ABOLITIONIST ISSUE 21

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As we step ever onward toward a world without the violence of policing, surveillance, prison and the social and economic violence they support, art and culture can give us both the vitality to keep moving as well as visions to color the horizon.  Issue 21 of The Abolitionist explores the world of “Art and Abolition,” and the way artistic and cultural expression nourish the spirit of our movement and amplify our collective power. In the steps we take towards PIC abolition, creativity and imagination are essential tools that energize and create space for the growth and development of alternatives to a system that is meant to crush the human spirit.  In this issue, we see the ways in which movements have utilized images to further political messaging; we read about how fiction and storytelling allow us to do everything from conjuring with the rich histories that make us who we are, to putting forth worlds vastly unlike our own; we hear echoes of the songs sung 80 years ago by imprisoned women decrying their oppressive conditions, while maintaining and casting out the resistance that always meets repression. Throughout this issue, we see how art can be a means of personal expression and healing, just as it can be a powerful organizing tool.

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This issues features art, poetry, articles, creative writing, and analysis from a diverse array of  thought-provoking contributors including: Melanie Cervantes, Martín Espada, Mikey Muscadine and Ruben Leal of the Aztlán Beautification Movement, Pam Fadem, Walidah Imarisha, Marilyn Buck, Isaac Ontiveros, Ashley Lucas, Sarah Haley, Evan Bissell, Christopher P. Bell Jr, Project NIA, Mary Sutton and Hans Kuzmich of CRLA, Lydia Pelot-Hobbs, Pauline Collins, Robert C. Fuentes, Rashid Johnson, Hector Aristizábal, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Emory Douglas, Jose Villarreal, and Ronnie Goodman.

Love and struggle

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ABOLITIONIST ISSUE 20

abby20_english_final-1We are proud to announce issue 20 of the Abolitionist Newspaper!  Throughout this issue, we highlight the variety of ways in which communities and organizations are refusing to be divided and conquered and are working to fight back against and the devastations unleashed by different types of borders. We hope the pieces in this issue will add to the brave work and the thoughtful conversation happening on, through, and across borders. How would more freedom of movement affect our families, our communities, and our labor?  How would greater movement affect our notions of freedom as whole?  All over the world people are refusing to allow nation state borders to determine their political alliances and solidarities. As abolitionists, we join them and to continue envision a world without borders.

This issues features contributions from a diverse array of  though-provoking contributors including: Santiago Armengod, Kymberlie Quong Charles, Detention Watch Network, Zoe Hammer, June 17th Coalition, Colby Lenz, Enrique Lopetegui, Fernando Martí, Dylan Miner, Teresa Miroslaw,Felicia Montes, Zachary Ontiveros, PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Collective, Alex Sanchez, Alexis Shotwell, Texas Prison Bid’ness, Timothy Trujillo, Sam Valorose, Jose Villarreal, Visualizing Palestine, and Harsha Walia.

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We are also excited to share with you the following article from Issue 20 of The Abolitionist–an interview with Alex Sanchez of Homies Unidos on Wars and Borders at Home and Abroad

Click here to check out the article!

Love and struggle

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Before You Pick Up That Phone…

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Infographic by Xino from Issue 19.

Lincoln Detox Center: The People’s Drug Program

Interview with Vicente “Panama” Alba, by Molly Porzig

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hat was the Lincoln Detox Center? How did it start and why? 

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This article is a sneak peek from The Abolitionist No. 19: Mental Health. Subscriptions keep us going!

In the late 1960s and early 1970s in New York, we were living through a drug epidemic. In November of 1970, I was 19 years old and had been a heroin addict for five years. I began using heroin when I was 14, which was very common for young men and young women of my generation. Fifteen percent of the population was addicted (communities in the South Bronx, Harlem, the Lower East Side, Bushwick in Brooklyn, including everyone from a newborn baby to an elderly person ready to pass on). The concentration of addiction was on teenagers and people in their early 20s and 30s. Addiction at that time was primarily to heroin.

In the 1960s, the U.S. government engaged in a war in Southeast Asia commonly known as the Vietnam War, but the United States was involved in all of Southeast Asia. There was an airline that was an operation of the CIA transporting heroin from Southeast Asia to the U.S. We see now in Hollywood movies “gangsters” importing heroin, but the bulk of heroin imported to the United States was a United States government operation, targeting poor communities of color, black and Latino communities.

In New York, heroin devastated most of Harlem and the South Bronx. Young people utilized heroin very publicly, sniffing heroin at dance halls or in school bathrooms, which led to shooting up intravenously. This was an epidemic that Black Panther Michael Cetewayo Tabua, one of the New York 21, wrote a pamphlet on called “Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide,” which we used widely. In 1969, the Black Panther Party in New York City was decimated by the indictment of 21 Black Panthers and needed to focus on the trial, becoming inactive in other areas at that time. Because of the relationship the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords had, together we began looking at the heroin epidemic, the general health of our communities and the public health positions of institutions against our communities.

Lincoln Hospital was built in 1839 to receive former slaves migrating from the South. By 1970, it was the only medical facility in the South Bronx. It was a dilapidated brick structure, from the previous century that had never been upgraded. It was known as the “butcher shop of the South Bronx.” In the old Lincoln Hospital (and even today) you walk down the hall and see blood everywhere—blood on the walls, the sheets, the gurneys, your shoes. Doctors were assigned there for internships and learned on Blacks, Puerto Ricans and a very small diminishing white community in the South Bronx.

In early 1970, there was a woman by the name of Carmen Rodriguez who was butchered in the hospital and bled to death on a gurney. Following that death, the Young Lords, with the participation of some Black Panthers, took over Lincoln Hospital for the first time and demanded better health care delivery for people in that community.

During the takeover, the Young Lords, Panthers, supporters and translators set up tables where people came to document their experiences of the medical treatment. A major part of the takeover focused on how there were no translators at Lincoln Hospital. South Bronx is a predominantly Puerto Rican community, primarily of Spanish-speaking people newly arrived or second generation who spoke little-to-no English. People would walk in Lincoln Hospital for medical treatment and there was nobody there to understand your ailment or problem. The hospital administration had also been confronted about the lack of services for people with addictions, primarily heroin addiction. The community had told the hospital one of its shortcomings was that you come to the hospital and you get no treatment whatsoever. The hospital administration paid no mind to it.

Months later on November 10, 1970, a group of the Young Lords, a South Bronx anti-drug coalition, and members of the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement (a mass organization of health workers) with the support of the Lincoln Collective took over the Nurses’ Residence building of Lincoln Hospital and established a drug treatment program called The People’s Drug Program, which became known as Lincoln Detox Center.

The police surrounded us and we said we weren’t leaving. By day two, the takeover had spread by word of mouth and we had hundreds of people lined up wanting to get treatment for addiction. About a month later, the administration had to come to terms with the fact that we weren’t leaving. They had been sitting on the proposal of some monies that had been earmarked for treatment that hadn’t been implemented. The money was brought and staff was hired from the very volunteers of the Lincoln Detox program we started. Of course the powers that be did not want us there but could not figure out how to deal with people saying we ain’t going. We’re staying and we’re going to serve our people.

We were very effective in doing so, and kept our program running until 1979.

What was your involvement? 
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Issue 19 Celebration in Oakland, Monday, Feb. 25

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ABOLITIONIST ISSUE 18

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Theme: Surveillance

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“As we know, surveillance is an integral component of the prison industrial complex. Equally as important is our ability to confront surveillance in order to create a society in which people are free of constant tracking and cataloging as a means of driving them into cages or turning their homes and neighborhoods into virtual prisons. This issue seeks not only to document the terrifying sophistication of surveillance systems, while offering examples and spurring dialogue about how to abolish them.” – Letter from the Editors

Welcome to Issue 18 of The Abolitionist! Included in this issue are important analyses of the various ways the prison-industrial complex (PIC) demands surveillance for its maintenance. In this issue you’ll find a powerful discussion powerful discussion about digital policing in the Arab Uprising by Ian Alan Paul and David Zlutnick, an interview with Ashanti Alston and Masai Ehehosi by Molly Porzig about organizing under surveillance, and more conversations about the detriment of surveillance and how to oppose it in our organizing work.

Many thanks to all our contributors and translators:

Ritika Aggarwal, Toshio Meronek, Zachary Ontiveros, Molly Porzig, Andrea Salinas, Kamau Walton, Ashanti Alston, Kijana Tashiri Askari, Inger P. Brink, Nasim Chatha, Jay Donahue, Masai Ehehosi, David Gilbert, Rachel Herzing, Larry James DeRossett, D’Andre Moore, Isaac Ontiveros, Ian Alan Paul, Renee Perry, Oliver Spires, Eric A. Stanley, David Zlutnick, Luigi Celentano, Susana Draper, Leah Furumo, Armando Hernandez, Kentaro Kaneko, Alma Muñoz, Sylvia Romo, Andrea Salinas, Gabriel Torres, Alfonso Tovar, Alia Trindle, and Benjamin Wood.

Love and struggle

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Nothing to Lose But Our Chains: Organizing Under Surveillance

Ashanti Alston and Masai Ehehosi with Molly Porzig

From The Abolitionist No. 18: Surveillance

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ditors Note: In exploring the role of surveillance as a cornerstone of the prison industrial complex (PIC), The Abolitionist wanted to examine it through its history, how it has been used and continues to repress struggles for liberation and self-determination. We interviewed two long-time revolutionaries and Critical Resistance members, Ashanti Alston and Masai Ehehosi, to outline some of this history as well as their own experiences organizing under surveillance during for more than 40 years.

A lot of people have very different definitions of surveillance. Can you explain what surveillance means to you?

Ashanti: It’s really important that people have a historical understanding.  We have to always deal with what surveillance meant when there was this European conquest of the African continent–capturing and enslaving millions of Africans over to what became the United States; setting up slave ports and always having to have people keep an eye on those you’ve captured and on possible opposition to your quest to conquer the world. The whole system of slavery is one that is constant surveillance, as it is part of the mechanisms of conquest. When have colonized people not been under surveillance?

It’s important to understand what that means for those of us who are still victims of that original surveillance that came with the conquest of our people that we still have not been able to get off our backs yet in 2012.

Masai: That relates to how I see surveillance–it’s continuous. Years ago when Ashanti and I first started working together, we started to be surveilled and have been ever since. One of the definitions of surveillance is the continued observation of a person or group, especially if they are from one perspective doing something “illegal”. Revolution is always illegal to the oppressor since the independence struggle began. Independence is always considered illegal; just struggling for a just society is always illegal to the oppressor. If we’re talking about anything to cause real change, then we’re also talking about surveillance.

How has surveillance changed over time? What tactics have been used, how have they developed and how are they used now?

Masai: There’s always a greater use of technology to evolve more serious surveillance as time goes on and more advancements are invented. A lot of people who are targets or potential targets help a lot more now with surveillance than before, in the sense of smart phones, Facebook, [credit] cards and things that we do every day and we just don’t think about as surveillance. It may not be a thing where someone is visually seeing us, but our movements, actions and choices are being tracked. We contribute to it. We just don’t think there’s any other way. 

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When I used to work for the health department as a Communal Disease Control Investigator, we would ask people questions about their relationships, their lives, lots of private things. This was over 20 years ago and even back then a lot of people didn’t really realize what was going on. They would just give up information–about who partners were, gave network information and so on. Some the government already had, but a lot they didn’t. They then could make links of people based on information one person gave.

In terms of technology like cameras, some of those things that we got now couldn’t have even been done openly twenty years ago, because people would challenge it, but now people are accepting it. It comes back to the level of organizing that people are actually doing, because obviously a lot of the time people don’t actually feel safe, so they rely on the system’s tools either directly or indirectly. Some of us aren’t doing the organizing that we should be doing in the community that will actually make people feel and be safe. There’s a reason why they don’t feel safe—they’re buying into the propaganda, and we’re supposed to counteract that.

Ashanti: Technology is doing a hell of job, and those of us who want to challenge it have to think of how to do this differently. There’s an evolution of these agencies of conquest, but I keep focus on the role of the police, government, agencies, government programs, non-profit organizations, religious institutions, neighbors, business, media—all of these things are here to surveil or to create the conditions whereby the people that rule this country can keep the people under control, abiding by the law or rule. In some ways, things have changed drastically and in other ways not, because the key groups of people are still under this specific surveillance. This system does what it’s supposed to do to maintain white supremacy. I want people not to be naïve in what we face when we say we want to change this world. This reality and the history behind it, calls for abolition, not reform.

One example is a young activist brother in Cleveland, Ohio, saw them cameras up in the neighborhood and he also knew people in the neighborhood were calling for cameras because of the level of crime. He was trying to explain to everyone what those cameras really meant, but it fell on deaf ears. So he took it upon himself to actually start knocking them cameras out, regardless of what people thought. After so many generations of conquest, even those most impacted by the system begin to call for their own surveillance, repression. This tells you what the new challenge for those of us who say they want change. How do we get people to see that some of the very things that they’re asking for from government are not in their best interest? Continue reading