This week the Renegade Crew celebrates its 100th episode of Renegade Culture. Jalil Muntaqim former political prisoner and veteran Black Panther Party Member gives his first podcast interview since his release. He talks about joining the Panther Party, the role of the Black underground, his 49 years in prison, and where the Black Movement is today.
A review of ‘Pen Pal: Prison Letters from a Free Spirit on Slow Death Row’ by Tiyo Attallah Salah-El
by David Gilbert
This inspiring book consists of a selection of 92 of the 568 letters prisoner Tiyo Attallah Salah-El sent out to Paul Alan Smith over the course of 14 years – just one of Tiyo’s richly engaging correspondences. From this book, one can learn a lot about the realities of prison and see a stellar example of a wonderfully productive life despite all kinds of obstacles and feel the passion for social justice.
Tiyo was incarcerated in 1975 in Pennsylvania, where 60 percent of prisoners are Black or Latinx. “Pen Pal” is not about his case. We only learn in passing that it involved drugs, guns and murder and that he is ashamed of the person he was.
Tiyo was sent to SCI Dallas, a prison built to house 950 but holds 2,480. He was placed on “slow death row,” the unit for 453 lifers, with little or no chance at all for parole. Pennsylvania holds 5,370 such people. Tiyo remained there until he died in 2018 at the age of 85.
On slow death row, Tiyo formed deep friendships with Phil and Delbert Africa of the revolutionary Black liberation and environmental MOVE organization. Mike Africa Jr., the son of two other MOVE activists who each did four decades in prison, wrote the touching preface to this book.
While “Pen Pal” is not at all an effort to provide a detailed picture of prison life, Tiyo’s various passing references give readers a better sense of the realities than I’ve been able to do even with direct descriptions. We feel life in a 5-by-8-foot cell, where you never sleep next to a loved one, where you feel the cold before the heat gets turned on Nov. 1 and the high 90 degrees when the block bakes in July.
There’s the censorship, whereby Tiyo couldn’t even receive a book on prison abolition that included one of his essays. There’re the frequent lockdowns when you are in your cell for the duration, eating peanut butter sandwiches and hoping that the SWAT team doesn’t trash your cell too badly.
Founded in Oakland, California, in 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was a radical political organization that stood in defiant contrast to the mainstream civil rights movement. This gripping illustrated history explores the impact and significance of the Panthers, from their social, educational, and healthcare programs that were designed to uplift the Black community to their battle against police brutality through citizen patrols and frequent clashes with the FBI, which targeted the Party from its outset.
Using dramatic comic book-style retellings and illustrated profiles of key figures, The Black Panther Party captures the major events, people, and actions of the party, as well as their cultural and political influence and enduring legacy.
Jalil Muntaqim is an activist, author, and former member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army. During his five decades of incarceration, Muntaqim remained a pioneering leader within and without his prison walls. He initiated national campaigns for the United States to recognize the status of political prisoners who, like himself, fought for liberation in the face of state persecution, surveillance and intimidation, and later helped to found an amnesty movement dedicated to freeing political prisoners and prisoners of war. He also earned multiple college degrees, mentored hundreds of people, and taught classes on sociology, African Studies, poetry, IT, and other life skills.
Released on parole in October 2020, and now at Citizen Action NY, Muntaqim lends his experience and knowledge of history to discuss the way forward from our present moment on policing, popular resistance, criminal (in)justice, and our collective imaginings for a more just, more humane future.
The conversation, co-hosted by the UR Abolition Coalition, the Center for Community Engagement, the Frederick Douglass Institute, the Susan B. Anthony Institute, the Rochester Decarceration Research Initiative, and the Central New York Humanities Corridor, includes a moderated discussion followed by an audience Q&A.ASL Interpretation will be provided. Please be in touch with [email protected] with other requests for accommodation or questions as far in advance of the event as possible.
It’s halfway through February so figured we would drop the price for all you holdouts! Get your 2021 Certain Days calendar while they last- we are at about 3 boxes left and they are going fast.Order from https://burningbooks.com/…/certain-days-2021-calendar-a…and get free shipping on orders over $35.
This year’s theme is “A Generation of Support Through the Bars” and features art and writings by Grae Rosa, Herman Bell, Veronza Bowers, David Campbell, Saima Desai, Damon Locks, Tom Manning, Monica Trinidad, Nidal el-Khairy, David Gilbert, Gord Hill (aka Zig Zag), Eric King, Jaan Laaman, Paul Lacombe, Joy Powell, Richard Rivera, Laura Whitehorn, Linda Evans and Susan Rosenberg, Xinachtli and more!
The Anarchist Black Cross Federation (ABCF) initiated the Warchest program in November 1994 to send monthly checks to Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War who have been receiving insufficient, little, or no financial support during their imprisonment. Its purpose is to collect funds from groups and individual supporters and send that money directly to commissary accounts of vetted Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War (PP/POW) via monthly checks. Since its inception, we have distributed over $130,000 in funds [view our latest Warchest Report accounting for funds raised]. Viewable here
As Sekou Odinga (a former POW recipient) wrote, “Thanks much for the support you’ve been organizing, I really appreciate it. After not having any or very little support for so long, it now seems like (people) have all of a sudden realized that I am alive.”
We are consolidating efforts going on around the country in support of PP/POWs in order to substantially aid such prisoners. There are many such efforts going on. Prisoner supporters are often small in number and finance, so it is usually difficult to meet the material needs of PP/POWs. We may be small pockets of resistance, however, we are also part of a much larger struggle. Former POW Ojore Lutalo said, ‘our enemy is consolidating their efforts against us, we have to do the same.’ One way this is done is through collecting monthly donations from groups or individuals. Many of us cannot afford more than $5, $10, or $20 per month. Alone, this does not amount to much. But, when we pool our resources and give that amount to one Warchest, we are able to make progress. The success we have had thus far attests to this. In the first several years, we were able to increase the number of prisoners we support with consistent support of up to $60 per month. Due to financial restraints in 1999, we were forced to reduce the monthly aid to $40 per recipient. However, since then we significantly increased the number of recipients, and in 2020 we increased the monthly stipend to $50 for the 19 current recipients.
Still, the need is more than we can offer at this time. With your help, we can change this– become a regular contributor, or contact us with your ideas! You can, for instance, support Running Down the Walls, an annual 5K held in and out of prisons all over the U.S. that raises money for the Warchest. Please help this much needed program expand and increase the number of prisoners supported and the amount they receive. There is any number of ways that you can do so. If you want to put on a benefit, please contact one of our chapters first so we can supply you with promotional and informational literature.
Where Does This Money Go?
We originally compiled a list of PP/POWs who we suspected were in need of financial assistance with the help of people including Ojore Lutalo, Sundiata Acoli, and Sekou Odinga. We also asked that list of PP/POWs to add names of PP/POWs they suspected were in need. Those acknowledging they need support answer a questionnaire concerning their financial situation. Based on their answers to these questions, those in the most need are added to the Warchest recipient list. This process continues today as we continually reassess prisoner needs, including prisoners asking to be removed when they are no longer in financial need. Typically, a rotating committee of 5 PP/POWs called the Prisoners Committee helps us make decisions about the Warchest. Prisoners receiving checks use the funds in whatever way s/he wishes. All Warchest recipients are verified as political prisoners or prisoners of war based on international standards. The current Warchest recipients are:
To ensure the Warchest is a long-term and sustainable program, we strive to maintain a balance of one year’s (12 months) worth of Warchest needs in the account at all times to guarantee stipends can continue to be sent in without any interruption due to unforeseen decreases in funds coming in. Because we currently have 19 people on the Warchest, and send them $50 a month, $11,400 is what we strive to maintain in the account. When available funds get low, we will more diligently fundraise to stay above this level.
Any amount in the account over this reserve can be used as an Emergency Fund to send checks to PP/POWs in need of one time or urgent assistance. For instance, Jalil Muntaqim (New York 3 PP) was transferred and lost his belongings including his coat and gloves in the dead of winter. With funds collected from irregular contributors, we replaced these items quickly. Whenever possible, we try to assist PP/POWs in need of support transitioning out of prison with a one-time donation upon their release.
Ways to Donate Check or money order: made out to Tim Fasnacht and send to Tim Fasnacht, P.O. Box 8682, Lancaster, PA 17604.
NYC ABC, along with several other individuals and prisoner support crews, now send hard copies to all political prisoners and prisoners of war we support.
If you consistently mail the latest updates to a specific prisoner, please let us know so we can insure there’s no overlap. The goal is to have copies sent to all of the prisoners we list.
We’ve also been told that some prisoners are not receiving the copies sent in, yet we aren’t getting rejection notices. If you are in steady contact with a prisoner, please ask them whether or not they are receiving the updates and let us know.
Via Antifa Sacramento Antifascist political prisoner Gage Halupowski has been locked up since 6/29/2019. He’s doing 6 years. As we move forward let’s keep that same energy of support and solidarity for our comrade year after year! Here comes 2021! #SupportGage#FreeGage
WHAT: Political Prisoner Letter-Writing WHEN: 7pm, Tuesday, February 7th, 2021 WHERE: YOUR HOME COST: Free
It’s winter here on the stolen land we call New York City. Winter is billed as a time to slow down and recharge, but for most of us under capitalism that is a fallacy. And while the work of the state doesn’t slow down for a snowstorm, neither does our obligation to fight against it. For NYC ABC and Page One Collective, that means continuing to support political prisoners. Please join us this week in writing the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 (KBP7), many of whom have started their sentences in the last couple of months.
The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 are seven Catholic plowshares activists who entered Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia on April 4th, 2018. They went to make real the prophet Isaiah’s command to “beat swords into plowshares.”
The seven chose to act on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who devoted his life to addressing what he called the “triple evils of militarism, racism, and materialism.” Carrying hammers and baby bottles of their own blood, the seven attempted to convert weapons of mass destruction. In October 2019, the seven were convicted of all four charges. More information at kingsbayplowshares7.org.
Below are the addresses that we currently have for the folx who have started their sentences and have confirmed that they want correspondence. Father Stephen Kelly is currently in transit and Clare Grady will start on February 10, shortly after this post is published. Be sure to check back next month for the updated issue of the Illustrated Guide to Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War, which will have updated addresses.
Please take the time to write a letter to KBP7 (and share a photo of your completed envelopes with us online): Clare Grady #01264-052 FPC Alderson Glen Ray Road, Box A Alderson, West Virginia 24910
Patrick O’Neill #14924-018 FCI Elkton Post Office Box 10 Lisbon, Ohio 44432
Carmen Trotta #22561-021 FCI Otisville Satellite Camp Post Office Box 1000 Otisville, New York 10963
To commemorate Black History Month, we will examine the unjust case of Imam Jamil Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, who was targeted by the government on fabricated charges and sentenced to life without parole plus an additional 35 years in a federal supermax prison. Joining us will be his son, attorney and activist, Kairi Al-Amin, community organizer El-Hajj Amir Khalid A. Samad, and CCF board member and human rights advocate, El-Hajj Mauri Saalakhan.