Joseph "Joe-Joe" Bowen is one of the many all-but-forgotten frontline soldiers in the liberation struggle. A native of Philadelphia, Joe-Joe was a young member of the "30th and Norris Street" gang, before his incarceration politicized him. Released in 1971, his outside activism was cut short a week following his release when Joe-Joe was confronted by an officer of the notoriously brutal Philadelphia police department. The police officer was killed in the confrontation, and Bowen fled.
After his capture and incarceration, Bowen became a Black Liberation Army combatant, defiant to authorities at every turn. In 1973, Bowen and Philadelphia Five prisoner Fred "Muhammad Kafi" Burton assassinated Holmesberg prison's warden and deputy warden as well as wounded the guard commander in retaliation for intense repression against Muslim prisoners in the facility. In 1981, Bowen led a six-day standoff with authorities when he and six other captives took 39 hostages at Graterford Prison as a freedom attempt and protest of the prison conditions at Graterford.
Much of his time in prison has been spent in and out of control units, solitary confinement and other means of isolating Joe-Joe from the general prison population. These include three trips to Marion penitentiary, where he met Sundiata Acoli, and other units. However, he legendary to many prisoners as a revolutionary. "I used to teach the brothers how to turn their rage into energy and understand their situations," Bowen told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1981. "I don't threaten anybody. I don't talk to the pigs. I don't drink anything I can't see through and I don't eat anything that comes off a tray. When the time comes, I'll be ready."
Joe-Joe is currently held in Pennsylvania.
Joe-Joe Bowen currently receives $30 per month from the Warchest Program.Joe-Joe Bowen Flier