By Keith “Malik” Washington, Chief Spokespersyn of End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement
Peace and blessings sisters and brothers!
We cannot continue to make conscious decisions that ignore our past because those thoughts make us feel uncomfortable. Slavery happened here in Amerika and it is still happening, especially in Amerika’s numerous slave kamps and gulags which most call prisons.
I studied the Presidency of Barack Obama very closely and I noticed he constantly embraced an elitist or exceptionalist narrative when speaking of the United States. Former President Obama would give “the world” the impression that the US was a bastion of humyn and civil rights protections. When in reality the opposite is true – Amerika is just better than most at covering up the abuse and mistreatment of its citizens.
In an interview conducted by journalist Kamala Kelkar of the PBS Newshour Weekend, my friend and humyn rights attorney Ollie Jefferson said: “We have human rights violations here as much as in other countries.” Attorney Jefferson has spent most of her legal career working with immigrants so it goes without saying that she is very familiar with the criminal justice system in Amerika.
When we speak of prison slavery in Amerika, we think of forced labor and involuntary servitude and no-one says that this is not happening. However, there are other elements of slavery – the unsavory and despicable elements present in and out of Amerika’s prisons.
The torture, the sex slaves, the indentured servants, the political prisoners, the so-called eco-terrorists and the framed-up Muslims right here in Amerika.
The state of Texas hates it when I get to beating my ‘drum’ because the oppressors know there is nothing they can do to silence me. The tactic they have embraced is censorship claiming my words represent security threat information. I expose human and civil rights abuses, I engage in political and legal discourse in hopes of raising the public’s awareness.
The State sees nothing wrong with the current system, in their eyes all is well – but is it?
Let’s take a look behind the iron curtain and allow me to introduce to you Texas prisoner Omar Valdez. Omar has served approximately 24 years and 6 months on a 25 year sentence! Omar has spent approximately 22 years in solitary confinement right here on the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, Texas. Omar has been denied parole over 11 times! Omar has spent years not incurring disciplinary infractions with the hope that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles would give him a chance to rebuild his life. They didn’t!
The Prison Legal News had a front page article in February 2017 entitled “TRAPPED: California wastes tens of millions of dollars a year keeping people in prison long after they’ve been rehabilitated – denying parole for arbitrary reasons and destroying lives in the process” by Sam Levin of the East Bay Express.
Now I want you to replace California with Texas and I want you to listen to Omar’s words and ask yourself “can’t we do better”? Without further ado I present to you Omar Valdez!
“Mr Malik, greetings, it is a pleasure to meet you. I appreciate you and folks like you who get out there on the ‘front lines’ fighting the good fight.
My name is Omar B. Valdez, TDC# 726686. I reside on the Eastham Unit located in Lovelady, Texas. I’ve resided here for the past 2 ½ decades! I’m serving a 25 year aggravated sentence for the charge of murder. I’ve been locked up since October 3rd, 1992. I arrived here on Eastham Unit on March 4th, 1996, and I’ve been here ever since! I have never left this unit.
I am in Administrative Segregation due to my previous gang affiliation. I have been a non-active ex-gang member since 2002. I made this choice in order to better my life and increase my chances of making parole. This did not help. TDCJ ignored my communications, my pleas fell on deaf ears!
I came to the realization long ago that no matter how good I did, it would have absolutely no bearing on my freedom. Nevertheless, I’ve continued to keep a very low profile and follow the rules. I’ve gone years at a time without incurring any disciplinary infractions. Sometimes 5, 6, even 10 years with not one infraction, to no avail. I received denial after denial after denial.
On January 30th 2017, I came up for parole for the 12th and final time. On March 10th 2017, I received my answer – parole denied – serve all! Well, now it’s June 2017 and I discharge my 25 year sentence on October 7th 2017, just a few months away.
TDCJ has given me no education, no job skills, nothing except solitary confinement and torture for over 22 years here on Eastham Unit.
There are limited resources we have back here in Ad-Seg. Unless you have money to pay for outside college courses, you are out of there. I would have thought that by now, after all these years, TDCJ and the State of Texas would have come up with some really incredible in-cell programming for us – they haven’t!
Many in free-world society are not aware of what we endure in these places. Brother Malik has only been here a few months, but I’ve been here for over 20 years to please allow me to enlighten you.
I understand this is prison and I’ve paid my dues for my crime, but does that justify me being subjected to live in unsanitary conditions? Rats and roaches all over the place, having to drink this contaminated water. At one point a couple of years back we were told TDCJ didn’t monitor or test the water properly for over a year.
Eastham Administrators put together an Inter-Office Communication which said “if you are experiencing a negative reaction of some type, put in a sick call, etc etc” Imagine that I said – they wait a whole year before informing us? Then they frequently post “boil notices” – how do we do that? We have no means to do that. So what are we to do? Go without drinking water? Thus far God has blessed me not to have had any serious problems, but I’ve experienced problems in my throat, like I lose my voice from time to time or I can’t talk too loud or I start choking and coughing. I don’t know if it is from the contaminated water or these chemical gas agents they keep using on us!
I do all I can to avoid the infirmary because they’ve shown me nothing but carelessness and negligence time and time again. UTMB don’t care about us – period. (UTMB is the University of Texas Medical Branch.)
I’ve seen a lot here at Easham. I’ve seen inmates get infected with TB, and I’ve seen folks get prescribed the wrong medication and it turn fatal. One time I saw a female sergeant coax a guy into committing suicide. Sad to say, but he was successful! Now that same sergeant is a Lieutenant right here at Eastham. Boy, if these walls could talk…
It has been hard to maintain my sanity all these years. Truth is one has to have a strong mind and strong will, otherwise it easy to be consumed by these walls. I’ve lost so many loved ones during this stretch. I lost both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, I lost my son and my sister! It hurts, you know? I’m paying for my crimes dearly.
So very soon I’ll be spit out into society at the age of 50. I have minimal job skills and education. I must ask all of you “what does this say about the Texas system? About their administrative segregation units? About the parole system? Thank you for your time and concern.
Respectfully, Omar Valdez TDC #726686”
Well, sisters and brothers, I really don’t have a lot to add to Omar’s story. It took some courage for him to come forward and speak out. I think a lot of us are tired of hearing people like Jason Clark and Robert Hurst, the spokespersyns for TDCJ, feed the public a bunch of deceptions and lies. As another session of the Texas Legislature comes to an end, the slavery continues inside Texas prisons.
Dare to struggle, dare to win.
All power to the people.
P.S. Breaking News! – Update
On May 18th 2017, 3 hours after Malik put the finishing touches on this essay, Omar B Valdez was notified by TDCJ staff that he is going to a pre-release program at the Estelle High Security unit in Huntsville, Texas! Omar vows to never return to prison. Let’s hope he can honor his words. After 24 years and 8 months in a Texas prison, the deck is unfairly stacked against him! Although he is elated to be leaving a couple of months early, he says the system is still very dysfunctional and broken.
In solidarity, Comrade Malik
Keith “Malik” Washington is a humyn rights activist currently incarcerated in Texas. He is a co-founder and chief spokespersyn for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement. Malik is a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) and he is the Deputy Chairman of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter). Malik has been instrumental in calling for the abolition of legalized slavery in Amerika and he is very active in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. You can view his work at comrademalik.com or write him directly at Keith ‘Comrade Malik’ Washington TDC# 1487958 Eastham Unit, 2665 Prison Road 1 Lovelady, Texas 75851 (936) 636-7321 ext. (**009)