This week we had the opportunity to connect with Ash Williams, who is the Volunteer Coordinator for the Carolina Abortion Fund, and is also one of the architects of the Charlotte Uprising which they’ve been on the show before to talk about. I felt very lucky to get to talk with them again about the work they’ve been doing with Carolina Abortion Fund, but also about abortion in general and about expanding the meaning of reproductive justice work to encompass de-colonial views on care and healthcare work, environmental racism such as is going on in Flint Michigan, climate catastrophe, how this topic fits into a broader scope of reproductive capabilities being stolen from people, and many other aspects.
They also spoke on how we talk about abortion from their own perspective as a Black trans person, and how transmisogyny, the erasure of transfeminine experience, and transphobia can play into how this issue is thought of. They also give suggestions for folks already doing reproductive justice work moving forward to create intentional access for all who need or want that.
Here is an article on Marshae Jones, who is a woman in Alabama facing felonies for the termination by gunshot wound of her pregnancy. The shooter is not being charged with anything as of the writing of this post. Yellowhammer Fund is doing bail support for Marshae!
This week we had the chance to interview Lelia, who is a community activist and a part of the group Comunidad Colectiva, an immigrant rights group based in Charlotte NC. We got to talk about a lot of things in this interview, the work that they and other groups do with immigrant and undocumented communities, about the February ICE raids that got national attention, what effective rapid response can look like, and the challenging tension associated with both being anti state and being in the position of having to negotiate with police and sheriffs for safety reasons, plus many more topics.
We wanted to mention something called 287(g) and give a bit of information for listeners who may not have heard of this before. 287(g) was a contract between local officials and ICE which essentially made police forces extensions of ICE, and also instituted deportation proceedings as part of run of the mill arrests. More is explained about this contract later on in the interview, but it gets mentioned fairly heavily before that time.
You can keep updated on this group’s work by hitting them up on Facebook and if you have a few dollars you’d like to throw them to recoup the costs associated with their rapid response network, their Venmo is @comunidad-colectiva.
Next week on The Final Straw, stay tuned for an interview with a member of the Montreal based group Ni Frontiers Ni Prison (which is No Borders, No Prison) about fighting a proposed new migrant prison, decolonization, the rise of far right sentiment in so called Canada, and many associated topics, plus a possible other interview.
Update on Kinetic Justice
In a brief update to last week’s interview on the hunger strike by Kinetic Justice of the Free Alabama Movement, we’d like to share the following news. On March 20th, Kinetic Justice Amun (aka Robert Earl Council) resumed his hunger strike as he was transferred briefly to segregation housing at Limestone prison, but ended his hunger strike within a few days and was transferred to general population at that prison. He can be written at the following address:
Robert Earl Council #181418
28779 Nick Davis Rd
Harvest, AL 35749
Consequently, 8 of the prisoners transferred with Kinetic in the middle of the night, began engaging in a hunger strike in response to their own incarceration in solitary. In response to the hunger strike, administration cut off water to the cells they were held in, giving them bottled water.
The 8 prisoners ended their hunger strike on March 22nd, and administration claims they’ll be transferred to general population in the Alabama prison system as they’re not under investigation currently.
This week William had the opportunity to speak with two people who are doing active support work for the folks involved in what’s being called the “migrant caravan”, a group of 7,000 or so people primarily from Honduras fleeting violence of many kinds. Firstly we’ll hear from Chris, who is an organizer with Enclave Caracol, a social center which stands in solidarity with migrants in Tijuana. This center sprang from Tijuana Food Not Bombs, and you can learn more about them via their Facebook page or via their wordpress site.
In this interview, we get into how it’s been for Enclave Caracol (The Snail Enclave in English) to do support in Tijuana, some of the history regarding this particular situation, how the various cop organizations in the area have been treating folks, responses by the public and the government alike, and basic ways of how to support. Let us know what you think or if you have a perspective on this issue by writing to us! You can also write us here.
The second interview is with Elana, who is an anarchist lawyer doing support for the people in the caravan. In this interview we talk about their experiences and some about the complex legal situation that a lot of asylum seekers are faced with, plus ways to re-contextualize this caravan in anti-imperialist terms.
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The audio quality cuts out in some portions of these interviews, so apologies in advance for that.
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To learn more about the history of what is going on right now, and
specifically the recent history of Honduras which gave rise to this
present day situation, we recommend the Alliance for Global Justice’s webinair on Honduras, which was passed to us by a comrade. It is a longer listen, and brings voices together who have been paying attention to this situation for many years, some of whom are directly impacted by it.
This week on the Final Straw, we’re featuring two main events, both themed around the Prison Strike ongoing across Turtle Island until at least September 9th.
First, an interview we conducted with Kevin “Rashid” Johnson. Rashid is a co-founder of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party and is the Minister of Defense from within it’s Prison Chapter. He is the author of two books available from Kersplebedeb, Defying the Tomb & Panther Vision, both collections of Rashid’s art and essays on capitalism, racism, imperialism and his view of a road towards liberation. Rashid is a Maoist and presents some interesting arguments in his writings. In this interview, Rashid talks briefly about his own case, his politicization behind bars, organizing the NABPP-PC, it’s split from the New Black Panther Party, cross-racial class organizing, the #PrisonStrike and more. We hope to be able to bring more of Rashid’s voice in the future. To check out his writing and and his quite literally iconic art, check out rashidmod.com. And at the moment you can write to Rashid at the following address:
Kevin Johnson #1007485 Sussex 1 State Prison 24414 Musselwhite Dr. Waverly, VA 23891
A transcription of this first interview will be found at the bottom of the page and an imposed zine for printing imposed zine for printing can be found here soon.
Next, we’ll hear an audio post-card that some friends put together, interspersing words of encouragement and audio from a noise demonstration outside Hyde prison in Eastern North Carolina on August 20th. Prisoners at Hyde CI met the outside supporters in the yard and from across lines of razor wire they unfurled three banners with simple statements: “parole”; “better food”; & “In Solidarity”. To read an article about the noise demo, see some pictures and hear about NC specific demands, check out the article, “Community Shows Support as NC Prisoners Rally With Banners“ on ItsGoingDown. Make some noise!
To close out the hour, we will hear some words of encouragement to striking prisoners in #Amerikkka from comrades incarcerated in #Klanada!
If you’re in Asheville today (Sunday September 9th), consider dropping by Firestorm at 610 Haywood Rd at 5pm to join #BlueRidgeABC for the monthly political prisoner letter writing night. Supplies will be free as well as info on writing prisoners, names and addresses, and comradery.
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Show playlist here. . … . ..
Q: Could you please introduce yourself for the listening audience?
A: Alright, this is Kevin Rashid Johnson, I am a prisoner, incarcerated in Virginia at Sussex 1 State Prison.
Q: How has the prison tried to silence your organizing and writing over the years, and is this a consequence of the prison strike or other efforts?
A: I think I’ve gone through the entire range of reprisals. I’ve been subjected to physical attacks. I’ve been denied meals. I’ve been attempted to be subjected to dehydration, I’ve been subjected to destruction of property. Most recently I was transferred out of state, sent first to Oregon, then transferred from Oregon as a result of writing and exposing abuses in that prison system, to Texas. Same process resulted — I was transferred from Texas to Florida. Florida just got rid of me in June and sent me back to Virginia. I was then transferred — when I returned to Virginia, to Red Onion State Prison, and moved from Red Onion State prison and transferred on the 12th of July, and sent here to Sussex 1 State Prison, and I’m now being house on death row, although I have no death sentence, and that being with the obvious purpose of isolating me from other prisoners, as there are only three prisoners left on Virginia’s Death Row, and they’re spread out in a 44 cell pod, which I’m housed in separated and all the inmates have been instructed not to talk to me. So, the major effort has been to isolate me and to remove me from areas and places where they felt I would be able to talk to prisoners, to be able to gain info about abusive conditions and to, I guess, influence prisoners to challenge abuses and to stand up to conditions that are pretty inhumane and abusive. As far as responses to the prison work strike, I have not as of yet seen any reprisals or any response that I could call reprisals. And they expect that there would be exposure of anything they did, which may be the only deterrent at this point for any type of retaliation. But I’ve been involved in a commissary strike, not spending any money, as my contribution to the strike, because I’m confined in solitary and don’t have the ability to work. I have never participated in prison work. I’ve refused through my incarceration because I have recognized it is slave labor, and I refuse to allow them to exploit me in that fashion.
Q: For the listeners in the wider public, can you talk about the purpose of prisons under white supremacist capitalism in the US, and why it’s in all of our interest to not only struggle against these institutions, but to support prisoners’’ organizing efforts?
A: Well, from the outset, I think it’s rather obvious that there is a racial component to who is targeted with mass imprisonment within America, from the New Afrikan, that is Black, prisoners, Black social population being 12 to 13% in mainstream society but being some 50% of the prison pop nationwide. In Virginia, where I’m incarcerated, they have been something like 13% of the state population but 58% of the prison population. So, race clearly is a determinative factor in who is targeted within imprisonment and who receives their sentences and the extent of incarceration and where they are housed. In that context, within the prison system, it’s usually at the low security, the low level institutions where predominately white prisoners are housed, and the most extreme and harsh prisons, in each prison system I’ve been to and I know of, this is where the predominately Black and Brown prisoners are housed at. Within the prison structure, prisoners tend to polarize into racial groups, based on their shared cultural and social experiences, and guards and administration are typically inclined to try to manipulate prisoners against each other along racial grounds, racial lines, you know. The guards in my experience, especially where I just came from — Florida — are particularly orientated to acting out racist policies and politics. In fact, where I was confined, two of the institutions I was confined to, the Reception and Medical Center in Florida, in the Florida State Prison, those institutions have been exposed as employing card-carrying Ku Klux Klan members, in fact — three guards who were exposed as having plotted to kill an ex-prisoner who was Black, at the Reception and Medical Center, and revealed their plans to an FBI informant were recently prosecuted, and it came out during the prosecution that all three of them were card carrying Klansman, and that they work at the institution. And not long ago one of the legislatures on the Florida Congress had done a tour of the Reception and Medical Center, she being a Black woman, she pretty much expressed in the media that she feared for her life, the attitude of the white guards there were just openly racist. She acknowledged that she knew that the Klan played a prominent role in the staff and the administration of that institution and in that region, which is the same are the Florida State Prison is located. And she expressed her knowledge of a portion of the institution’s guards kicking Black prisoners’ teeth out who had gold teeth, and that in general, she knew that these institutions were run by the Ku Klux Klan. And this is from an elected member of the Congress of Florida, a Black woman who had done a tour and said that she literally was in fear of her life as she did this tour within the institution, because of the treatment and attitudes of white guards of the institution when she did her tour. So, the racial politics are pretty out in the open, and they’re able to exist in such at such a level because prisons not only hold people on the inside and keep us isolated from the general public, they also keep the general public locked out. So there is no scrutiny, there is no supervision, and there is generally no public accountability for and by those who work within the institution, so it’s just a closed culture, where all sorts of corruption and abuse is allowed to fester and just to be carried out with pretty much impunity. The support that is needed on the outside is tremendous. The support that the prisoners have been able to gain over the past several years in response to the work strikes and various attempts to publicize and challenge abusive conditions in the prisons have pretty much got word in to the institutions where prison officials had blocked prisoners from becoming aware of what was going on as far as protests going on and attempts to challenge and expose abuses. And it bolstered and motivated prisoners who otherwise were afraid to challenge abusive conditions and didn’t feel that there was anything that could be accomplished by trying to stand up and oppose conditions. It kind of motivated a lot of prisoners who weren’t otherwise involved to get involved. So the support that can be garnered on the outside and has been garnered is very important to this type of work and this type of struggle. It’s essential that those who are aware of these struggles and aware of these conditions give what support they can, not only as allies, but also as comrades.
Q: to anyone behind bars out there who might hear this interview, and is sitting on the fence about participation, what can you say about the nation-wide prison strike?
A: That they should not be deterred, they should not be discouraged, they should not just sit on their hands and refuse to get involved. The more of us who get involved, the stronger the outside support and awareness that we’re serious about the conditions that we’re challenging and the need for change — that they should not allow officials to continue to manipulate us against each other, whether along racial lines whether you’re talking about along the lines of street organizing. That’s what supporters… They should also not allow loved ones to discourage them from participating in the work strike. I know a lot of the loved ones who may hear about the strike, they may advise them to not get involved because of fear of them being transferred, a long way away from their loved ones, or they don’t want to see them subject to relation or being placed on lock down, but their loved ones should understand that this is a condition, that these are conditions that we live, that they’re not living them and that its important that we take a stand to change these abuses, and not play in to officials trying to isolate and play us one against the other, and cause people to refuse or fear coming involved, and keep us divided amongst ourselves. We need all possible participants; we need the greatest level of unity possible. And one of the things I always emphasize to my peers is, we outnumber the prison guards, the prison officers around us some 30 to one at very least. But they have total power and total control, because they always keep us divided, fearful, envious, and not trusting or believing in our own potential, where as they exercise complete and absolute unity in their actions. If they want to abuse you, the rest of them are gonna fall in line and support that abuse. If one them lies on us and mistreats us, the rest of them are going to conform to that lie and they’re gonna carry out that abuse. And that’s why they have the control and power that they have, because no matter what, no matter what the situation no matter the condition, they always work and stick together. And we need to take that same example and apply it to how we exercise our unity and our level of power amongst ourselves.
Q: Rashid, can you talk about your incarceration, political development, and a bit about the New Afrikan Black Panther Party that you helped to co-found? Also, how does it differ from the New Black Panther Party, formerly of the nation of Islam?
A: Ok, my imprisonment initially began in 1990. I was incarcerated for a murder that I had no involvement in, and large part, it was conspiratorial on the part of a police officer who I had a history of conflicts with. They subjected me to deliberate misidentification and a number of procedural violations during the prosecution of the case that was imputed against me, that went the actual jurisdiction, the actual power of the court to try to convict and sentence me for the charges that they were attempting to impute against me. Ok, throughout my imprisonment, particularly the first decade and a half, I spent a large part of my time struggling directly against guard abuses. Their physical abuses, I responded to with physical responses. They would abuse physically myself or others around me, and I would respond with physical reactions to their abuses. I went through the struggle pretty much back and forth, one to one head up conflicts with guards and their teams, riot guards and cell extraction teams, for about the first decade and a half. I became exposed to political thought put, particularly the writings of George Jackson, around 2002, when I was housed in an area with another prisoner, another political prisoner, Hanif Shabazz Bey, from the Virgin Islands. He turned me on to a lot of different political writings, and different political organizations that were involved in the system in America, the various revolutionary nationalist struggles that had taken place through the world through the 40s and 50s. I began to do extensive studies into various aspects and levels of progressive as well as revolutionary history and politics. Various theories, etc. And as I studied more, I came to understand the inherent dysfunctional nature of the capitalist, imperialist system that America is at the center of, and I understood or came to understand that the oppression that I was struggling against was much bigger than head to head clashes with individual guards, that it was largely an invalid system that pitted a small group of powerful wealthy people against the masses of working class people and poor people through out the world, and that they lived at the expense of these people. And to change conditions requires a struggle that mobilized the oppressed to bring about fundamental change at various levels of society. And I grew from a person inclined to react on a more individual level to one who recognized or saw the bigger picture and was more inclined to organize people and to contribute what I could with my resources, and the understanding that I was developed to build into something bigger, that was more, addressed more to the fundamental problems of the overall system. So in that, my clashes with individual guards lessened. I was also involved in mitigation and studying and understanding the political system and legal system. I became less inclined to, as I said, individualize my struggle against the system. Though, in doing that, I began to reach out more to people on the outside who were involved in political organizations, trying to pull people who were in positions of influence, politically people who were willing to mobilize groups of people in support of prisoners and conditions that we lived under, to challenge those conditions, to educate prisoners, and to try to consolidate a base of support on the outside to the inside. In doing this, I was able to understand some of the weaker points of the system. I understood where it was most effective to attack the power structure, and I understood, or came to understand that one of the most vulnerable places that you can direct your attack at the system is by exposing its corruption to the masses, because the masses are the sources of their power, that those people can’t be ruled over by an oppressor, or any power, unless they give their consent at some level to that ruling. And once they become aware of the illegitimacies and the corruption of the system, and they refuse to acknowledge or concede the legitimacy of the system, then they can typically overnight overthrow that system. And this is why the power structure expends such a massive amount of resources and propaganda to try to influence and keep the masses brainwashed and believing that they’re moralistic and they’re honest and they’re well-meaning and their intentions are oriented to the best interests of the masses, because they realize without some level of acknowledgment and consent, the masses of the people could not be ruled over and would not accept their authority, and as you observed during the Arab Spring in, what, 2011? — once the mass of the people refused to accept the power that rules over them, they can send that power into exile and flight over night, and the powers that be understand this. So I understood that by exposing the corruption and illegitimacy of those in power and the lies that the sustain themselves with, this is one means of undermining the false power and the false credibility and sense of legitimacy that these people try to portray themselves, as the basis of them exercising their authority over others. And it has proven most effective, particularly my writings about abuses going on inside of the prisons. My writings exposing the corruptions and illegitimacy of the power structure and the economic system to the extent that people have been receptive to my writings, I have seen a corresponding reaction by those in power, which, as I pointed out earlier, is a result of me facing a much higher level of reprisal and attempts to isolate me now, a very different response from when I was just in my head to head clashes with, you know, guards at a very low ranking lever. When I started to expose the system, they started tryna isolate me, to try and stop me from communicating with people on the outside, to shutting down my lines of communication, transferring me from state to state and deliberately sending me to states where conditions were known to be the most abusive in the country, particularly Texas and Florida, and trying to put me in positions where I would end up in violent clashes with other prisoners, and that sort of thing.
But anyway, as I became more politically I aware, I saw the need for political organizations to represent those who do not have political representations and to operate to educate and organizing the masses on a more revolutionary and fundamental level of understanding the political economic system on how to challenge and ultimately over throw that oppressive system in the interest of the working class and in support of the people. So, we co-founded the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter initially as an autonomous of the New Black Panther Party, being aware the New Black Panther Party started in 2000 was not practicing the politics and they were not living up to principles in the program of the original Black Panther Party, but had pretty much wrapped up these politics, the racial politics of the Nation of Islam, in an artificial garb of Black Pantherism. And our agenda was to try to take that organization in to the politics and the revolutionary ideology of the original Black Panther Party and to change their reverse racism, and to put them more on to the path of revolutionary politics of the original party. Ultimately, we realized that it was futile trying to do this, in that they were not interested in changing their political orientation, or to maintaining or carrying forward the agenda of the original Panther Party, so we ultimately split from the New Black Panther Party.
We changed our name to the National Black Panther Party Prison Chapter, and from there we have maintained the political line of the original Black Panther Party, but we have been very focused on not repeating the mistakes of the original party, but building on the correct contributions that the party made to the struggle of the 60s and 70s. And trying to carry forward what they were able to accomplish during their more revolutionary stages, which was from 1966 to 1971, and to, again, not repeat the errors that they made, and to learn from the mistakes that they made and from the what we understand now to be a very vicious campaign carried out against them by the US government, and the inclination of the government to attack any organization that seeks to open the eyes of the masses of the people. And we ourselves have been subjected to the same sort attacks and attempts to undermine. We’ve been stigmatized as Black Separatists and domestic terrorists, and all when we have done nothing and we have not been fighting for doing anything except publicizing the corruption of the law enforcement establishment and the abuses inside the US prisons, and they have identified this as being the behavior that they dislike, that they feel qualified us as threats to the security of the country. And I was personally profiled in a 2009 threat assessment report as a domestic terrorist because of my involvement in publicizing abuses in, you know, American prisons. And they’re saying that I prove to have exercised a good level of influence over people and society, in turning them against the law enforcement system because of my writings, which is pretty absurd. But this has been the thrust of what we are trying to organize, and some of the work that we’ve done, and the response has been, as I said, repression, isolation, attempts to attack us, subjecting the various members, leading members of our org to various levels of reprisal. Being placed in, thrown in solitary, subjected to all sorts of physical abuses, and you know, other attempts to try and dissuade and deter us from the work that we’re trying to do.
Q: The New Afrikan Black Panther Party has a focus of org with folks of African descent. In your view, how can folks in other groups, like white folks, act as comrades as you say in struggle against white supremacy?
A: Alright, within our party, we founded in 2006 in what’s called the White Panther Organization and subsequent to that, the Brown Panther Organizational Committee, as arms of our party. We are the first Panther organization that has actually brought white comrades and brown comrades in to our party. So we have brown and white Panthers in our party, and the function of them is to take the line of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party in to the white communities to struggle against the racism in the white communities, the Brown Panthers take the same line in to the brown communities, and the thing is to bring all these different sectors of society, both domestic and abroad, into a consolidated, united front that will unify us in the single struggle against the imperialist system, particularly focused on the marginalized people that are called criminalized or the Lumpen. Our work is specifically again to take the struggle to the power structure at the most fundamental level, and to build the sort of unity that has been probably the Achilles heel of revolutionary struggles, and undermining their effectiveness, and that has been polarizing factor of race. And as I see it, this is our approach in it has proven quite effective. Initially when they sent me out of state, they sent me to Oregon, which is one of the few prison systems in America where there is a predominately white prisoner population — it’s probably like 5 or 10% Black. And they sent me there after they had profiled me as a Black Separatist, and when I got to Oregon, they spread amongst the large number of Aryan gangs up there that I was Black Panther, which they portrayed as some sort of Black variation of the Ku Klux Klan, portraying us as anti-white and wanted to make race war against white people and this sort of thing, and they were trying to create a violent conflict between me and the white groups up there, which was obviously the point of them sending me to that state. But in effect, because of the politics of our party, and the orientation of the line of our white panther organization, I was able to politicize the white groups up there to various — they had like 13 different Aryan gangs up there in the prison system. I ended up politicking with them. They immediately released me into the population, which was another indication what they intended to try to see happen. But instead of me ending up in a war with them, I ended up politicking with them, exposing them to the history of racism, how racism was manipulated and created in the late 1600’s, and how it had been used and has been used as the most effective polarizing factor in society to manipulate oppressed people against each other. And I won a large sector of them over, and when I started to prove effective as not engaging them in violence, but winning them over to more revolutionary political and understanding of racial politics, they immediately threw me into solitary, got me out of population, and started to impose a different regiment of abuse and oppression against me, and ultimately kicked me out of the state and sent me to Texas, and when I was able to influence white Aryan gangs there to get involved in the national prison hunger strike that was taking place in 2013, where 30,00 prisoners got involved in Oregon joined them in hunger strike, so the line of our party, with respect to racial politics is specifically to organize white comrades to take the politics of our party, unifying politics in to the white community to struggle against the polarizing culture in, you know, white culture and white society in America, and to try to bring us all together in a common, united front.
Q: Can you talk about your views on feminism in the revolutionary struggle for a new society?
A: Alright, I should make a distinction between our line on the gender issue and the question of the struggle against paternalism and male domination. We are not feminist. We are, we are about revolutionary women’s liberation. Feminism seems to be the equal opposite of chauvinism, no– male chauvinism. The line in feminism largely has been represented by the bourgeois sector of the women’s movement, the upper middle class to upper class has always dominated the voice of the feminist movement, so we find it to be largely not a movement that really is about advancing the cause of women, at all levels of oppression, but at the interest of bourgeois and upwardly middle class women to gain an equal foothold with the bourgeois males in dominating society in general. So our struggle is for gender equality, not to raise the interest of upper class women at the exclusion of the lower class and oppressed women. Our struggle is to see working class women, poor women have all their rights respected and to be given an equal stage of power and an equal stage of respect throughout society at all stages, though I would make the distinction between what is known or generally represented as feminism with what we call revolutionary women’s liberation. But we are allied, of course, to the women’s movement, those women who identify as and those other people who may reject the concept of gender etc, who identify with the feminist struggle, but from the standpoint of working class women and working class non gender people or working class lgbtq people, and we stand on an equal footing with them and seek to have all forms of repression of women or all forms of repression of non gendered people, all forms of repression of LGBTQ people overthrown, and all people to have an equal share in power, and an equal interest in having their rights, and their desires, so long as they aren’t opposing and oppressing other people.
Q: Are there any other final statements you’d like to make, before we get cut off:
A: Well, I would like to state that I appreciate this opportunity to speak to the listen au of this program, and I really hope that much can be achieved through the struggles that are gaining ground and momentum now, and that there will be a growing link between those on the outside and the prison movement, and that this will help advance the cause of the oppressed against this oppressive system.
Q: Thank you so much for making this conversation happen, and solidarity
As of May 2019, Rashid has been transferred out of state yet again to
Virginia. He can be written at:
D.O.C. No. 264847
Pendleton Correctional Facility
4490 W. Reformatory Road
Pendleton, IN 46064
You can read his essays and updates on his case, plus get ahold of his two books, learn about the NABPP-PC and see his revolutionary artwork up at:
The Final Straw is a weekly anarchist and anti-
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and ideas from struggle around the world.
Since 2010, we’ve been broadcasting from
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frequently feature commentary (serious and
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This week, Bursts spoke with Şoreş Ronahi of the Youth Movement of Rojava (Yekîtiya Ciwanên Rojava), an autonomous movement within Tev-Dem, the movement for Democratic Confederalism in Rojava (located within Northern Syria). Mr Ronahi speaks about the Turkish assaults, aided by ISIS/DAESH forces now flying the so-called Free Syrian Army flag, to attack defense forces and civilians in the Efrînê Canton (also spelled Afrin or Efrin elsewhere). We talk about the political stance of the Turkish government as relates to Kurdish people within and without the borders of Turkey, with the Social Revolution in Rojava, the shifting U.S. relationship to the YPG & YPJ militias under the control of the PYD administration in Rojava, the Revolution’s approaches to engaging and fighting patriarchy and ethnic hatred in Syria and the region and more.
As a side note, although Rojava is not an explicitly anarchist project, it is an anti-nationalist, anti-state movement that holds as its pillars ecology, anti-capitalism & feminism and is in part inspired by American former Anarchist turned Communalist, Murray Bookchin. Beyond Bookchin’s impact, Bursts personally feels that Rojava adds an IRL experiment in combat and revolutionary organizing that many anarchists have engaged in in the form of the International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces, The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army, within other elements of the International Freedom Batallions as well as in the PYD administered YPG & YPJ militias on the front lines fighting DAESH.
The fallen YPJ soldier that Şoreş mentions at the end of the interview is Avesta Xabûr.
For past episodes on #Rojava on this show, check out our conversations with Kurdish feminist Dilar Dirik (pt 1 & pt 2), our conversation with American anarchist Guy McGowan Steel Steward fighting with the YPG (pt 1 & pt 2) and our discussions with anarchist and writer, Paul Z. Simons after his study and visit to Rojava (pt 1, pt 2 & pt 3)
This week, we share a conversation that Bursts had with Betsy Raasch-Gilman. Betsy is a lifelong Quaker, feminist and anti-capitalist. She talks about her experiences organizing as an anarchist during the Cold War with Movement for a New Society, difficulties of critiquing capitalism within the peace movement, anti-nuke organizing, modeling consensus and affinity group organizing, alternative and cooperative models, attempting to ground organizing in anti-racism, separatism, organizing with the Marxist Left and more. Later in the conversation, Betsy talks about her engagement in the RNC Welcoming Committee against the 2008 Twin Cities Republican National Convention, the conspiracy trial that she almost got roped into, security culture and police spies and what she’s excited about now in the current terrain.
You can find out more about the work that Betsy is doing these days, check out Training For Change.
Welcome to a podcast special release of The Final Straw’s interview of two members of The Haymaker, a gym project underway in Chicago, IL. The Haymaker’s principles of unity are as follows:
As organizers, we believe in Autonomy, Strength, and Solidarity. Because we believe in autonomy, we know that we must learn to fight our enemies without relying on institutions that disempower us and macho gym cultures that weaken us. We must learn to fight for ourselves. Because we believe in strength, we know that we must be stronger than those who want us to suffer or wipe us out completely. We must learn to be unafraid as we become a force capable not only of self-defense, but of social transformation. Because we believe in solidarity, we know that our personal transformation is at once collective transformation and that an injury to one is indeed an injury to all. We will learn how to keep each other safe as we become dangerous together.
If you want to toss them some duckets, find their indiegogo. If you’re inspired to work on something like this in your town, hit them up at email@example.com or on the fedbook or twitter by their handle @haymakerchi. This audio will make it into a full episode coming up soon.
So, if you feel like passing the hat or holding a fundraiser or hitting up Daddy Warbucks himself, George Soros, for them please do.
If you enjoyed this episode and you get our show from the itunes library, drop us a review, rate us 5 stars and help spread this show. Also, if you like hearing our podcast and want our interviews to make it to the cars, trucks, jail cells, basement apartments and everywhere else in your area, consider hittin us up and help us figure out how to get on your local community radio. Our shows are an hour weekly, are free for stations and people to download and are radio clean. Right now we’re airing in Columbus (OH), Asheville (NC), Olympia (WA), Santa Rosa (CA) & Fairbanks (AK). Why not YOUR home town?
Due to concerns of the ability of the interviewees to speak on behalf of BOESG & Disgraça Collective, we’re pulling this audio to remove the portions speaking on behalf of those projects. We may repost an edited version in the near future and we hope to have a discussion with members of the collective soon to hear their side of things. Thanks -Bursts
In this episode of The Final Straw, we’re playing a conversation recorded at the Paris Anarchist Book Faire about a month ago. I spoke with Sylvia and Mário, two anarchists from Lisbon, Portugal. Sylvia and Mário give a history of anarchism since the fascist dictatorship in 1926 under Antonio Salazar through 1974, when the government fell, and since. Sylvia and Mário are involved in a workers library founded during the dictatorship that was taken over by anarchists in the 1990’s and has continued, called B.O.E.S.G., or the Library and Obstacle Course Of the Global Society. B.O.E.S.G. also shares space with a bookstore and social center called Tortuga and sits atop a D.I.Y. music venue.
For the hour, Sylvie and Mário talk about their experience of the social anarchist scene in Portugal, history, other spaces and movements around right now, publishing projects, gentrification of the city, the continuing economic crisis, institutional left political parties.
The portions we cut from this broadcast conversation touch on Mário and Sylvias perspectives on sexism in the anarchist scene in Portugal, gender pronouns and on feminist organizing. The discussion shows a difference of cultural perspective and experience between languages as well as the personalities of those involved, but also the mental wrangling people do when methods of resistance are transplanted to new soil. Hopefully at some point in the future we can have a more in depth conversation on this topic. The reason we cut them from broadcast was constraints mostly on length of the time we have on the airwaves, but we’ve included it in the podcast version. I believe it’s through conversations like this that we can come to better understandings of where other peeps are coming from.
A Few Upcoming Things in Asheville
May 17th in Asheville, peeps are organizing a People’s Council to propose
alternative usage for the $1million dollars per year that Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper is proposing from the city budget. 5-7pm @ Pack Memorial Library .
On May 19th, Firestorm will be presenting back to back showings of documentaries about anarchist urban guerrilla groups in the UK in the 60’s and 70’s. Starting at 6:30pm with “The Angry Brigade” and followed by “Persons Unknown” and narrated by Stuart Christie.
Sunday May 24th at Firestorm, the Queer Linux Users Group, or QLUG, will host a discussion on device security at 3:30pm. Bring your device along.
Annually on June 11th, people get together and offer solidarity to long term anarchist and ecological prisoners. I’d like to take a moment to mention a few. Marius Mason is scheduled to be in prison until 2030 for involvement in activities of the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front which hurt no animals or people but did $4 million dollars in damage through sabotage and arson. Marius is a trans man who came out inside of prison and uses his voice and renown to shed light on the plights of prisoners, including queer and trans prisoners. Other prisoners being organized around include Jeremy Hammond, the hacker who brought to light right wing spying on unions and back room deals around Dupont worming its way out of responsibility for the Bhopal Tragedy that still gives cancer to thousands in India. Also, Sean Swain, who’s segments you hear on this show. Then there’s the comrades suppressed in the Italian government’s Operation Scripta Manent, Alfredo, Nicola, Danilo, Valentina, Anna, Marco and Sandrone still being held in high security and with much mail censorship. Or Pola Roupa and Konstantina Athanasopoulou, members of Revolutionary Struggle in Greece, who have themselves and their families faced repression from the state and still staged solidarity with others in the fight.
Solidarity can take many forms, from continuing the struggles comrades are ostensibly behind bars for, or sharing the information about the prisoners cases and organizing inside. It can be organizing your own discussions or groups to push against the carceral state or to send books to prisoners.
On Sunday, June 11 at 6pm here in Asheville, the Odditorium at 1045 Haywood Rd, will be hosting an afternoon cookout sponsored by Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross, Smokey Mountain Eco Defense and Tranzmission Prison Project. Vegan and Gluten-Free options will be present, but bring food to share! There’ll be discussions on trans and queer prisoner realities, tons of free lit on political prisoners, chats about the upcoming national prisoner work strike on August 19th, info on ecological organizing against the prison industrial complex and more!
Starting at 9pm, there’ll be a benefit concert, bands to be announced. Check out http://brabc.blackblogs.org soon for details as they come.
If you’re not in Asheville, keep an eye on http://june11.noblogs.org/events for things in your area to plug into. Don’t see anything near you, set something up and let the good folks at june11 organizing committee about it!
IWW call-out to push back against Neo-Confederates
An announcement from the Triangle IWW here in North Carolina: Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County, a neo-confederate hate group, is holding a rally at noon at the Alamance County Courthouse in Graham, NC. IWW has been working with Alamance County locals since November 2016 to keep this group out of the streets and public squares of *all* our communities. Thanks to the efforts of some of these amazing Alamance community members, ACTBAC has now been declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.” The Triangle IWW is calling for people to join them on Saturday, May 20, as we rally to shut ACTBAC’s event down at 102 N. Maple St in Graham, NC at 11am.
Certain Days Calendar submissions
There is also a call for art and article submissions on Awakening Resistance for the 2018 Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar.
Deadline extended to May 21, 2017
The Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar collective is releasing its 17th calendar this coming fall. The theme for 2018 is ‘Awakening Resistance,’ reflecting on organizing in the current political climate.
They are looking for 12 works of art and 12 short articles to feature in the calendar, which hangs in more than 2,500 homes, workplaces, prison cells, and community spaces around the world.
Contributors are encouraged to submit both new and existing artwork. They are also seeking submissions from prisoners – so please forward this suggestion on to any prison-based artists and writers. More info can be found at www.certaindays.org
Jaan Laman in the hole
Jaan Laman is currently serving a 53 year prison sentence for his role in the bombings of United States government buildings while a member of the United Freedom Front, an American leftist group which robbed banks, bombed buildings, and attacked law enforcement officers in the 1980s.
Jaan K. Laaman is currently solitary confinement (“the hole”). Jaan has been in solitary confinement since his birthday on March 21, 2017 simply for issuing two political statements, a clear violation of free speech and human rights. The first statement was in support of the March 8th 2017 International Women’s Day and was in support of the Day Without A Woman Strike and was published by NYC Anarchist Black Cross. The second statement was his “Farewell Thoughts to My Friend, Lynn Stewart”, thoughts on the radical activist American leftist lawyer who died this year. The farewell thoughts were recorded by Jaan and broadcast via the Prison Radio project with Noelle Hanrahan.
Jaan has no access to news and almost no access to phone calls. It’s important we send him some letters right now. Send him articles, so that he gets some world news.
Jaan Karl Laaman #10372-016
P.O. Box 24550
Tucson, AZ 85734
Write and call the Warden and ask him to end the repression against Jaan.
Please write and call the Warden at USP Tucson and ask that Jaan be released from solitary confinement and that he not be punished for expressing his support for women’s rights and for writing a statement mourning the passing of his friend, Lynne Stewart. Remind the Warden that Jaan is an elder prisoner, and you’re concerned about his health in solitary confinement and you would be concerned about his safety if he is moved to another prison.
United States Penitentiary – Tucson
9300 South Wilmot Road
Tucson, AZ 85756
You can also contact:
Mary M. Mitchell, Regional Director
BOP Regional Office
7338 Shoreline Dr
Stockton, CA 95219
Regional email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas R. Kane, Director
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Central Office HQ
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534
This week we’re just back from a few weeks in Europe, most recently attending the 3rd International Anarchist Radio Conference at Radio98FM, an anarchist pirate radio station of 14 years in the squatted studios at the Polytechnic University in Zografu neighborhood in Athens, Greece. In coming episodes we’ll be releasing some of the interviews that we had with folks who we met between that event and the Paris Anarchist Bookfaire the week before. Here is the live radio show we helped conduct on April 30th with the participation of all of the attending projects on topics ranging from misogyny in the anarchist scene to discussions of technology, from eco-struggles around the world to prisoner resistance. Soon, we’ll have an Intl Anarchist Radio website, following will come a streaming radio station and a monthly 1.5-2 hour news blast from all of the projects called B(A)D N(E)WS. More info soon on that.
This week features 2 conversations Bursts conducted at the radio conference. First, we spoke with 2 buddies from Crna Luknja, an anarchist radio show in Slovenian and English broadcast on Radio Student in Lubljana, Slovenia. The friends talk about their organizing with the Balkan-based Federatin of Anarchist Organizations, affiliated with the synthesist International of Anarchist Federations, sometimes called IFA. An Anarchist Bookfaire is being organized by the friends next weekend in Cerkno, Slovenia as well. Since Asheville just hosted it’s first bookfaire we thought this’d be a timely audio to play.
Before we start the episode, I’d like to say a special hello to friends new and old visiting Asheville for the Anarchist Book Faire we are just finishing up today. We are only getting stronger by joining together in this way and sharing our skills and hearts. If you’re still in town, check out the last few workshops at Firestorm. At 3pm there is LGBTQ Advocacy as Abolition by Tranzmission Prison Project, followed at 4pm by a screening of the documentary ProjektA and discussion called Mutual Aid: New Bonds, New Revolts and this will be capped off by the Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross (yaaaay) prisoner letter writing from 6-7:30pm.
Because the conversations are in English with people who are not native English speakers, the conversations may be hard to understand. But, their English is better than my Slovenian or Spanish, so it’s in English! If you misunderstand the chat, consider listening to the archive or podcast later with headphones.
There’s no Sean Swain segment for this week, but stay tuned for future outbursts by the main Swainiac himself.
Here, we present both parts one and two of an interview with Merve Arkun, Hüseyin & Özgür, members of Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet, or DAF. DAF translates to Revolutionist Anarchist Action and is a network of overlapping collectives in Turkey. They are based out of Istanbul and run an office and two cafe’s, both called 26A, which is a meeting space and employer for collective members. This conversation was conducted on March 19, 2016, a few short hours after a DAESH (ISIS) bombing occurred in the Beyoğlu neighborhood of Istanbul, on the touristy street called İstiklal Avenue, just a few blocks from one of the collective’s cafe’s and their newspaper office.
The bomb killed 5 people (4 tourists plus the bomber), and injured some 36 more. The tension in the city in the days before the bombing was palpable as trucks of riot police roved around the neighborhood, and embassies and foreign schools closed for security reasons. The approaching Newroz celebrations, or Kurdish New Years, were slated to take place a mere 2 days after this attack in the contentious Taksim Gezi Park so recently after the resumption of military and legal hostilities between Kurdish groups and aligned leftists and the Turkish government headed by the AK Party of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. This decision most certainly would promise demonstrations and conflict
between security forces and civil society around the right to the contentious park, and against the war on the Kurds both in Syria and Turkey by Erdoğan’s government.
Besides the 26A cafes, DAF includes an Anarchist Women’s collective, a publishing project in the form of the Meydan Gazette (published monthly in paper form), and a youth collective, the Lycee (or High School) Anarchist Federation called LAF. In addition it organizes arts events and projects, and participates in labor organizing and solidarity with Kurdish resistance and the Rojava Revolution. DAF also organizes in tandem though autonomously with anti-militarist and anti-conscription activists in Turkey.
Merve is an active member of the Meydan Gazette publishing crew, the Anarchist Women’s collective and also in a seperate but related anti-militarist group. Hüseyin is a main editor of the Meydan Gazette and involved in the 26A cafes. Özgür is involved in Meydan & the self-defense program and the PATIKA ecological collective.
Throughout this first hour: Merve, Hüseyin & Özgür talk about the collectivized economic and living structures of DAF and how that pans out to support collective members and build collectivized models for survival within and against capitalism.
In the second podcast episode, the interviewees discuss: PATIKA Ecological Collective and their publication, organizing with communities in the Black Sea region against a hydro-electric dam, and more; Merve’s work with the Conscientious Objector Association against militarism and conscription; Meydan Gazette and their other publication projects; the modern anarchist movement in Turkey since 1989; solidarity with Kurdish populations in Turkey; organizing material support for the Rojava Revolution and aiding in helping anarchists join the struggle there; and more. Download Pt 2
******A quick announcement: There will be a vigil tonight at 9pm at Firestorm Books and Coffee at 601 Haywood Rd in West Asheville for the victims and community affected by the shooting that occurred last night in Orlando, Florida. The shooting occurred at the Gay dance club called The Pulse and media outlets are announcing that there were 50 people killed in what appears to have been a targeted attack by someone from outside of the area wielding an assault rifle and a handgun. The hostage situation that developed was ended by a SWAT invasion at 5AM this morning (6-12-1016). Come out tonight and support this community.******
Notes From Sean’s Segment
Sean Swain speaks about a comrade of his in his facility, a trans woman who was put away for defending herself against an assaulter. Her government name is Adam Bockerstette, and while she can receive mail
under her chosen name (which is Kara), we were unsure about how to spell that. So if you do choose to write to her, your letters can be addressed to Kara Bockerstette, but note that your envelopes should be addressed to:
PO Box 120
Lebanon, OH 45036
Also keep an eye peeled at http://seanswain.org/ for more updates about Kara and her situation.
. … . ..
Good news for our comrade on the inside, Oso Blanco, who was sentenced to 80 years in maximum security prison for a series of bank robberies and a firearms violation. Oso Blanco is someone of Cherokee descent, and has been politicized during his time in prison and before. Recently there has been a massive fundraising effort on the part of his support team to get him transferred out of his former facility, and for legal fees to get his sentenced reduced. Both of these efforts have been
Thanks to fundraising efforts and donations, they have reached their fundraising goal at this time. Of course, money will always be needed until Oso Blanco is completely free – donations are always welcome. The support in donations and spreading the word was fast and amazing! Oso Blanco has been assigned a lawyer who he feels comfortable with and he is moving quickly to make sure the motion is filed by June 25th, 2016. Communication with Oso Blanco has been iffy at best. Please write him to
show support. If you donated, write and let him know as it will help immensely to raise his spirits. If you would like to donate further, and for guidelines on what mail will and won’t get into his facility, you can visit his support website at: http://freeosoblanco.blogspot.com/
To write Oso Blanco at his new location, you can address letters to:
PO BOX 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837