Category Archives: Michael Kimble

Alabama Prisoners Speak + JJ Ayers of Winnemucca Indian Colony

Alabama Prisoners Speak + JJ Ayers of Winnemucca Indian Colony

Split image of JJ Ayers & an ADOC prison dorm, "Alabama Prisoners + Jimmy Ayers of Winnemucca Indian Colony | TFSR 12-25-2022"
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This week on the show, we featured 2 segments: a chat with Michael Kimble & Gerald Griffin about conditions in Donaldson CF prison in Alabama; and Jim J. Ayers, a 42 year resident in 6 generations of lineage at Winnemucca Indian Colony facing eviction by the Tribal Council.

Conditions at Donaldson Prison in Alabama

First up, anarchist prisoner Michael Kimble and his friend Gerald Griffin talk about the current situation at William E Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama. Following the pause of prisoner work stoppages in October of this year, Gerald and Michael talk about violence at the institution, overcrowding and under staffing, lack of medical care, mistreatment of gay and other marginalized prisoners and other, hard topics. There is mention of extortion, violence, drug use, homophobia and other topics, so listener discretion is advised. You can information on how to get in touch with Michael and Gerald in the show notes, as well as Michael’s blog AnarchyLive , and we’ll be mailing out the latest Fire Ant Journal and our past interviews with Michael Kimble (5/19/2019 & 12/28/2015).

Michael Kimble #138017
William E. Donaldson Correctional
100 Warrior Ln
Bessemer, AL 35023

Gerald Griffin #247505
William E. Donaldson Correctional
100 Warrior Ln
Bessemer, AL 35023

If you’d like to donate to Michael’s legal and other costs outside of putting money on his commissary with his ADOC #, you can give a donation to our accounts and specify MK in the comment so we know where to pass it. Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross is also selling $20 Fire Ant Journal t-shirts designed by Michael Kimble as a benefit for him, linked in our shownotes. We hope to send out copies of the latest Fire Ant Journal with our patreon mailers at the beginning of January, for new supporters at $5 or anyone supporting at $10 or more per month, which goes to support our transcription costs. More on that and the places you can send funds directly to Michael at https://tfsr.wtf/support

Jim J. Ayers Resists Eviction at Winnemucca Indian Colony

Then, we return to the Winnemucca Indian Colony following last week’s conversation with Kyle Missouri who is resisting eviction from the colony in Humboldt County, Nevada. You’ll hear Jim Ayers, tribal council chairman until 2012 talk about how the current Tribal Council came to power at Winnemucca, the council’s wielding of private police and BIA officers to siege remaining holdouts to the eviction orders, Jimmy’s 6 generations of ancestors stretching back on the Winnemucca Indian lands and the ongoing legal proceedings heading through the ITCAN court as residents attempt to stop the council’s evictions, home wrecking and banishment actions.

  • Sandra Freeman of Water Protector Legal Collective is currently representing Jim in legal proceedings and are a great source for updates on the situation and ways for, especially legal workers, to plug in
  • Donations for the WIC residents can be sent to via cashapp to $DefendWIC
  • a fundraiser to support South Side Street Medics, an Indigenous-led crew to support providing first aid and training to residents of the Indian Colony
  • Jim Ayers interviewed in December 2021 by Honor Life youtube channel
  • Video discussing Judy Rojo (chairperson of disputed Winnemucca Tribal Council) by Man Red

Next Week…

We should be bringing you a chat with Sophie Lewis on her new book, Abolish The Family: A Manifesto of Care and Liberation, out from Verso Books in October of 2022.

Announcements

Asheville NYE Noise Demo and Bailout Action

If you’re in the Asheville area, you’re invited to join Asheville Community Bail project, Pansy Collective, Blue Ridge ABC and other local grouplets in a noise demo at the Buncombe County Jail, the deadliest jail for inmates in North Carolina, at 7pm on Saturday 12/31 at Pack Square. It’s suggested you dress warm and bring noise makers. Simultaneous, there will be a bailout action to get folks out of the jail. You can donate to this effort via the paypal for avlcommunitybail(at )riseup( dot)net or the venmo for blueridgeabc(at )riseup( dot)net, and any returned bail money will roll back into the community bail fund for future release activities. Learn more at avlcommunitybail.carrd.co

Zine: https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org/files/2022/12/UPDATED-NYE-Zine.pdf

Phone Zap to Press Indiana to Get Treatment for Khalfani

IDOC watch is calling on folks to call and email the Indiana Department of Corrections to pressure them to move long-term political prisoner Khalfani Malik Khaldun (state name Leonard McQuay #874304) moved into a medical facility to remove the two cysts growing on his left temple since October of this year. Check our shownotes for a link to the blog post on idocwatch.org

Bad News #63

This month’s BAD News is now available! You can hear:

  • 1431am on the eviction of Mundo Nuevo squat in Thessaloniki and the murder by policeof Kalo Fragoulis, a 16 year old Roma and the death of a 12 year old child because of inadequate housing conditions;
  • Črna luknja shares a longer interview on the eviction of Mundo Nuevo squat in Thessaloniki;
  • A-Radio Berlin with a contribution from an anarchist perspective on anti-militarism and nationalism during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990’s. A segment of a longer interview;
  • Frequenz A concludes the show wih an interview with the accused in the so called “Luwi71-Trial” in Leipzig so-called Germany. The Luwi71 is a house (in the east of Leipzig) occupied for about 2 weeks back in august 2020.

. … . ..

Featured Tracks:

  • Ebb Tide by the Mar-Keys from Last Night
  • Ghost Town by The Specials on The Two Tone Story (RIP Terry Hall!)

. … . ..

Michael Kimble & Gerald Griffin Transcription

TFSR: Would you please introduce yourself for the audience with your location, or your name, or any other information that that they would find useful?

Michael Kimble: Okay, my name is Michael Kimble. I’m down in the Alabama prison system at William E. Donaldson Correctional in Alabama in Bessemer, AL, serving a life sentence for murder. I’m an anarchist, I’m gay, I’m a revolutionary, and I’m about abolishing the State.

TFSR: I like that.

So recently, Alabama prisons had participation by a number of people from a number of different facilities in different work stoppages and strikes, because the prisons require the workers to participate in order to function. I’ve heard some things about the conditions at places like Donaldson. People might have a thought that prisons look a lot of different ways in the US. Sometimes they’re Super Max’s and really constricted, and sometimes people have more access to outdoors and programs. But can you talk about what the conditions are like at Donaldson and why people were engaging in protest?

MK: Let me put it like this. I’ve been locked up 38 years. This is my third time at Donaldson. But this time here, they got me feeling like I’m coming to prison for the first time. Not just the officers, but the prisoners too. Here at Donaldson, the conditions are dire. You got all asbestos ceilings, paint, you have no security at all in the dorms. You are locked in a dorm with 118 other guys and we have no security. People are dying daily here.

Everyday there are ambulances at the back gate. We had over 30-40 deaths here within the last 15 months. Most of them due to drug overdoses, but some of them have been murders. Not just prisoner on prisoner, but guard on prisoners too. I think Gerald may want to say something about the conditions, because Gerald had been experiencing some conditions because he’s diabetic. He’s having a lot of problems with that. So he may want to share some of that with you.

Gerald Griffin: Hi, my name is Gerald Griffin. I’ve got a 22 year sentence. I’m originally from New York and I’ve just been in the Alabama prison system for the last 13 years. Just like Mr. Kimble was saying, this is not where you want to be. It’s a hopeless state of mind. We fend for ourselves. We guard, we we secure ourselves, we do everything that they supposed to be doing. I’m diabetic. They don’t give us [medications at a] regular time. They might call us at three o’clock or they might call us tomorrow at eight o’clock to get your insulin shot.

Dealing with insulin, you are supposed to take it at a regular hourly time. They don’t do that. Then when we fight about it, or when we say anything about it, they want to use their tactics. They spray us with mace when we’re not even being violent towards them. We are just asking for our medical health. It’s a lot of things that goes on in here.

It’s all over the news how many people are being arrested for corruption here, but it’s just like they do this and they do that but it’s still the same. They stay the same. This is getting more violent and dangerous because of the hopelessness that everybody has in this prison. You don’t have programs, we don’t do nothing. All we do is just stay and lock the door. We fend for ourselves. We see them, they come unlock the door and count and that’s it. That’s the last time we see them.

If somebody to be taken out for sickness, we have to literally knock the window out or bang for them to get attention. They are so short on staff. They don’t have no police, they don’t have nothing. We we secure and we police ourselves.

TFSR: Someone had told me before that because there’s no enforcement of giving people the cots that they’re assigned to or that they’re supposed to get, that oftentimes weaker people or older people, people with sickness, whatever get forced outside in the winter and all the rest of the time. Can you talk about that and what you’ve seen with that?

GG: Yes. You have people being kicked out of doors for whatever reason. Sleeping outside in the cold, sleeping on floors in the dorms, just unsanitary stuff. How can we say that this person can’t sleep here? This happens because they let it. They let it. No matter what, nobody’s supposed to be sleeping on is supposed to be everybody’s assigned to a rack. [Guards] don’t take time to do their job, to put somebody on the rack or anything like that. The corrupts run. Hold on.

MK: So they have these guys sleeping outside and in the cold, it’s winter time. Of course, they can come back in the dorm, but if you can’t house these people, you can’t protect these people and give them a ‘humane safe environment’ as your mission statement says… you have got to release them. More people are going out of this facility in body bags than making parole. The justice department has been here for the last three or four months doing investigations.

GG: DOJ was here while a murder took place.

Michael Kimble: Matter of fact, they was here while a murder took place. They had the riot team here too, at the time, and it still took place. We went on strike on September 26. We went on strike throughout the state of Alabama because we were complicit in our own incarceration and working for nothing. We say this is slavery.

[Background Commotion] Hear what they got going on right now, Bursts? Right now they are fighting now. They are fighting now and [guards] ain’t finna do nothing. You see these guys with these knives here and they ain’t finna do nothing.

TFSR: So when you’re talking about the DOJ that’s the federal government stepping in and saying, “We’ve heard reports that there is unsafe situations and that something needs to be done.” I think in Alabama, but at least like in Louisiana, and I think in Mississippi, the federal government stepped in at different times to say, “These are too dangerous of situations.” Why do you think the federal government hasn’t stepped in when the local government won’t? Just the same same thing, just different level

MK: Well, it’s really hard to say why, but when I really think about it… they got a bad federal prison system dealing with the same problems. So how can they correct anybody else’s problem when they aren’t correcting their own problems? It’s just for show. It’s because so much been going on. So many people been making noise, so they had to get involved. The city investigating the business going on since 2019. They’ve been investigating the State and threatening to file suit. Matter of fact, they have filed a suit on it, but still they hadn’t came in to take over.

Coming in and taking over isn’t going to do no good, because prisons are going to exist, and the condition of prisons are going to exists as long as they exist.

TFSR: Yeah, because these things are so ongoing and the Alabama prison system has continued not getting people out on parole, they’ve continued to be really badly understaffed and with facilities that are degrading and stuff… are they just waiting for a bailout to get new buildings built and then get kickbacks from that? Or they just don’t care?

GG: That’s what a lot of us feel like. They just trying to make this seem like it’s just so overwhelmed that they got to have new buildings. So that’s part of it. That’s part of the reason why they want to build a new prison and that’s the reason the governor, she don’t want to say that she got a problem. She knows she has a problem but she just don’t want to upset the community by saying, “I’m using this money, I’m using that money.” Stuff like that.

Right now, they know they have a problem and they don’t they don’t care. The only thing they care about is: New prison. That’s it. The money.

TFSR: Is it okay for your name to go into this? Is that okay with you? Could you spell your first and last name just so I get it right when I write it out?

TFSR: Do you want people who listen to this later to write you letters and get in touch with you or try to put money in your commissary or whatever?

GG: Yeah! That’d be cool. My number is #247505

TFSR: Awesome, that’s super helpful.

In the past, Michael had talked about how filling in the power vacuum, that it was mostly gangs that were taking control. Does it seemed like that still, or is it less organized?

GG: It’s more like cities now. The gang stuff is not really the problem no more. Because it’s everybody for themselves, for real. It’s like, “I get along with this person. I might get along with this person. I might get along with this group of people.” It just goes like that. Then you got the outsiders that got addiction problems and people look at them like scum of the earth. But how can you look at them like that and you’re selling it to them?!

Then there’re the gays. You got people will jump on them and send them out and do things to them. A lot of them, that’s who’s sleeping outside. But like I was saying, it’s behind closed doors stuff. A lot of people do stuff behind closed doors. They want to look good in front of their friends and then here you go, you take it out on the gay community or whatever like that. It’s just something that… the staff don’t help them. period.

TFSR: It seems like in some prison systems, there’s pretty active collusion between social disruption in space and the guards because by creating factions and pitting them against each other, and using snitches and whatever, it means that they can stop prisoners from organizing together. In Alabama, like anywhere, people don’t get along sometimes, but it has a really active history of prisoners getting together and making some noise, which is really impressive.

Did you see much participation in the strike in September? Or was it pretty spotty?

GG: It was pretty spotty. Because you had different factions. Like people gotta use different coolers and people can’t drink out of this water and stuff like that. So it’s separation. That’s what they want. They want us to have separation. They know that people don’t follow the rules or whatever like that, and they know it. Violence comes behind that. If they would come in and step in and do their job how they supposed to do it, we wouldn’t be having all these violent episodes. It’s something that they could have stopped. They curate it. Look at the conditions, you know? You have hopeless thoughts.

When you see nothing changing, people escape to do drugs. That’s why you have OD’s, because they try to escape it another way. But we don’t talk to no counselors. We don’t have none of that. We are supposed to have a mental health person come be able to talk to us every time, but we don’t see nobody. I’ve been here at this prison for over six months, now. I haven’t seen a classification officer yet. They don’t care. Once they send you here, they send you here. They don’t help, there is no help here.

So people like us, we gotta stay strong with each other and this is what we come up with. We are calling out for help. The people that’s listening and stuff like that, just know that all of us ain’t no bad people. We’ve made some mistakes and stuff like that, you know? We need help.

TFSR: Besides talking about what’s going on, do you have senses of what you want that help to look like from people? Should they be contacting the government? Should they be trying to get jobs at the prison to make it better? Or should they be trying to just send money into to folks? Or listening? Or what what would be helpful?

GG: The helpful part is dealing with people that we can contact. That will make us stronger, when we got a connection with each other and we all on the same page and I’m not sending you on a wild goose chase. I know that y’all have timing in the world, just like in here. You guys have a lot of stuff going on too, but we don’t want to send y’all on a wild goose chase. Contacting the prison,… keep doing it in mass. They hate publicity, they hate being on the news, they hate all that type of stuff.

So yeah, they might try to retaliate on us, but I’m in motion, I’m on a move like I don’t care what they do. I want change. Sometimes we have to go through the things that we have to go through to get change. I’m one of the participants that’s willing to go through whatever they get, to get some type of change. Because all we see is our friends going out in body bags. I’ve seen three people that I’ve literally had a conversation with a couple of days before they died and now they gone.

They walk past us. The officers walk past us, it ain’t their fault. They understaffed too. But something got to be done. They are scared to say something. You got some officers that are willing to participate and expose some of this stuff. But they want to cover their job because they got to feed their family, too. So I don’t look at them to break their neck for us and stuff like that, because this is a bigger problem. They know it’s a bigger problem.

TFSR: So has it been brought up that there aren’t officers around and people aren’t getting check-ins about their wellness or about their status changing. I think Michael had brought up that there was an issue with paroles, actually. This is the thing that I had heard in past chats with with folks inside or supporters, is that parole boards just aren’t getting people out. If there’s no programs, as has been mentioned, how do you get the the recognition that “you’ve made changes and you’re a better person should be that out” or whatever?

GG: That’s the answers and questions that we try to get from the commissioner, from the people that’s running the ADOC. “What do we have to do? What’s the criteria to make parole?” There’s no criteria. Y’all get paid, y’all are getting funded for these programs, but these programs, we’re not doing them. We don’t even step out of our dorm.

The only time when we step out that dorm is when they call “chow.” It’s like a controlled movement for the past year since COVID. They got us in real controlled movement. Why you think it’s so violent now? Because they have us so bunched up, there ain’t nothing to do. You got people that want to get a trade, you got people stuck inside these buildings that want to do something, but we ain’t able to do nothing. They only thing they feed us is, “We are short staffed.” Well, that’s not our problem. So how can we get to our fam? You know? We got Mike right here.

TFSR: Right. Thank you.

MK: Yeah, Bursts.

TFSR: Hey, Michael, so we talked a little bit about how difficult it is to get programs or anything towards parole. How the parole setup is just an absolute joke. I know that there’s discussion in a lot of states around the country, I don’t want to take it out of the situation that you all are experiencing, but a lot of activists have put in a lot of energy to get changes made in different States around the definition and like taking the ‘slavery clause’ out of the Constitutions and making sure that that term isn’t in there. That labor extraction is not in there tied to people being put in prison.

But even if you all aren’t working, you’re still being fed crappy food in small portions, you’re still in dangerous situations, you’re still being denied medical visitation, you don’t have programs, what what would you like to see? What do you see as next steps for alleviating the pain that so many of y’all are going through?

MK: It’s like this: I know Gerald was talking about these people, they have families to take care of out there, so they work here. Some of them, they might not be as bad at the other ones. But the slave has to take care of his family, too. My whole thing is this here: Of course, we are talking about the conditions as though we want to be living in better conditions. But they are not going to change. As long as prisons exist, it’s just the nature of prisons. It’s not going to change. So the only thing I know to do is to abolish prisons and to destroy prisons. That’s it.

The best thing that I know that we can do here, regardless of what the constitution say, regardless of what the law say, is how we relate to each other. That’s the only thing that’s going to change anything is how us prisoners relate to each other. How people on the outside relate to each other, and relate to us in here, and how we relate to those out there. The only thing that’s gonna change anything is our relationships. The longer we continue to discriminate against people because they are gay, queer, trans, white, Black, we are going to continue to have these problems and prisons are going to continue to exist.

So the best thing to do is find some kind of way to abolish the State, because that’s the only way we can abolish prisons.

TFSR: That’s the answer I was hoping you were gonna give. **laughs**

MK: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They took it out of the constitution in Alabama. There was like four or five states that had a slavery clause removed. Regardless if they got a slavery clause or not, it doesn’t even matter. United States constitution will come right back and say that it makes sense that you can practice slavery or because of what you just said in the first clause, that it was outlawed. So it’s a conundrum.

TFSR: You’re trying to get out, right? Through legal measures.

MK: Yes.

TFSR: Do you want to talk about that at all? I can get with other folks on your support group to see what is good for like fundraisers, but what would you like to say about that process?

MK: Oh, well, I had just recently hired me an attorney, I had one a couple years before but he didn’t do his job. What I’m trying to do now, I’m trying to get back in court on a sentence reduction. It’s the most favorable thing for people who get the kind of time I got and did kind of years I had. In the county that I was sentenced under, Johnson County, has been the most favorable county for doing this. That’s all I’m trying to do is just trying to get back in court on a sentence reduction. My past few years, I’ve been trying to keep a clean disciplinary file. I’ve been up for parole nine times. Well, 11 times now. I got turned down and they put me on five more years. The way that works out is that there is no particular criteria, so you can’t challenge it in court. That’s why we haven’t been successful. There’s no statute or nothing that says that, “You got to do this” and then they have to do this to let you out after so many years. They don’t have none of that.

What they do have is: they have a parole board that consists of a State Trooper, a Parole Officer, the Assistant DA, they got a group called a “victim’s rights goup” that’s speaks at everybody’s parole hearing. What they’re doing at the parole hearing is they’re going up, regardless of if they know the person or not. It has nothing to do with their individual cases or nothing. They just speak on everybody’s case.

At my last parole hearing, my attorney and a couple of my supporters told me that 40 people went up there and nobody made it. Nobody. Some people had done 30 years and hadn’t had any disciplinaries, and everything was in order, and they can’t understand why they refused to give them parole. There’s more people going out in body bags that are making parole in Alabama. So the only thing I’m trying to do now is get back in court on this petition here for a sentence reduction. According to my attorney, I got 85% chance. That should happen this year, Bursts

TFSR: Fingers crossed. All right. That’s awesome.

I’ll find information for the show notes about where we can direct people if they want to give donations for that. Even lawyers acting for free, it costs them money to file paperwork and such. Fingers crossed on that.

MK: I wish I had Eric King’s lawyer! I read their transcript from the interview. They are awesome.

TFSR: Yeah, yeah. I’ll poke the CLDC and see if they if they have the capacity.

MK: Not many people beat these cases.

TFSR: Yeah, right?! The fact that they were able to get a federal judge, not a prison judge, obviously, but it’s just a federal judge to say, “yeah, you need to stop fucking with him.” It was so obvious when they spilled coffee in his room when he wasn’t even there and said a bird came in and did it.

MK: You know, I have three of those: Assault on officers [charges] that I got more time on for that since I’ve been locked up. Man, I know how hard it is to beat these folks [charges]. Yeah. He was able to beat them. Even though they came with all the ridiculous stuff and they was able to beat him. I’ve never seen that. I’ve never seen that. Not here. Now when they say one of us assaulted, we always get time.

TFSR: Yeah. Yeah, that’s how it’s set up for. Right?

MK: Yeah.

TFSR: Oh, I just got a letter from him. He’s actually getting letters and I’ve been sending zines to him too, folks have been sending him books. So for the first time in years, he can have visits from his family. It’s amazing. I’m glad of that. But he’s at the ADMax in Florence. He’s at the highest security prison in the country, I think.

But yeah, we gotta get you out.

MK: Yeah. Well, I’m gonna get myself out before I get too old.

TFSR: Yeah. Is there anything else that I didn’t ask about that you want to talk about?

MK: Yeah, what I wanted to do, is for the person that was involved in, I just want to say how grateful I am, man. For what they were able to do for us and helping out. For years, I did the law stuff, the lawsuits, and the criminal court stuff, I did all that stuff for years. Mainly because I came out of the old Black radical Marxist tradition. So when I came out of it, my thinking started to change. What I started doing is coming up with ideas of what I think that can change how we relate to each other in here that make it better for us. The only thing that will make it better in here for us, is us.

So that was one of the things that I start intervening in. I started about two years ago. My partner at one time used to be a Crip, a gang member. I was Holman [prison]. What they did at the time was they would take all the ex-gang that became gay, they started kidnapping them. They started bringing them in their dorm, holding them in the dorm. This is a gang prison. It was really ran by gangs. They would prostitute themselves out, working for the gang. That’s the first time I had to pay to get her up out of that dorm. That’s when I started doing these types of intervention. Then I started a shoe program. Where one comrade coming out of Chicago, we had shoes, tennis shoes, and boots for people who couldn’t afford them. These are the kinds of things that I’m into. Some real practical stuff.

A lot of people don’t want to hear all this stuff. All these ideas floating around, these big ideas floating around. People want to be released.

TFSR: So how do you deal with situations like paying off folks debt? How do you avoid just being held ransom, like somebody recognizing, “Oh, you have access to a source of income, we could just do this over and over again.”

MK: Matter of fact, about a month ago, I thought they were going to black bag me, but it just hasn’t gotten to that point yet. I have always been able to come up and pay it off. Basically, when I say I was gonna do it by some time, it might be a week or two late they might add an extra few dollars on, but it’d be taken care of. I haven’t had another problem. But the problem with that is that some of them, they go back. They get to borrowing money or go back to the drugs. Not everybody, but majority of them do. But even if just one or two want to stop, that’s two lives you saved. That’s two lives.

TFSR: I can totally imagine people just having to lean on drugs just to shut the world down for a little bit. It seems like that’s a way to…

MK: You know, they use the drugs down here too because they control us with the drugs. They got drugs down in the prisons that they didn’t have when I first came. They didn’t even exist. You got fentanyl in here, they got all the psychrotrophic drugs to get high on, they got flakka , and all these other different type drugs, and the hallucinogenics. You got people just laid out.

The warden and the police they just walk by like they don’t even see them. People are just laid out naked. Here a guy just the day before yesterday was just standing in front of the door. Just standing in the dorm, it was the dorm that Gerald was staying in. He was there with all his drawers pulled all the way down with his butt cheeks apart. He was hallucinating. He’d get whooped for that because people feel like that’s disrespectful. But see, I understand what’s going on. So, I don’t feel like he needs to be whooped. What needs to happen is he needs to pull his clothes up and taken somewhere and come down.

TFSR: Yeah, drink some tea.

MK: Yeah, but these guys get kicked down and beaten with a belt. They took his mattress and all his stuff and just threw it outside and the police they say nothing. They put them in a cot, threw all of his stuff on top of him and just brought him outside. It’s brutal and cruel.

The drugs and the money… some of these guys are making some real money off these drugs. You got dudes calling real shots in here. You got people putting hits on people. The crip gang had put a hit on me, because of what I was saying about my partner at Holman. They put a hit on me.

TFSR: That’s scary.

MK: Yeah. So you know and then you can’t go to now or the cap guy came outrun Boost Mobile, AT&T and all. They had it was solid they could call in I’m not affiliated with nothing. They look at me, I’m just an old person. They don’t care nothing about me, nothing about what I did, nothing about what I do. They don’t care about none of that. All they care about is their pocket. Everybody wants to be a millionaire.

Anything else you want to know?

TFSR: You writing anything these days?

MK: Yeah. I’m still writing for Fire Ant. The only thing I have been putting out lately thought is explaining the stuff that has been going over here. That’s it. I haven’t been doing any other major writing or anything like that.

TFSR: A new issue just came out and they’re sending like 50 of them to us, so we’re going to try to send them out to some folks too.

Well, it’s good that you’re building feelings of solidarity between folks too. Helping them out.

MK: Yeah. You got a different affiliation gangs and stuff like that, but sometimes it’s like, “Man we might need to start our own god damn gang.” For real. If you a gay person, whatever happens to you here… don’t nobody care. They call you a fuck boy. So whatever happens to you, you deserve it. They look at gay people as lower than rats. Snitches. Yeah. This is the first time I’ve seen it. It’s the first time I’ve seen prisoners working for the police. Stabbing people for the police. Beating, jumping on people for the police.

It wasn’t too long ago, about three or four weeks ago, [someone] stole some stuff off a commissary truck. It ain’t got nothing to do with of the guys in here. But you know these guys… They went and got these guys, and jumped on these guys and took them to the police, because these guys went and stole the stuff off the truck.

These people here got keys. The police don’t open the doors. Inmates open doors. This is something they’ve never did. They never did this. In about 38 years, I’ve never seen it like in here. They don’t care. They don’t give a fuck what we do as long as we don’t go outside that gate. Do anything you want to do inside. They be out here grilling till three o’clock in the morning sometimes.

TFSR: So they’re like a little mini State, basically, a colony.

MK: Yeah. I want to get that picture for you to show you what is going on out here. I’m gonna get some of these clips and send them to you.

TFSR: Yeah, please do. Please do.

MK: Maybe a different clip. We going to just send them to the email.

TFSR: Yeah, that sounds good.

MK: You’ll see the stuff that’s going on. I’ll tell you that we was outside during the interview, right? One of the guys… He was what we call ‘wiggin.’ He was walking around, bent over, started throwing up just in the middle of nowhere.

TFSR: Just having a bad reaction to drugs?

MK: Yeah, yeah.

TFSR: If you send those clips, just make sure to note if you want them shared or not, so that I know what to do.

MK: Anything we send, you can share. It was nice talking to you.

TFSR: Yeah, you too. And it was nice meeting Gerald. I’ll definitely put his contact information in. He gave me his number and stuff like that. So I’ll put that in here. We’ll be in touch. Michael, take care and I’ll talk to you soon, okay?

MK: He wants some penpals. Okay.

. … . ..

JJ Ayers at Winnemucca Indian Colony Transcription

TFSR: Would you please introduce yourself to the audience with your name, your location, preferred pronoun, any sort of affiliation that would help them understand who you are.

JJ Ayers: All right. My name is Jim Ayers. Jimmy J Ayers. I was born and raised in Winnemucca, Nevada, I lived here all my life. I’m 63 years old. And I’ve lived on the Winnemucca indian colony since 1980. I grew up and went to school here, worked here all my life, and we never had no problems on the Indian colony. I was a tribal chairman a couple of times for the tribal council. I’ve been on the tribal council several different times. That’s where I’m from.

TFSR: So you if you were on the tribal council a couple of times, and you were the chairman, can you talk about what happened in 2012 or 2011 with the tribal council and why it is that they’re now deciding that people like you and your neighbors aren’t allowed to be on the Indian colony?

JJ Ayers: Okay, In 2012 we had a tribal council. It was Jeremy Ayers, Linda Ayers, Alan Amber, Cheryl Applegate-Lawson, and Rosemary Thomas. We were the official tribal council in 2012.

Well, one Sunday, about just before noon we were all sitting in church and we had an alarm system on our Tribal Administration Building and our alarm system went off. My sister says, “Oh, I’ll be back to church. I’m gonna go shut it off.” She ran over there and by the time she got there, Judy Rojo and Bob McNichols, and all these goon squads that are kicking us off the Indian colony right now were over on our tribal building, they broke into the building and changed the locks. My sister went over there and they were going to try to throw her in jail for resisting arrest. They did eventually, but they didn’t get her for like three or four hours, because in her office, she has a steel door, and she just went in there and locked the door. They can’t get her out of there. But there was some guys from AIM from California, there was probably about 30 people armed with tasers and guns and everything and they were going to take over our Indian colony.

So what they did is they went in that tribal building and took all the files and records and our computers and all of our tools. Just took everything out of that building they could put it in a U-Haul and hauled it off. Then they went over to our smoke shop because we had a tobacco shop, we were selling cigarettes there for at least 20 to 30 years. We had a whole bunch of money from selling cigarettes in the bank. They were trying to take over our cigarette shop, but the gal in the cigarette shop did the same thing. She locked the door and they can’t get in there. She held them off for like three days, but she was an old lady and she needed her medication and stuff. So, finally she had to come out and then they took over our smoke shop too. After they took over our smoke shop, they were telling us that we didn’t have no rights and they’re going to kick us off to Indian Colony. They were the new tribal council.

How they got power is by a BIA superintendent. These people that took over the Indian colony never ever lived on the Indian colony. None of them are even from Nevada. All of them are white folks, they don’t got no tribal enrollment numbers or no Indian ID cards, and they’re in current control of our Indian colony today as we speak. Judy Rojo’s the name of the tribal chairman, but she thinks she’s like a president or something. She don’t even go by the Indian bylaws that we have. All Indian colonies have bylaws. She don’t go by no bylaws, she makes up her own laws as she goes. She got a bunch of crooked lawyers, crooked judges, she hired her own police, she has her own private police, and she has the BIA police in her pocket to do her dirty work for her.

The reason she got power is because… We took them to the Ninth District Court and we beat them. They were supposed to stop and turn the colony back over to us back about three summers ago. They never did, they just kept on rolling with their businesses. They started a marijuana dispensary shop under the name of Winnemucca Indian Colony, also. They’ve been making a million dollars a year off that place probably. They’ve been running that Dispensary for 13 years now.

So now they changed the name from the Winnemucca Indian colony. We had a deal. They were supposed to get 60% of the profit and they were supposed to give 40% of the profit to the residents on the Indian colony which was back then like 26 families. Now it’s down to like 24 families. A lot of people died from old age. But out of 20 some odd families, they kicked out 14 families. The families that refused to sign their contract and pay $400 a month to rent. There’s like five families up on the Indian colony right now that pay their rent and they could stay there. But everybody that didn’t pay their rent was getting evicted. They kicked us all off.

The BIA police beat up one young man, he’s probably about in his late 30’s. Beat him up. He had to take his grandma to Reno to the hospital and then when he tried to come back home to her home, they wouldn’t let him even go through. They got the colony barricaded off. They guarded one entrance on Bell Street and then on South Street, there’s only two entrances on the whole Indian colony. They got South Street locked with these big chain link fences and a padlock and cement blocks. That streets totally blocked off. They said that they got the Indian colony locked down to all public people except for approved residents.

So they won’t let the mailman come on here. They won’t let the electric people come on here. I tried to get wood delivered to my place, my son’s house, and they stopped the wood delivery. I could get no propane either. Same thing with propane. I tried to get propane delivered. No way they won’t let nobody go through. They said we don’t need propane because we don’t live there no more. My house got burned down. I don’t know. I think they burned it down, but I sure can’t prove it. But there was three big fires up here on this Indian colony. Barbara Mill’s house. She died and somebody burned down her house. I think it was Judy Rojo and Bob McNichols.

Then they are building a Tribal Administration Building, because we got 20 acres in town, and we got 320 acres up by water Canyon. They were building a Tribal Administration Building. They’re building some low income houses up there, too. They got about six of them built now.

TFSR: Is that for tribal members? Or is that for someone else?

JJ Ayers: They said it was supposed to be for tribal members, but they’re kicking all their tribal members out of there, so I don’t know. For their eligible tribal members, none of those people even live in Nevada, and none of them could even prove they’re Indian. But that’s their eligible voters. They got 26 eligible voters. And when we were on council, we had like 170 people that could vote. So these guys are really coyote and they’re just banking all that Indian money in from the dispensary in our smoke shop. Then they found out they can’t sell cigarettes because they didn’t have a cigarette license. We had a cigarette license, our tribal council, so they bulldozed down our trailer after they sold out all of our cigarettes and put us out of business so we can make no more money.

TFSR: Jimmy, did you mention that when like 30 or 40 people came out from California, did you say that they were like American Indian Movement, AIM, working with the BIA?

JJ Ayers: Yep, it was American Indian Movement (AIM). Today, they say they close that chapter and those guys don’t act like that anymore, but I really don’t know. I don’t really know those guys that well, you know what I mean? I imagine they got chapters all over just like a biker gang or something like that, I would think.

TFSR: Do you know where that chapter was from? The one that they said they closed?

JJ Ayers: California somewhere, Northern California. That’s all I know.

They built those houses up there. They burned down my place, burned down Barbara’s place, they burned down the Tribal Administration place. I’m pretty sure it was them, because all the fires have the same trademark. There was a big loud boom and then 30 foot flames in the air. Plus the fire department, they wouldn’t let the fire department put it out until the BIA cops give them permission to go on the Indian colony. He had to come from McDermott, which is 40 minutes away.

Meanwhile, the fire has burned in full steam for 40 minutes, by the time the firemen put their hoses out and hook up to the deal, that’s another two hours. By then your places burned up. My place, they didn’t even try to put out. They just let it burn. It burned from one in the afternoon till 11:45, maybe 12 at night. It caught up three other times early in the morning. They had to come and spray water on it again.

But after they burned down my house, then they got a court order to ban me from going on to the property to get my stuff that didn’t get burned up. They got cameras on the tribal building right across the street from my lot, and if I got caught going up there, they’re gonna hold me to contempt of court.

TFSR: You lost a couple of animals in that fire too, right?

JJ Ayers: I lost three dogs and a cat. Me, my girlfriend, Ed and my son, the four of us were living there. We lost everything we own. Everything, clothes, papers, titles, everything got burned up except for a few items in the yard that the flames didn’t get. Not one of these tribal Indians tried to help us after we lost everything. They didn’t even bring us a case of water, didn’t bring us no food. Nothing. You know what they did? They got a court order to kick us off the reservation. How’s that? That’s pretty low life to me, I think.

TFSR: Yeah. It seems like there’s been stuff going through the courts for a bit around these banishments and around evictions. I had spoken to Kyle last week, and I think that might be who you’re talking about who took his grandma to the doctors and got attack.

JJ Ayers: They tased him and beat him up. He’s in jail. He’s just getting out today. They sent him over to Reno Jail on Park Boulevard, and he’s just gonna get out of jail today. I don’t know what his bail was but I’m sure was a whole bunch. They dropped the trespassing charge and just got him for resisting arrest and not obeying the police officers orders or something like that.

TFSR: Kind of sounds like the same thing, but it’s funny how they just trump up a bunch of charges all at once.

So, the next step, the next legal step, at least, is the ITCAN Court that had a hearing last Thursday. They decided to change the link on the Zoom meeting for it, I guess beforehand. Was there a conclusion from that? Or the judges still discussing it?

JJ Ayers: We’ve got it in appeals court right now. And that’s another thing. They do court over a phone and all of us senior citizen Indians up here… we don’t have very good phones and we can’t even go on court to listen to our damn court, and what’s going to happen.

Another thing, when they served us papers to evict us off the Indian colony and stuff. They never served them to hand in hand. They threw them out in the damn street and zip tied them to the fences. Not one of us got served hand to hand, none of them.

A couple of people up here don’t even have lawyers. They didn’t even know they were getting kicked off the Indian colony. They just came in with the BIA police and herded them out like a bunch of cows out of the roundup corral. They were like, “You guys gotta leave. We don’t care where you leave. We don’t care what to do, but you’re not staying here.” Elders had to leave their medicine, their clothes, everything in their homes. They just had to leave right then and there. So that’s another big issue we’re having, trying to get a medicine and their clothes and food and lodging. We don’t have none of that and they kicked us out right before the holidays. Those young kids, they don’t even got a Christmas tree or no presents. All the Indian kids have got ran off.

TFSR: Where are those elders and folks staying right now? Are they still in the motels?

JJ Ayers: Yeah, all of us are pitching in and we got a GoFundMe for the Winnemucca Indian colony. We’ve got them in motels, but it’s been hard, because we’re not getting that much money for them. We’re still trying to feed them, we’re taking the meals and stuff. Whatever we could afford. All of us are disabled, so most of us lived off of commodities. They stopped the commodities on the Indian colony back in 2012, they won’t even let the Indians get commodities on the Indian colony, we had to go to our church, or to a senior citizen place a block away, to meet the truck to get our commodities. These guys are messed up bad.

TFSR: Is the GoFundMe that you mentioning get the SSSM to Winnemucca Indian colony’ fundraiser? I see somebody posted it in December. I’ll post that for sure and share that. Hopefully, that will get more donations. There’s a CashApp too that folks have been sharing, I know the water protector legal support was passing around $DefendWIC.

JJ Ayers: Those guys are raising money for motels and food for the elders.

TFSR: Yeah. So you’re packing up stuff right now so that if an eviction happens, you at least have your stuff, it doesn’t get destroyed, is that right? Or are you planning on leaving?

JJ Ayers: Yes. I’m just not listening to their laws. They’ll probably beat me up and taze me too any day. So I’ll probably be in jail. I probably won’t even be able to talk to you next. But the cops haven’t rat-packed me yet, but I’m sure they will. Because I’m like seventh generation on that Indian colony. They named the streets after my great grandmother and stuff. I’m staying at my son’s place, that’s where my great great grandmother died, in her house. My other grandma died right across the street from there. Her name was Irene Leyva. So I’ve been up here all my life. You know what I mean? Since 1980. It’s been a long time.

All my family, they outnumber how many legal voters the tribal council has. I got like 48 family members that could vote. They only have 29 eligible voters. So that’s why they’re trying to get me out of there, because they know I could be in power over the dispensary or we can, our family.

The residents should be in control over that stuff. That’s what I’m saying. You know what I mean? It’s not just ‘I,’ it’s not just me, It’s we, us. All of us elders that lived here forever, we should have say what’s going on on this Indian colony. Instead of having any say, we got booted to the street with crooked cops, crooked counsel, crooked lawyers, crooked judges. They all passed those ordinances so we could get removed. And it ain’t right.

I got a lawyer named Sandra Freeman, she’s from Colorado. She represents me, but my son, and my sister and my brother, they all need lawyers, because they don’t have any representation. So they got kicked off the Indian colony on December 2. But we never left. My family is still up there. We just barricaded the doors and we don’t answer the door. When the cops come we won’t answer it. We just stay in the house.

TFSR: That’s hard. What’s the weather like out there right now?

JJ Ayers: The weather is super cold here. It’s been below freezing for the last two weeks. It’s been in single and teens for the low. My waters been frozen for a week straight. We have to haul water. I have animals.

That’s another thing. I got four dogs and they’re trying to tell me I gotta get rid of my dogs or they’re gonna haul them off to the shelter if they catch them. So it’s been really hard up here for us. We’re just looking for some legal help and maybe some funds so we can get through the winter.

It’s the worst time of the year Christmas, we will get booted to the street. I can’t believe these guys. They are heartless, man. These guys have no souls. All they think about is money, money, money, that’s it. They stole all of our money and they’re trying to take more of it. Now, they’re not happy with that, they want to take our homes away. Kick us out to the streets.

TFSR: For anyone that’s listening that is a lawyer or that knows a lawyer, if your lawyer’s in Colorado, did they just have to be barred at a federal level or specifically around…?

JJ Ayers: I think they got to be educated in the Indian law and tribal courts.

TFSR: Should they reach out to Sandra and the Water Protector Legal Collective? Or is there a better place for them to put their attention?

JJ Ayers: Sure, I think that’s a good start. They can talk to Sandra, my lawyer, or the WPLC in the Nevada legal systems. They’re representing some of the elders on the Indian colony.

TFSR: I can definitely direct folks to the resources that I did last time, and then check in with Sandra too, because she’s connected.

You were saying before that you’re having to move all this stuff and pack stuff up and keep vigilant. So it’s got to be real hard to think about those extra things.

JJ Ayers: I don’t got no help with gas money. I don’t even have no muscle help, because they won’t let nobody go into the Indian colonies to help me. And yet, they want me to move everything out in a couple of hours. They’re like, “We’ll give you a couple hours to move your stuff.” I lived there since 1980. How could I move my stuff in a couple of hours? There ain’t no way.

TFSR: Since the stay on house destruction and eviction, have they been destroying more houses? Or are they holding off until the courts?

JJ Ayers: As soon as they get us out of our houses, they’re going to bulldoze down all of our houses and probably build condos and rent them to the lithium miners. Probably that’s my guess. That probably won’t even be in Indian colony after they run all the Indians off. They’ll probably change it to a white man’s “Water Canyon Estates” or some BS or something like that. A close gated community. That’s what I’m thinking they’re gonna do.

TFSR: Is something like this happening on their reservation too, or is this just the Indian colony that you can tell?

JJ Ayers: Well, I don’t know. I’m not on the reservation. All we have is an Indian colony.

TFSR: I guess, I thought that was the larger place that Kyle was mentioning.

JJ Ayers: 320 acres. They didn’t let nobody move up there. They just got a construction business that sells gravel. They are trying to build an administration building. They got a $900,000 grant to build houses. They got six houses up, they’re starting to build. They already built two on the 20 acres. The 20 acres is smack center in Winnemucca, Nevada. It’s right in the center of town. So that’s some prime land that those guys are trying to take from us.

TFSR: They aren’t even offering like, “Hey, y’all can move over to this other spot.” It’s just, “You’re not our problem. Get out!”

JJ Ayers: Those 320 acres up there, they don’t got no water, no power, no sewer, nothing like that. But where we’re at, all of us have that hooked up already. So that’s why they want to build where we’re at, because they got power, sewer and water. So they could slap those condos up real quick, start renting them out and make more money. So by us sticking around there, messing them up, messing up their plans. You know what I mean? I’m gonna mess up their plans because I’m not leaving. I belong there. I got proof: I got birth records, I got death certificates of my Indian heritage and my family. Those guys, that Judy Rojo, the tribal council lady, claims she is related to me, but she isn’t. That’s what she claims. She claims to be related to me and then tells me I’m a non-Indian, a squatter, a trespasser. Ain’t that something.

TFSR: People have been asking you in court scenarios for her to prove it, right?

JJ Ayers: Yeah. She won’t prove it either. That’s what we need. That’s how we won the Ninth District Court and the Supreme Court. Because those guys asked her, “Where’s your blood? Where’s your Indian card?” And asked if she ever lived on the Indian colony. She answered no to all those and then we beat them in the Ninth District Supreme Court. They were supposed to shut down and they never did. So, by all rights, Judy Rojo and her tribal council have been in contempt of court for three years now, because they never stopped doing their business.

I have a restraining order against Judy Rojo, Bob McNichols, and all their tribal council, and the BIA police. They won’t recognize it, they say it’s no good. I got that from a judge in Oklahoma City. She was an Indian judge. Her name was Marsha Harlan. She gave me that restraining order when we first started fighting with these idiots. I still have copies of it, but nobody abides by it. They just come and do whatever they want. They don’t give a shit.

See it’s funny. Those guys don’t have to abide by the law, but we do. And I don’t get it. How come Judy Rojo and Bobby Nichols and their tribal eligible members don’t have to abide by Indian law? But the elders that lived here all of our lives, have to abide by it and move out. That just don’t make sense to me at all. I don’t get it. Nobody else gets it either. But these guys are just doing whatever they want. And we need to stop them in their tracks because this ain’t right. This ain’t human. They’ve violated every civil rights we have. They’re still violating more of them right now as I speak.

TFSR: I’m really sorry that y’all are going through this.

JJ Ayers: I really appreciate your help.

TFSR: Good luck, JJ.

JJ Ayers: Thanks for listening to me.

Fire Ant Journal: Anarchist Prisoner Voices

Fire Ant Journal

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In this June 11th special, we’re releasing an interview with some anarchist prisoners in the so-called U.S. and some of the folks who support them. June 11th, for people who don’t know, is a day of solidarity with Marius Mason and other long term anarchist prisoners. You can find bits of the history of the importance of the date up at crimethinc.com and interviews with and about anarchist prisoners up at our website and at june11.org . The framing of this special is to focus on a publishing project currently being undertaken inside and outside of the prisons that many long-term anarchist prisoners in the so-called U.S. participate in called Fire Ant.

First up, Sean Swain shares his views on Fire Ant and prisoner support. [2min 20sec , followed by Surrounded by Matador from the album The Taking, Black Powder Records]

Then we hear Michael Kimble sharing his views on the publication and recent experiences in the Alabama prison in which he’s held, which was a part of the interview we aired with Michael a few weeks back. [10min 56sec, followed by The War On The Imagination by Sole from Let Them Eat Sand]

After Michael speaks, a supporter and partner of Eric King talks about their impressions of the impact of June 11 and Fire Ant on their partner’s life. We’ll be sharing more from Eric’s partner in coming weeks about his situation, changes coming in the BOP and about the types of support federal prisoners and their supporters need. [42min 52sec]

After the Eric section, we are happy to share a musical track by the project, Realicide, called “Decide Today = Free Marius Mason” about the long-standing Earth Liberation, anarchist, Animal Liberation prisoner. There’s a link to youtube for the audio in our show notes.

Finally Robcatt, one of the folks on the outside shares some of the history of Fire Ant zine, some of his past support experience and a provocation on how we as anarchists need to shift how we do support work. [52min 17sec]

You can find issues of Fire Ant, which are written and adorned by anarchist prisoners, at the website for Bloomington ABC and for a list of June 11 events around Turtle Island, check out https://itsgoingdown.org.

Other music in this episode:

Black Star Dub Collective, Dissident Dub

Free Them All! : Matt Meyer on Kuwasi Balagoon

Kuwasi Balagoon: A Soldier’s Story

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This week we had the chance to interview Matt Meyer, who, among many other pursuits, is a retired professor and an editor of A Soldier’s Story: Revolutionary Writings by a New Afrikan Anarchist, out from PM Press, which highlights the life and writings of Kwasi Balagoon. Balagoon was a defendant in the Panther 21 case in the late 1960s, in which 21 people were arrested and accused of planned coordinated bombing and long-range rifle attacks on two police stations and an education office in New York City. He was ultimately acquitted of this, but was caught up on charges related to a robbery some time later and passed in prison in 1986.

Sean Swain on food in prison 2:48
Matt Meyer on Kuwasi Balagoon 11:44
Support Matt Hinkston announcement 1:06:08

In this interview, Bursts and Matt discuss Balagoon’s life and writings and why this book is especially relevant right now. They’ll talk about his abiding love for his comrades, a things which seems to have driven much of his politics, and his queerness, an aspect of his life which seemed very important and also complex. Stay tuned to the end of the conversation for questions submitted to The Final Straw by imprisoned anarchist Michael Kimble, who has been a guest on this show and is an admirer of Kuwasi. To see more of Michael’s work and to write to him, you can visit anarchylive.noblogs.org

Support Matt Hinkston!

Police violence in Lucasville-Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. Call Monday in support of Matt Hinkston (A724969). Matt is the brother of Mustafa, who Bursts interviewed a few weeks back.

Matt Hinkston (A724969) is being retaliated against for filing a PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) grievance against a correctional officer and for having gone on hunger strikes in protest of human rights violations against himself and others in the past. One of the main officers who has been mistreating him is named Officer Lawless. They’ve put him in solitary confinement without a disciplinary ticket and restricted his access to communication. Although correctional officers claim that Matt has been put in solitary confinement for his protection, they’re also denying him access to his property and to technology for communicating with the outside world.

Incarcerated people’s  lives and human rights matter. Nobody should be sent to solitary for filing a PREA report against a guard. Let’s call Lucasville this weekend and Monday at 740-259-5544 to:
-ask for a wellness check on Matthew Hinkston, A#724969
-tell officials in the Warden’s area and on Matt’s block that we support Matt’s demands and oppose continued retaliation against him for filing a PREA grievance.

Support Matt in this continued struggle against police violence, racism, and rape culture!

. … . ..

Finally, thank you to everyone who replied in response to our 9th anniversary podcast special in which me and Bursts interviewed each other about why we do what we do, some personal backstory for each of us, and opinions on media in general. We also used the opportunity to solicit listeners for another co host, to share the work load and extend the option in case there was anyone out there who was interested.

We got way more responses than we ever thought we would, and are working through to answer them in as complete and responsible a way as possible. If your interest is piqued and you wanna hear this episode, it’s up on our website along with all our other archived material.

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Music at the beginning of the show was an instrumental version of Hip Hop by Dead Prez off of Let’s Get Free.

. … . ..

Transcription

TFSR: So your author page on the PM Press website lists you as War Resistors International Africa Support Network coordinator and a bunch of other titles that are part of these committees. And one of the commonalities among the organizations that you are listed as working with is “peace” or like an opposition to militancy. So I’m wondering if you could introduce yourself and also tell listeners a little bit about how you found yourself co-editing a book about an urban guerilla in the US?

Matt Meyer: Ok First we have to speak about “in opposition to militancy”, because I’ve never been opposed to militancy. I am in favor of militancy. And I want to say something about a leader, who is actually now… in certain parts of the US left & progressive circles, getting some more attention, I think more and more is necessary. He was an African liberation movement leader. He was a military commander, his name is Amílcar Cabral. And Amílcar Cabral was the essential center of the movement for independence and freedom of Guinea-Bissau. He was one of the great Pan-Africanist of the 60s and 70s. And he was, again, a military commander. He is probably most famous for giving the speech that contains within it the phrase, “claim no easy victories.” The idea that we can go about using a bunch of pumped up rhetoric and say “we had 10,000 people” when we only had 100 people to rally. So, claim no easy victories. He was telling it to us and he was also telling it to his troops to his armed combatants. He was saying “when we go into a town, when we go into a community, when we go into a village, whether we do it to liberate them, whether we’re doing it to defend territory, we’re looking to liberate the country. We can’t take a thing from them. We can’t take a stitch. Not a loaf of bread, we have to give back more than we take. That’s what our job is as radicals, as revolutionaries.” and Amílcar Cabral, in that same famous speech, where he said “tell no lies, claim no easy victories” also said something that’s not as well known that I go around the country and go around the world quoting, he said to these armed combatants, these troops liberating their country from Portuguese colonialism. He said, “we have to learn to be militants, not militarists.” Militants. Not militarists. So there’s a big difference between being anti-military, anti-military industrial complex, and being anti-militant. I’ve been a pro-militant all my life, we have to increase the confrontation, we have to increase we have to intensify the struggles against Empire, against patriarchy, against white supremacy. And what better way of doing it than by spotlighting the life the work the legacy of Kuwasi Balagoon: Black Liberation Army, Black Panther Party, Panther 21.

TFSR: Cool. Thanks for letting me jump into that the really awkward way. I meant to say militarism, but you took it, right there! Can you introduce yourself now that we’ve heard your hot take response?

Matt Meyer: Bursts, thank you. And it’s really a pleasure to be here, and great to be in North Carolina at the studio. Yes. My name is Matt Meyer. Yes, there are a lot of organizations after my name. I know this is only an hour show. So we won’t talk about all of them. But, you know, I was in part a student of Pan Africanist. Kwame Ture. Stokely Carmichael. And he said “you know, if there’s anything you do from whatever perspective, if you’re looking to make social change, you have to organize, organize, organize!” Sorry, Will mentioned some of the organizations because the organizations are important. Yes, for the longest time, for many decades, I’ve been involved in the War Resistance Movement, I started out as a 17-18 year old, who was called upon to register for the draft. I was one of those public registration resistors. It’s useful to note that now, because even at this very moment… Selective Service has been challenged just recently by a federal court case a few months ago. That said, it’s actually unconstitutional to register only men. So now they’re trying to figure out whether they should do away with the entire process of registration, or, of course, what they would like to register women as well. But that’s a conversation going on. And of course, those of us who are in the anti-militarist movement, say that’s a no-brainer. This whole policy has become a failure. It’s both been a failure, from a point of view of creating a more just society. But it’s also even been a failure from their own standards of creating a policy that makes us more ready for whatever it is the US wants to get ready to do. So War Resistors League in the US, and War Resistors International. And the part of War Resistors International, that for the most part has been Africa support work, supporting groups like the War Resistance movement. In every part of the continent of Africa.

I went on academically. I started when I was 18, as I say, but I went on academically to become a student of contemporary African history. I’m still a student, but I also became a professor. Now I’m a retired professor. So building the Pan-African movement and supporting African movements on the ground today, that are using war resistance and anti-militarist methods to make social change. Revolutionary social change is a big piece of my work. There are two main other organizations that I work closely with and that define me, and that are worth mentioning. And then one local project I’ll just say quickly. I am currently the national co-chair of the Fellowship of Reconciliation USA. Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) is the US oldest interfaith peace organization.

I’m here in Asheville, doing some speaking here in North Carolina and Georgia doing a speaking tour, that FOR is co-sponsoring, along with PM Press, the publisher of Kuwasi Balagoon’s: A Soldier Story. And the FOR is not only the oldest group, but it’s a group that has been concerned for almost 100 years , actually, I’m sorry, now it’s a little bit over 100 years. The War Resistor’s League (WRL), and FOR were founded a few years away from each other. So WRL has almost 100 and FOR is just a little over 100. I am younger than that, by a long-shot. But I am one of the elders in both of those organizations. In addition to being slightly over 100 years old and concerned with peace issues, concerned with issues of reconciliation, it has also been at the forefront of movements for racial and economic justice. The very first Freedom Rides actually were 1947 (not the 50s and 60s versions that we are more familiar with). In what was called the journey of reconciliation. And we work closely by addressing who was on staff of both FOR and WRL at different times. So right now the FOR is looking at a new way of understanding racial justice, economic justice, and peace. And that new way is by understanding both the institutional and governmental, but also the individual responsibilities for Reparations. What does it mean, to build a movement deeply for Reparations within a society like the US Empire?, that may be dying. That may be really in some ways in death throes as an empire, but still has tremendous repairs to make even as more harm is being done to people of African, of Latinx, of indigenous descent. And so that’s the FOR. And that’s one piece of my work. And then the last organization, is I academically, as I said, went into teaching African Studies. And it was in the context of an emerging discipline that’s been around about 50 years called “peace studies” or “Peace and Conflict Studies”. And so last December, I was elected the Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association. So actually Do most of my work around the world. But occasionally I get to tour around the US, and especially my base.

So I’m a New Yorker by by birth, and part of my heart is definitely here in North Carolina. But academically, I’m the senior research scholar at the resistance studies initiative at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. It’s not so much the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, it’s the fact that there’s a place in this empire, called the resistance studies initiative. There are not many departments, in fact, only one called the resistance studies initiative. And so I’m happy to be a senior research scholar in that particular program looking to bridge the gaps, from the gown to the town from the Academy, to organizing, grassroots organizing. And so we put out books like this, to understand that there’s a history that we need to recover that we need to uncover, as we’re rebuilding people’s movements.

TFSR: That’s awesome. A very complex answer. So for folks with an older edition of this book, just published, originally published by Kersplebedeb. Man, I might be pronouncing that…

Matt Meyer: Wrong? You are pronouncing it correct!

TFSR: I’ve practiced it first. What differences would they find in this third edition like it’s notably thicker? The prior edition solicited additional material from readers at the end, which I thought was really clever. But can you talk about what process y’all went through in building this version of Balagoon: A Soldier’s Story?

Matt Meyer: Yes, this is one basic answer. And it’s way, way shorter than my previous answer. What is different about this version? More. It’s more, you know, the Soldier Story… and this, this is true for many things that get published in this way. It was thrown together in order to have an in print space for some of Kuwasi’s work. And again, for those who don’t know, Kuwasi, and I’m sure you’ll do, or have done a little introduction, but, you know, this is a person who’s essentially a Black Panther, revolutionary, nationalist, anarchist. This is a person who is a freedom fighter, a soldier, who is also a pussycat, lover of the people… playing with kids on the floor. So you know, Kuwasi, in some ways, is symbolic of so many of the apparent contradictions, that are really part of our whole human-ness that we like to pull together. And so even back in the day, after he passed, but you know, long after, but still, his memory was in some people’s minds, lives, and thoughts. The idea of pulling together some of his pieces of writing, some of the things that he’d put out as pamphlets or as articles in his life.. that that was necessary. And then another edition came out. And when that second professional kind of book like edition, first came out, it satisfies that need.

I guess it was two or three years ago, my co-editor called Chris Kersplebedeb, one of the founders and mainstays of Kersplebedeb, noticed that that second edition was about to run out. That it was simply going to run out of print. He said… a few of us said, “what are we going to do? because we could just simply reprinted or we could do something else!” And that something else that we decided to do was: to really go deep and get every single shred of writing, every video, audio, everything that Kuwasi did that was available, and transcribe it and type it and put it into print. And also take some space for those who knew him, or for those who most directly followed in his wake, to write about their feelings about his life and his legacy. So for example, this book has an incredible historical biographical overview, by the Georgia scholar, Akinyele Umoja. He’s he’s a great New Afrikan leader, one of the founders of the Malcolm X grassroots movement, and Akinyele’s work… the incredible, absolutely significant book We Will Shoot Back is well known. But this special piece he wrote that really brings Kuwasi’s relevance to the 21st century, is reprinted was printed in an academic journal. It’s reprinted as the front article in this new edition. There were a number of Kuwasi’s friends and extended family who had scraps of his writing.

My partner in fact, visited him and knew him and had an engaged correspondence. And though we didn’t reprint all of those private letters, he would often attach poems. Sometimes finished, sometimes ones that hadn’t been seen before. And sometimes just on the spot, he was bursting with poetry. He spoke in poetry from what I heard! And reading some of the letters, the letters themselves are poetic. We extracted the things that were clearly not just personal, you know “how I’m doing How you doing?” but the poems, and printed almost all of those poems in this volume. There were special little projects that may not have been completed. We think this one was. There was a “how to how to stay healthy in prison” an exercise book that we’ve reprinted in here. And yes, we’ve already heard from some people inside and people outside saying “Oh my God! we need that exercise book now! we need this more than ever.” And, so we took as many… I will tell you, this is one of the problems about being the kind of editor I am. I’ve edited other books with PM Press, and this is very restrained. This is PM Press and Kersplebedeb co-published, but some of my PM Press’ are over 1000 pages long. I’m the kind of editor that doesn’t like saying NO, who wants more and more. And I will tell you, and I haven’t said this publicly before but I’ve heard about one poem that we cannot find. And we just decided we can wait 10 more years and maybe or maybe not find it. If whenever, I don’t know… if we find it, we’ll let everyone know. But basically, we think we’ve gotten almost everything that he put into writing, including a couple of pieces that clearly were pretty unfinished, and we decided to err on the side of publishing it all. And then lastly, we collected a group of two or three of his closest comrades. There are two people wonderful, extraordinary elders. Sekou Odinga, former political prisoner did 33 years in prison, and the great jazz saxophonist and also former Grand Jury Resistor Bilal Sunni-Ali. Sekou and Bilal both each claim to have been the ones that recruited Kuwasi into the New York Black Panther Party. They debate that out a little bit in these pages, and we’ll let them continue to do that. But many, many other, you know, a good dozen other people who again, either knew him well, knew him a bit, or grew up in his legacy. I’ll just name one other person that the multi-talented poet, actress and multimedia artist, Kai Lumumba Barrow, who was based for a long time here in North Carolina, and was part of the Southerners On New Ground (SONG) organization. Kai is one of those who has both part of the conversation between people who knew him and her own poetic legacy interpretation of Kuwasi in here. So that’s the final part, some pieces by people who said, this is why Kuwasi is absolutely a person to look at in 2019 and 2020, as relevant now as he ever was.

TFSR: Can you talk a little bit about Kuwasi’s life, like a thumbnail sketch of his background and development?

Matt Meyer: Well, I wasn’t one of those who knew him, I wasn’t, and I actually have a small section I want to read that mainly quotes from Sekou Odinga because I have gotten to know and work under the leadership of, and really be privileged to be part of the current life of Sekou Odinga, who knew him when they were both youth. So I’ll quote from Sekou. But I want to say something about our orientation, our vision towards Kuwasi. And that question of 21st century relevance in putting together this book. We are at a time now, as radicals, where we clearly need, I think, more clearly than ever before: militant, radical, revolutionary social change. Whether violent, nonviolent, armed, unarmed, social change, and radical social change is an urgent task for the empire that is dying, known as the US. And the fact of the matter is, despite that understanding many of our lives, and many of our movements are in silence. We have this little group here, that group there, this campaign here, that campaign there and never really an overarching building movement.

Now Kuwasi made his decisions. He was a member of the Black Panther Party. And before that, he was a housing rights activist in Harlem. He was a member of the New York Black Panther Party. He was a member of the case of the New York Panther 21, which was the New York militants. In some ways they were really pulled together by this wild and crazy FBI investigation, and then New York State indictment and campaign. And then after that, he went underground and was part of the Black Liberation Army. And even after the Black Liberation Army, had been targeted, and in some ways had had some of its militants captured and killed, Kuwasi continued doing clandestine work underground work until his capture in the early 1980s. And so Kuwasi, despite that little thumbnail sketch, was a person who did not, who could not live in silos. He could not segregate. He had his revolutionary nationalist analysis as did most of the Panthers, but he could not live his life segregated one piece here, one piece there, one piece over there. So whether it was about sexuality, whether it was about black and white, whether it was about inter-generation, whether it was about violence/non violence… Kuwasi loved people. Kuwasi’s story is about being radical, being a militant, being a… how did you say before you know, a member of an armed you know, intensely urban guerrilla, he was all those things, but he was also extraordinarily non-sectarian and loving about the people. “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” That’s a quote from Che Guevara. But lots of other revolutionary leaders of all stripes and nationalities, violent or non-violent, have that same reflection. Kuwasi, from everything (I’ve heard everything I’ve read everything) we understand, personified love of the people.

TFSR: Yeah, and that that comes across in a lot of the reflections, as you mentioned, from a lot of the people that knew him. A lot of the things that I’m more familiar with from the second edition. But there are really moving sections about how like, you would just find him in the prison yard surrounded by a bunch of people just breaking on laughter, or, like you said, sitting on the ground playing with kids just tumbling around like nothing.

Matt Meyer: And it’s interesting, you know, Sekou, again, another incredibly, you know, and rightfully, well respected elder of the Black Panther and black liberation movement. He said, you know, the questions of white and black, we weren’t as advanced. Kuwasi, somehow, it’s not just about being naive. It’s like, understand that there are some allies that you’re going to have that connection with, you know, the Panthers were never a cultural nationalist group, they never said, they always, always build alliances, even the splits within the Panthers… West, East, whatever. You know, the entire Black Panther Party for self defense built alliances with white groups, with the Latino, Puerto Rican, Chicano groups, with Asian groups, etc. Those alliances were part and parcel of their politics. Kuwasi lived it on a very deeply personal level. So some of these issues of black and white that organizations and individuals are still struggling with now. Kuwasi had in some ways transcended. But let me actually read a little bit. So we get to hear Sekou voice about Kuwasi.

“I probably met Kuwasi in the spring or early summer of 1968. And he was always a real energetic brother. You’re always going to hear him telling a story or joke, or enjoying one. He was always full of life, always ready to volunteer for any work that needed to be done: the more dangerous the work, the more ready he was. He was real, sincere, and dependable. That was what struck me early on. He was always ready to step up, even if you didn’t need him. He would volunteer; it wasn’t something where you ever had to go find him…. Kuwasi loved life. He clearly loved life and loved living life. He was always ready to live… He was a living dude, and most of us all really loved him.”

So that’s Sekou Odinga talking about Kuwasi and that’s in that roundtable of love and reflection we did. And I’m going to read one other little piece that we the editors wrote that summarizes that reflection in some ways it summarizes this edition and why this edition, how this edition came about to be what it is bringing pieces together into one whole. UNIQUE!

“Unique. The single word most often used to describe Kuwasi Balagoon, when discussing his life and legacy, with those closest to and most affected by him, is unique. That Kuwasi. His way of living and looking at life, set him apart in special and wondrous ways, even in the midst of amazing friends and colleagues, and even while living and working in extraordinary times. Kuwasi stood out distinction surrounding other labels and descriptions. New Afrikan. Revolutionary. Nationalist and Anarchist. Gay. Bisexual and or Queer. Poet. Militant. Housing Activist. Panther. They can be discussed and debated and reflected upon. But Kuwasi’s greatest quality was surely his lasting love for the people and his ability to transform that love into tangible acts of resistance.”

Bursts: you’ve addressed a couple of the questions already up in here I get my footing again. So you’ve noted you know the the timeliness of the addition coming up the older copies being gone and that inspiring y’all in part to to produce the new edition. Kuwasi has also kind of come up in, among other people that I’ve seen, for instance, the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement (RAM) has a Kuwasi Balagoon Liberation School that they’ve been with their their program that they’ve been running for a couple of years now. Besides the need for being able to transcend, transcend these differences and create a movement of movements, besides like fulfilling that need, do you see any other reasons why Kuwasi’s writing would be coming to the fore, and from all these different places?

Matt Meyer: I mean, it’s interesting, I think, the idea of looking back to move forward, the idea of looking at past strengths and weaknesses, to build and rebuild. For some reason, when you were asking that question, I was thinking of my dear brother, Ashanti Alston, who is now in Rhode Island. He was in New York for a time and he always described himself as anarchist Panther. Now, Ashanti himself was a very, very young brother, who was part of the Black Liberation Army and who did some time. But when he came out, embracing Kuwasi’s ideas of revolutionary nationalism, and anarchism of being an anarchist Panther. It was something Ashanti both held on to, improved upon, but also built upon, built upon and helped grow in the movements of the 90s and the early 21st century. And so the very specific place where Ashanti did and does that most, isn’t a place called the National Jericho Movement. And the National Jericho Movement, as some may know, is a national / international campaign to free all remaining political prisoners and prisoners of war in the United States. And it’s a horror that one of Kuwasi’s own co-defendants Sundiata Acoli, a member of the Panther 21 you know, is also a co defendant of Sekou Odinga still languishes in prison after 40 years, more than 40. And after passing, you know, birthdays, people shouldn’t be in jail for the 17th and 18th birthdays. That’s ridiculous. So this man who actually was a NASA mathematician, who should have had movies about him, like “forgotten here”, you know, whatever, you know it. This is one of the great minds of our times who is in jail because he decided to use that mind and that body for the liberation of his people, by becoming a Black Panther and a militant. So the intensification of the campaigns to free all political prisoners, like Sundiata Acoli, like Mutulu Shakur, like Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, another great legacy leader from the 60s known before as H Rap Brown, who was a lead of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, student National Coordinating Committee, became a Muslim Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, in jail today.

So we talk about the 60s or the 60s & the 70s. And we talk about reconciliation. We talked about moving forward, and in fact, we have never moved forward. These brothers have been in jail Since the 70s, since the 80s. Again more decades, then mass murderers and rapists, you know, people who have committed horrific crimes against the people, these people who have fought for the people… remain in jail. So I say that both because I want listeners to, if they haven’t, look up the website, National Jericho Movement, look up what that organization is doing. And the list of all of the prisons, I only named a few, most of them from the Black Panther movement, and organization, but not just. And we have gotten some political prisoners free. I mentioned Sekou Odinga. But the fact of the matter is, they all must come out! Now it’s time to free them all. They are getting to an age where if we don’t do it soon, we will have lost the opportunity. And these are our elders and leaders who have many cases, the most profound and inspiring stories to tell us now, again, about those strengths and weaknesses of the past.

Bursts: I’d like to mention really quickly that this last week, we saw the release of Janine and Janet Africa of the MOVE organization, which is awesome. FREE THEM ALL.

Matt Meyer: Indeed, FREE THEM ALL.

 

Bursts: So this is an anarchist podcast, and I would like to know, and other people have asked: How, to your knowledge and as it came out in the book… how did Kuwasi’s political development come to anarchism? And how did he relate that to a revolutionary nationalism?

Matt Meyer: That’s that’s a very good question. And I think it’s, again, one of these questions of terminology. Like militarism and militancy. And the question came up: “To what degree did Kuwasi use the word anarchism?” And I think the answer to your question is best posed this way. Even in his day, and even among his comrades and his colleagues, Kuwasi was always a deep anti-authoritarianist. It wasn’t about ideology wasn’t about saying, “hey, let’s not read Marx, let’s read Bakunin.” It was about saying “we can’t create structures that chain ourselves, we can create hierarchies.” Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re not a disciplined, accountable member of an organization. And all great anarchist revolutionaries know it’s not about chaos, it’s about organization. It’s about liberating organizations. We’re accountable to one another, not to one great leader, who we decide is… you know, the king. It’s always a man. So you know, I say the king advisedly. But the fact of the matter is, that I think the best way in which he embodied it was in his life. He was a deep anti-authoritarian, always suspicious, always critical, always concerned about undue authority. That wasn’t about accountability to the collective, but was about one person or maybe a couple of people getting more power than they needed. More power than was healthy, for a well functioning collective. I think it’s worth saying it’s also an interesting piece of Kuwasi’s life and legacy.

In terms of this question of gay or queer. I think it’s pretty clear that he never self defined in those ways. And yet, it’s also clear that at some point in his life, he had a lover who was male or trans-femme. Again, that term wasn’t used at that time. So it’s hard to put words in people’s mouths that weren’t in play at that moment. But yes. So in this case, he’s not defining as gay and queer, and yet he’s living in some ways what we’d consider a queer identity for at least a piece of that time. What does that mean? Well, for Kuwasi, what it meant was loving life. It meant not making those kind of distinctions as… say.. “you are white” or “you are a white anarchist, so I can’t work with you.” The question is: “are you down with the struggle? Are you willing to do the work?” And you know, today in 2019, we see organizations. I don’t know so much about here in the south east. But you know, in New York, we have different parts of the Anarchist Black Cross Federation and former political prisoners like Daniel McGowan. And, you know, we have a group of radical anti-imperialist anarchists. I don’t care if you’re a Marxist-Leninist, I don’t care if you’re a social democrat. You know, not so many social democrats doing anti-authoritarian and political work. But nonetheless, the idea is if you’re down with the idea that this empire must fall. You don’t say “you’re into non-violence, so I can’t work with you”, or “you are in the wrong struggle, so I can’t work with you.” We have to move beyond our grandfather’s… I would say, false dichotomies. Our grandfather’s battles. It’s not about… It may have been at some moment, then, necessary to say “I’m with Malcolm, I’m not with Martin. I’m a Malcolmite.” But this moment, 50 years later, one does not have to choose. There’s an article co-written with some members of the movement for Black Lives, myself, and a couple of other comrades in a book of mine called White Lives Matter Most – And Other Little White Lies available through Kerbleblespleb, but also published by PM Press that co-published A Soldier’s Story. And the title of that chapter is “Refuse To Choose. Neither Malcolm nor Martin.” Refusing to choose between our grandfather’s battles, we have to transcend those battles to another moment. Who in some ways personified that transcendence? Kuwasi Balagoon.

Bursts: I’m curious, also, like I see the importance of the point that you’re making. I think that for me, an exciting part of this conversation is that and about reading this edition is that he made conscious choices that differed from so many of the people around him. And the uniqueness and what have you. And so exploring the reasons as to why he would have been drawn to… like, if you are deciding if you’ve gone through the national split in the Panther organization, and have chosen to not side with the national leadership and have critiques of centralized authority. And you’re drawn towards the writings of Malatesta, or of Kropotkin, or like others, some of the other names that are mentioned in the book. It’s interesting for me, it’s like not not a political development that most people describe, and also the kind of thing that more doctrinaire members of a movement could like conflict around, right? So I kind of wonder, and also, I brought this question from Anarchist Prisoner, Michael Kimble, who’s also gay and black, in Alabama politicized inside the system.

What sort of conflicts did come? Or how did how did that jive with his co-defendants or with his comrades inside? Did it lead to conflicts? Or were people able to be like, ‘well, you have your way of approaching things you ask important questions. Labels are aside, we’re in movement together?’”

Matt Meyer: Wow. And thank you, Michael Kimble, and an all power to you. Not just for continued survival on the other side of the wall, but but bringing out a profound question like that one to us here today. That is a complicated and interesting question. And I’m already spinning with three different directions and actual citations to go. Because also, Bursts, you spoke about the splits. And and I think that’s worth talking about. But let me deal with Michael’s question first, as as best as I can. My understanding of the history, my reading of Kuwasi is that that latter piece was the most common. Kuwasi because of his commitment, because of his extraordinary work ethic, because of his love, which just was bursting out. Again, in the writings I’ve seen, you know, in his writing and his every moment, it just was uncontainable. So that energy, I think, put him in a place where most people were not saying, “Oh, these ideas are too challenging. This is too crazy. This is too outside of the box.” I think Rather, they were like, “it’s crazy. We’re going to figure out a way of working with it, you know, Kuwasi is unique. Kuwasi is amazing.” But So I think that’s the main answer in terms of his life. But I think it’s also very important to know that our versions of the history of back then are often way more over simplified than they should be. And so as a movement, historian as a peace researcher and justice researcher, I want us to look much more carefully at the nuances of what happened back then. And now I’m going to give three citations about that.

Another book that PM Press put out that I was involved in, and no, I’m not just doing a public service announcement to sell copies of my books. But this is one that I co-edited with a sister. She’s got to be one of the greatest organizers in my tough city: New York City, within the black movement. Today, she’s the chair of the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee. And her name is Déqui Kioni-Sadiki. And Déqui and I co-edited a book called Look For Me In the Whirlwind: From the Panther 21 to 21st Century Revolutions. Now, some listeners may think “oooh, Look For Me In the Whirlwind! I think I kind of remember that was a book that Panther 21 wrote and published, you know, autobiographical, back in the day.” Yes. And that book had gone out of print and even members of the Panther 21, who were still alive and out of jail would go on eBay and be like “$400?! I can’t pay that I was at what I was in that book!!” So we took the entire book from cover to cover and republished it, but like this book A Soldier’s Story. We added in many, we actually doubled the size of the thing, we added in another 100-200 pages of contemporary reflections and analysis. And so that was especially done under the leadership of and with surviving members of the Panther 21. Like especially Sekou Odinga, Dhoruba bin Wahad when he’s not in West Africa. He’s based here in the southeast in Georgia. Jamal Joseph and others. And the reason I bring out that book, because it talks about the Panther 21 case, is that while understanding in some deep ways about the east/west split, it also understands that some of the nature of that should be more understandable than we make it. There are nuances we miss. One of the simple ones. Simple? complicated? simple. complicated. Internationalism. The New York Panthers and the Panther 21 were especially internationalist. They were the ones mainly, Sekou himself, and others who went to Algeria, and founded and built the Black Panther Party International. And that internationalism, which now we have technology and tools that should make it easier for us to communicate across the borders. There’s an anarchist concern, what are these borders anyway? Well, we have the technology to be true internationalists. But, we haven’t necessarily freed our minds. We haven’t necessarily freed our consciousness. We haven’t necessarily freed our history, in order to understand the level of internationalism that they were doing back then, and how we need to build upon that, understand it and deepen it today.

I’ll give a second example. Even the West Coast, even the other side of the split, the leadership of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, it should be known, and it is often not known and forgotten, put out ahead of their time, a statement in favor of gay and lesbian liberation. It’s not the most publicized of the Black Panther documents, but it’s there. And it’s there because of their own visionary struggle. So people like Kuwasi Balagoon may have been visionary 10 times further out the field. But there was still more vision, more analysis, more depth, more nuance, and conversation and debate within those structures there, then we have come to really believe and understand. So even as there were splits, and even though there were harsh debates, sometimes those debates could be contained in a place where we loved one another anyway. And again, my reading for Michael and for your question is, when Kuwasi was in those debates with his comrades in the New York and East Coast Panthers, they weren’t primary contradictions. They were all “we’re gonna work together, we have our differences in personality and character and approach. But ultimately, our eyes are on the same prize.”

I said three, I’m going to name the third and last of them. And it’s another PM Press book. Kuwasi wasn’t the only Panther who was way ahead of his time. And Sekou is not the only, and Dhoruba and Jamal are not the only surviving Panthers, who are way ahead of their time. So I would like to name another of the still remaining Black Panther black liberation movement political prisoners who is inside. Whose work is so visionary, and so proficient and so profound, and so necessary for advocacy, especially, but also all people looking to make real deep struggle. That man’s name is Russell Maroon Shoatz. Maroon, we had a successful campaign some years ago, to get him out of solitary confinement. 22 plus years of torture. State sponsored torture, under solitary confinement. He’s in general population, but he’s still in prison. His health is not so great. And he is a visionary of little equal. His understanding of an analysis of economics and eco-socialism, of anti-authoritarianism, of looking at building Maroon cultures of resistance. And why he took the name Maroon, are absolutely reading for 21st century revolutionaries. So looking at Russell Maroon Shoats, his book from PM Press is another place I’d look to for the kinds of things that Kuwasi epitomized. This idea that one can have struggle within an organization, even at the moment, and certainly upon historical reflection 40 years, 50 years later, we have to have that kind of struggle to build a stronger, better, richer, deeper, more effective movement that will smash the state.

Bursts: And that’s Maroon the Implacable.

Matt Meyer: That is the name of the book. Yes.

Bursts: Well if you know anyone, I’ve talked to Russell Shoats III to try to get him on the show, and it just hasn’t worked out. But if you have anyone who would ever want to come on and talk about his case, and try to amplify Maroon’s words, and also his case, and a push to actually get him out of prison, please send it my way.

Matt Meyer: I will say this now. And I appreciate that and we’ll make it happen. I was with with Maroon’s daughter, Teresa Shoats, I was a national co-chair of the campaign to free Russell Maroon Shoatz in that year, year and a half when we were doing the work to get him out of solitary. And I actually just came back from Sri Lanka, where Quincy Saul one of the co-editors that book along with the late, Fred Ho. But Quincy is now in Sri Lanka and Fred’s no longer with us. But I will tell you that in addition to absolutely pledging to help get Russell or Sharon or Theresa Shoats on the show, I think we’re going to see very soon in the next maybe month or so, a re-intensified a reinvigorated campaign for compassionate release around Maroon in particular. Look, it’s one of the complicated things, because again, we’re individualists and we’re institution builders, we believe in the collective and we believe in our own hearts and minds. So yes, we build movements that are focused on individual political prisoners and their release. That was just a very strong campaign. That was put forth that’s building now for release of New York State prisoner. Jalil Muntaqim. So I think I’m telling you now a little preview, there’s going to be a re-intensified campaign for compassionate release for Russell Maroon Shoats, at the same time, all of these movements from Mumia Abu Jamal, etc. all say, FREE THEM ALL. And so when I say look at the National Jericho movement, and its website, it is going to ultimately be about freeing them all.

Bursts: So I know we’ve only got a few minutes left. But Michael Kimble had another question, or he had a couple of other questions, but one of them is:

I’ve read much of Kuwasi story, but never anything about organizing in prison. Was he involved in organizing his fellow prisoners?”

Matt Meyer: And give me Michael’s other question, because it’s so profound, I want to get them all and see how many as I can cover

Bursts: The other question:

What roadblocks, if any, did Kuwasi encounter from those he struggled with because of his sexuality and adherence to anarchy? And how did he deal with it?”

But so the the part of that that we didn’t talk about was in terms of his sexuality.

Matt Meyer: Right? It’s a very similar answer to the previous question around differences in general. I also think, for a certain amount of time, as I understand it, Kuwasi’s relationship was when he was in prison at the very end of his life. So it was less about his comrades in the Panthers who were out, and more about the people around him in prison. So in some ways, that segues into the previous question about his life in prison. And I think it’s very, very good to lead into that question as one of our later questions, because it leads into another political prisoner whose name I’d like to mention and who has books written or published by PM Press. And that’s David Gilbert, North American, anti-imperialist white dude. David Gilbert. David’s a close personal friend of mine, and of course, we want David to come out as well. The last years of Kuwasi’s life were spent in prison in the same in the same institution as David and and so they had… not an ability to have that much depth or closeness, you know, prison still constraints you even with fellow prisoners. But there was an understanding that Kuwasi’s relationships like the relationships of most people in prison are individual or personal and not about judgment. So I think that’s the main answer to that question about the sexuality and sexual orientation.

But the more question about organizing is key. Like Maroon, Kuwasi was a master organizer. I think in some ways Maroon actually has built cadre. That’s what he’s in solitary confinement for, he was in solitary because he kept producing within the prisons that he was mini-revolutionaries or maybe not so mini. He also escaped from prison twice. Kuwasi was known to escape from prison. So the fact of the matter is, the essence of conversation was about organization. And though there may not have been a particular campaign, what he did in his work inside prison, was to explain what revolutionary nationalism, anti-authoritarianism, black liberation, was. Black liberation, black liberation, what did it mean to free the people? What did it mean to free the land? What did it mean to be a black revolutionary in the spirit of Malcolm? What did it mean to have armed self defense and self defense in general, as a principal? What did it mean to create programs like the free breakfast program? To understand that housing, that education, that food that these are rights and that people shouldn’t have to beg from within their own country for rights. People should be able to free themselves and provide for themselves. And so that organization, that consciousness raising that education was part of what Kuwasi did probably every waking hour of the day, and that was his organizing in prison.

But I also bring David Gilbert’s name up not because he just witnessed some of that and described some of that, but also because Kuwasi died of AIDS. And he died in prison of AIDS. When it became clear to the fellow inmates and to the large community of people outside, who loved Kuwasi, that he died, he died of AIDS. There was a certain shock, the way, there’s always a shock when you lose someone who is vibrant and is alive and who’s there. And then they’re not there. Even if someone’s ill for some time. But there’s also that shock of recognition that doing something about the AIDS crisis in prison, was absolutely vital. And so David began at that point, in the light of Kuwasi’s death, and in the years after Kuwasi’s death of developing in New York State, what ended up being one of the first national programs of peer education within prisons, around HIV/AIDS and HIV/AIDS prevention. And, you know, we can’t say how many, countless lives that saved and and how many people inside and outside had their own understanding of what it meant to have safer sex and what it meant to have protection and even within the prison walls and outside of the idea that HIV/AIDS could be contained, not because of any conspiracy theory of how it was created, or who was created, but simply because of the way and by the way we relate to one another. And that peer program that David helped pioneer, was absolutely part of, I would say Kuwasi’s legacy. And it’s an organizing legacy that affected the New York state prison system. And unfortunately, as we know, two steps forward one step back, sometimes it feels like two steps back, but you know, the the struggle for creating humane programs within the prisons is a difficult one at best. But we do have brothers inside like Michael, who’s asking these profound questions, obviously doing his own work. And I think when and where it’s possible, creating little breathing spaces, or more than that, is still important and imperative as much as we need to be militants and revolutionaries. No revolution in the history of the world has ever been made without many, many, many reforms. So of course, we want to abolish prisons, we want to abolish the prison industrial complex. But on that road, reforms to make Michael’s life a little bit easier, is definitely something we need to do. We also want to free them all.

And lastly, I’ll say this, we have a little call in that I got from Lynne Stewart’s husband, Ralph Poynter, great black liberation leader and educator in his own right, and people hopefully know Lynne’s too, with the great people’s lawyer who was herself a political prisoner, and passed away some years ago, outside. But, you know, Ralph said and he is right to remind us that in addition to all of these key figures we named. Be they those who have gone before Like Kuwasi Balagoon those were inside we need to fight for their freedom. Sundiata Acoli, Russell Maroon Shoats, David Gilbert, Imam Jamil Al-Amin, etc, etc. There are hundreds and hundreds of unnamed heroes and sheroes who are languishing inside. Often for nonviolent offenses, often for non-offenses for trumped up charges. If their name is Trump, they wouldn’t be inside they’d be outside. And we have to work both to enable their survival, but mainly to free them. Because Freeing them all is in part, how we free ourselves.

Bursts: Cool. Well, that’s a great note to end on. Matt, thank you so much for taking the time to be in this conversation with me. I really appreciate it and I hope you have a great presentation tonight.

Matt Meyer: Thanks for having us.

Michael Kimble, Akbar + Mustafa: Prisoners in Ohio and Alabama Speak

Prisoners in Ohio and Alabama Speak

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This week, we hear the voices of three prisoners: anarchist prisoner Michael Kimble and jailhouse lawyer Arthur “Akbar” Griggs at Holman CI in Atmore, Alabama, and Mark “Mustafa” Hinkston at Toledo CI in Ohio.

 

Michael Kimble

In the first portion of this episode William and Bursts spoke with black, gay, anarchist prisoner, Michael Kimble, being held at Holman Prison in Alabama serving a life sentence for the murder of a white, homophobic, racist bigot. This audio is from a longer conversation we had in the context of an upcoming episode about Fire Ant zine featuring the voices of prisoners and outside folks involved in its production. Keep an ear out for that. Meanwhile, Michael talks about the gang breakdown of the prison he’s at, the queer & mostly white prisoners he’s around now, pushes to reform the prison system in Alabama. Here are a few links referencing what we talked about: William’s 2015 interview with Michael Kimble; Swift Justice on Kinetic Justice and AL prison expansion; Thurgood Marshall was an FBI informant on Robert F Williams during the Civil Rights struggle. Michael can be contacted by writing:

Michael Kimble
#138017
3700 Holman Unit
Atmore, AL 36503

Arthur “Akbar” Griggs

Michael then passed the phone to Arthur Griggs, known by folks inside as Akbar. Akbar is a jailhouse lawyer who talks a bit about his work, pushing back against administration, his involvement in the Free Alabama Movement and a request of listeners outside of the prison walls. Akbar can be written at:

Arthur Griggs
#129969
3700 Holman Unit
Atmore, AL 36503

Mark “Mustafa” Hinkston

Finally, we hear from Mark “Mustafa” Hinkston. Mark is a member of Central Ohio IWOC (fedbook & twitter) who was just transferred to Toledo CI in Toledo, OH. He had just come off of a hunger strike to challenge his mistreatment by guards and administration of mentally ill prisoners at Youngstown (SOCF) in long term isolation. He himself came out of almost 3 years of isolation at Youngstown, despite having no violent incidents in almost 3 years. In the latter half of the show, Mustafa talks about his experience in the hole and the advocacy he does for other prisoners and his ideas about prison abolition. Mustafa can be reached via his JPay at by looking him up by his name and number (#A707808) at jpay.com to those people who have JPay accounts. He can also be written letters at:

Mark Hinkston
#A707808
Toledo Correctional Institution
2001 East Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43608

Announcements

Sean Swain Transferred (again!)

Guess who just got transferred again!!! You can write to Sean Swain at his latest address as of mid-May 2019 at:

Sean Swain #2015638
Buckingham Correctional
1349 Correctional Center Road
Dillwyn, VA 23936

Anniversary episode

Keep an ear out for an upcoming podcast episode of TFSR with the co-hosts, William and I, talk about the project, about our politicization and get personal. This’ll be dropping quite soon.

NAASN 2019

If you are in the southeast of the so-called-U.S. for the weekend of May 31-June 2nd, consider dropping by the North American Anarchist Studies Network Conference at 1083 Austin Ave NE, Atlanta, GA in the Little Five Points neighborhood. The theme for this year is Emergent Horizons and more info, including abstracts of presenters and the schedule is updated at https://wiki.naasn.org/NAASN_2019_(en) Stop by and visit the Final Straw table if you are around!

… . ..

Playlist

“We need to kick it up a notch”: an interview with anarchist prisoner Michael Kimble

Michael Kimble

Michael Kimble
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First off some words from Sean Swain on morality. Spoiler alert: it may not exist!!

This time we’re speaking with Michael Kimble, who is a black gay anarchist prisoner incarcerated in Atmore, Alabama. Mr Kimble is active in many prison organizing projects, including the Free Alabama Movement. We speak about his case, his writings, a possible future for anarchist organizing, his upcoming parole hearing, and vampires among other topics. For more about his case and to read his writings, you can visit his support page at http://anarchylive.noblogs.org.

Apologies for the audio quality on this interview, since it was recorded from inside prison it is not always easy to hear. But stick with it, there’s some really good stuff here.

To write to Michael Kimble, or to send him books or zines, you can address letters to:

Michael Kimble
#138017
3700 Holman Unit
Atmore, AL 36503

To write support letters for his hopefully upcoming parole hearing, address letters to:

Alabama Dept. of Pardons and Parole
301 South Ripley Street
Montgomery, AL 36130

Info on what to say and how to word those letters of support please visit his support page

Playlist

June 11th, inmate drugging at SECC Missouri & Sean Swain updates

june11.org
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This episode of The Final Straw is served in three portions, all concerning prisons and prisoners.

Before the segments begin, a couple of announcements concerning upcoming events in Asheville, North Carolina for the days surrounding June 11th and the International Day of Solidarity with Long Term Anarchist and Eco Prisoners. These events include a Books to Prisoners open house at Downtown Books & News on Thursday the 11th at 3:30, a showing of a documentary about Mumia Abu-Jamal at 7:30pm at Firestorm that night and a dance party and pie auction on the night of the 13th at the Odditorium. Facebook pages exist for these events, with details listed.

Also in there is mention of the call-out for Monday the 8th & every Friday to protest the Durham County Jail’s refusal to allow prisoners there the chance to get out of their cells for more than 2 hours a week. For more info on this struggle against the so-called Lockback, check out http://amplifyvoices.com

First among the segments, following commentary by Sean Swain, we’ll hear an up date on his situation from his friend and supporter, Ben Turk. Sean’s outgoing communication has been blocked, so his segment has had to go underground. This is in repsonse to Sean speaking up for another prisoner and using his outside support network to press the prisons after a racist attack by guards on a fellow prisoner at Lucasville. More at http://seanswain.org

Following that, we hear from Jenny of Sacramento Prisoner Support about the call-out for the upcoming June 11th International Day of Solidarity with Eric McDavid, Marius Mason & Long Term Anarchist and Eco Prisoners. Jenny tells us about the history of June 11th, talks about differences in the circumstance of June 11th for this year, and other aspects of prisoner support. More info on June 11th can be found at http://june11.org

Finally, we talk to Brianna Peril & Tommy Powell from the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee & the Missouri Innocence Project (respectively) about prisons in Missouri and what appears to be the psychiatrization and forced drugging of inmates at the SouthEast Correctional Center (SECC) outside of Charleston, Missouri, and this week’s call-in-campaign to pressure the jailers to stop the process and bring more transparency to the situation. More about the call-in can be found on the fakebook page for the event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/405416019661232/
Linked from there is the fakebook page for IWOC.
The page for Midwest Innocence Project, affiliated with the MO Innocence Project can be found here: http://themip.org/

The episode is capped by a sludge metal track by General Grievous. More info in the playlist.

Michael Kimble calls for solidarity and an hour of metal and punk (well, he didn’t call for that….)

http://anarchylive.noblogs.org/
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This week’s episode features a Sean Swain segments (Reformism), an request from segregation by Michael Kimble for outreach to keep his brain sharp, and most of an hour of metal and punk a from around the world. Featured music includes: a track from thenew YOB album, “Clearing The Path to Ascend”; a song from Torch Runner’s upcoming release in October, Endless Nothing; a track from a metal comp to support international access to abortions by Schattenlicht and more!

Playlist