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The New Afrikan Prison Struggle


The Red, Black & Green Machine Is Back! To Clean Up The Scene.

    an Overview
      by Sundiata Acoli

True Revolutionary: Sundiata Acoli

Early History up to 1960

     The Afrikan prison struggle began on the shores of
Afrika behind the walls of medieval pens that held captives
for ships bound west into slavery. It continues today behind
the walls of modern U.S. penitentiaries where all prisoners
are held as legal slaves in blatant violation of
international law.
      One aspect of prison ideology began to form as far back
as the reign of Louis XIV of France (1643-1715) when the
Benedictine monk Mabillon wrote that: ". . . penitents might
be secluded in cells like those of Carthusian monks, and
there being employed in various sorts of labor. In 1790, on
April 5th, the Pennsylvania Quakers actualized this concept
as the capstone of their 14-year struggle to reform
Philadelphia's Walnut Street jail. No longer would corporal
punishment be administered. Henceforth prisoners would be
locked away in their cells with a Bible and forced to do
penitence in order to rehabilitate themselves. Thus was born
the penitentiary.
     In 1850, approximately 6,700 people were found in the
nation's newly emerging prison system.3 Almost none of the
prisoners were Black. They were more valuable economically
outside the prison system because there were other means of
racial control. During this time most New Afrikan (Black)
men, women, and children were already imprisoned for life on
plantations as chattel slaves. Accordingly, the Afrikan
struggle behind the walls was carried on primarily behind the
walls of slave quarters through conspiracies, revolts,
insurrections, arson, sabotage, work slowdowns, poisoning of
the slavemaster, selfmaimings, and runaways. If slaves were
recaptured, they continued the struggle behind the walls of
the local jails, many of which were first built to hold
captured runaways. Later they were also used for local
citizens. Shortly after 1850, the imprisonment rate
increased, then remained fairly stable with a rate of between
75 and 125 prisoners per 100,000 population. The Afrikan
struggle continued primarily behind the slave-quarter's walls
down through the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.
     Immediately after the Civil War and at the end of
slavery, vast numbers of Black males were imprisoned for
everything from not signing slavelike labor contracts with
plantation owners to looking the "wrong" way at some white
person, or for some similar "petty crime." Any
"transgression" perceived by Whites to be of a more serious
nature was normally dealt with on the spot with a gun or rope
. . . provided the Black was outnumbered and outarmed.
"Black-on-Black" crime was then, as now, considered to be
"petty crime" by the U.S. Justice system. But petty or not,
upon arrest most New Afrikans were given long, harsh
sentences at hard labor. Within five years after the end of
the Civil War, the Black percentages of the prison population
went from close to zero to 33 percent. Many of these
prisoners were hired out to whites at less than slave wages.
Overnight, prisons became the new slave quarters for many New
Afrikans. Likewise the Afrikan prison struggle changed from
a struggle behind the walls of slave quarters to a struggle
behind the walls of county workhouses, chain gang camps, and
the plantations and factories that used prisoners as slave

     From 1910 through 1950, Blacks made up 23 to 34 percent
of the prisoners in the U.S. prison system.8 Most people,
conditioned by the prison movies The Defiant Ones (starring
Sidney Poitier, a Black, and Tony Curtis, a White), or I
Escaped From the Chain Gang (starring Paul Muni, a White in
an integrated chain gang), or Cool Hand Luke (starring Paul
Newman, a White, in a Southern chain gang) erroneously assume
that earlier U.S. prison populations were basically
integrated. This is not so. The U.S. was a segregated society
prior to 1950, including the prisons; even the northern ones.
Most New Afrikan prisoners were sent to county workhouses,
Black chain gangs, and obscure negro prisons. Thus, the early
populations of the more well-known or "mainline" state and
federal prisons: Attica, Sing Sing, Alcatraz, and Atlanta
were predominantly whte and male. Whenever New Afrikans were
sent to these "mainline" prisons they found themselves
grossly outnumbered, relegated to the back of the lines, to
separate lines, or to no lines at all. They were often denied
outright what meager amenities existed within the prisons.
Racism was rampant. New Afrikans experienced racist
suppression by both white prisoners and guards. All of the
guards were white there were no Black guards or prison
officials at the time. The Afrikan prisoners continued to
struggle behind the walls of these segregated county
workhouses, chain gang camps, and state and federal prisons,
yet prison conditions for them remained much the same through
World War ll. Inside conditions accurately reflected
conditions of the larger society outside the walls, except by
then the state's electric chair had mainly supplanted the
lynch mob's rope.
     Things began to change in the wake of World War ll. Four
factors flowing together ushered in these changes. They were
the ghetto population explosion, the drug influx, the
emergence of independent Afrikan nations, and the Civil
Rights Movement.

     As northern discrimination, bulging ghettos, and the
drug influx were setting off a rise in New Afrikan numbers
behind the walls, Southern segregation, the emergence of
independent Afrikan nations, and the resulting Civil Rights
Movement provided those increasing numbers with the general
political agenda: equality and anti discrimination.
     Meanwhile, behind the walls, small segments of the New
Afrikan population began rejecting Western Christianity; they
turned to Islam as preached by Elijah Muhammad's Nation of
Islam (NOI) and Noble Drew Ali's Muslim Science Temple of
America (MST). The NOI preached that Islam was the true
religion of Black people and that Blacks in America were a
nation needing land and independence. The MST preached that
the Asiatic Black people in America must proclaim their
nationality as members of the ancient Moors of Northern
Africa. These new religions produced significant success
rates in helping New Afrikan prisoners rehabilitation
themselves by instilling them with a newfound sense of pride,
dignity, piety, and industriousness. Yet these religions
seemed strange and thus threatening to prison officials. They
moved forthwith to suppress these religions, and many
early Muslims were viciously persecuted, beaten, and even
killed for practicing their beliefs. The Muslims fought back
     Like American society, the prisons were rigidly
segregated. New Afrikans were relegated to perform the
heaviest and dirtiest jobs, farm work, laundry work,
dishwashing, garbage disposal, and were restricted from jobs
as clerks, straw bosses, electricians, or any position
traditionally reserved for White prisoners. Similar
discriminatory rules applied to all other areas of prison
life. New Afrikans were restricted to live in certain cell
blocks or tiers, eat in certain areas of the mess hall, and
sit in the back at the movies, TV room, and other
recreational facilities.
     Influenced by the anti-discrimination aspect of the Civil
Rights Movement, a growing number of New Afrikans behind the
walls began stepping up their struggle against discrimination
in prison. Audacious New Afrikans began violating
longstanding segregation codes by sitting in the front seats
at the movies, mess hall, or TV areas and more than a few
died from shanks in the back. Others gave as good as they
got, and better. Additionally, New Afrikans began contesting
discriminatory job and housing policies and other biased
conditions. Many were set up for attack and sent to the hole
for a year, or worse. Those who were viewed as leaders were
dealt with most harshly. Most of this violence came from
prison officials and white prisoners protecting their
privileged positions; some violence also came from New
Afrikans and Muslims protecting their lives, taking stands
and fighting back. From these silent, unheralded battles
against racial and religious discrimination in prisons
emerged the New Afrikan liberation struggle behind the walls
during the '50s Civil Rights era. Eventually the courts,
influenced by the "equality/anti-discrimination" aspect of
the Civil Rights Movement, would rule that prisons must
recognize the Muslims' religion on an "equal" footing with
other accepted religions, and that prison racial
discrimination codes must be outlawed.
Black Power Through the Black Liberation Era
   As the Civil Rights Movement advanced into the '60s, New
Afrikan college students waded into the struggle with
innovative lunch counter sit-ins, freedom rides, and voter
registration projects. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee (SNCC) was formed during this period to coordinate
and instruct student volunteers in nonviolent methods of
organizing voter registration projects and other Civil Rights
work. These energetic young students, and the youth in
general, served as the foot soldiers of the Movement. They
provided indispensable services, support, and protection to
local community leaders such as Mississippi's Fannie Lou
Hamer, Ella Baker, and other heroines and heroes of the Civil
Rights Movement. Although they met with measured success,
white racist atrocities mounted daily on defenseless Civil
Rights workers.
     Young New Afrikans in general began to grow increasingly
disenchanted with the nonviolent philosophy of Martin Luther
King. Many began to look increasingly toward Malcolm X, the
fiery young minister of NOI Temple No. 7 In Harlem, New York.
     Clarence 13X (Smith) was expelled from Harlem's Nation
of Islam Temple No. 7 in 1963 because he wouldn't conform to
NOI practices. He frequently associated with the numerous
street gangs that abounded In New York City at the time and
felt that the NOI didn't put enough effort into recruiting
these youth. After being expelled he actively recruited among
these street gangs and other wayward youth, and by '64 he had
established his own "movement" called "The Five Percenters."
The name comes from their belief that 85 percent of Black
people are like cattle, who continue to eat the poisoned
animal (the pig), are blind to the truth of God, and continue
to give their allegiance to people who don't have their best
interests at heart, that, 10 percent of Black people are
bloodsuckers the politicians, preachers, and other
parasitic individuals who get rich off the labor and
ignorance of the docile exploited 85 percent; and that the
remaining 5 percent are the poor righteous teachers of
freedom, justice, and equality who know the truth of the
"Black" God and are not deceived by the practices of the
bloodsucking 10 percent. The Five Percenter movement spread
throughout the New York State prison system and the Black
ghettos of the New York metropolitan area.
     In December 1965 Newark's Mayor Hugh Addonizio witnessed
a getaway car pulling away from a bank robbery and ordered
his chauffeur to follow with siren blasting. The fleeing
robbers crashed into a telephone pole, sprang from their car
and fired a shot through the Mayor's windshield. He screeched
to a halt, and police cars racing to the scene captured
Muhammad Ali Hassan, known as Albert Dickens, and James
Washington. Both were regular attendees of Newark's NOI
Temple No. 25, headed by Minister James 3X Shabazz. Ali
Hassan and Washington were members of the New World Nation of
Islam (NWI). Ali Hassan, its leader and Supreme Field
commander, dates the birth of the New World Nation of Islam
as February 26, 1960. He states that on that date Elijah
Muhammad authorized the New World Nation of Islam under the
leadership of Field Supreme Minister Fard Savior and declared
that the Field Minister had authority over all the NOI
Muslims. Ali Hassan and Washington were convicted for the
bank robbery and sent to Trenton State Prison.
     The NWI's belief in the supreme authority of Fard Savior
was rejected by NOI Minister Shabazz, and thereafter an
uneasy peace prevailed between the followers of Shabazz, who
retained control of Newark's NOI Temple No. 25, and the
followers of the NWI who sought to gain control.
     Meanwhile, Ali Hassan published a book titled Uncle Yah
Yah and ran the NWI from his prison cell. Along with the more
established and influential NOI, the influence of the NWI
spread throughout the New Jersey state prison system and the
metropolitan Jersey ghettos. The NWI began setting up food
co-ops, barbershops, houses to teach Islam, and printing
presses; and purchased land in South Carolina, all in
furtherance of creating an independent Black Nation.
     Midstride the '60s, on February 21, 1965, Malcolm was
assassinated, but his star continued to rise and his seeds
fell on fertile soil. The following year, October 1966 in
Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and a handful of armed
youths founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense on
principles that Malcolm had preached and the Black Liberation
Movement ( BLM) was born.

     The Panthers rolled eastward, establishing offices in
each major northern ghetto. As they went, they set up
revolutionary programs in each community that were geared to
provide community control of schools, tenant control of slum
housing, free breakfast for school children, free health,
day-care, and legal clinics, and free political education
classes for the community. They also initiated campaigns to
drive dope pushers and drugs from the community, and
campaigns to stop police murder and brutality of Blacks. As
they went about the community organizing these various
programs they were frequently confronted, attacked, or
arrested by the police, and some were even killed during
these encounters.
     Other revolutionary organizers suffered similar
entrapments. The Revolutionary Action Movement's (RAM) Herman
Ferguson and Max Stamford were arrested in 1967 on spurious
charges of conspiring to kill Civil Rights leaders. In the
same year Amiri Baraka (the poet and playwright LeRoi Jones)
was arrested for transporting weapons in a van during the
Newark riots and did a brief stint in Trenton State Prison
until a successful appeal overturned his conviction. SNCC's
Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, and other orators were
constantly threatened or charged with "inciting to riot" as
they crisscrossed the country speaking to mass audiences.
Congress passed so-called "Rap Brown" laws to deter speakers
from crossing state lines to address mass audiences lest a
disturbance break out, leaving them vulnerable to federal
charges and imprisonment. And numerous revolutionary
organizers and orators were being imprisoned.
     This initial flow of revolutionaries into the jails and
prisons began to spread a revolutionary nationalist hue
through New Afrikans behind the walls. New Afrikan prisoners
were also influenced by the domestic revolutionary atmosphere
and the liberation struggles in Afrika, Asia, and Latin
America. Small groups began studying on their own, or in
collectives, the works of Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, The
Black Panther newspaper, The Militant newspaper, contemporary
national liberation struggle leaders Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo
Kenyatta, Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi
Minh, and Mao Tse-tung, plus Marx, Lenin, and Bakunin too.
Increasing numbers of New Afrikan and Third World prisoners
became more conscious of national liberation politics. The
percentages of New Afrikan and Third World prisoners
increased while the percentage of White prisoners decreased
throughout U.S. prisons. Under this onslaught of rising
national liberation consciousness, increased percentages of
New Afrikan and Third World prisoners, and decreased numbers
of white prisoners, the last of the prisons' overt
segregation policies fell by the wayside.
     The seeds of Malcolm took further root on March 29,1968.
On that date the Provisional Government of the Republic of
New Afrika (RNA) was founded at a convention held at the
Black-owned Twenty Grand Motel in Detroit. Over 500 grass-
root activists came together to issue a Declaration of
Independence on behalf of the oppressed Black Nation Inside
North America, and the New Afrikan Independence Movement
(NAIM) was born. Since then Blacks desiring an independent
Black Nation have referred to themselves and other Blacks in
the U.S. as New Afrikans.
     That same month, March '68, during Martin Luther King's
march in Memphis, angry youths on the fringes of the march
broke away and began breaking store windows, looting, and
flrebombing. A 16-year-old-boy was killed and 50 people were
injured in the ensuing violence. This left Martin
profoundly shaken and questioning whether his philosophy was
still able to hold the youth to a nonviolent commitment. On
April 4th he returned to Memphis, seeking the answer through
one more march, and found an assassin's bullet. Ghettos
exploded in flames one after another across the face of
America. The philosophy of Black Liberation surged to the
forefront among the youth. But not the youth alone. Following
a series of police provocations in Cleveland, on July 23,
1968, New Libya Movement activists there set an ambush that
killed several policemen. A "fortyish" Ahmed Evans was
convicted of the killings and died in prison ten years later
of "cancer."

     More CIA dope surged into the ghettos from the Golden
Triangle of Southeast Asia. Revolutionaries stepped up their
organizing activities on both sides of the walls. Behind the
walls the New Afrikan percentage steadily increased.
     In 1969 COINTELPRO launched its main attack on the Black
Liberation Movement in earnest. It began with the mass arrest
of Lumumba & Afeni Shakur and the New York Panther 21. It followed
with a series of military raids on Black Panther Party
offices in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Haven, Jersey City,
Detroit, Chicago, Denver, Omaha, Sacramento. and San Diego,
and was capped off with a four-hour siege that poured
thousands of rounds into the Los Angeles BPP office.
Fortunately Geronimo ji Jaga, decorated Vietnam vet had
earlier fortified the office to withstand an assault, and no
Panthers were seriously injured. However, repercussions from
the outcome eventually drove him underground. The widespread
attacks left Panthers dead all across the country Fred
Hampton, Mark Clark, Bunchy Carter, John Huggins, John
Savage, Walter Toure Pope, Bobby Hutton, Sylvester Bell,
Frank "Capt. Franco" Diggs, Fred Bennett, James Carr, Larry
Robeson, Spurgeon "Jake" Winters, Alex Rackley, Arthur
Morris, Steve Bartholomew, Robert Lawrence, Tommy Lewis,
Nathaniel Clark, Welton Armstead, Sidney Miller, Sterling
Jones, Babatunde Omawali, Samuel Napier, Harold Russle, and
Robert Webb among others. In the three years after J. Edgar
Hoover's infamous COINTELPRO memorandum, dated August 25,
1967, 31 members of the BPP were killed, nearly a thousand
were arrested, and key leaders were sent to jail. Others were
driven underground. Still others, like BPP field marshal
Donald "D.C." Cox, were driven into exile overseas.
     Also in '69, Clarence 13X, founder of the Five
Percenters, was mysteriously murdered in the elevator of a
Harlem project building. His killer was never discovered and
his adherents suspect government complicity in his death.
     The RNA was similarly attacked that year. During their
second annual convention in March '69, held at reverend C.L.
Franklin's New Bethel Church in Detroit, a police provocation
sparked a siege that poured 800 rounds into the church.
Several convention members were wounded; one policeman was
killed, another wounded, and the entire convention, 140
people, was arrested en masse. When Reverend Franklin (father
of "The Queen of Soul," singer Aretha Franklin) and Black
State Representative James Del Rio were informed of the
incident they called Black judge George Crockett, who
proceeded to the police station where he found total legal
chaos. Almost 150 people were being held incommunicado. They
were being questioned, fingerprinted, and given nitrate tests
to determine if they had fired guns, in total disregard of
fundamental constitutional procedures. Hours after the
roundup, there wasn't so much as a list of persons being held
and no one had been formally arrested. An indignant Judge
Crockett set up court right in the station house and demanded
that the police either press charges or release their
captives. He had handled about fifty cases when the Wane
County prosecutor, called in by the police, intervened. The
prosecutor promised that the use of all irregular methods
would be halted. Crockett adjourned the impromptu court, and
by noon the following day the police had released all but a
few individuals who were held on specific charges. Chaka
Fuller, Rafael Viera, and Alfred 2X Hibbits were charged with
the killing. All three were subsequently tried and acquitted.
Chaka Fuller was mysteriously assassinated a few months

     Revolutionaries nationwide were attacked and/or
arrested: Tyari Uhuru, Maka, Askufo, and the Smyrna Brothers
in Delaware, JoJo Muhammad Bowens and Fred Burton in
Philadelphia, and Panthers Mondo Langa, Ed Poindexter, and
Veronza Daoud Bowers, Jr., in Omaha. Police mounted an
assault on the Panther office in the Desiree Projects of New
Orleans which resulted in several arrests. A similar attack
was made on the Peoples Party office in Houston. One of their
leaders, Carl Hampton, was killed by police and another, Lee
Otis Johnson, was arrested later on an unrelated charge and
sentenced to 41 years in prison for alleged possession of one
marijuana cigarette.
     Like the Panthers, most of those arrested brought their
philosophies with them into the prisons. Likewise, most had
outside support committees to one degree or another so that
this influx of political prisoners linked the struggle behind
the walls with the struggles in the outside local
communities. The combination set off a beehive of political
activity behind the walls, and prisoners stepped up their
struggle for political, Afrikan, Islamic, and academic
studies, access to political literature, community access to
prisons, an end to arbitrary punishments, access to
attorneys, adequate law libraries, relevant vocational
training, contact visits, better food, health care, housing,
and a myriad of other struggles. The forms of prison struggle
ranged from face-to-face negotiations to mass petitioning,
letter-writing and call-in campaigns, outside demonstrations,
class action law suits, hunger strikes, work strikes,
rebellions, and more drastic actions. Overall, all forms of
struggle served to roll back draconian prison policies that
had stood for centuries and to further the development of the
New Afrikan liberation struggle behind the walls.
These struggles would not have been as successful, or would
have been much more costly in terms of lives lost or
brutality endured, had it not been for the links to the
community and community support that political prisoners
brought with them into the prisons. Although that support was
not always sufficient in quantity or quality, or was
sometimes nonexistent or came with hidden agendas or was
marked by frequent conflicts, on the whole it was this
combination of resolute prisoners, community support, and
legal support which was most often successful in prison
     As the '60s drew to a close New Afrikan and Third World
nationalities made up nearly 50 percent of the prison
population. National liberation consciousness became the
dominant influence behind the walls as the overall complexion
neared the changeover from white to black, brown, and red.
The decade-long general decrease in prisoners, particularly
whites, brought a drop of between 16,000 and 28,000 in total
prison population. The total number of white prisoners
decreased between 16,000 and 23,000 while the total number of
New Afrikan prisoners increased slightly or changed
insignificantly over the same period. Yet the next decade
would begin the period of unprecedented new prison
construction, as the primary role of U.S. prisons changed
from "suppression of the working classes" to "suppression of
domestic Black and Third World liberation struggles inside
the U.S.
     A California guard, rated as an expert marksman, opened
the decade of the '70s with the January 13th shooting at
close range of W.L. Nolen, Cleveland Edwards, and Alvin "Jug"
Miller in the Soledad prison yard. They were left lying where
they fell until it was too late for them to be saved by
medical treatment. Nolen, in particular, had been
instrumental in organizing protest of guard killings of two
other Black prisoners, Clarence Causey and William Powell, at
Soledad in the recent past, and was consequently both a thorn
in the side of prison officials and a hero to the Black
prison population.28 When the guard was exonerated of the
triple killings two weeks later by a Board of Inquiry, the
prisoners retaliated by throwing a guard off the tier. George
Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo, and John Cluchette were charged with
the guard's death and came to be known as the Soledad
Brothers. California Black prisoners solidified around the
chain of events in the Soledad Brothers case and formed the
Black Guerrilla Family (BGF). The Panthers spearheaded a
massive campaign to save the Soledad Brothers from the gas
chamber. The nationwide coalescence of prisoners and support
groups around the case converted the scattered, disparate
prison struggles into a national prison movement.
     On the night of March 9, 1970, a bomb exploded killing
Ralph Featherstone and Che Payne in their car outside a
Maryland courthouse where Rap Brown was to appear next day on
"Inciting to Riot" charges. Instead of appearing, Rap went
underground, was captured a year later during the robbery of
a Harlem so-called "dope bar," and was sent behind the walls.
He completed his sentence and was released from prison.
     On August 7, 1970, Jonathan Jackson, younger brother of
George, attempted to liberate Ruchell Cinque Magee, William
Christmas, and James McClain from the Marin County courthouse
in California. Jonathan, McClain, Christmas, and the trial
judge were killed by SWAT teams who also wounded the
prosecutor and paralyzed him for life. Miraculously, Ruchell
and three wounded jurors survived the fusillade. Jonathan
frequently served as Angela Davis's bodyguard. She had
purchased weapons for that purpose, but Jonathan used those
same weapons in the breakout attempt. Immediately afterward
she became the object of an international "woman hunt." On
October 13, Angela was captured in New York City and was
subsequently returned to California to undergo a very
acrimonious trial with Magee. She was acquitted on all
charges. Magee was tried separately and convicted on lesser
charges. He remains imprisoned to date.

     On August 21, a guard shot and killed George Jackson as
he bolted from a control unit and ran for the San Quentin
wall. Inside the unit lay three guards and two trustees dead.
The circumstances surrounding George Jackson's legendary life
and death, and the astuteness of his published writings
left a legacy that inspires and instructs the New Afrikan
liberation struggle on both sides of the wall even today, and
will for years to come.
     September 13, 1971, became the bloodiest day in U.S.
prison history when New York's Governor Nelson Rockefeller
ordered the retaking of Attica prison. The previous several
years had seen a number of prison rebellions flare up across
the country as prisoners protested widespread maltreatment
and inhumane conditions. Most had been settled peaceably with
little or no loss of human life after face-to-face
negotiation between prisoners and state and prison officials.
At Attica black, brown, white, red, and yellow prisoners took
over one block of the prison and stood together for five days
seeking to negotiate an end to their inhumane conditions.
Their now-famous dictum declared "We are men, not beasts, and
will not be driven as such." But Rockefeller had presidential
ambitions. The rebelling prisoners' demands included a
political request for asylum in a non-imperialistic country.
Rockefeller's refusal to negotiate foreshadowed a macabre
replay of his father John D's slaughter of striking Colorado
miners and their families decades earlier. Altogether 43
people died at Attica. New York State trooper bullets killed
39 people, 29 prisoners and 10 guards in retaking Attica and
shocked the world by the naked barbarity of the U.S. prison
system. Yet the Attica rebellion too remains a milestone in
the development of the New Afrikan liberation struggle behind
the walls, and a symbol of the highest development of
prisoner multinational solidarity to date.
     In 1973 the simmering struggle for control of Newark's
NOI Temple No. 25 erupted into the open. Warren Marcello, a
New World member, assassinated NOI Temple No. 25 Minister
Shabazz. In retaliation several NWI members were attacked and
killed within the confines of the New Jersey prison system,
and before the year was out the bodies of Marcello and a
companion were found beheaded In Newark's Weequahic Park. Ali
Hassan, still in prison, was tried as one of the co-
conspirators in the death of Shabazz and was found innocent.
     COINTELPRO's destruction of the BPP forced many members
underground and gave rise to the Black Liberation Army (BLA)
a New Afrikan guerrilla organization. The BLA continued the
struggle by waging urban guerrilla war across the U.S.
through highly mobile strike teams. The government's
intensified search for the BLA during the early 1970s
resulted in the capture of Geronimo ji Jaga in Dallas,
Dhoruba Bin-Wahad and Jamal Josephs in New York, Sha Sha
Brown and Blood McCreary in St. Louis, Nuh Washington and
Jalil Muntaqim in Los Angeles, Herman Bell in New Orleans,
Francisco and Gabriel Torres in New York, Russel Haroum
Shoats in Philadelphia, Chango Monges, Mark Holder, and Kamau
Hilton in New York, Assata Shakur and Sundiata Acoli in New
Jersey, Ashanti Alston, Tarik, and Walid in New Haven, Safiya
Bukhari and Masai Gibson in Virginia, and others. Left dead
during the government's search and destroy missions were
Sandra Pratt (wife of Geronimo ji Jaga, assassinated while
visibly pregnant), Mark Essex, Woodie Changa Green, Twyman
Kakuyan Olugbala Meyers, Frank "Heavy" Fields, Anthony Kimu
White, Zayd Shakur, Melvin Rema Kerney, Alfred Kambui Butler,
Ron Carter, Rory Hithe, and John Thomas, among others. Red
Adams, left paralyzed from the neck down by police bullets,
would die from the effects a few years later.
     Other New Afrikan freedom fighters attacked, hounded,
and captured during the same general era were Imari Obadele
and the RNA-11 in Jackson, Mississippi,32 Don Taylor33 and De
Mau Mau of Chicago, Hanif Shabazz, Abdul Aziz, and the V1-5
in the Virgin Islands, Mark Cook of the George Jackson
Brigade (GJB) in Seattle, Ahmed Obafemi of the RNA in
Florida, Atiba Shanna in Chicago, Mafundi Lake in Alabama,
Sekou Kambui and Imani Harris in Alabama, Robert Aswad Duren
in California, Kojo Bomani Sababu and Dharuba Cinque in
Trenton, John Partee and Tommie Lee Hodges of Alkebulan in
Memphis, Gary Tyler in Los Angeles, Kareem Saif Allah and the
Five Percenter-BLA-lslamic Brothers in New York, Ben Chavis
and the Wilmington 10 in North Carolina, Delbert Africa and
MOVE members in Philadelphia, and others doubtless too
numerous to name.

     Not everyone was political before incarceration. John
Andaliwa Clark became so, and a freedom fighter par
excellence, only after being sent behind the walls. He paid
the supreme sacrifice during a hail of gunfire from Trenton
State Prison guards. Hugo Dahariki Pinell also became
political after being sent behind the California walls in
1964. He has been in prison ever since. Joan Little took an
ice pick from a white North Carolina guard who had used it to
force her to perform oral sex on him. She killed him, escaped
to New York, was captured and forced to return to the same
North Carolina camp where she feared for her life. Massive
public vigilance and support enabled her to complete the
sentence in relative safety and obtain her release.
     Dessie Woods and Cheryl Todd, hitching through Georgia,
were given a ride by a white man who tried to rape them.
Woods took his gun, killed him, and was sent to prison where
officials drugged and brutalized her. Todd was also
imprisoned and subsequently released upon completion of the
sentence. Woods was denied parole several times then finally
     Political or not, each arrest was met with highly
sensationalized prejudicial publicity that continued unabated
to and throughout the trial. The negative publicity blitz was
designed to guarantee a conviction, smokescreen the real
issues involved, and justify immediate placement in the
harshest prison conditions possible. For men this usually
means the federal penitentiary at Marion, Illinois. For women
it has meant the control unit In the federal penitentiary at
Anderson, West Virginia, or Lexington, Kentucky. In 1988
political prisoners Silvia Baraldini, Alejandrina Torres, and
Susan Rosenberg won a D.C. District Court lawsuit brought by
attorneys Adjoa Alyetoro, Jan Susler, and others. The legal
victory temporarily halted the practice of sending prisoners
to control units strictly because of their political status.
The ruling was reversed by the D.C. Appellate Court a year
later. Those political prisoners not sent to Marion,
Alderman, or Lexington control units are sent to other
control units modeled after Marion/Lexington but located
within maximum security state prisons. Normally this means
23-hour-a-day lockdown in long-term units located in remote
hinterlands far from family, friends, and attorneys, with
heavy censorship and restrictions on communications, visits,
and outside contacts, combined with constant harassment,
provocation, and brutality by prison guards.

     The influx of so many captured freedom fighters (i.e.,
prisoners of war (POWs) with varying degrees of guerrilla
experience added a valuable dimension to the New Afrikan
liberation struggle behind the walls. In the first place it
accelerated the prison struggles already in process,
particularly the attack on control units. One attack was
spearheaded by Michael Deutsch and Jeffrey Haas of the
People's Law Office, Chicago, which challenged Marion's H-
Unit boxcar cells. Another was spearheaded by Assata Shakur
and the Center for Constitutional Rights which challenged her
out-of-state placement in the Alderson, West Virginia,
control unit.
     Second, it stimulated a thoroughgoing investigation and
exposure of COINTELPRO's hand in waging low intensity warfare
on New Afrikan and Third World nationalities in the U.S. This
was spearheaded by Geronimo ji-Jaga with Stuart Hanlon's law
office in the West and by Dhoruba Bin-Wahad with attorneys
Liz Fink, Robert Boyle, and Jonathan Lubell in the East.35
These COINTELPRO investigations resulted in the overturn of
Bin-Wahad's conviction and his release from prison in March
1990 after he had been imprisoned 19 years for a crime he did
not commit.
     Third, it broadened the scope of the prison movement to
the international arena by producing the initial presentation
of the U .S. political prisoner and prisoner of war (PP/POW)
issue before the UN's Human Rights Commission. This approach
originated with Jalil Muntaqim, and was spearheaded by him
and attorney Kathryn Burke on the West Coast and by Sundiata
Acoli and attorney Lennox Hinds of the National Conference of
Black lawyers on the East Coast.This petition sought
relief from human rights violations in U.S. prisons and
subsequently asserted a colonized people's right to fight
against alien domination and racist regimes as codified in
the Geneva Convention.
     Fourth, it intensified, clarified, and broke new ground
on political issues and debates of particular concern to the
New Afrikan community, i.e., the "National Question,"
spearheaded by Atiba Shanna in the Midwest.
     All these struggles, plus those already in process, were
carried out with the combination in one form or another of
resolute prisoners, and community and legal support.
Community support when present came from various sources,
family, comrades, friends; political, student, religious, and
prisoner rights groups; workers, professionals, and
progressive newspapers and radio stations. Some of those
involved over the years were or are: the National Committee
for Defense of Political Prisoners, the Black Community News
Service, the African Peoples Party, the Republic of New
Afrika, the African Peoples Socialist Party, The East, the
Bliss Chord Communication Network, Liberation Book Store.
WDAS Radio Philadelphia, WBLS Radio New York,  Radio New
York, Third World Newsreel, Libertad (political journal of
the Puerto Rican Movimiento de Liberacion Nacional [MLN]),
the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee, the May 19th Communist
Organization, the Madame Binh Graphics Collective, The
Midnight Express, the Northwest Iowa Socialist Party, the
National Black United Front, the Nation of Islam, Arm the
Spirit, Black News, International Class Labor Defense, the
Real Dragon Project, the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee, the
National Prison Project, the House of the Lord Church, the
American Friends Service Committee, attorneys Chuck Jones and
Harold Ferguson of Rutgers Legal Clinic, the Jackson Advocate
newspaper, Rutgers law students, the Committee to End the
Marion Lockdown, the American Indian Movement, and others.
     As the decade wound down the late '70s saw the demise of
the NOI following the death of Elijah Muhammad and the rise
of orthodox Islam among significant segments of New Afrikans
on both sides of the wall. By 1979 the prison population
stood at 300,000, a whopping 100,000 Increase within a single
decade.38 The previous 100,000 increase, from 100,000 to
200,000, had taken 31 years, from 1927 to 1958. The initial
increase to 100,000 had taken hundreds of years. Since
America's original colonial times. The '60s were the
transition decade of white flight that saw a significant
decrease in both prison population and white prisoners. And
since the total Black prison population increased only
slightly or changed insignificantly over the decade of the
insurgent '60s thru 1973, it indicates that New Afrikans are
imprisoned least when they fight hardest.

     The decade ended on a masterstroke by the BLA's
Multinational Task Force, with the November 2, 1979, prison
liberation of Assata Shakur "Soul of the BLA" and
preeminent political prisoner of the era. The Task Force then
whisked her away to the safety of political asylum in Cuba
where she remains to date.
     In June 1980 Ali Hassan was released after 16 years in
the New Jersey state prisons. Two months later, five New
World of Islam (NWI) members were arrested after a North
Brunswick, New Jersey, bank robbery in a car with stolen
plates. The car belonged to the recently released Ali Hassan,
who had loaned it to a friend. Ali Hassan and 15 other NWI
members refused to participate in the resulting mass trial
which charged them in a Racketeering Influenced Corrupt
Organization (RICO) Indictment with conspiracy to rob banks
for the purpose of financing various NWI enterprises in the
furtherance of creating an independent Black Nation. All
defendants were convicted and sent behind the walls.
     The '80s brought another round of BLA freedom fighters
behind walls Basheer Hameed and Abdul Majid in '80; Sekou
Odinga, Kuwasi Balagoon, Chui Ferguson-El, Jamal Josephs
again, Mutulu Shakur, and numerous BLA Multinational Task
Force supporters In '81; and Terry Khalid Long, Leroy Ojore
Bunting, and others in '82. The government's sweep left
Mtyari Sundiata dead, Kuwasi Balagoon subsequently dead in
prison from AIDS, and Sekou Odinga brutally tortured upon
capture, torture that included pulling out his toenails and
rupturing his pancreas during long sadistic beatings that
left him hospitalized for six months.
     But this second round of captured BLA freedom fighters
brought forth, perhaps for the first time, a battery of
young, politically astute New Afrikan lawyers Chokwe
Lumumba, Jill Soffiyah Elijah, Nkechi Taifa, Adjoa Aiyetoro,
Ashanti Chimurenga, Michael Tarif Warren, and others. They
are not only skilled in representing New Afrikan POWs but the
New Afrikan Independence Movement too, all of which added to
the further development of the New Afrikan liberation
struggle behind the walls.

     The decade also brought behind the walls Mumia Abu-
Jamal, the widely respected Philadephia radio announcer,
popularly known as the "Voice of the Voiceless." He
maintained a steady drumbeat of radio support for MOVE
prisoners. He finished work the night of December 9, 1981,
stepped outside the station, and discovered a policeman
beating his younger brother. Mumia was shot and seriously
wounded, the policeman was killed. Mumia now sits on death
row in greatest need of mass support from every sector, if
he's to be saved from the state's electric chair.
     Kazi Toure of the United Freedom Front (UFF) was sent
behind the walls in 1982. He was released in 1991. The New
York 8 Coltrane Chimurenga, Viola Plummer and her son
Robert "R.T." Taylor, Roger Wareham, Omowale Clay, Lateefah
Carter, Colette Pean, and Yvette Kelly were arrested on
October 17, 1984, and charged with conspiring to commit
prison breakouts and armed robberies, and to possess weapons
and explosives. However the New York 8 were actually the New
York 8+ because another 8 or 9 persons were jailed as grand
Jury resisters in connection with the case. The New York 8
were acquitted on August 5, 1985.
     That same year Ramona Africa joined other MOVE comrades
already behind the walls. Her only crime was that she
survived Philadelphia Mayor Goode's May 13, 1985, bombing
which cremated 11 MOVE members, including their babies,
families, home, and neighborhood.
     The following year, November 19, 1986, a 20-year-old
Bronx, New York, youth, Larry Davis, now Adam Abdul Hakeem,
would make a dramatic escape during a shootout with police
who had come to assassinate him for absconding with their
drug-sales money. Several policemen were wounded in the
shoot-out. Adam escaped unscathed but surrendered weeks later
in the presence of the media, his family, and a mass of
neighborhood supporters. After numerous charges, trials, and
acquittals in which he exposed the existence of a New-York-
police-controlled drug ring that coerced Black and Puerto
Rican youths to push police-supplied drugs, he was sent
behind the walls on weapon possession convictions. Since
incarceration, numerous beatings by guards have paralyzed him
from the waist down and confined him to a wheelchair.
     On July 16, 1987, Abdul Haqq Muhammad, Arthur Majeed
Barnes, and Robert "RT.." Taylor, all members of the Black
Men's Movement Against Crack, were pulled over by state
troopers in upstate New York, arrested, and subsequently sent
to prison on a variety of weapon possession convictions.

     Herman Ferguson at 68 years old voluntarily returned to
the U.S. on April 6, 1989, after 20-year's exile in Ghana,
Afrika, and Guyana, South America. He had fled the U.S.
during the late '60s after the appeal was denied on his
sentence of 3 1/2 to 7 years following a conviction for
conspiring to murder civil rights leaders. Upon return he was
arrested at the airport and was moved constantly from prison
to prison for several years as a form of harassment.
     The '80s brought the Reagan era's rollback of
progressive trends on a wide front and a steep rise in racist
incidents, White vigilantism, and police murder of New
Afrikan and Third World people. It also brought the rebirth
and reestablishment of the NOI, a number of New Afrikan POWs
adopting orthodox Islam in lieu of revolutionary nationalism,
the New Afrikan People's Organization's (NAPO) and its
chairman Chokwe Lumumba's emergence. From the RNA as banner
carrier for the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM), the
New Orleans assassination of Lumumba Shakur of the Panther
21, and an upsurge in mass political demonstrations known as
the "Days of Outrage" in New York City spearheaded by the
December 12th Movement, and others.
     The end of the decade brought the death of Huey P.
Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party, allegedly killed
by a young Black Guerrilla Family adherent on August 22,
1989, during a dispute over "crack." Huey taught the Black
masses socialism and popularized it through the slogan "Power
to the People!" He armed the Black struggle and popularized
it through the slogan "Political power grows out of the
barrel of a gun." For that, and despite his human
shortcomings, he was a true giant of the Black struggle,
because his particular contribution is comparable to that of
other modern-day giants, Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad,
Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King.
     AIDS, crack, street crime, gang violence, homelessness,
and arrest rates have all exploded throughout the Black
colonies. The prison population on June 30, 1989, topped
673,000, an incredible 372,000 increase in less than a
decade, causing the tripling and doubling of prison
populations In 34 states, and sizable increases in most
others. New York City prisons became so overcrowded they
began using ships as jails. William Bennett, former U.S.
Secretary of Education and so-called Drug Czar, announced
plans to convert closed military bases Into concentration

     The prison building spree and escalated imprisonment
rates continue unabated. The new prisoners are younger,
more volatile, have long prison sentences, and are
overwhelmingly of New Afrikan and Third World
nationalities. It is estimated that by the year 1994 the
U.S. will have over one million prisoners. Projections
suggest that over 75 percent of them will be Black and
other people of color. More are women than previously.
Their percentage rose to 5 percent in 1980 from a low of 3
percent in 1970. Whites are arrested at about the same
rate as in Western Europe while the New Afrikan arrest rate
has surpassed that of Blacks in South Africa. In fact, the
U.S. Black imprisonment rate is now the highest in the
world. Ten times as many Blacks as whites are
incarcerated per 100,000 population.

     As we begin to move through the '90s the New Afrikan
liberation struggle behind the walls finds itself coalescing
around campaigns to free political prisoners and prisoners of
war, helping to build a national PP/POW organization,
strengthening its links on the domestic front, and building
solidarity in the international arena. Although the
established media concentrates on the sensationalism of
ghetto crack epidemics, street crime, drive-by shootings, and
gang violence, there has been a long quiet period of
consciousness-raising in the New Afrikan colonies by the
committed independence forces. This heightened consciousness
of the colonies is just beginning to manifest itself through
seemingly random sparks and the rise of innovative cultural
trends, i.e., Rap/Hip Hop, "message" music, culturally
designed hair styles, dissemination of political/cultural
video cassettes, resprouting of insurgent periodicals, and
the resurrection of forgotten heroes; all of which presage an
oppressed people getting ready to push forward again.
     The New Afrikan liberation struggle behind the walls now
follows the laws of its own development, paid for in its own
blood, intrinsically linked to the struggle of its own
people, and rooted deep in the ebb and flow of its own
history. To know that history is already to know its future
development and direction.

Sundiata Acoli, Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas February 29, 1992

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