WHAT: Political Prisoner Letter-Writing WHEN: 7pm, Tuesday, June 29th, 2021 WHERE: YOUR HOME COST: Free
One year and one month to the day of George Floyd’s murder the state sentenced his murderer to 22 1/2 years in prison. Are we supposed to be happy or feel relieved? Those of us engaged in prisoner support work know plenty of folks that spend much more time inside for much less, but also know prison is hell anyway you slice it (we don’t like to get caught up in the arguments of what constitutes a long sentence). Regardless, we trust he’ll be well cared for in there. And no, we’re not happy. And no, we’re not relieved. They sacrificed one of their own to take the fall for the rest still working their beats. Meanwhile, cops continue to murder, migrants are detained at an increasing rate, and Trump is still holding rallies. The uprisings of 2020 were a hopeful promise of what is to come, and now one year later we’re here wondering if anything has changed. All we can do is to continue our organizing projects, our mutual aid projects, and our solidarity work. For us at NYC ABC, that is supporting political prisoners through letter writing efforts.
This week, NYC ABC and Page One Collective ask you to write to a Black liberation political prisoner, the truly implacable Russell Maroon Shoatz, himself accused of taking action against the brutality meted out by cops on Black communities. Russell Maroon Shoatz is a dedicated community activist, founding member of the Black Unity Council, former member of the Black Panther Party and soldier in the Black Liberation Army. In 1970, along with 5 others, Maroon was accused of attacking a police station, which resulted in a cop being killed. This attack was said to have been carried out in response to the rampant police brutality in the Black community. For 18 months Maroon functioned underground as a soldier in the Black Liberation Army. In 1972 he was captured. Twice he escaped—once in 1977 and again in 1980, but both times he was recaptured and today he is held in Pennsylvania where he is serving multiple life sentences.
As with many of our imprisoned elders, Maroon faces health concerns and should immediately released. On June 17th 2021 there was an emergency action to get Russell his much needed chemo treatments which had been cancelled by DOC. Please stay tuned for more updates.
Please take the time to write a letter to Maroon (and share a photo of your completed envelopes with us online):
Smart Connections/PA DOC Russell Shoats #AF-3855 SCI-Dallas PO Box 33028 St. Petersburg, Fl 33733
It’s that time again! Join us on September 12th for another #runningdownthewalls 5K to raise funds for #politicalprisoners! Proceeds will be split between Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Warchest fund that sends monthly stipends to 17 other political prisoners.
#RDTW is more than a 5K, it’s a day to amplify voices of comrades behind bars and lift them up in their struggles, and maintain material support. Over last 3 years we’ve raised $17,952 for current and former political prisoners. Let’s do it again this year!
Mumia is a former Black Panther, MOVE supporter, organizer and inspiration for the prison lawyers movement, award-winning journalist and author of several books and hundreds of columns and articles. Known as “the voice of the voiceless” for many years of speaking out about issues relating to working class people of color, prisoners, and more, he was targeted and framed for the murder of a cop in 1981. He was convicted on perjured testimony and manufactured evidence. It’s urgent that we come together for the freedom of Mumia, especially as he faces medical neglect on serious health complications, including congestive heart disease, liver damage, a severe chronic skin condition, and recent recovery from COVID-19. All hands on deck to #freemumia
The ABCF Warchest sends monthly stipends to PPs and POWs with insufficient, little, or no financial support. Since November 1994, the program has dispersed more than $150,000.
Running is not required! You can also walk, bike, skate, roll, etc. If you can’t make it or would like to make additional contributions, please sponsor a participant either outside or inside prison, or one of each. Contact us for more info on sponsoring! [email protected]
Mumia has been in prison for nearly 40 years. Together we are stronger than prison walls, and together we can bring Mumia home. Register now for this meaningful 5K run/walk/roll on September 12th and #runformumia!
Today is former political prisoner and United Freedom Front militant Tom Manning’s birthday. He would be 74 today. Tom died in the summer of 2019 of medical neglect, still locked behind bars. His spirit lives on in the lives of all those he touched. We fight to win in his honor. Tom Manning Presente!
This segment was first aired on TFSR in 2013 and then again in 2015. We thought it was time to share some of the story of Chicanx, anarchist-communist political prisoner Xinachtli, in his own words. Throughout the segments original audio, I used his state name of Alvaro Luna-Hernandez as he had not yet adopted the moniker Xinachtli, which means “seed” in Nahuatl. Xinachtli is a collective member at and editor of the Certain Days political prisoner calendar.
Xinachtli is serving a 50 year sentence since 1996 in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for aggravated assault on a Sheriff in Alpine, Texas. The Sheriff was serving a warrant for Xinachtli’s re-arreast at Xinachtli’s home. When questioned on the nature of the warrant, the Sheriff pulled a gun and Xinachtli was able to disarm him and make an escape without harming the Sheriff significantly.
After a few days of man-hunt, his mothers house was surrounded by numerous local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the house was beseiged. It was only a 9-1-1 call from Xinacthli made stating that he was not being allowed to surrender that caused the troops to stand down and he allowed himself to be taken into state custody.
The grounds for the arrest warrant have since been overturned, but based on the post-facto word of the Sheriff that Xinachtli had pointed the gun at him, Xinachtli was sentenced to 50 years. He’s been determined to be a political prisoner based on his participation in multiple cases against abuse by prison officials and police, his jailhouse lawyering, advocacy for Latinx and other marginalized people in Texas and his political stance that the US and state governments occupying the Southwest of Turtle Island is a racist and illegitimate regime.
Here is featured an interview with Xinachtli that we received from comrades in the Anarchist Black Cross who were doing support work for him. The original interview was incomplete, missing the voice of the interviewer, so we did our best to edit and reconstruct the audio to better fit a conversational format and present his conflicts with the Prison Industrial Complex, his views on his political prisoner status at the time of this interview and his views on his case. More info on his case, plus his writings and ways to get involved in his support campaign can be found at FreeAlvaro.Net.
You can write to Xinachtli by addressing your envelope to:
Alvaro Luna Hernandez #255735 W.G. McConnell Unit, 3001 Emily Drive, Beeville, Texas 78102
Be sure to use Xinachtli only in written content meant for him, prison staff likely won’t deliver envelopes with Xinachtli written on them.
Philly ABC will be hosting a letter writing event on Monday, June 28th.
Fidencio Aldama Perez is an indigenous Yaqui land defender and political prisoner from the northern Mexican state of Sonora. He was arrested on October 27, 2016, and later sentenced to fifteen years and six months in prison on trumped-up charges related to a death in the community of Loma de Bácum, Sonora. It is believed that he was targeted due to his support for the indigenous community’s opposition to a gas pipeline that was to pass through Yaqui territory.
Before his imprisonment, Fidencio loved playing soccer with his children and the community. His favorite team is C.F. Pachuca. He is a talented singer and musician, playing the guitar, bass, accordion, and flute. He has long been involved in practicing, teaching, and strengthening the culture and traditions of the Yaqui people, including playing guitar in traditional Yaqui ceremonies and participating in communal dances. For Fidencio, his identity as indigenous and Yaqui is extremely important, something he has passed on to his children. His vision is for a Yaqui territory that fully belongs to the Yaqui people and from which no one can be displaced.
Please join us this coming Monday in Clark Park (stone platform near 45th and Chester) for letter-writing and art-making in participation of the international week of letter-writing and artwork in solidarity with Fidencio Aldama Perez!
We will also send birthday cards to a political prisoner with a birthday in July: Gage Halupowski (the 1st).
Saturday, June 26th at 3:30pm Manhattan – Union Square park. (We will be around the South West part of Union Square, near the Gandhi Statue, if it isn’t too crowded). The 46th Anniversary of the Incident at Oglala. facebook event
Members of the Jericho Movement and NYC Free Peltier will be there with their big Free Leonard Peltier banner. Leonard has been in prison for over 45 years. He is in bad health, and supporters are trying to get him moved to a geriatric hospital prison in Minnesota. This is an informal event, so everybody who has something to say about Peltier gets to speak, if we even have speakers.
Join us Wednesday, June 23rd, 6pm for Art 4 Liberation. A virtual conversation between two amazing visual artists, Emory Douglas and Sophia Dawson. They will discuss 84 year old Sundiata Acoli, a former Black Panther who has been incarcerated 48 years, his art and life and the role of art as a tool for liberation. Registration is required! Register here.
*Also, don’t forget to sign and share this petition demanding NJ Governor Phil Murphy commute Sundiata’s sentence to time served.
We urge you to commute the sentence of Dr. Mutulu Shakur, a father, grandfather, healer, and human rights activist who has been in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for over 35 years. Dr. Shakur is now 70 years old, has suffered 2 strokes, glaucoma, and has been battling Stage 3 bone marrow cancer for the last 2 ½ years. Although he received a bone marrow transplant, his cancer is not curable — he will require continuing treatment and cancer management, until the end of his life.
Why is this important?
Dr. Shakur was sentenced to 60 years in prison because of actions based on his political beliefs. He was targeted and victimized by the now infamous Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), as early as 1968. Dr. Shakur comes out of a complex and turbulent moment in American history, when civil unrest fractured our country into pieces. He is recognized as a leading member of the movement for human rights for African Americans.
Dr. Shakur has taken full responsibility for past actions that resulted in loss of life. Today, his beliefs center around the desire for fundamental human rights, a desire for equitable laws and policies, and a world without racial, gender and class divisions. He has been a force for peace and for good during the many years of his incarceration, working against violence in the prisons and in his varied communities. He has developed hospice programs for incarcerated elders, and created educational curriculums for young prisoners entering prison. He has also counseled and mentored countless younger prisoners, including many who are leading positive lives after prison and attribute much of their success to Dr. Shakur’s influence.
His release would pose absolutely no threat to public safety. This is supported by BOP’s own PATTERN risk assessment tool, which has determined Dr. Shakur is in the lowest possible risk category. Studies by the Department of Justice (DOJ) have also shown that based on Dr. Shakur’s age, he poses almost no risk of recidivism. Current and former staff have supported his release on parole, but the US Parole Commission has denied him parole 8 times.
All of Dr. Shakur’s co-defendants and co-conspirators convicted as part of this federal conspiracy have been released. This leaves Dr. Shakur as the only person remaining in federal prison for these offenses, all of the white co-conspirators having been released from prison more than twenty years before. His release would correct this disparity and give him a chance to rejoin his family and community.
Mr. President, we urge you to act with compassion, and grant release to Dr. Mutulu Shakur. In this historical moment, millions of people in this country are advocating for Black Lives and there is bipartisan support for the end to mass incarceration. The release of Dr. Shakur, a Black elder who has spent his life advocating for his community, aligns with these goals of racial justice and criminal justice reform.
Sundiata Acoli is an 84-year-old grandfather, mentor, teacher and artist who has been in prison for more than 48 years. He and Joanne Chesimard (Assata Shakur) were both convicted and sentenced to life in prison (with the possibility of parole) for their role in the tragic shooting on the New Jersey State Turnpike which resulted in the death of New Jersey state trooper, Werner Foerster and Black Panther Party member named Zayd Shakur. The highly publicized trial and Assata Shakur’s subsequent escape from prison in 1979 have framed Sundiata’s imprisonment as one of the most emotional and passionately debated cases in the history of the state of New Jersey. Though Sundiata has been eligible for parole for more than 25 years his petitions for parole have been summarily denied eight times.
By the grace of God, Sundiata has endured almost five decades of imprisonment in some of the most torturous prisons in America. He has expressed deep remorse and regret and has taken full responsibility for his actions that fateful night almost 50 years ago. There is so much that this veteran freedom fighter can teach a country that does not seem to be able to move beyond the cycles of protest, retaliation and revenge. I am a pastor at a historic Black Church in Princeton, N.J. and I am blessed to serve as Sundiata’s “faith based” counsel and representative in the Bring Sundiata Acoli Home Alliance.
I first “met” Sundiata Acoli over 25 years ago after sending him a letter to where he was imprisoned in a maximum security prison in Leavenworth, Kan. Sundiata Acoli is a graduate of Prairie View University in Texas and was a mathematician and computer analyst who worked for NASA prior to committing his life full time to the civil rights movement and as a leader in the Black Panther Party. When I learned about Sundiata, I was a recent college dropout turned full time activist working as a Human Rights Fellow for Amnesty International-USA. I was intrigued by his story and I wanted to learn more. I was assigned the responsibility of working on a wide range of domestic human rights projects including the abolition of the death penalty and advocacy on behalf of those identified as “political prisoners” in the United States. I came to learn that Sundiata Acoli was so much more than his political history or an iconic symbol drawing passionate responses from both supporters and opponents.
As an octogenarian COVID-19 survivor in the early stages of dementia, currently suffering from heart disease and emphysema, Sundiata does not represent a safety threat to anyone, anywhere. As recently as May 2021, the N.J. Board of Parole seemingly ignored the fact that Sundiata has had a perfect disciplinary record for almost 30 years and teaches a class in federal prison for young prisoners preparing for re-entry into communities on parole.
Currently, Sundiata sits in a federal prison cell on the verge of what many of his supporters see as a politically motivated death sentence. At last count, close to 10,000 women and men have signed an online petition calling upon New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to grant compassionate release and allow Sundiata to go home to his family. I pray every day that those in power will submit to the call of a higher power which calls humanity for forgiveness, mercy and grace.
Over the decades of his incarceration, I have come to know him as a father of two daughters and grandfather that longs to hug his grandchildren outside of a prison. I know Sundiata as a source of wise and calming counsel to scores of young activists who needed to understand the connection of one generation of freedom fighters to the next. I know Sundiata as a mentor who encouraged me to be a committed father to my newborn children, return to college and complete graduate school as I discovered my true calling as an activist-minister. Two decades ago, I would have jumped at any opportunity to debate the details of Sundiata’s case and argue the tragedy of political calculations which extend prison sentences for prisoners such as Sundiata and many other aging political prisoners. No more. Today, I am focused on the moral tragedy of a government that waits for aging prisoners to die through the use of de facto death sentences. In this hour, I am committed to calling upon communities to prevent these political death sentences from being executed. The deaths of those identified as “political prisoners” stigmatize freedom movements, institutionalize vengeance and revoke our best hopes for healing and reconciliation.
I remember in one of our first telephone conversations, I asked Sundiata, “When do you think that you will be released?” He answered, “That’s up to you. The people make that decision.” It is a decision that is overdue. If not now—Sundiata Acoli will die in prison. It is time for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to do what is right and exercise his executive power to release Sundiata Acoli by commuting his sentence to time served.