Here’s our second lecture we’re excited to share in the Burning Books Lecture Series. We’re slowly continuing to release audios recorded at Burning Books in Buffalo, NY, to share inspiring ideas and experiences this bookstore has hosted over the last 7 or so years. This pandemic period should be one where we take account of the situation we find ourselves, hone our skills, learn from our elders and consider how to engage as the disease ravages our communities and the forces of capital and repression make their moves.
Kazi Toure spoke on March 25, 2015 on his political development, activity, engagement as a Marxist guerrilla in the USA, his time as a political prisoner, his ideas and organizing. From his bio:
Former political prisoner and United Freedom Front member Kazi Toure was imprisoned for his role in twenty bombings combating Apartheid in South Africa & US Imperialism in Central America.
The United Freedom Front has been considered “undoubtedly the most successful of the leftist [guerrilla groups] of the 1970s & 80s,” & struck powerful blows to South African Airways, Mobile, IBM, Union Carbide, & various courthouses & US military targets.
If you enjoyed this lecture, keep an ear out for more. And check out our first release of this series, Dr Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz speaking on “An Indigenous Peoples History Of The United States“. And remember, community spaces are so important, places we can engage new ideas, speakers with this wisdom, future and current comrades and co-conspirators. One way to do this, if you have the dough, is to buy books from spaces like Burning Books or Firestorm Books Coop. If you are looking to read statements by Kazi and his comrades, Leslie from Burning Books suggests checking out Hauling Up The Morning: Writings and Art by Political Prisoners of War in the U.S. which you can find at burningbooks.com . Another title mentioned, available via Burning Books or Firestorm at firestorm.coop is Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from the Movements to Free U.S. Political Prisoners.
A couple of notes about some of the prisoners and projects that Kazi mentions in this 2015 presentation.
Oscar López Rivera was googlereleased in 2017 by Obama.
The surviving members of the MOVE 9 were released in the last 2 years. On A Move!
Herman Bell was released in 2018 and lives in New York state.
4StruggleMag is no longer producing print editions. The latest post on it’s site announces the death from incarceration of Tom Manning, one of Kazi’s comrades from the UFF. Posted messages come from the Certain Days Collective, political prisoners Kojo Bomani Sababu, Bill Dunne, Oso Blanco, incarcerated comrade from the UFF Jaan Laaman and former political prisoner from the UFF Ray Luc Levasseur.
This week, we share some more perspectives on prison, stretching back decades. You’re about to hear the second half of our conversation from earlier this year with Ray Luc Levasseur. Mr. Levasseur is a longtime activist, Vietnam War vet, revolutionary and former political prisoner in the U.S. Ray was a reputed founder of the Sam Melville / Jonathan Jackson Unit, later known as the United Freedom Front which conducted sabotage, expropriations and attacks against profiteers and symbols of American Imperialism and oppression abroad. After 9 years of activity in the group and living underground, members of the group were apprehended and became known as the Ohio 7. Ray was paroled in 2004, about 20 years after his arrest. We aired the first half of my conversation with Ray back in March where he talked about his time underground, his relationship with Tom Manning and the resistance Tom has given and repression Tom has faced as an aging prisoner in the Federal System for the death of a cop he claims to be innocent of.
This hour, Ray talks about his introduction into political organizing in 1968 after returning from the Vietnam War. Ray joined an anti-racist, anti-Vietnam War and pro-Labor organization called Southern Student Organizing Committee in Clarksville, TN. He was incarcerated in 1969 for a drug charge (he was selling weed to supplement his G.I. Bill), and repressed as an anti-racist prisoner and organizer, and began to put the pieces together about criminalization, capitalism and white supremacy. He talks about his time at Brushy Mountain, where Convict-Lease (the transition of forced labor after slavery) prisoners had been forced to mine coal, and where Ray was held on death row. Ray later talks about the activities of the Marxist guerrilla group, the Sam Melville / Jonathan Jackson Unit, 1975-1978. From 1982 to1984, the United Freedom Front (UFF) began bombing and bank robbery activities for which members were convicted and served time in Prison, again with Tom Manning and Jan Laaman still inside. Ray then responds to our question about his views as a long-term anti-racist organizer about the resurgence of street-level fascist and racist organizing in recent history, and inform us about engaging as anti-racists in support of the Indigenous Penobscot nation’s resistance to the Penobscot river being commercialized. Finally, Ray mentions Sacco and Vanzetti being brought up in his trial statements, so I’ll link to those statements here.
We apologize for the quality of audio during this interview, we were having technical difficulties with our new audio setup when this was recorded.
The #August21 – September 9th #PrisonStrike is in full bloom with participation around the U.S. among immigrant detainees, folks in County, State and Federal facilities as well as prisoners in Halifax, Nova Scotia putting out a solidarity statement. Rather than list out all of the inside and outside solidarity, again we’ll point y’all to https://prisonstrike.com, where you’ll find links to IWOC, IGD, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, SuwariMi and other resources and clearinghouses where press releases, images, posters, interviews, updates and call outs are being collected, tools for you to use to amplify and spread this prison strike. And check out this audio postcard that someone produced for the ears of prisoners. Share it with someone inside if you can!
There’s also a request for a phonezap for Monday the 27th in support of Hunger Striking prisoners at the North West Detention Center in Tacoma, WA. In solidarity with the #August21 Nationwide Prison Strike and in their own struggle, undocumented prisoners at NWDC began this hunger strike on Tuesday the 21st. You can call Acting ICE Field Director, Bryan S. Wilcox at 206 835 0650 ext. 2 and Assistant Field Director for ICE Detentino William Penaloza at 253 779 6000 ext. 1, wait for the message and then dial 4 to get through. It’s requested that you tell them to meet the hunger strikers demands and that GEO cease and desist in retaliating against the hunger strikers. More at incarceratedworkers.org/
Last Monday, August 20th , the Silent Sam statue to confederate soldiers from UNC Chapel Hill was removed by anti-racist students and community members and now Neo-Confederate goons are rattled. Saturday, August 25th there was a rally with racists waving Stars and Bars in Chapel Hill and scuffled with anti-racists. A number of anti-racists were arrested and released at the Monday event, then 3 warrants were set for people in the Triangle and more arrests occurred at the rally today. When fundraising sites are up, we’ll be sure to pass on that information. In response to the monument coming down, one in a line of monuments in New Orleans, Memphis, Charlottesville, Richmond and even little old Asheville, Neo-Confederates are up in arms. There is a call up for a counter to the League of the South demo in Elizabethton, TN, on September 29th. More info on that can also be found in future episodes of this show.
And here’re a few announcements we stole from crimethInc’s latest Hotwire!
“I am calling on behalf of Sean Swain, inmate #243–205. I am a friend of Sean. I am calling to request the ODRC grant Mr. Swain’s appeal regarding his most recent disciplinary record, drop the charges, and lower his security level from 5b to 2. Mr. Swain is not a physical security risk, and there is no reason to keep him at such a high security rating where he will be unable to get the programming he needs to be eligible for rehabilitation and parole. Thank you for your consideration.”
Also of note, we’re sorry to share with you that alleged Earth Liberation Front activist Joseph Dibee, was captured by the Cuban state and handed over to the FBI. Joseph is being charges with arson and conspiracy charges related to ELF actions taken almost 20 years ago. Here’s a crimethInc article about his case. You can send letters of care and encouragement to Joseph. DO NOT write about his case or reference anything illegal. Write him here:
Joseph Dibee #812133
Multnomah County Detention Center
11540 NE Inverness Drive
Portland, Oregon 97220
Zurich Tattoo Circus
Anarchists in Zurich, Switzerland will be hosting a Tattoo Circus there from august 31 to September 2, to raise money for political prisoners and the Anarchist Black Cross. Find out more at TattooCircusZurich.noblogs.org.
For this week’s episode, Bursts spoke with Ray Luc Levasseur, longtime activist, Vietnam War vet, revolutionary and former political prisoner in the U.S. Ray was a reputed founder of the Sam Melville / Jonathan Jackson Unit, later known as the United Freedom Front which conducted sabotage, expropriations and attacks against profiteers and symbols of American Imperialism and oppression abroad. After 9 years of activity in the group and living underground, members of the group were apprehended and became known as the Ohio 7. Ray was paroled in 2004, about 20 years after his arrest.
Here we present half of our interview with Ray, which covers some of his political development. The other portion of this interview will air soon.
Now, though, we’ll hear about Ray’s organizing with prisoners after his own political incarceration for organizing and possession of small portions of marijuana for sale, the organizing of SCAR (Statewide Correctional Alliance for Reform), meeting Tom Manning, the process of going underground and why they chose this route and the formation of the underground movement later known as the SM/JJU. Then, Ray speaks about the case of his still incarcerated co-defendants, Jaan Laaman, and in more detail about co-defendant Tom Manning. Tom has been kept off and on in solitary confinement for very long periods of time, has been summarily transferred, has received inadequate medical care for the injuries of incarceration and aging inside of prisons. He was producing artwork until 2010 when he almost lost his leg due to an injury while being held in Florida. He was recently transferred from the Medical Facility at Butner, NC, to USP Hazelton in West Virginia. Tom Manning has only recently been able to start drawing again because he finally relieved some medical care relieving some of his pain & there’ s an art room at Hazelton with some supplies.
If you’d like to correspond with Tom, you can write him at:
Thomas Manning #10373-016
Post Office Box 2000
Bruceton Mills, West Virginia 26525
If you want to check out Tom’s art while monetarily supporting him, consider getting “For Love And Liberty”
We’ll have more info on the case of Jaan Laaman, the other mem
ber of the UFF still in prison soon. Jaan’s birthday is coming up on March 21st, so send him a birthday greeting if you want.
Jaan Laaman #10372-016
Post Office Box 3000
Pine Knot, Kentucky 42635
To keep up on support for Tom, Jaan and other political prisoners in the U.S., check out the for The National Jericho Movement Fedbook page, or signing up for the Freedom Archives Political Prisoner News list. Also, you can check out 4StruggleMag, which Jaan helped to found.
If you’re in NYC, the National Jericho Movement (website & fedbook) is having it’s 20th anniversary gathering on March 24th (as Ray mentions in the chat). Here’s a link to the JerichoNYC page for more details.
This is a podcast version of the second part of the 2016 North American Anarchist Black Cross Former Political Prisoners Panel. The first part can be found here.
In this, the question and answer portion, we hear from Sekuo Kombui, Kazi Toure, John Tucker and Daniel McGowan about their thoughts on incarceration in the U.S., steps forward in resistance, violence in struggle and sources of hope among other things. For info on these prisoners, check out the above link for short bios.
Here we present the first half of the Former Prisoner Panel of the 2016 North American Anarchist Black Cross Conference. During the hour, you’ll hear words from Sekou Kombui, Daniel McGowan, John Tucker, Kazi Toure. These speeches will be prefaced by some brief introductions, the texts of which can be found below.
Sekou is a former political prisoner who survived 47 years of incarceration. Throughout the 1960’s, Sekou participated in the Civil Rights movement, organizing youth for participating in demonstrations and marches across Alabama, and providing security for meetings of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Sekou became affiliated with the Black Panther Party in 1967 in Chicago and New York. While in Detroit, he became a member of the Republic of New Afrika, before returning to Birmingham. Back in Alabama, Sekou coordinated community organization activity with the Alabama Black Liberation Front, the Inmates for Action (IFA) Defense Committee and the Afro-American People’s Party in the mid 1970’s. Sekou was also a soldier in the Black Liberation Army (BLA) during these years before his capture.
In 1975, Sekou was falsely arrested and charged with the murder of two white men: a KKK official from Tuscaloosa and a multimillionaire oil man from Birmingham. There was absolutely no evidence against him, only coerced testimony from individuals who subsequently recanted their statements. The judge refused to allow the recanted statements to be stricken from Sekou’s record. Sekou continued the fight throughout his time in Prison. On June 30th, 2014, Sekou was released on parole.
Daniel is an environmental and social justice activist from New York City. He was charged in Federal court on counts of arson, property destruction and conspiracy, all relating to two actions in Oregon in 2001, claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). McGowan was facing a minimum of life in prison if convicted when he accepted a non-cooperation plea agreement. His arrest is part of what the US government dubbed Operation Backfire; a coordinated, multi-state sweep of over 15 activists by the federal government who have charged the individuals with practically every earth and animal liberation action in the Pacific Northwest left unsolved. Many have considered this round up indicative of the government’s ‘Green Scare’ focus which has activists being arrested and threatened with life in prison. Many of the charges, including Daniel’s, were for crimes whose statute of limitations were about to expire. Daniel was released from prison on December 11, 2012.
John was one of five anti-fascists arrested in May 2012, after an altercation between white supremacists and antifascists in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park that left ten injured fascists, three of which needed hospitalization. The case of the Tinley Park 5 received an overwhelming amount of public support. Despite the fact that the meeting was organized by violent white supremacist organizations including the National Socialist Movement, Council of Conservative Citizens, and Ku Klux Klan, the state showed their cozy relationship with white supremacy by refusing the accused antifascist activist bail or a plea deal comparable to any other criminal defendant in Cook County. In January 2013 the Tinley Park Five accepted a non-cooperating plea deal. John Tucker was released in February 2014. As of September 2014, all of the TP5 are released.This audio will air soon as a radio episode.
As a member of the United Freedom Front (UFF), Kazi was imprisoned for his role in 20 bombings combating Apartheid in South Africa and United States Imperialism in Central America. The UFF has been called “undoubtedly the most successful of the leftist [guerrilla groups] of the 1970s and ’80s” and struck powerful blows to South African Airways, Mobil, IBM, Union Carbide, & various courthouses and US Military targets. Toure was convicted on federal charges of possession of firearms, and Seditious Conspiracy—conspiring to overthrow, put down, destroy by force and violence the US government. He is one of few, if any, New Afrikans to be charged of this act.