by: Keith ‘Malik’ Washington
END PRISON SLAVERY in TEXAS MOVEMENT
…”ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm!…I have plowed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me – and ain’t I a woman? I could work as much as any man (when I could get it), and bear de lash as well – and ain’t I a woman? I have borne Five Children and seen ‘em mos all sold off into slavery, and when I cried out with a mother’s grief, none but Jesus hear – and ain’t I a woman?
-Sojourner Truth, 1852
Revolutionary Greetings Sisters and Brothers!
I will not mince my words or bite my tongue. I want every humyn being that is reading this essay/article to know; Exploitation, Patriarchy and the abuse of wimmin is hard-wired into the mainframe of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (T.D.C.J.)
(T.D.C.J.) is the prison agency in Texas, that has (112) facilities through-out the state, of which (16) are privately-run. Gatesville, Texas is the home of most of the female units (facilities), and Texas has historically placed a shroud of secrecy around what ‘really happens’ inside facilities which house wimmin.
The Public Information Office of (T.D.C.J.) has perfected the art of misinforming the public about the conditions inside all (T.D.C.J.) facilities, but there is an extra amount of deception and lies fed to the public and the media, with regard to the treatment of our incarcerated sisters. Jason Clark is the chief Spokespersyn for (T.D.C.J.) Clark and his colleague Robert Hurst are professional liars and have even become so bold that they actually conspire with the upper-echelon (T.D.C.J.) prison administrators in order to block the media’s access to prisoners such as myself who have dedicated their lives to exposing injustice.
Enter The Raven!
In April, 2016, the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper published my essay: The Movement in Texas Prisons will not be complete until the sisters join.” This was my first attempt at calling incarcerated wimmin in Texas to the front-lines of the struggle to End Prison Slavery in Texas.
Unknown to many free-world folks, female prisoners work as hard and are subjected to all manner of abuse in the work place just like their male counterparts.
I maintain many reliable sources throughout the State of Texas, and one of my most reliable male comrades reported that his wife who is housed on the Crain Unit located in Gatesville, Texas, told him about a work-stoppage staged by (40) strong wimmin. The wimmin were retaliated against harshly. By the way, this took place around mid-April, 2016. (T.D.C.J.) immediately began to do ‘damage control’ and initiate a plan to cover-up the incident.
Simultaneously, as I was hearing of this incident, New York City journalist and activist Raven Rakia contacted me to inform me she was doing an exposé in “Harpers,” which was focused on prison labor, deadly heat, and medical neglect inside Texas Prisons. At the time, I was in lock-up/solitary confinement on D-Wing at the Coffield Unit. D-Wing which serves as a Transient Housing/Pending Investigation wing has been the site of numerous suicides! Some (T.D.C.J.) officers had begun calling D-Wing – Death Row!
In early May, 2016, I began to write a detailed article for the S.F. Bay View which described the show of solidarity of the female factory workers at Crain. Unknown to me, (T.D.C.J.) employees were opening my sealed media mail in order to thwart my attempts to expose injustice and abuse.
This article was exceptional in the sense that I had asked the S.F. Bay View editor – Sister Mary Ratcliff, to forward a copy of the piece to journalist raven Rakia and Alice Speri of the “Intercept.” But you see all my mail was under surveillance!! Every time I made a move, (T.D.C.J.) and their corrupt Spokespersyn Jason Clark would make a move!
In regards to the work-stoppage at Crain Unit – Clark lied to the media and the public – saying it was just a medical incident. (T.D.C.J.) – benefits from something called – Authority Bias. Michael Shermer is the author of a book entitled: “The Believing Brain.” In the book he has a section which describes biases and beliefs and why people believe certain things. I had to study why the media and the public at large kept allowing T.D.C.J.’s Jason Clark to misinform and lie to them!
Shermer defines Authority Bias as: The tendency to value the opinions of an authority especially in the evaluation of something we know little about. On the same weekend I wrote the essay about the work-stoppage at Crain Unit – (T.D.C.J.) prison officials shut off all the power and gassed me and many other prisoners on D-Wing while we slept!
This incident took place on May 6th, 2016, and the gas used was O.C. gas which sucked all of the oxygen out of my cell. I woke up around 10:30 PM suffocating, and my mouth erupting with mucous. It was one of the worst experiences of my life, and it was all enclosed in great detail in the essay I sent to Sister Mary Ratcliff – an essay she never received because (T.D.C.J.) intercepted it!
Many of you may ask: How in the world do you deal with such blatant and deliberate violations of your 1st Amendment Rights? First and foremost, I document and keep track of all serious incidents such as this; I have been blessed with a prodigious memory but most of all I have a small dedicated network of supporters who help distribute my work and amplify my voice. The only thing we need now is a bad ass civil rights attorney and Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now!” to come a callin!’ But for right now I’m thankful for Raven!
From May, 2016, till right now, I’ve been corresponding with Raven Rakia. In August, 2016, she informed me that she was coming to Texas – scheduling her visit for mid-September, 2016.
The Struggle is Bigger than ME!
Raven Rakia timed her visit to coincide with the National Work-Stoppage planned for September 9th, 2016. The plan was for Raven to come interview me and other prisoners and free-world activists. I pointed her in the direction of the Prison Justice League whose headquarters is in Austin, Texas – I told her about the phenomenal work of the University of Texas Human Rights Clinic – I told her about KPFT – 90.1 FM and the “Prison Show” and I told her about the hardest working prisoner rights advocate/political/legal guru in Texas – Comrade Twitch of Central Texas ABC & ABC Paralegal Services.
Raven came down to Texas from New York City around September 9th, 2016. She attended some activist-events and meetings in Austin, Texas, and then she began her work of collecting info for her article/exposé. Raven attempted to set-up a media visit with me by contacting the (T.D.C.J.) – Public Information Office, but that was denied. Unknown to many – (T.D.C.J.) had me placed in solitary confinement on September 8th, 2016. All this was part of a well-rehearsed and coordinated plan to block Raven’s access to me!
However, with the help of Comrade Twitch and other free-world friends we were able to help put Raven in touch with many female prisoners! I have always advocated zealously for the media to speak to the wimmin.
Historically, the State of Texas has created laws and policies that are exceptionally oppressive and harmful to wimmin. It took a tremendous effort by prisoner rights activist-Kathy Griffin-Grinin to get legislation past that would lessen the penalty for prostitution and start recognizing the fact that wimmin in Texas especially poor minorities were the victims and targets of Human Trafficking!!
However, I believe Twitch and I scored a major coup when we were able to introduce Dr. Cathy Marston to Raven Rakia. Dr. Marston founded her organization “Free Battered Texas Women” (F.B.T.W.) while still in prison with other wimmin at the Lane Murray Unit in Gatesville, Texas, and continues to advocate ending abuse and violence towards wimmin since her release in 2014. Way before Marissa Alexander in Florida, there was Dr. Cathy Marston in Texas! There are so many dreadful stories of abuse of wimmin in Texas and up to now they had no voice!
The State of Texas is home to many intelligent and talented female journalists. Journalists who actually cover Criminal Justice issues, but for many reasons too politically complex, they ignore certain issues that are deemed as taboo.
Brandi Grissom of the Dallas Morning News, Anita Hasan of the Houston Chronicle, Terri Langford of the Texas Tribune, Michelle Del Bosque, and Emily DePrang of the Texas Observer. I promise you, none of them can say I haven’t reached out to them. I practically begged Pamela Colloff of Texas Monthly to contact me for an interview, but there seems to be some unwritten rule, something hidden that is keeping journalists and media correspondents from interviewing certain prisoners and prohibiting them from covering certain topics.
Sisters Must Stand Up!
As we all have observed this year’s Presidential Election I think many of us have been empowered and impressed by the way Presidential Candidates stood to the racist-misogynistic liar is Donald Trump!
I definitely don’t agree with all of Hillary’s political philosophies but I am hoping as the new President of the United States, she will kick in the doors of the (T.D.C.J.) to see that a federal order is issued to conduct a thorough investigation supervised by U.S. Marshalls and F.B.I. agents, along with truly accredited, hand-picked & bonded American Corrections Association (ACA) inspectors of this in-bred ultra-corrupt prison agency.
Sisters and brothers, do you realize that there are mentally-ill wimmin prisoners at the Sky View Unit who are raped and assaulted daily?! Sky View is a unit Texas uses to house and torture mentally-ill prisoners both male and female!
I am challenging my incarcerated sisters on Hobby Unit, Crain Unit, Dr. Lane Murray Unit, and Mountain View Unit, to start writing detailed letters to the U.S. department of Justice – Civil Rights Section about issues that affect you! Deplorable working conditions, sexual assault by staff, 1st Amendment – Free Speech Violations. I think more people need to know that (T.D.C.J.) has set-up their mail-rooms in such a manner that we often can’t get messages to our loved ones that we are being harmed and abused.
Once again I encourage all of you to write essays and articles for the San Francico Bay View! I know personally that Editor Sister Mary Ratcliff has a special place in her heart for incarcerated sisters everywhere! And I know you have a lot more to offer to the world than a shapely bottom and a friendly smile that men routinely misinterpret offering more than friendship – you all are Queens! Remember that.
In conclusion, I want to let you know that the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter), does not tolerate, nor do we practice patriarchy or male chauvinism, or endorse the exploitation of wimmin. There are some of you who have shown interest in joining our party. Please know you will not be a Pantherette, you will be a Panther!
I encourage you to study the writings and work of Assata Shakur, Sofiyah Bukhari, Marilyn Buck (deceased), and thus far it is they, along with Professor Angela Y. Davis, who probably will provide the best indisputable examples of what one can become through struggle.
To Sisters Sherry Nance, Diane Bailey, Mona Nelson, Lori Smith, Dana Brock, Brittany Gulley, Kwanetta Harris, Laura Garza, Linda Burnett, Sharon Holman, Brandy King, Alyssa Maness, and Veyonka Pouncey to name only a few, your work is appreciated as is the dedication of hundreds of sisters across Texas, don’t think for one minute that your cries for justice are being ignored. I leave you with a quote from Anarchist Lucy Parsons in 1905:
“We are the slaves of slaves; we are exploited more ruthlessly than men.”
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win –
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!