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“WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING” – TONY FORD

Being here in this hell really affords me a lot of time to think. Some people think that I think too much. But, I can’t help it. I am introspective and I believe that this is the only way that I can grow and develop from the mistakes that I make in life. I don’t think that it is productive to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over. How do you grow
doing that? Some things do need to be done in repetition, for the sake of perfection. But, if mistakes are repeated, does this mean that one becomes more perfect in their mistakes?
Well, a lot is going on here. But, that is to be expected when you live within a prison environment. Things happen and not all of it good. But, there are some good things going on that I believe are being missed by a lot of people who tend not to pay attention to death row or the things that go on here, UNLESS they are happening to someone here who has a lot of outside support. Or someone who is supported by a certain group or organization. But, what of those who don’t have that type of support? The type of supporters who will take the things that that person does to fight against the death penalty and to fight for justice in their case, and publicize these things.

 

Anyway, good things are happening, and I look forward to more good things transpiring, such as the protest that has been going on periodically when someone has been unfortunate enough to have advanced to the point of that final day
of life here on earth. The bad thing is no one seems to be really paying attention. Not the news organizations – whether mainstream or underground independent media. Nor does it seem that those who supported those who have been slain by this state, have taken these mens’ final stance and advanced it to the public view. So, in a sense, I am pissed. I am also disappointed. But, let me go back and explain what it is that I am first talking about ok?

 

Last year when I had a December 7th execution date, I started a passive non-violent protest against my execution. Even when my execution date was modified to March 14th of this year, I continued to protest. Now, please understand my doing this caused much distress. You see most people will just ride out their remaining time eat as much as they can, have their last visits, etc… and try and make like everything is ok, not withstanding the fact that the state has it in their minds to murder them. All in the name of justice… In the name of the people… Well, for me, this has NEVER been ok. And it never will be. I cannot fathom anyone thinking that it would be ok to murder anyone.

 

And, being here, especially for those who are innocent, how could anyone ever think they could make this ok??? To not resist? I am not talking violence. I am talking simple resistance against something that is so unjust. Something that is so wrong. And my view has always been this: Look I am not in some hospital bed. I am not dying of terminal cancer or some other incurable disease or illness. This state is saying that it will KILL me. And unless something positive happens, then they will. So what I need is people who will stand with and by me, as I struggle for my life. That has been my stance from day ONE. And I know that such a stance runs counter to how so many people have perceived fighting the death penalty…
I remember when I first heard about how people protested someone being killed by the state of Texas you know, the candlelight vigils? I was like, “you’re kidding right?!” Now that might sound “cold”. But I just couldn’t understand how someone could just stand by and let an execution take place!! I mean you have people who will chain themselves together to save a TREE. Or to save some animals from being killed or abused You have people who will go all out in front of clinics they believe have certain drugs that can help them. But for us here, you light a candle?????!!! So, no I didn’t understand it. While the ideas and actions are appreciated, I just didn’t get why there was no more action than that to truly let the people know that no state should be killing its citizens. But, I guess you would have to be a fly on the wall to truly understand how such low key dissent affects us here. Again, it is appreciated. But, nothing more???

Then I, along with some other brothers here, namely Ponchai “Kamau” Wilkerson, Emerson “Young Lion” Rudd, and a few others thought, “Well MAYBE the struggle out there is not vocal and demonstrative because we back here are doing nothing!” So, we set about trying to do something to show that we are not just talking a good game. That we are dedicated to this struggle. And that we would lead by example. Well, after being beaten across the head, and having countless precious personal property items destroyed – humiliations worse than what already goes on – we still didn’t garner the support we thought would come from our actions I mean I have been run in on and beaten, along with the aforementioned brothers and countless others. I have seen Howard “L.D.” Guidry (who thank God is back on a retrial!) carried down the hall like a log for refusing to walk, while he was doing his share in protesting the abuse back on the Ellis unit. Seeing brother Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham) have his property destroyed because he would dare to expose what was going on back here on death row. Seeing Willie McGinnis starve almost to death as he did his leg of the hunger strikes to protest inhumane conditions and executions. Brothers beaten and gassed for daring to take a stance and lead in those things that we felt would galvanise the people to the cause Only, this had the opposite affect. Instead, we were abandoned wholesale. We were told to “chill”. To not “cause any trouble”. This, despite the fact we were getting beaten and humiliated regardless!

 

BUT, we felt that peaceful non-violent protest would be something that was “safe”. It was also a way of protesting that we chose because we know we are not those monsters that we are portrayed to be. So, random acts of hurting other human beings was not even an option. The question was, and always has been, WHAT could we do to gain the much needed support from the outside? To show you that we are with you, and hopefully you are with us, as we do REAL activism against the death penalty – on par with other struggles and movements of dissatisfied peoples, who are oppressed and abused and ignored in their grievances against their governments.

 

Well, the things that we have been doing down here in Texas are things that I have heard coming from any other death rows across this country. Maybe this is censorship against the activities of these other death rows. But one thing that got me really excited was listening to an interview on “Democracy Now” (Amy Goodman) with California death row inmate Kevin Cooper. He stated for all the world to hear that “I (he) will not participate in the sick and twisted practice of state sanctioned murder”…., that “I will not do anything violent, but I will not do anything either to help them kill me…” Hearing this was to hear the greatest thing I ever heard from a death row prisoner. Until then I had no knowledge of who Kevin Cooper was. But his words resonated deep within me, and I reflected on the strugglers down here in Texas. So, when my execution date approached I was determined that I would not help them in this process of death…. of murder. So, on November 2nd 2005 I began my protest. And this protest brought others
out to stand with me in solidarity, they being: Rob Will, Gabriel Gonzales, Andre Simpson, Kenneth Foster, Reginald Blanton and Robert Woodard. They all participated in passive non-violent resistances with me experiencing all the hardships and pain that the administration inflicted upon us. But, we didn’t break. We stood strong. And this galvanized other men who had execution dates.
And so, Shannon “Big Tank” Thomas and Marion Dudley lay down in protest on their execution dates! Big Tank’s people even protested out in the visitation area and ran across the grounds yelling their dissent against his execution date! Where was their support? The support for their actions and sacrifice? Then, Tommie Hughes protested nonviolently.

 

Again, where was his outside support? Tee had ALWAYS been involved with protest back here. And so I KNOW that people out there knew this brave man to be a warrior who stood up for what he believed in, and could not accept the injustice being done against him even if his death sated the thirst for blood of those who called for his murder! Then Timothy Titsworth. He likewise lay down in protest. He wasn’t trying to claim innocence. But that his life was precious and that his life was worth something, and that KILLING IS WRONG! And who can forget the brave stance Lamont Reese made? His protest, along with that of his mother who yelled out “They are killing my baby!” as she watched them murder her child, made it onto CNN and MSNBC!!! And the actions of Mauriceo Brown who also lay down in protest!! And lastly William “Motown” Wyatt!!

 

ALL these men made a stance against injustice. No matter what was felt about them or their cases. They made a brave stance and little or nothing is said about it… WHERE IS THE SUPPORT? I don’t know, but I do know that here on the row those men slain by the state have support. It just baffles me that when we read the anti death penalty newletters NOTHING is said about these men at all!! So this makes me wonder, are all our actions in vain? Why don’t those who purport to be fighting for the end of this death penalty stand up and support our actions more vocally than they have? Stop standing on the sidelines allowing us to be killed without bringing light to our actions.
Anyway, these are some of the things that have been going on down here…. while you were sleeping.

 

Tony Egbuna Ford
August 9th 06

A BLACK PSALM

if i could only touch the grass

i’d morph into roots that dig 1,000 miles deep and

i’d never come up for air.

i’d seek to be the Earth’s core and

i could never be torn away from the soul of humanity.

i’m lost in things unseen.

i believe that i am what i think,

so i’m kissing my newborn child,

building a bridge,

feeding the poor –

making my Life Supreme.

i’m trying to reincarnate back into my 1st capsule.

i’m at the edge of God’s tongue

and He spoke me into a Galaxy.

i spun and spawned,

birthed novas with my pen.

i was a sun spot in your eye;

a comet like speaker.

i whizzed into the darkness

that was womb,

that was love.

children of the world need to know that

their past is not Nintendo

and our elders need to realize

these will be our leaders.

i just want to be a mystic

who lives on magic potions.

i survive off of the sustenance of spirits,

and music

and art.

i want to be a nomad in the desert

praying 5 times a day to

streams coz they naturally flow

and don’t stop even when barriers are in the way.

if people understood me

we’d greet each other with a Holy Kiss.

i’m the simplest atom.

i’m Jerusalem with wise men.

like the rainbow i bend to seal my covenant.

candles and incantations swirl my soul.

there’s Africa’s soil at the bottom of my feet.

my Mother used to save dirt and eat pinches of it

i never understood until Acient Kemet spoke to me of Neter

and i prostrate to

child births and dreadlocks.

i’m high on Gnostic scrolls.

i feel like a Coptic priest when walking amongst these dead-

they forgot how to live/

to see through their chakras

and transcend space.

i sit tall like majestic giraffe on the plains

and low like scarab.

i’d like to live in a land where

pineapple and rice is a National dish

and gazing in your lover’s eyes is a social custom

sipping tea and humming hymns is a past time,

the sky is my telephone,

eagles my emails,

religion is poetry.

we hold hands around sad faces

until they warm like sun beams.

moon light says be sweet to each other.

stars talk to us like neighbours.

how do you love a drum?

beat by beat.

and instruments be our fingers

in hair/on faces

making sounds ooze from lips like peaches and plums.

prison is when you give up and

hell is what you feel like while there.

heaven is enlightenment from the bliss of ignorance

let the only wars be fought over

which proverb you love best.

and disease should only be blank sheets of paper

that we cure with

vowels, verbs and verses.

let’s be vessels for manifestation.

let’s suckle on the milk of sages/

find secrets in

stain glass windows or rock candy.

remember sugar water raised Queens and

mayonnaise sandwiches, Kings.

we simple folk like acorns.

the fall is the best thing to happen.

the oak lives within.

the oak lives within.

the crash makes us sprout.

carry me on the wind to Syria.

wrap me in the silk of prophets.

let me burn at the stake with witches and pagans

cause some people have to be odd

so others can get even.

i spoke a riddle from heaven’s revelations

out came: NYDESHA-AL-HAMDU-L’ILLAH.

i’ll be the eye of Horus

for generations to come.

i’m stuck on solomon’s oath.

i’m lost only in me

where i find all the answers.

this is only a prayer

that never closes

and begins

where it ends

only to start at deathlessness

which is birthlessness

so i be

forever

amen

MY VENT

I’m tired of being stepped on! I’m tired of being stepped on! So we decided to do some stepping back – buried in the abyss, we broke through the cracks. DRIVE – Death Row Inner-communalist Vanguard Engagement – birthed from sons of crack, neglect and abandonment. We became the standard of resistance. Ones weren’t listening to their heart beats – too lost in Amani” – But they were too busy trying to molest our souls! Strip us! They said test ’em with fire called quick heat; like hell, welcome to it: P-O-L-U-N-S-K-Y – Why are so many dying? Cause it’s a lust for death like Iraq, Vietnam. They dropped a bomb on our rec-yard and our voices only got louder. The BOOM! of cannon powder coating our faces. I wouldn’t trade places with my worse enemy to know this pain. We had to DRIVE the pain away. Do it for the forgotten victims: Our mamas, daddies, siblings that the State said “Oh well” to! The USA way. Remembered MLK Day with Civil Disobedience. Defiance Campaign. Sometimes you sit to stand. They said “Get up and walk back to this genocide!” I said – “You NOT listening, I’m NOT STANDING FOR THIS NO MORE!” These conditions are deplorable! I deployed the spirit of Ghandi/Rosa and became mobile. I was told what we’re doing is noble. I said don’t remember me – just my actions. The satisfaction is in progress – not praise. We’ve paved the way for change. Change is gonna come. Come down to the trenches and live. Live like you never knew. Know-the-ledge- and don’t fall in. But if you do we locked like chains in solidarity. Good Morning Amerikkka! You thought it was over, but we are alive like smart bombs – and just as explosive. DRIVE Movement said HELLO to the sleepers. My soul is bleeding. Are you reading the writing on the wall? I DIDN’T DO IT! I DIDN’T DO IT – make this kountry so sick! I’m in the vent plotting. I’m venting my plot. We invented a plot called combative resistance. I think they missed that genius. They upset that when one stops breathing a new revolution is planted to bloom new seasons; new reasons to not accept the norm. We’re weathering the storm in Texas. We’ve not yet reached the apex! They’ve found new gases that feel like lava. Oppression in smoke to swallow. We had to shout it out our lungs. All we needed was a hug from humanity. They wanted insanity like 1984 and 9-11. We just wanted something better than pollution. Our pleas wouldn’t fall to knees, so they said we were monsters. I said – “Tomorrow you’ll judge me, just like today for my past and if I don’t have one you will make it up.” So we said “Head up and feet down”. Drown the sound of sobs. We are moving like 18 wheelers coast to coast. Row to Row. We just can’t participate NO MORE! We want Fascism repelled. I wish I could bottle up the resistant opposition and sell it for a dime a dozen. And when I die let Mother Earth kiss me and say – “You did good.” Carry me now, cause there won’t be no grave to pack me to! Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust – I’ll be sprinkled in the radical wind. We came to win! We didn’t come to fail, for if we did we would have never put the key in. We turning the ignition! We off the break! We on the pedal!arguments of their own condemnation. We needed a new movement of mind over matter – ones not content with being examples of contradiction. The agreement became revolutionary suicide and tears became libations and shattered dreams fuel. The only tool we had was rage and the torn out page of life we clung to. My brother sung the words to – “We shall not be moved” and just like the tree we were grass-rooted. They tried to ravish us with reverse psychology like – “What about the victims?” We said – “may God help them! Peace, Salaam,

 

We on a DRIVE!!!

WHY I WILL NOT SURRENDER MY RAGE!!!

I refuse to do many things.  When I was young I refused on a different way: “for the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.”  Not that I should, yet I suffer all the same.  And it was only Rage that gave me some understanding – allowed me to endure.  Rage and I have become friends.  Rage started to whisper in my ear then became a whirlwind in my heart.  I’m like a contained hurricane crashing into unbreakable walls, but Rage said that “drops on the boulder will eventually wear it to a pebble.”

 

My attitude makes me a target- this stubbornness which gives an air to myself like I don’t have on prison whites.  They see me with different eyes. I walk like there’s a mission in my boots.  And they don’t like that.  They want to shackle my …NO!  They want to take a chain and spiral it around my whole body.  They want me immobile, because my movements create insurgencies.  My eyebrows are subversive simply because they RISE!  My flaring nostrils are like spit on their face.  They swear – “muthafucker”, we’re going to break you!”  And I have a grin that fires back like a raggedy 9mm ruger that ricochets when it shoots.

 

I’m ether, and Rage is my friend.  Hate has knocked on my door many times, like the day my child, with big brown sweet potato eyes, said: “Do you think they’ll let me come back there and give you a hug?” I had to imprison my emotions.  I threatened them not to pour.  And Hate said “HELLO” in the most beautiful harmony and wanted to know if he could come in and play music in my world.  I then remembered how my grandfather walks with a very straight back – elegant steps – after 25 years of prison with my father, 10 years of death row with me, plus knowing bigotry in his time that we’ll never know; and I remembered Jesus turning tables in the temple and I said to myself that these men weren’t Haters- they were Ragers which were Lovers though not being content.  And I knew that I would be the same when I told my child -“No, it doesn’t work that way”- and I saw that she did not slump or pout, but gave that familiar frown, I knew that determination was set in our bones and a kiss from behind the glass was a covenant sealed with a meaning: that there would be accountability.

 

And that was Rage- the sweetest determination to not bow, but knowing when to be humble- like to those that fly thousands of miles, make the calls, do the emails, talk the shit when needed!  I’m not here to knock the candle holders, the morality seekers and the ones who pray.  I do know that James said- “Faith without works is DEAD!” – and in Texas it seems that all people got Faith in is that people ARE going to die.  That’s why my prayers are likes tornadoes, ‘cause Paul said “Pray without cease.”  So, I move like a Samurai warrior – the most harmonized fighting technician – which is needed against the most uncivilized killing machine.

 

I have to clarify this “war” we’re under – it’s really spiritual, because in a real was there’s casualties on both sides … but we’re the only ones dying.  Thus why this is GENOCIDE!

Thus why I’m dedicated to leave an affirmation amongst those who only statement was – “I don’t care anymore.”  But I do!  And the new slogan is:  “Be nice to Amerika or they’ll bring Democracy to you.”  Amerika wants to market Guantanamo Bay’s.  They’ll be accessible like Home Depots in every city.  They think I’m asking for pity, but Rage says- “Demand P.E.A.C.E!” (Positive Education Always Corrects Error). Until then I’ll give ‘em petitions – and I don’t mean paper; I mean a persistent nagging pain in their side until they seek balm.  And if they put me on that cross be sure to check my palms, ‘cause it’s all the same.

 

You see, I got fuel in my veins.  This is beyond adrenaline – it’s more like nitroglycerin or a Molotov cocktail saying “HERE I AM!” to the helmets of fascists trying to smother out all my hopes.  See, I used to be angry until I realized anger is momentary madness, which is unacceptable in an environment bred to exist in perpetual pandemonium.  Plus, he who angers you, conquers you.  I got rid of that and got me some uncut kerosene.  I got this finely weaved Patriot Act noose wrapped around my throat and this fuel got me smart enough to keep a razor tucked under my tongue so I can cut myself down, because no one is around to help me.  I need binoculars to find them.  They’re so far away.

They’ve blocked my screams like an unwanted email; said I was a virus fucking everything up.  Got everything in a frenzy.  I said better now then when that potassium chloride got heart valves convulsing.

 

I’m not going to surrender this Rage which makes me talk to you this way.  If you wanted polite you should have been a librarian.  Then you got all the quiet you want.  You wouldn’t have to hear Lamont Reese scream – “I DID NOT WALK TO THIS BECAUSE THIS IS STRAIGHT UP MURDER!” you can avoid the gurgles and gasps – the laughs of victim’s rights groups. I’m just trying to grasp you the same way they did Justin Fuller when he refused to walk to his execution and he balled up on the floor and they picked him up and THREW him into the van.  Had Tony Ford banging on his window to show solidarity, so they sent him to solitary for “Disturbance.”  They said – “Don’t speak up for NOBODY!  Not even your damned self.”  What’s left, but to embrace being a rebel?

We’re already outcasted.  Ones now assist in bucking executions.  Met some gas!  They lock us down on execution dates now. We refusing to surrender what’s left now – Rage!

Pastor John prayed with me; said – “Lord, we don’t need people catching a ride, we need people to DRIVE!”  So, I’m at the wheel like Evel Knievel trying to pull a stunt.  Trying to defy some odds.  If I can’t get Freedom, I’ll free-dumb.  If I can’t get Liberation, I’ll Liberate-a-nation by being a reflection, not an example. Examples are people who don’t protest their execution. Reflections are revolutionaries whom are murdered for rebelling against their own repression.

 

I’m married to Rage too – she be a Javlin flying through the wind hitting my enemies in the throat.  I’m a weed that keeps breaking the concrete.  I’m insidious.  I’m serious!  My Rage makes me seditious, and I’ll continue to be.  I’ll continue to be in a Rage, because the day I surrender it I’ll become a victim and surely my Humanity will cease to be.

They want us to believe people aren’t redeemable and must be thrown out like trash.  Rage says – “NO!” They want us to believe that 40-year sentences means rehabilitation.  Rage says – “Stop being dumb asses!”  They want us to be fearful and disempowered.  Rage says – “Wake Up! Stand Up!”  I can’t tell you this enough.

A person with outward Rage dares to die; A person with inward Rage dares to live.  People – I know both; and I’ll tell you this – when repression and eradication step on your throat, Rage will become the best friend you’ve ever known.  Tap into it or you will most definitely be tapped out.

 

Aluta Continua

 

Haramia KiNassor

MY EPIPHANY

I’m buried alive under steel. That’s what it feels like sometimes, literally, not spiritually – an actual pile of steel stacked upon my face and body. Isn’t that something?

 

Very seldom do I let people inside my deepest thoughts. I actually don’t think most people could handle them – not because they’re vile or anything of the sort. In fact, quite the opposite. They are very intense – soaked into the essence of life. I might think as low as a tiny critter scampering under a rainy canopy in an Amazon forest or as high as the particles inside a Black Hole. My mind is constantly conscious of its surroundings and the existence of all things. I cannot ignore any aspect of it.

 

And being in this tiny cell does that to me. That may be a surprise to many as they’d probably think this cell would vaporize my senses – my imagination. Quite the contrary. My senses have actually heightened – whereas another’s might have dulled. I have no explanation for this. It’s a strange phenomenon. I dare not cal it natural, strange or unnatural for I do not know what it is. I just know that it is.

 

I’ve read about every imaginable struggle in the world (and ended up soaking pieces of them into my own being): from Rwanda; dictatorship under Stalin; Haiti; Atlantic Slave trade; Jewish Holocaust; Palestinian oppression. I’ve experienced my own: was born in the ghetto; separated from my parents at a young age; lost my mother to AIDS; got a father lost in drugs; been jumped on and stabbed; sprayed with crowd control pepper gas. Nonetheless, I remain surging forth in life. I have refused to recede any further. I’m mentally sound… I do believe.

 

A journey took place within myself. A moment of introspection where I tried to analyze my own thoughts. I was on the verge of almost 5 months straight of being contained in a cell for 24 hours a day. In this period of time I may had been out of this tomb of a cell 25-30 times either for a 2-hour visit (twice a month) or a 1-hour recreation period (one day per week). The only other exits from the cell were brief walks to and from the shower (daily), which is only 15 or so feet away, and last for 20-30 minutes. So, to say the least, I’ve been contained pretty tight.

 

In this time I’ve been housed in several cells and had numerous of neighbors. I’ve lived next to nonchalant persons to outrageous ones; Aryan Brotherhood members to ones who mutilate themselves; radicals to misfits. In some I found dialogue. In others none (even for some who did actually talk). To my surprise, I found more stimulating conversation in the one that mutilates himself than many of the others. This made me realize the diverse nature of one’s psyches. It also made me realize that what’s insane in my world is complete sanity to the next. Just like the people who eat monkeys or spiders, or the people that put discs in their lips, or ones that have 10 wives. How do we gauge what sanity is, especially for customs that have existed long before we have?

 

I tried to gauge my own sanity, or lack thereof. I began to describe to a friend how I feel at different intervals while in this tiny space. This tomb. This little cave. I felt the need to speak it to life extensively. I feel a very deep relation to places called Third World countries. It could come from when I used to walk barefooted as a youngster because I didn’t like shoes, or when I had to eat mayonnaise sandwiches to not be hungry. Maybe it’s because in a past life I was a slave, a rebel or a peasant. All I know is that I inhale the spirit of places like Cuba, Haiti, Liberia, Venezuela. I can taste the salt water, corn tortillas, campfire smoke, gun powder on my tongue. It’s not depressing to me. It’s quite exhilarating. There’s an urgency – not a complacency in it. There’s a reason to live, not just exist. More and more I become detached from materialistic points of view. I’ve had less and more. I wonder… am I learning the secret to less is more?

 

I’ve been thrown in an empty cell naked before. I didn’t moan or weep about it. I actually thought of how there are hundreds of thousands of scantily clad wise men/gurus wandering around India (home of enchanting wisdom and spiritual attainment). I’ve been fed loaves of food unfit for human consumption and in that time I thought to myself – do I even know horror?

 

I’m restricted to such small living quarters. I’m currently in a management cell completely sealed off from all human contact and almost visibility. I’ve seen men desperately seek ways to get from behind these cells. They were breaking. They were smothered. Couldn’t breathe. I could smell their tears and hear their spirit mourning; all hid under grim faces and tattoos that sold fantasies and told lies.

 

I walk back to my bunk, sit cross-legged and wonder what the Prophet Muhammad did in the cave of Hira circa 609AD. What took place with him was divine. It dawned upon me that so many warriors found enlightenment while posted in caves. Ethiopian nomads (that became known as Rastafarians), Coptic and Buddhist monks; even eagles gain their nobility from lonesome cliffs or branches where only the wind can touch them.

 

I’ve been through numerous lockdowns and shakedowns – time when our food is fed to us in a paper sacks. I’ve opened up to a cheese sandwich and bologna sandwich. I get lost looking into the brown sack pondering… I bet the socialist rations in Cuba are much better. What are the indigenous people of Peru eating? I wasn’t distraught of the sight of a bag of raisins. I said to myself – I wonder what I could trade this for in Bolivia? A bowl of rice maybe? I can appreciate a Ramen noodle soup. I see the divinity in it. Could I survive like the FARC from Colombia who stay buried in the green trees and jungle terrain fighting for liberation? I stand with DRIVE buried in steel fighting for what I’m supposed to have… Humanity.

 

Could I be as determined as the poor Venezuelan who once knew tyranny and then stood with the Bolivarian Revolution? Or am I content with a pint of ice cream every week waiting for a needle to weaken my pulse to a thud?

 

What’s a 5-man extraction team got on a machete at the hands of 5 men polluted with hate from imperialism? How could I complain? I’m eating peanut butter sandwiches in a cage with running water after all. A slave camp nonetheless. I recognize that I’ve got to do something about it.

 

What prisoners go through is like a rock being smashed against the flesh. But, as Ho Chi Minh said: “Calamity has hardened me and turned my mind to steel.” I make it work for me. When flint hits steel what happens? It sharpens. That’s me.

It’s isolation vs. solitude. Either way, I pull back into myself like a Dogon, Aztec or Celtic generating aura, chakras, third eye, spirit, soul. I spill it all out usually in what’s called poetry. I think I’ve moved beyond that term. I have no peace with a name that describes what I do – outside of maybe visions, manifestos and instructions – as my words are a collective of things.

 

My words bounce off these walls like bass from stereo speakers – even when only softly spoken – making my adrenaline run. Other sounds vibrate through me that reveal secrets. I come to know the essence of men in the songs they sing, roles they play, the lies they tell which only pulls them closer to the truths they hide.

And I’m listening – wide eyed like the spotted owl perched in the tree. And WHO is the question cause most of us don’t know ourselves.

 

Eating dry bran flakes with no milk I understand that I’m more than I was and can be better than I am. Cassava, rice and freedom sound a lot better than juicy cancerous burgers and totalitarianism.

 

But, maybe it’s just me. I’ve come to feel that I’m a very strange individual. Nevertheless I find myself buried in this cave, hungry – not for food, rather beauty at the tips of struggle – excited by it. And amongst all this death, pain, regret, hopelessness, I still find that I’m smiling… undefeated, discovering so much about life all from this little cave of steel that was actually made to suppress my humanity.

 

Picture that… because I can’t stop!

RE-EVALUATION

Often times when the phrases „the revolution“ or “the struggle“ are talked about it seems to be said in the form of past tense or in a way that is nostalgic only where the names of ones like Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton and Angela Davis are floated off the edge of tongues and forever lost in a haze of clouds. Does this signify that my people (people of African culture) have accepted that “the revolution” or “the struggle” is over, that perhaps today there are no revolutionaries and strugglers, or maybe there’s nothing to revolt or struggle about? I can’t help but to feel so.

During the 60s and the 70s (when black organized movements were at their peak) slogans like “Power to the people” and “Free all political prisoners” were chanted with militant fervency and meaning, but today these seem to be slogans of a faded civilization and void of seriousness. Have the people received the power? Are all (or at least some) of the political prisoners free? We all know the answer is NO!

What has happened to our peoples’ minds to where we feel we could let our guard down and stop fighting? The black liberation movements were not a marching/rallying movement in the sense of how we see those things today, but they were a movement of actions. They knew that if you talked the talk you had to walk the walk. Extreme sacrifices were made for the progress of a people. When I ask what happened I don’t mean the 2 answers we know:

1)Our strongest black leaders were assassinated and unjustly incarcerated

2)The civil rights movement integraded us, knowingly, into a bias system (eventhough the intentions were good- feeling we would eventually excell) and the system’s willingness to pop that pacifier in this screaming, raging mouth.

I mean – when the Equality and Justice still didn’t come as it was supposed to be why didn’t we crank it back up? I’m definitely not saying progress has not been made (infact we’ve been able to make it and continuously make it on the most devious and nefarious land), but just think where we would be today if we had never settled for the few crumb tokens they offered. The truth is we were pacified, subdued and distracted while the system designed a new and improved plan. Nothing has changed!

Today our movement seems to be headed by old groups trying to preserve their past revolutionary teaching and new groups forming with the mix of old inspirations but new cultural influences (Hip –Hop rappers activities being one example). Both are needed and Assata Shakur coined it perfectly when she said:

“To win any struggle for liberation you have to have the way as well as the will, an overall ideology and strategy that stems from a scientific analysis of history and present conditions.”

I set this scenario up to bring testiment to:

1) the revolution is not over, it’s still needed and still living and

2) the political prisoners of today (the revolutions future) need to be liberated but are apparently being waved off as fads or hoax.

I was born in the 70s, raised in the 80s and sentenced to die in the 90s. Now in 2003 I stand as a young Black struggler trying to prove his innocence.

Am I a political prisoner? The old school might say NO, while the new school might say yes. What do I say? You damn right I am!

Political prisoners are defined as persons that were attacked and incarcerated and/or attacked which led to their incarceration simply because of their political views and affiliations. In the 60s and 70s with Black liberation and organization, communism and anarchism flying around these became prime targets for racist capitalist Amerika. While time has brought certain change one thing has not changed and that is people of color are still prime targets with some of the assault weapons being: poverty, ghettos, bombardments of drugs and guns in the community, improper education in the schools, unequal opportunity and an active prison circuit system.

What do I define a political prisoner as today? While the term still retains its original definition let it now encompass (any) who have been falsely and unjustly incarcerated and are being held captive under frivolous sentences with bias politics affirming it. No matter if these brothers and sisters are Activists, Communists, Muslims or Panthers – they are OUR people and worthy of defense and the opportunity to have a just life and treatment. When we face a system that subjugates, oppresses and murders by politics justifying that regimen (in society or jail) we are political prisoners.

Prisons have become a morbid design to punish and conform people to a regimen far worse than society realizes. It has been purposely made a breeding ground for violence, ignorance and death. But what about those that have not given in? What about those of us who have decided to utilize our time and consciously build our mind and soul? Are we being neglected because we have no revolutionary background or did not come to prison for a political cause?  As a people I think we are forgetting to cultivate each other and that we can’t give up on each other. Gwendolyn Brooks said it best: “We are each others bonds, business and magnitude.”

It’s understood that our people are tired of the madness and onslaught that has been inflicted by our own. It does need to cease immediately! However, it will not cease by condemning ourselves to the arms of those that simply wish to eradicate us. Keep in mind that while today your family member may not be here, tomorrow, for no reason at all, they could be. We have to be careful of the system we’re supporting simply because we’re not in the heat of conflict at that moment. Our inability to speak out against such a system is to virtually support it through our inactivity.

Let me enlighten you to this and allow it to stand as a constant reminder of the process that can unfold when you think to yourself if that person going to jail deserves time taken out for them, love, support and a 2nd chance. If Malcolm Little had never gone to prison he would have never became Malcolm X. If George Lester Jackson had never gone to prison he would have never became the most inspiring revolutionary Comrade George.

Within these walls transformation processes begin. They sometimes begin with a brother offering a book – a Bible, Koran or a “Revolutionary Suicide”, “Black Power”, “Isis Paper”. As for myself, I underwent this process – raised by brothers who had taken this same path before me and now I stand with social/political/revolutionary/cultural consciousness in my heart. But does that (along with my limited abilities to produce conscious writings, poetry and out reach to ones in prison and society) count for anything? Would I have to remake Attica for recognition? Not saying that Texas concentration camps don’t deserve such a resistance, or that I am not willing to give it, but is it these types of things only that have to be done to receive revolutionary status?

For those of us brothers struggling within this beast whom have come into this light we have found love and vision for our people we are no longer destroyers, but cultivators – no longer lost, but idea givers. We see only a hand full of political prisoners today being supported in a paramount ways, however progress in the movement doesn’t come by way of individual success only group success.

Today we strive under the same bias, racism and oppression as always just in a covert guise. We resist too! The value of the struggle that took place before (and for) us is now imprinted in our spirits and we now stand never to fall back into those pits of darkness. From within these depths we see the same attacks going on against our people today as back then and we realize the revolution and struggle is far from over. Thus we have become the revolutions/struggles future. We still need to have action taken behind the slogans “Power to the people” and “ free all political prisoners”.

This system recognizes the power we wield as a people so sentences have gotten longer and death sentences more rampant because it doesn’t want these strong, conscious black men and women returning to society to uplift and liberate our people so they breed a prison environment of pure hell to either corrupt or kill them. The system remains rigged with crooked laws and white supremacist judges who will prevent a Huey Newton/Angela Davis/Erica Huggins acquittal at all cost (just ask Mumia, H. Rap and if you could Shaka Sankofa).

If I told my supporters and the people to “take up arms” like Shaka did, they’d probably try to set me an execution date tomorrow. If I radically politiced my ideology as a revolutionary socialist I’d probably become the centre of multiple subjugative attacks. For those of us who have found the ability to mobilize and cultivate – the people should support their rights to receive fair trials, receive humane treatment and for those who can – return to society. We need newly formed radical bases to support us, this revolutionary future, so that we can keep alive the struggle our elders told us to. We can’t keep it alive without your support.

I often think to if I was born in the 50s and raised in the 60s and 70s would I have been a revolutionary then, imprisoned or killed. Well, I’m alive right now and I will never lose faith in my people. As Sojourner Truth said, “ These colored people are going to be a people… do you think God has had them robbed, scourged all the days of their life for nothing?” This toil, loss and rejuvination of revolutionary education must not be for nothing! Until capitalism ceases to oppress us – the revolution is not completed. Untill we have the power to control our destinies – the struggle is not over. And until the oppressed and unjustly convicted are released – All political prisoners are not free. I stand as the body of resistance for US, the war is not won and the revolution and struggle lives daily within me and within the revolutionary future behind these walls.

We strive on… without cease. Let’s seize the time.

SHARED LESSON

Being on death row has provided many (what I call) lessons and blessings. They have come in many forms and some I’m still trying to decipher. While there are so many that I could name, I’d like to share one of them that has stayed with me in an intense way. Here, the most profound friendships can be made. Men often bond in ways that father/son, brother to brother never can. Sometimes it’s like 2 souls merging and radiating off each other. At other times a soul can just pass through our lives to leave his lesson with us. I had a friend here by the name of Coruthers Alexander. We all called him Big Al. Big Al got to death row around the late 70’s (I forget the exact date.) I met Big Al in 1998 while at Ellis 1 Unit. Right away we became friends as he was originally from Austin like me (and he happened to know some of my older cousins), but also grew up in San Antonio. Al was an elder to us brothers here- a very calm and relaxed brother, master craftsman and artist. In 2000, we moved to this unit after an escape at Ellis and I just so happened to be seated in front of Al. We were shackled like cattle, with chains around our waists, our legs and cutting into our wrists. The hour ride from Huntsville Livingston was painful and spent sliding the cuffs up and down our wrists. I was able to get a good glimpse of Al during this ride. Prison had taken its toll on him even though he was a big bodied guy. Still, I saw the lines under his eyes, the grays in his hair and deep in his eyes, I saw a depth. It was like looking into a universe of its own. It was lives in there. In late 2000, Big Al received a date of execution. Big Al had been charged with a murder and rape of a female and Big Al maintained his innocence until the last day. He stressed that he was innocent and the police framed him through planting evidence. Of course we know this happens all too often in this system. I was hurting for Al. I began sending him as many addresses as I could find. These were political addresses and I urged him to write these people. When he responded told me that he kind of kicked himself in the butt a bit because he felt like he didn’t act on things when he was supposed to. He felt like he let his lawyers have their way for so long that he didn’t capitalize on things that could have saved his life. The fact was Big Al was tired. He had been on death row for 20 years and had seen numerous generations come through. His body was tired, even though his soul was still kicking. While I didn’t know of it then, but I know it now, he entertained me with thinking he’d purse these leads, but in the beauty of the universe he left a divine piece of wisdom with me. He said, “Man, I feel you Foster. I guess it’s not over till it’s over. I see that you believe in Manifestation through Thought, Prayer and Action. I guess it’s time for me to get to work.” I do believe that it was those final words to me that was his final act of faith. It took no time for those words to sink into my being- it was as if a piece of Al had sunk into me. I was captivated by what Al had said- they seemed like some words from an Esoteric manuscript, some hidden piece of knowledge that I had been looking for and you know what…..it was.

 

For years now, I have reflected on those words. I have defined them, dissected them and added philosophy to them that I now abide by in my daily life. I have been able to share this with many brothers and I hope these brothers have gotten something from it. I’d like to share my thoughts with you as well. It’s not only my hope that you will get something from it, but that you will also add a piece to it so that we may build on these pieces of life and spirit.

 

THOUGHT. All things originate with our Thoughts (mind). It is here that all things are concepted. I’ve come to believe that the mind is the most powerful weapon in the world. I’ve always looked at our thought like a ship and our spirit is the captain. I have come to believe that the mind is the most powerful weapon in the world, because while wars are won through weaponry, there’s always a mind behind it who created it and carried out the plan. When hearts are touched by something beautifully made by man (like a painting or a poem) it was the mind, our thoughts that created such. This is why knowledge is power, because to control the mind is to control people and I do believe inevitably effect the universe. You see, the mind is the deadliest of foes, but the most useful of servants. When it turns wild and gets out of control, it heads for certain destruction. When properly awakened and controlled, there is no limit to what the mind can do. It is said that the mind is energy and I do believe that. For those that have experienced psychic ability, telepathy or just felt a strong hunch in their stomach, it’s from the energy that the mind is protruding. Our souls can feel these vibrations. It’s subtle, but it’s always been. If people would only realize the power of thoughts they would never think an ill thing. They have a powerful influence for good when they are on the positive side. If we only knew deeply, absolutely, that our smallest act, our smallest thought, has such far-reaching effects; setting forces in motion; reaching out into the galaxy (the same way Rev. Donna spoke on being at one with the universe); how carefully we would act and speak and think. How precious life would become in its integral wholeness. While I believe we can be inspired and guided by our Creator, I feel that man is the leading figure in his/her destiny. The greatest revolution in our lifetime is that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of the mind, can change the outer aspects of our lives. As a guy named Arthur Eddington said, “I believe that the mind has the power to affect groups of atoms and even tamper with the odds of atomic behavior, and that even the course of the world is not predetermined by physical laws, but may be altered by the uncaused volition of human beings”. That quote in itself says a lot. But it’s within these concepts that we may learn to appreciate and respect the mind and through study and reflection, learn how to use it for the common good. It all begins with our first thoughts.

 

PRAYER. AS spiritualist prayer is and should be a major part of our lives. Prayer is a merger of our minds and spirit speaking a common language. I don’t think people in churches now days understand prayer, its purpose or the power of it. The most powerful form of energy one can generate is prayer. Prayer, like radium, is a luminous and self-generating form of energy. Prayer is a process of centering our energy, consolidating it to begin a mission. It’s kind of like being at a beach and you start gathering the sand into one big pile and then you build some sand castles. Often, prayer is looked at as a means to seek mercy, to get away from something. If one is using it for this, they are using prayer wrong. Prayer is not flight; prayer is power! Prayer does not deliver a man from some terrible situation; prayer enables a man to face and master a situation. Supply does not come through prayer. It comes as a result of an attitude of faith, a condition of mind and heart/spirit, in which the Invisible is depended upon solely for all things necessary, instead of upon the visible and earthly. Prayer in the form of begging and beseeching God to kindly answer our request is not capable of producing supply itself. It is immature to think of prayer as personal gain. It takes from one the responsibility of conditions of one’s life. Everything in creation is based on universal laws. Cause and effect work perfectly in accordance with this law. Yet mankind attempts to escape the hurt brought on by his disobedience to higher law by praying to God to violate his own laws. We must reanalyze prayer. I smile at the saying of “People pray to have a mountain moved when all they need to do is climb it.” Prayer can be a tool of good for us. It coincides with our thoughts- that energy we send out to the world. Let us remember that we are but drops in the eyes of the Creator. Prayer is about humbling ourselves to something so great and divine that we can’t even comprehend. Thus, prayer is not an easy way of getting what we want, but the only way of becoming what God wants us to be. Here we find the path we should be on and here we gain all the power and insight we need to make the journey.

 

ACTION. Action is the final piece to this puzzle. Knowing is not enough; we must apply it! As a man of African heritage and one knowledged of my people’s plight, I am familiar with how religion was once used as a weapon of oppression instead of the tool of liberation it’s supposed to be. Once it was given to us to simply get on our knees and pray, hope for that big “pie in the sky”, to sit around and be idle. I’ve never agreed with this methodology. We were given minds, bodies, muscles, etc… for a reason. Perpetual motion is the eternal law of life. Action is the single most effective antidote to many ailments. I’d think it’s hard to be depressed and active at the same time. Through actions we’ve created civilizations and societies. The only way to know truly is through practical experiment and experience. Theory and speculation, if they are not followed by trial and demonstration, are useless! Knowledge itself is of little or no value if it does not lead to action.

 

I’ve presented us with the 3 most paramount things to manifest. First, we think of it. Second we pray on it and ask the Creator to guide us, to guide our actions for a greater good. Thirdly, we go to work. Through these three things we will manifest, we will make things happen. All people have a purpose in life, it’s up to us to discover it and manifest it. I’ve found my gift through socio-political activity and so I follow these three steps in carrying out a greater good. Each step is dependant on the other. Thought and analysis are powerless to pierce the great mystery that hover over the world and over our existence, but knowledge of the great truths only appears in action and labor. I do pray that ones like us will send this energy to the universe and have it sprinkled down to mankind. SO BE IT!