This week I am very excited to present an interview done with Aishah Shahidah Simmons, who is a writer, community organizer, prison abolitionist, and cultural worker who has done just an immense amount of work over the years to help disrupt and end the patterns of sexual abuse and assault within marginalized communities. In this interview we talk about a lot of things, her background and how she came to be doing the work she’s doing right now, how better to think about concepts like ‘accountability’, what doing this work has been like for her as an out lesbian woman, and about her book “Love WITH Accountability, Digging Up the Roots of Childhood Sexual Abuse” which was published in 2019 from AK Press.
This interview feels very important for me right now, because we are in a time of overturn, tumult, stress, and uncertainty, and I think that in order for us to really be able to knuckle down and go in this for the long haul it’ll be imperative for our radical communities to take solid care of ourselves and of each other. I hope you get as much out of hearing Aishah’s words as I did conducting and editing this interview.
Before we get started, as a content notice: we will be talking about some difficult topics in this interview. I will do my best to repeat this notice at regular intervals, but please do take care and treat yourself kindly (however that looks).
If you are interested in seeing more work from Aishah, visit our blogpost or scroll down to the show notes! We will post all the links in those places.
If you are interested in reading her book, Love WITH Accountability, AK Press is doing a limited time sale on all their books on their website. Visit akpress.org for more info.
To help support community bookstores at this time of greater economic precarity for such places, consider visiting our affiliates Firestorm Books, who are currently doing online sales from their brick and mortar location. More about how to order at firestorm.coop!
To keep up with Aishah, for updates on future projects and more:
This week we are presenting two segments, first up is an interview done by Cypress – a new member of The Final Straw collective! – with Grace (they/them pronouns), who is doing support for anarchist prisoner Jeremy Hammond. From his support website, Hammond is “currently spending a decade in prison for allegedly disclosing information about the private intelligence firm (…) Stratfor, revealing that they had been spying on human rights defenders at the behest of corporations and governments. WikiLeaks published these files in partnership with 29 media organizations worldwide as the Global Intelligence Files.”
Grace talks about Hammond’s case and repressions he has been facing in prison, and also about resisting a summons for a grand jury and what support could look like for him given the uncertainties of his case at the moment, plus many more topics!
>>> Regarding this week’s segment from anarchist prisoner, Sean Swain: Sean’s commentary today discusses his claim to the Organization of American States, filed in 2012. Sean was unaware of the OAS’s response until he was moved to Virginia where the mailrooms no longer blocked this attempted correspondence. Sean’s recorded testimony is up at SeanSwain.org. Content warning, Sean discusses sexual violence he suffered at the hands of Ohio officials.
Indigenous Space and Decolonizing Prison Abolition
(Sean Swain starts at 05min, 12 sec)
Ni Frontiers Ni Prison
(starts 12min, 08sec)
Today we have a two part show! In the first part we are presenting a conversation with someone from Ni Frontiers Ni Prison, which is a group in so called Canada that is resisting the proposed construction of a new migrant prison in Laval, a town just outside of Montreal. This is a transcript of the original audio, read for the show by Grier, shout out to him! In this interview we talk about the prison and what it would mean for people who’d be most affected by it, the general rise of far right sentiment in so called Canada, and many more topics.
The interviewee names the place they are based as occupied Tio’tia:ke (jo-jahg’-eh), which is the original indigenous name for so called Montreal, the colonizer name. The naming of indigenous land will continue throughout the interview with various locations in the name of decolonization, though Tio’tia:ke is the one which will be the most prominent.
As an audio note to all those paying attention, a fridge turns on midway through the interview then turns back off nearing the end, we’ve tried to minimize the background noise but it’s still somewhat noticeable.
Music for the intro and outro by A Tribe Called Red with Stadium Pow Wow.
Some links to historical events mentioned by our guest relating to Canada’s’ treatment of immigrants and refugees:
“Chinese Head Tax“, a policy which “meant to discourage Chinese people from entering Canada after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway”, a government project which I conjecture used a bunch of precarious and immigrant labor in order to complete.
Komagata Maru Incident, the historic entry denial of a group of Indian refugees seeking entry into Canada on the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru in 1914, resulting in the death of 20 Sikh people at the hands of the then occupying British government.
“None Is Too Many” policy for Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, an anti Semitic stance that put people who were fleeing Nazi terror in further danger and possible death.
Robert Free on the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center
(starts at 38min, 04sec)
Next we’ll hear an interview with Robert Free, a long-term Seattle, WA resident and Tewa (pronounced tay-oh-wa) Native American. We discuss the history of the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, a cultural and resource center for urban Native Americans in Seattle and the surrounding communities. The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center was established after a series of protests and occupations in 1970 of Fort Lawton, an army base that had previously occupied the park. Robert Free discusses the influencing factors of that time, some of the finer points of the occupations, as well as the implications of protesting and occupation on stolen native land.
Some of the names and events mentioned in this chat you may recognize from our February 17th, 2019, episode of The Final Straw when we had the pleasure to speak with Paulette D’auteuil, about the case of long-term American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier. More info on Peltier’s case can be found at whoisleonardpeltier.info
. … . ..
Next week we hope to bring you a conversation with support crew for incarcerated former military whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who is now imprisoned for refusing to testify before a Grand Jury. More on her case can be found at https://xychelsea.is including links for donating towards her fundraising goal for legal costs aiming at 150 thousand smackeroos.
On December 7, 2018, Columbus police murdered 16 year old Julius Ervin Tate Jr.. On December 13, they arrested his 16 year old girlfriend, Masonique Saunders, charging her with the murder they committed.
Masonique is being charged with aggravated robbery and felony murder, and is currently being held in juvenile detention. The police have alleged that Julius attempted to rob, and pulled a gun on a police officer, and that Masonique was involved in said robbery. Felony murder means that if you commit a felony and someone dies as a result of that crime you can be charged with their murder.
We believe that these charges are unjust, and demand the freedom of this 16 year old Black girl and justice for the family of Julius Tate!
To help Masonique and her family, donate to her GoFundMe.
A quick reminder, if you’re in the Asheville area this coming week, Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross is hosting two events. On Friday, April 4th from 6:30 to 8pm at Firestorm, (as we do every first Friday of the month) BRABC will show the latest episode of Trouble, by sub.Media. Episode 19 focuses on Technology and Social Control. After the ½ hour video we’ll turn chairs around and have a discussion of the film for those who’d like. Then, on Sunday, April 6th from 5-7pm as BRABC does every first Sunday of the month, we’ll be hosting a monthly letter writing event. We’ll provide names, addresses, backstories, postage and stationary.
Prisoners we’ll focus on are longterm political prisoners from Black liberation, to Earth and Animal Liberation, to anti-police violence activists caught up in prison whose birthdays are coming up or who are facing severe repression. Or, just come and write a letter you’ve been meaning to write to someone else. It’s a nice environ for that sort of thing.
Extinction Rebellion week of action
The movement to halt and roll back human driven climate change called Extinction Rebellion is planning some upcoming events in the so-called U.S. in line with a worldwide call for action over the week of April 15-22nd. Check out https://extinctionrebellion.us/rebellion-week for info and ways to plug in. If you’re in the L.A. area, see our shownotes for a fedbook link to some of their upcoming events. And remember, practice good security culture by not giving up as little info as possible. Keeping your info more secure today ensures your ability to fight with less hindrance tomorrow!
Marius Mason moved
Anarchist political prisoner Marius Mason has been moved to a prison in Connecticut, a change viewed as a success by his supporters as he’s closer to family by hundreds of miles. If you’d like to write him a letter to welcome him to his new place, consider writing him at the following site, but make sure to address it as follows:
Now, here’s a statement by the Highlander Research and Education Center outside of New Market, TN, about the fire early on March 29, 2019:
“Early this morning, officials responded to a serious fire on the grounds of the Highlander Research and Education Center, one of the nation’s oldest social justice institutions that provides training and education for emerging and existing movements throughout the South, Appalachia, and the world.
As of 6am, the main office building was completely engulfed and destroyed. One of ten structures on approximately 200 acres, the building housed the offices of the organization’s leadership and staff. Highlander’s staff released the following statement:
“Highlander has been a movement home for nearly 87 years and has weathered many storms. This is no different. Several people were on the grounds at the time of the fire, but thankfully no one was inside the structure and no one was injured.
“While we are physically unhurt, we are saddened about the loss of our main office. The fire destroyed decades of historic documents, speeches, artifacts and memorabilia from movements of all kinds, including the Civil Rights Movement. A fuller assessment of the damage will be forthcoming once we are cleared to enter the remains of the building.
“We are grateful for the support of the many movements who are now showing up for us in this critical time. This has been a space for training, strategy and respite for decades and it will continue to be for decades to come.
Fire officials are working to determine the cause as quickly as possible and we are monitoring the investigation closely.” –Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson and Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele, Co-Executive Directors, Highlander Research and Education Center.
Highlander has played a critical role in the Civil Rights Movement, training and supporting the work of a number of movement activists: Rosa Parks prior to her historic role in the Montgomery Bus Boycot, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Septima Clark, Anne Braden, Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Hollis Watkins, Bernard Lafayette, Ralph Abernathy and John Lewis.”
On March 25, 2019, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Wende Kerl shot and killed Danquirs Franklin in the parking lot of the Burger King on Beatties Ford Rd in Charlotte. Police narratives posit that Mr Franklin was armed and posing a threat, while eye witnesses say that Danquirs Franklin interceded against an armed man bothering an employee and that the armed man ran away before the police arrived, who then shot the first black man they encountered. Friends at Charlotte Uprising have been holding vigil and fundraising for Danquirs Franklin’s family as the police’s actions leave his child fatherless. More can be found at the Charlotte Uprising twitter and fedbook pages. Rise In Power, Danquirs.
This week we air two interviews about the struggle of Alabama activist and prisoner Kinetic Justice. Kinetic, aka Robert Earl Council, conducted a 6 day hunger strike because he was transferred with no altercations, investigations or disciplinary actions and after just having ended an almost 54 month stint in solitary confinement as punishment for Kinetic’s activism. Check out our past interview here that we conducted years back with Kinetic and others of the FAM.
(Swift Justice: 10min 45sec)
First up, Swift Justice, a prisoner currently in the Alabama system and member of the Free Alabama Movement and founder of UnheardVoicesOTCJ. Swift talks about the Free Alabama Movement’s inside/outside work, the organizing work that prisoners, former prisoners and outside community members have done in raising awareness of the slavery system of American prisons. Swift also talks about the inspiration and struggle of Kinetic Justice and the attempt to expand the prison system in Alabama by Governor Kay Ivey with a $900 million project to build 3 super max facilities. Swift’s writings can be found at https://unheardvoicesotcj.wordpress.com/ and on his twitter @unheardvoices16 and fedbook page.
(Pastor Glasgow: 35min 14sec)
Then we Pastor Kenneth Sharpton Glasgow of The Ordinary Peoples Society out of Dothan, Alabama, talks about Kinetic, about the harm reduction and community empowerment projects that he’s involved in. You can learn more about the related projects at https://www.theordinarypeoplesociety.org/.
*** Update: 8 of the other prisoners transferred with Kinetic to solitary have just begun a hunger strike, March 18th. IWOC has begun spreading a phone zap that you can partake in to help amplify the 8 voices. ***
This week, you’ll hear an interview with Ben Turk about ongoing prisoner hunger strikes at Waupun Correctional Institution in Wisconsin. The hunger strikes have been running since early June and have involved almost a dozen prisoners, who have faced repression including force feeding, further isolation, transfers and beatings for participation. The hunger strikes were initiated to protest the use of long term solitary confinement at the institution. For the majority of the show, IWOC activist Ben Turk talks about the cases of the men involved and the circumstances they’re facing. We also speak about the upcoming National Prisoner strike on September 9th, 2016 and how to get involved in that.
We’ll be hearing, near the end of the show, 2 musical tracks. Firstly, “Anguish Symmetry by With The End in Mind off of their 2016 release, “Unravelling, Arising”
But first a few announcements…:
Jerry Jai Williams killed by Asheville police
On July 2nd, Asheville Police officer Tyler Radford shot and killed a 35 year old, African American man named Jerry Williams at the Deaverview Apartments in Asheville. The following week has seen daily demonstrations and vigils in support of Jerry’s family, and the black communities of Asheville and in solidarity with protests against the killings of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling by police in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge, respectively. Today there will be three more events capping off the week of resistance that listeners are urged to attend if their hearts are in it.
at 2 PM – Community Healing and Release Ritual at the River (Carrier Park)
5 PM – Car Ride Through – Riding in Solidarity from Pisgah View Apartments to Deaverview apartments.
6 PM – Vigil at the Police Department in Pack Square in downtown Asheville.
Tuesday July 12, there are these:
A 2pm rally at the Asheville Mall (Wear all white or all black)
6pm vigil at Asheville Police Department
8pm Jerry Williams Birthday Bash / fundraiser for funeral and other support costs
Manuel Salas, a vegan animal rights activist who was arrested for arson (unrelated to his animal rights activism) a few months before his 19th birthday, is scheduled to be released from prison on August 20th, 2016 after more than a decade in prison. In addition to his initial 12-year sentence, Manuel was sentenced to an additional 4.5 years after being charged with felony criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct stemming from an escalation of a protest against the facility for denying him vegan food.
Manuel has been active in struggling for vegan rights within prisons during his incarceration and is the founder of the National Animal Rights and Anarchist Network. Manuel’s writing was featured in Issue #2 of Wildfire.
We have set up an email account for Manuel to use after he’s released. Starting in late August, you can send a quick email to Manuel to see how he’s doing and stay in touch at manuelsalas(a)riseup.net
A word from Manuel:
“Hello to all. My name is Manuel Salas. I have been an Animal Rights activist and vegan for a long time. I have helped to make positive changes to the prison vegan diet. I’m going to be getting out of prison in August and I’m looking to get in touch with some new people. In a way I’m looking for some friendly support.
I’m into the understanding that life is a gift and that we must get all we can out of it. I’m looking for friends who understand that everyone in life sometimes makes mistakes but can grow from them. There are also those, like me, who have made sacrifices for their friends’ in my case those friends are not humans, but the animals I fight so hard to save from their oppressors.
I want to move on and grow as I have over the year. I want to be able to share life with people who understand life as a gift, who can take the bad and work to make it good. To take the negative and make it a positive. To just have fun and enjoy life. I would appreciate a letter or a card. Thank you and I hope you all have a good day.”
Write to Manuel:
Manuel Salas #504212
Columbia Correctional Institution
PO Box 900
Portage, WI 53901-0900