stopping them? Who can believe that this condition can go on indefinitely?
The United States was founded on the genocide of Native Americans, that continues. Out of the 50 million who inhabited this land only 1.6 million remain. The economic structure based on the subjection of a caste continues. The colonization of our brothers and sisters and neighbors to the south and bare faced denials, the innumerable invasions and occupations with the same shameless justifications continue.
Pick up an almanac and read the short historical sketches of Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and other nations in that region while the synopsis are still in print and it will be clear what the invasion of Grenada, Harlem, El Barrio and Wounded Knee continue to be, with the approval and aid of duped citizens and colonial subjects alike.
The highly polished “news” shows, the ruling class presses, the air waves guarded by the FCC manipulate our cultures into commercials, filter out much of that which challenges them and flood our senses with subliminal attacks to maintain racism. Rock reflects progressive and liberating tendencies as well as backward and fascist tendencies. It has challenged our thinking and that of those around us, sensitizing us to our doings, and it has packaged subtle and rank racism which are untitled. Anybody who believes they have rights over others is part of the problem. Anyone who believes they have the rights to use and abuse and attribute these rights to simply being born a particular species or gender and not on these beliefs or promotes them must be contested, as there is no trait worse save accepting evil nonsense of that type.
This progress which has devoured entire peoples and poisoned the biosphere of those of us remaining must be attacked, spiritually and culturally as well as fought physically and resolutely in all its aspects, if we are to maintain our sovereignty as human beings rather than parts of the machine. Self-determination, the freedom to be ourselves only conflicts with the interests of a tiny percent of the population that controls.
So Rock Against Racism, imperialism, and sexism. It’s a good sign that the new age art form indigenous and ingenious can be acknowledged piercing the net of commercialism and clearly out of the use of the state’s arsenal.
Let the good times roll and let the chips roll where they may.
Love, Power, & Peace by Piece,