THIS BLOG is NOW RETIRED

I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

David Rovics: We Are Everywhere

To my fellow activists now struggling through life - let this be a reminder that you are not alone and that we desperately need you here. All the injustice, grief, war, and human suffering calls for us to stay and do everything we can about it - you can't help us anymore when you're gone. Don't give up the fight - your last shred of hope may just keep someone else alive, too.
BLOG POSTS

Monday, September 24, 2012

Seawright Prison Justice Project organizing.



I've been pretty swamped with letters from prison lately, and it's pretty much all bad news. Assaults are so prevalent that guys are having to get smashed or stabbed on several different yards before their protective custody applications are finally approved. I'm in a heated battle with the DOC over the violence they allow to be perpetrated against gay prisoners in particular. Mentally Ill prisoners are racking up tickets for refusing to house where they don't feel safe, and being punished with higher classifications that justify placing them in solitary and Supermax.

I know it sounds crazy, but from everything I'm seeing and hearing go on in the prisons right now, Arizona is actually building 500 new Supermax beds to classify the victims of extortion and violence into needing - particularly those who are mentally impaired - when they seek the protection of the state. That's instead of locking up the guys demanding to see their paperwork at every yard and ordering them to be hurt for the pettiest of infractions. Kill or be killed over bullshit, is what it comes down to, and good for all the guys who call it that and walk away knowing they just got a Kill On Sight jacket put on them. They want to go home to their kids someday, and few really want to keep anyone else from getting home to theirs.

I'm also hearing from families of prisoners who have been deteriorating for months waiting for their medication or a specialist consult to be arranged by Wexford. Wexford has a 1-800-we-hate-prisoners "help line" for families to call (okay, it's really 1-855-890-6307 ), but I was told not to waste my time, and instead got the contact info for the DOC's Director of Health Services in case I ran into any problems regarding health care delivery for prisoners. 

That fellow, Richard Pratt, says he passes my concerns on to the appropriate parties, and I guess I have no reason to disbelieve him. The problem may simply be that Wexford just doesn't care what he has to say, either, because we're having a hell of a time getting decent medical care to prisoners at ASPC-Phoenix/ Flamenco, which is the mental health yard. My friend there went for almost a week without any of the cream he needed when his interferon treatment caused him to break out in boils all over his body. He got visibly agitated about the oozing and pain after 5 days, so instead of filling the prescription he needed for relief they placed him on a suicide watch to make him suffer under closer observation. Brilliant, eh?

I already posted on the stuff I've been hearing from Perryville; it's all pretty bad across the state, but the women are especially vulnerable when buried in the misogynistic heart of any police institution, especially Chuck Ryan's prison system.

Anyway, my mailbox is overflowing these days and it may take me longer to get back to folks than it used to, but I want prisoners to keep on writing if they need help or if they have abuses to report for me to follow up on. I can't promise anything, but if there's something I can do to help even one person survive that place, I'll try. I've been organizing with some friends and families of prisoners lately - people are really rolling up their sleeves and giving to the cause, so I'm not so alone in trying to keep on top of my correspondence and expenses anymore. 

Speaking of organizing: The Seawright Prison Justice Project is hosting meetings at my place every Sunday this fall - contact me for the address and to confirm time (arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com). Generally speaking, families come by in the mornings (10-noon) to do case management and advocacy type stuff, while the anarchists tend to come out at night (6pm). Go like the page if you want to join us, and keep posted.


Scottsdale PD and the Wrongful death of John Loxas.





-----------from the American Civil Liberties Union-----


September 24, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

PHOENIX -   The family members of John Loxas, Jr., who was killed instantly after being shot in the forehead while holding his infant grandson, today filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Police Department. The 50-year-old Scottsdale man was shot in February by Officer James Peters without warning and despite having no weapon and posing no threat.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Loxas' daughter, Alexandria Loxas, and his father John Loxas, Sr. They are being represented by attorneys with the Chicago-based law firm of Loevy & Loevy and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. The plaintiffs seek an unspecified amount of damages.
"My father was my best friend," said Alexandria Loxas, 23, whose son, Neo, now 14 months old, fell to the ground after her father was shot. "I felt safe knowing I had him in our lives because he was always there to protect us, and now he's gone forever."

In addition to listing Officer Peters as a defendant, the lawsuit also names Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell, arguing he failed to implement adequate policies to hold the City of Scottsdale and abusive officers accountable.   Officer Peters was involved in an unprecedented seven shootings over the past ten years - six of them fatal. A Scottsdale Police Department official acknowledged that Peters' history of shooting civilians was "an anomaly in our department, and in most departments." Peters also had a long history of excessive use of force against civilians, including dozens of incidents involving Tasers; he was the subject of four separate citizen complaints in the three months leading up to the fatal shooting of Loxas.

"There may well be no other police officer in the country who has been involved in more fatal shooting incidents over this time period," said attorney John Loevy of Loevy & Lovey. "Our lawsuit alleges that the Department had no business trusting him with a gun after he had killed so many other Scottsdale residents."

The incident that led to Loxas' death occurred shortly after 6 p.m. on February 14th, when police officers showed up at his house after he got into a dispute with his neighbors who called police.  Several Scottsdale police officers arrived at the house and confronted Loxas while he was standing in the doorway of his home. He was unarmed and holding his grandson in his arms. Without any warning, Officer Peters shot Loxas in the forehead with a scope-equipped rifle, killing him instantly. None of the other officers at the scene fired a weapon.

There is no indication that since starting as Police Chief in 2003, Defendant Rodbell has ever determined that a   shooting by a Scottsdale officer that resulted in death was improper or outside of police department policy.  The complaint outlines the inadequacies in the city's internal review process for officer-involved fatal shootings, including the failure to obtain testimony from civilian witnesses and the reliance on the involved officers' self-serving version of events.

For example, on November 7, 2008, two SWAT team officers shot David Hulstedt in the back, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.  Despite the fact that Hulstedt - like Loxas - was unarmed and holding a child in his arms, Rodbell found the shooting justified and "within policy."  A federal court judge later concluded that "no reasonable officer could have believed that shooting David without warning, while he calmly walked back toward his house with the young child over his head, was a proper means of protecting [the child's] safety."

"What we have here is the total absence of meaningful review by the Scottsdale Department and City of Scottsdale even for deadly shootings done without warning and involving unarmed civilians," said ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Daniel Pochoda. "The clear message to Scottsdale officers, including Peters, has been: there will be no consequences, no loss of gun privileges, no matter how questionable or illegal the nature of the shooting."

In addition to Loevy and Pochoda, the plaintiffs also are being represented by Elizabeth Mazur and Elizabeth Wang of Loevy and Loevy, and Kelly J. Flood and James Duff Lyall of the ACLU of Arizona.
Click here to read the complaint that was filed today.


police brutality protest in Old Town Scottsdale
February 25, 2012
 

Friday, September 21, 2012

NO PAPERS, NO FEAR: SB1070 is here.








---------this in today from my friends at PUENTE---------



Today, SB1070 goes into effect.  The courts have failed us, allowing racial profiling to be made law.  Here in Maricopa County, we already live 1070 every day under Arpaio.  According to the Department of Justice, he enacts the 'worst case of racial profiling' they have ever seen.  Judge Bolton's recent ruling, to allow section 2b to take effect today, will only expand the human rights crisis in Arizona.  The police can no longer protect and serve our communities, but only racially profile us.

Ahora la SB1070 entro en efecto. Las cortes nos han fallado, dejando que el perfil racial se haga ley. Aquí en el condado deMaricopa, ya vivimos con la SB1070 todo los días con Arpaio. Como el Departamento de Justicia a dicho ‘ Arpaio a cometido el peor caso de perfil racial’ que han visto. Hoy la juez Bolton a dejado que la sección 2b entre en efecto, esto solo incrementara la crisis de derechos humanos en Arizona. La policía ya no nos puede proteger y servir, solo detenernos por perfil racial.


We will remember today as not only the day that 1070 went into effect, threatening to separate our families and communities.  We will also remember today as the birth of a new era of the struggle for human rights, justice, and dignity in Arizona, a struggle that will not stop until we win.  We have seen that we can depend on no one but ourselves to turn the tide from hate to human rights.  We know that building our community's power is the way we will stop deportations and family separation.  We know that together we are strong and that together, we can overcome Arpaio, 1070, and police-ICE collaboration.  When we unite and take brave action, we are unstoppable.


Recordaremos este día no solo como el día que la SB1070 entro en efecto amenazando a separar nuestras familias ycomunidades. También recordaremos este día como el día que a nacido una nueva época de lucha por derechos humanos, justicia y dignidad en Arizona, una lucha que no parrara hasta que ganaremos. Hemos visto que no podemos depender en nadie mas que en nosotros para cambiar de odio a derechos humanos. Sabemos que construyendo el poder de nuestra comunidad es como pararemos las deportaciones y la separación de familias. Sabemos que juntos somos mas fuertes y podemos vencer a, SB1070, Arpaio, y la cooperación de policía e inmigración. Cuando nos unimos y tomamos acciones de valentía somos imparables.

So today, more than ever, we need you to join us in the struggle for human rights and dignity that is happening right now in Arizona.  As many before us have said, and as we know now is true, when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.  This is the moment we fulfill our duty by organizing and growing the grassroots movement against hate, racism, and deportations.
Ahora mas que nunca necesitamos que nos acompañen en la lucha por los derechos humanos y la dignidad que esta pasando en Arizona. Como muchos antes de nosotros han dicho, y ahora sabemos que es verdad, cuando la injusticia se hace ley, la rebeldía se hace obligación. Este es el momento que efectuamos nuestra obligación en organizarnos y crecer el movimiento del pueblo contra el odio, racismo y las deportaciones.

Call to Struggle/Llamado a La Lucha:
1. WE FIGHT FEAR: We continue to organize our community  as we know that the way we will stop hate is by building a movement based on the power that already exists in our own families, neighborhoods, and communities.  As our members who travelled with the No Papers, No Fear Ride for Justice doing civil disobedience here and at the Democratic National Convention showed us, we are safer when we organize and come out of the shadows.  We have learned how to organize to stop deportations and family separation through know your rights trainings and by building peaceful neighborhood defense networks.   Send us an email at info@puenteaz.org to join our next Curso de Defensa, or to help us organize one in your neighborhood.  
1. LUCHAMOS CONTRA EL MIEDO: Organizando a nuestra comunidad, ya sabemos que pararemos el odio creando un movimiento basado en el poder que ya existe en nuestras familias, barrios y comunidades, como los que han viajado en la caravana Sin Papeles Sin Miedo nos han mostrado hacienda desobediencia civil aquí y en Carolina del Norte, estamos mas seguros cuando nos organizamos y salimos de las sombras. Sabemos organizar para parrar deportaciones y la separación de familias, ensenando los derechos y creando bases de redes de protección. Mándenos un mensaje 
info@puenteaz.org para involucrarse en nuestro próximos curso de defensa.

2. WE FIGHT HATE:  SB1070 poses a moral dilemma that everyone must answer: will you comply with hate or will you side with the struggle for human rights and dignity?  We demand that every city, every police department, every school, and every institution in Arizona refuse to comply with SB1070 by not allowing their officers to racially profile.  To businesses, we ask your support in not complying with 1070 by becoming Human Rights Zones.  Those that do not we will boycott.
 2. LUCHAMOS CONTRA EL ODIO: La SB1070 crea un dilema moral que todos tendrán que contestar: cumplirás con el odio o estarás de el lado de los derechos humanos y la dignidad? Le pedimos a todas la ciudades, municipios, departamentos de policía, escuelas, o cualquier otra institución en Arizona que NO cumpla con la SB1070, no dejando que sus oficiales cometan violaciones de perfil racial a nuestra comunidad. A negocios les pedimos su apoyo al igual no cumplir con la ley y a negocios que estén al favor les haremos boicot.

3. WE FIGHT DEPORTATIONS: We know that Arizona cannot deport people on its own. President Obama can follow the brave example that undocumented people have set by taking immediate action to stop deporting Arpaio and 1070's victims by ending Secure Communities in Arizona.  Sign the petition at bit.ly/potus1070.
3. LUCHAMOS CONTRA LAS DEPORTACIONES:

Sabemos que Arizona no puede deportar a personas solo. El presidente Obama puede seguir la valentía que la gente indocumentada a mostrado y tomar acción inmediata y parar las deportaciones de las victimas de la SB1070 y Arpaio, con solo terminar el programa de comunidades seguras en Arizona firma la petición aquí bit.ly/potus1070.
  

How you can get involved/Para involucrarte:
Tell your story: Share your experience of racial profiling.  The more we go public with what is happening to our community, the safer we are.  Contact us for support at info@puenteaz.org.
Cuenta tu historia: Comparte tu experiencia de perfil racial.  Lo mas que hablamos en publico sobre lo que pasa en nuestra comunidad, lo mas seguro estamos.  Escribenos por apoyo a info@puenteaz.org.
Stay informed: Follow us on Twitter @puenteaz and Like us on Facebook
Quedate informad@: Siguenos en Twitter @puenteaz y da nos Like en Facebook.
Share our updates: Spread the word on the human rights crisis happening in Arizona and the powerful ways we are fighting back
Comparte nuestros datos: Corre la voz sobre la crisis de derechos humanos pasando en Arizona, y las maneras poderosas que luchamos y resistimos.
Volunteer with the Puente Movement: There are so many ways to get involved in the struggle for human rights, from canvassing local businesses as part of our Human Rights Zone campaign, to fundraising, to teaching English classes, and so much more.  Email volunteer@puenteaz.org to get involved!
Ser Voluntari@ con el Movimiento Puente: Hay tantas maneras de involucrarte con la lucha por los derechos humanos, desde pedir negocios locales ser parte de nuestra campana de Zonas De Derechos Humanos, a recaudar fondos, a ensenar clases de Ingles, y mucho mas!  Mandanos un email a volunteer@puenteaz.ogr para involucrarte!
Donate: Help us sustain and grow our movement.  
Donate at puenteaz.org.
In struggle,
Puente Arizona 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Red Squad Resistance: Mom, not cops, busted Wilson....

 protesting the protest police at Freeport McMoran, PHX
September 17, 2012

from the PHX Red Squad Resistance

We need to be more protective of these youth being friended by cops, folks - and I don't mean just shaming the state's potential victims (and "snitches") into silence and secrecy. We should bring the cops into the light, instead - not simply slam them as individuals, because that's what gives them a big in with these kids. 

Looking back at last fall, I'm sure I could have been part of a more productive dialogue with some of those young Occupy friends of Wilson's than what I ended up doing most of the time - which was simply yelling at them for not seeming to get it that the cops are the enemy's soldiers. I can think of a few youth who really struggled with their own identities, their place in the movement and their interpersonal relationships with older activists, and were consequently more vulnerable to being seduced by someone like Chris.  

It didn't occur to me that he had his own agenda as well that went so much deeper than doing his job as a cop, building a trusting rapport to lighten us up and glean information. I knew he was out to hurt our liberation movements because that's what they here to do - protect the status quo. If they weren't they'd have to admit that the laws they enforce are mostly BS, and walk away from their jobs. But I didn't consider the possibility Wilson was out to prey on us on a more personal level. That's where I think the other cops fell down big, not reining him in; they're the ones who should have been on him about those kinds of boundaries. I still don't understand how Sgt. Schweikert and the Lieutenant could have possibly not been. This guy was busted by a text message found by a kids mom, not an astute colleague trained in detecting criminal behavior. 


Perhaps we should be reassured that the Red Squad failed to police their own guy - maybe they're more incompetent and oblivious than I give them credit for. I don't think that's a safe road to go down, though. I don't think the capacity of police - especially detectives - to engage in deception and manipulation or to hurt or kill one of us if they're told should be at all underestimated - they're the ones with the guns and the benefit of the court's doubt in the aftermath. I think the Red Squad played a big part in deciding who got arrested among us through the year, and condoned the special mistreatment of the people among us they knew were most vulnerable to police harassment - like our comrades who were homeless at the time. With their help last year the city pretty effectively derailed a big part of the Occupy PHX momentum; they are hardly incompetent. As far as I'm concerned, they were complicit in Chris Wilson's transgressions for applauding all his other boundary violations. How could they not have seen this coming?


And how can we, from our end, head it off the next time we all see warning signs?


One example I'm thinking of went down at the ALEC action at SRP. Once the PHX PD arrived, at least 50 or 100 anarchists in black were pushed back towards the road by the cops, and Wilson strolled over to our line to say hello to one young Occupy guy who was clearly enamored of him and emotionally vulnerable. A bunch of us yelled for Wilson to shove off, and this kid turned around and started defending his humanity against our taunts - to which we all responded with something to the effect of "shut the fuck up you idiot
- he's the enemy" (that's was a huge paraphrase, not really a quote). I was ready to tell him to hit the road with Wilson myself. Chris just stood there smiling at the guy, almost as if he knew he just won him over by making him chose to turn on us instead - and seemed oblivious to the danger he had put him in by coming over like that, too. One of the other cops had to call Wilson away from us because we were getting so agitated. That's how I remember that scene, anyway. 

That kid was so impassioned because he felt a personal connection with Wilson that I think I probably only helped deepen by trying to shame him into compliance with security culture norms - it just made him feel more compelled to defend his budding friendship. Rather than criticizing the individual attributes or motives or humanity of people we don't even know, we should be focusing on exposing them as agents of the state who engage in psychological warfare, deconstructing more carefully for their victims what's happening. They depend on those kinds of tactics more than the cops seem to in other cities - there they just bash heads and drag our people in front of grand juries over bandanas and anarchist literature. Here they try to get right in bed with us and our children, instead. It's those smiles we have to beware of.

When undocumented Puente activists shut down Washington Street outside the Federal Courthouse a couple of months back, Officer Friendly - Sgt. Schweikert - took great care to go to each one personally and made sure they knew they'd be arrested if they didn't move, offered them some water, and either patted them on the back or shook their hand - with a smile. Meanwhile the rest of the Red Squad was clearing the media and the rest of us from the path of the arresting officers. Then the uniforms moved in and did their thing. It creates the illusion that the Red Squad isn't there to police us, that they're really there to protect us, even from the police themselves. Do not be fooled by this, if you are.


Remember, by the way, that when I write about the Red Squad I'm only referring to the diplomatic ambassadors the PPD dispatches to assure that we all have "a safe protest experience". What concerns me more is what we aren't seeing the cops do - tearing up all our private lives in investigations we have yet to hear of, helping to foment strife across our communities of resistance, and so on. There's a much bigger operation going on behind them. The Red Squad is mostly gathering intelligence by interacting with us and the public around us - which includes surveilling all our facebook activity for evidence of conspiracies, logistics of upcoming protests, and to map out our social networks, in case anyone has forgotten. We shouldn't assume that just because no one has been indicted like the BS going down elsewhere, there's nothing to worry about. You don't have to commit a single crime in this town to be prosecuted, you know - especially if your primary target is the police state itself. 


The good manners of the Red Squad threaten to lull us all into complacency; that has happened with some folks already. I hope that if nothing else, what happened with Wilson and these young activists will put our people back on their toes, and get us all thinking differently about how we deal with these kinds of boundary violations and how to keep our own people safe from the cops.


-----------------------

Text message sparked investigation into sexual misconduct by Phoenix officer

azfamily.com
 by Crystal Cruz
Bio | Email | Follow: @
Posted on September 17, 2012 at 5:41 PM
Updated today at 6:00 PM 
PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Police Department just released its report about a former officer accused of sexual misconduct with two boys, ages 14 and 17.

Christopher Wilson, 43, was arrested last month and is facing 10 felony counts in connection with two alleged sexual relationships.

According to the documents, the 14-year-old boy's mother found a text message on her son's cellphone about him kissing a 43-year-old man.

The concerned mother took her son to a counselor after he became suicidal, then police were contacted.
In the report, Wilson admits to investigators he had sexual contact with the boys at least once.

The detective at the time took the boys to lunch at a Chili's restaurant in July. All three ended up at the 17-year-old's apartment. Wilson and the older boy got into the shower then all three got into bed.

The younger teen, who is in 10th grade, told investigators he felt "pressured into joining."

The openly gay police officer also worked as a liaison to the LGBT community with the police department.

The 17-year-old told investigators he met Wilson through work, possibly at a protest.

Throughout the year Wilson gave the teen clothes, suits and money to help him out.

The older boy also told investigators he spent the night with the detective after a trip to the teen's dentist.

Wilson resigned after his arrest.

He told investigators, "…It's my fault man. It was all mutual. But, I mean I was a fool on my part. I should of known better."

Wilson spent 13 years with the department. He also was a member with the U.S. Navy.

Wilson remains in jail.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

SOS: ASPC-Perryville Conditions of Confinement.



September 20, 2012 
PERRYVILLE UPDATE: 

My friend Christy, a prisoner out at Perryville / Santa Cruz, dropped me a letter late last week that just came in yesterday. It was dated 9/14/12. Here's the update:

"I was called up to the Deputy Warden's office to talk about my kites. Here is what has been done:

Water was turned down (hot water off)

Coolers were purchased but they ran out of money to install them so that is still a problem
I was given tape to tape my vent for roaches
the exterminator is supposed to come out & spray inside and out
the back window is still broken does not close (we have a bag with tape covering it)
they power-washed the showers 
we still only have 2 showers working - the lady who was fixing them was out here on 9/11...
the doors are still having to be keyed for a total of 48 rooms - that is a fire hazard!"

All that happened in response to earlier complaints filed by her and a few of the other women prisoners, and while I brought some things to the  DOC's attention a couple of weeks ago, this happened before I made the following post which had new information, so I can't really claim the credit for getting them to clean things up there. Christy and these women who protested their conditions of confinement have my respect for their courage and persistence.

I plan to organize a prison watching group for Perryville, soon, so stay tuned.


Peggy Plews


----------Original post (9/16/12)----------


I received this anonymous letter this past week from ASPC-Perryville/Santa Cruz yard, and have since challenged Richard Pratt, the Director of Health Services for the AZ DOC, to take the lead in cleaning up the place since so many chronically and critically ill women are trying to survive more than just their sentences under these conditions. I also asked him to set me up with a tour - suggesting we go together unannounced, if things are really as hunky dory at Perryville as they want me to believe. We'll see what he says once he gets a chance to respond. I'm probably now considered an external Security Threat Group leader, so my chances of getting in - sans the orange jumpsuit and chains the DOC would no doubt like to see me in - may not be too good.

In addition to the letter below from Santa Cruz last week, I received another one the week before from the same yard stating that there's a huge roach infestation problem that wasn't mentioned below, as creatures can easily enter through the cracks in the walls and window sills. 

Furthermore, I've been told by several sources that many women haven't been getting their medications for most of the time that Wexford has been in charge of medical services - that's been since the beginning of July. Hopefully, Wexford's brilliant administrators have finally figured out how to get their drugs to Arizona from Pennsylvania (or Columbia, or China, or wherever they're really importing their prescriptions from).

Also not articulated in the letter below is my concern about the high rate of suicide and deaths from sheer neglect at ASPC-Perryville. Most of those have occurred on Lumley yard, though, not Santa Cruz. Lumley is the maximum security yard where female prisoners who are seriously mentally ill, defiant, assaultive, or on death row are typically held in isolation cells. The ACLU's lawsuit Parsons v Ryan enumerates many of the additional concerns I have about the conditions of confinement and medical/mental health care for the women across the prison complex. Lumley is where Marcia Powell was killed by the desert sun after being left in an outdoor cage for four hours - theoretically while on a suicide watch.

I'm planning to set up a "Perryville Prison Watch 101" meeting this fall for community members who are interested in bettering the chances these women have of surviving prison and coming out able to lead lives as "responsible citizens" again; we aren't going to change any of this without help from more of the ordinary People out here who believe this kind of abuse and neglect - in our names, with our money - is unacceptable. And for Women's History Month in March 2013 we'll be celebrating the history of women's resistance in prison. Stay tuned for more on all that.

Remembering some of the women who have died out at Perryville, the following photos were taken from a mural laid out by community members in front of the Phoenix Art Museum for Prisoners' Justice Day in August of this year. Some things at Perryville can be fixed with caulk and elbow grease that the women would put into it themselves, given the right resources, but the culture of contempt for prisoners that fosters this kind of neglect is going to take a lot more to change.
 










Brenda Todd, 44. 
Victim of institutional indifference.
(January 21, 2011)



 
 Susan Lopez, 35. 
Victim of suicide and psychiatric neglect.
(March 25, 2011)

Victim of a 10-minute suicide watch, bad policy, 
unconstitutional practices, and cruel and abusive guards.
(May 19, 2009)

-----------------received 9/13/2012--------------

"In the winter months, the heat is turned on by date rather than temperature. The heat runs full blast and the rooms get to be unbearably hot. The officers do not have the authority to turn the heat off, even if it is an unseasonably warm day. On a "warm" winter day, the room temperatures can reach the 90+ degree mark. The window cranks in most of the rooms are broken and do not open so there is no way to get any relief. This is absolutely cruel and unusual punishment.

In the summer months, the evaporative coolers or air conditioners are turned on by date rather than temperature. Some rooms have coolers, others have AC. In the early spring, the rooms are very cold. In the heat of the summer, when the humidity rises, the coolers do not work well. Once again the temperatures inside the rooms can reach the 90+ degree mark, with no way to get any relief. When the AC works, the rooms that have it are comfortable in the summer. The challenge is that they are often broken. As of this writing, the temperature outside is 113. The AC In my room and the 7 other attached rooms is not functioning at all. It has been out of service for the past 2 weeks. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I do not perspire very much. Extreme heat causes my muscles to cramp. I get very light headed and dizzy and ultimately vomit. I do not know if there is a medication of any kind of solution since I cannot seem to get to medical. Often we live in exceedingly hot, or exceedingly cold rooms with windows that do not open. Just another example of cruel and unusual punishment.

The Arizona sun can be punishing,. especially for those of us that have little or no tolerance for heat exposure. Lines for medical appointments, property pick up, state issue, and the store are often long. In the medical waiting area, shade and water are provided. Not much can be done to reduce the heat since the waiting area is outside. The wait can be several hours. The lines for property, state issue, and store are not in shaded areas. The wait is usually a couple of hours at best.

The mattresses in most of the cells are worn out. They are leaking black material of some kind. The coverings are cracked. The mattresses are thin and do not provide any kind of support or much protection from the metal bunks.

Many of the cells have cracks in the walls that leak rain water. In my cell, water seeps in only one corner so I am lucky that mine is not one of those that floods. However, in that corner mold is growing. In one of the rooms next to a shower, the mold is so bad that it is growing down the outside walls as well as the inside.

The showers leak gallons of water daily. Some of them have been leaking for years. The erosion of both the concrete and the metal support beams is clearly visible. I am not a building inspector, but I can clearly see that the iron railings and support beams are rusted clear through.

Hot water for showers is not always available. Sometimes we have no hot water for days at a time. When this happens, there is no hot water for washing the trays or kitchen utensils either. This has been an on-going challenge since I have been here (1997). Budgets were not restricted for the majority of those years so I find it difficult to understand the situation. The trays, sporks, and cups in the kitchen are frequently dirty. Dirt is actually embedded in the trays and sporks where the plastic coating has been worn away.

On 16 yard, dinner "sacks" are passed out at 5pm Monday-Friday. Breakfast starts being served at 8 or 8:30 on Saturday mornings. 15+ hours between meals. ON weekends, we are provided with breakfast and hot dinner, just two meals. The ladies from 14 yard walk to our kitchen and eat breakfast around 7am. The kitchen on 14 yard has been closed and the building has been condemned. At 5pm the ladies from 14 yard come to our kitchen once again for dinner. Our yard has dinner after all of them have left the yard. That is usually around 6:30 or so. For those that do not have money to purchase food from the store, it is a very long time between breakfast and dinner.

Adequate clothing is no longer provided. I waited over 6 months to have 2 pairs of panties that were lost in the laundry replaced. per policy, we are allowed to exchange clothing or linens once every 90 days. The challenge is that most of the time, state issue does not have the size or the items that are needed. On this unit we have been out of medium panties, small pants and medium t-shirts for months. When I tried to exchange clothing I was told sizes 3x were the only one available. I weigh 120 pounds! Incoming inmates are not provided with the policy-stated issue.

Each inmate is provided with 1 roll of toilet paper for the week and 12 sanitary napkins for the month. Further discussion of this is probably unnecessary."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

CURING HCV in prison: The new Community Standard of Care.


"Q: Will we be able to wipe out hepatitis C entirely?

A: In contrast to HIV, we do have the capability of doing that - essentially curing everyone who got infected. While we have made tremendous progress against HIV, we still don't have a cure, we still don't have a vaccine. The situation for HCV is dramatically different. A cure is achievable. Someday soon, the cure using an interferon-free cocktail is going to be routine...."

 ----------

Until now, I thought it was likely that this disease would kill not only my imprisoned friend Davon, sick as a dog on interferon right now, but also my big brother, who hasn't been able to get treatment - both I feared would die very painfully, at an early age. 

This news gives me hope, though. We have the capability to wipe out this disease and cure those who are ill right now - the question remains: do we have the collective will? That much, I still don't know.

Nearly 6,000 AZ state prisoners have tested positive for the Hepatitis C virus, but only a fraction are deemed eligible for a miserable course of interferon treatment because it costs so much and takes such a toll on body and mind. Many drop out from the side effects, having to face debilitating and fatal liver disease instead. Most public health estimates put the jail/prison population at being over 50% HCV+. Imagine how hard it is already to see loved one do time and maybe even make amends for their crimes in prison, and come home only to find that they were sentenced to die from an infectious disease, as well. 

For those who don't care about prisoners, though, think about this: since 95% of then return to the free world eventually, that means there's already an epidemic in communities with high rates of poverty, unemployment, homelessness, felonization, incarceration, uninsured persons, IV drug addiction, HIV/AIDS, and other compromised populations. It also disproportionately affects people of color, the LGBTQ communities, and Baby Boomers. That's a huge public health problem that no one in Arizona likes talking about - why are they so silent now, I wonder? Surely they've heard this by now.

It sounds like it's time for the AZ DOC and Wexford to re-write their Hep C treatment protocols, in any case, in order to assure that the standard of care they provide to prisoners with the virus (HCV) is consistent with the community's new standard. Otherwise, they can both expect to be named in a new class action lawsuit soon, I'm sure. I'd think the public at large could even sue the state for having an infected population unleashed on us - uneducated, untreated, unsupported, uninsured, and unwell.


remembering those we have already lost...



  
we must accelerate the fight for the living.



Fight the spread of HEP C today: 









Phoenix Art Museum: Art of Resistance
Prisoners' Justice Day Guerilla Installation
August 10, 2012









--------from the San Francisco Chronicle----------

Hepatitis C fight - 'watershed moment'

Erin Allday / San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Earlier this year, an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine declared that the world was in a "watershed moment" in the history of treatment for hepatitis C, a virus that is believed to infect roughly 180 million people globally. Dr. Warner Greene, director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology in San Francisco, agrees wholeheartedly - and believes that with recent advances in treatments and a cure, the world could be on the cusp of nearly wiping out the virus.

Q: What does the hepatitis C virus do to the body?

A: This is an RNA virus that infects hepatocytes, cells in the liver. That's why you ultimately get hepatitis, or inflammation in the liver, and that can progress on to cirrhosis. About 20 percent of people spontaneously clear the hepatitis C virus, and of the rest, about 20 to 25 percent will progress to cirrhosis, and eventually end-stage liver disease. Hepatitis C is the leading reason behind liver transplants in the United States.

Q: For many years, hepatitis C has been treated with interferon. What is interferon?

A: Interferon is a type of protein called cytokine. It normally triggers an antiviral response in the body. It inhibits key steps in the (hepatitis C) virus life cycle that allow it to replicate. But it's doing it at a cost. Cytokine is pretty toxic. It makes patients very sick.

Q: Last year the Food and Drug Administration approved new drugs to treat hepatitis C. How do they work?

A: It's just like with HIV - you're attacking multiple, key proteins needed for the hepatitis C virus lifecycle. Now you have these small molecules that are attacking the virus itself, as opposed to trying to induce an antiviral response, like with interferon.

These drugs are proving to be just dynamite. We're very close to being able to cure everybody of hepatitis C. The natural history of hepatitis C virus infection has been fundamentally changed.

Q: Why has hepatitis C been so hard to treat historically?

A: One thing that limited progress was the lack of an infectious molecular clone to use in the laboratory to test drugs. It was only in the last few years that an infectious molecular clone came out of Japan. Before that, none of them fully replicated (in the lab). When the molecular clones came along progress just took off at light speed.

Then the blueprint for working on HIV became very informative - protease inhibitors, polymerase inhibitors, they were all targeted very quickly, by multiple pharmaceuticals. Many of the pharmaceuticals just moved their HIV discovery teams into HCV. Progress has been made so rapidly here because the trail had been blazed by all of the HIV drugs.

Q: Will we be able to wipe out hepatitis C entirely?

A: In contrast to HIV, we do have the capability of doing that - essentially curing everyone who got infected. While we have made tremendous progress against HIV, we still don't have a cure, we still don't have a vaccine. The situation for HCV is dramatically different. A cure is achievable. Someday soon, the cure using an interferon-free cocktail is going to be routine.

Then it becomes more of an implementation issue - how you distribute these drugs, what you charge for them. There are 180 million people infected worldwide, five to six times the size of the HIV epidemic, and many are living in resource-poor settings. We're going to have to figure out how to deal with the developing world.

Hepatitis C drugs offer hope for cure

Erin Allday / San Francisco Chronicle
Updated 4:09 p.m., Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Scientific breakthroughs, one piled on top of another at breakneck speed over the past few years, have put medical researchers on the cusp of curing almost everyone who suffers from hepatitis C, if not wiping out the disease entirely.With 180 million people in the world thought to be infected with the virus - 12,000 of them in San Francisco alone - that's potentially a huge public health coup, doctors and scientists say.
In a little more than a decade, a virus that was once almost untreatable could be made nearly extinct.
"It is just a remarkable moment in the history of hepatitis C," said Dr. Warner Greene, director of the virology and immunology division at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco. "I think hepatitis C and its sequela - liver cancer, cirrhosis, liver transplants - can largely be gone in the future. We just won't have to worry about it."

In the past year, new treatments have come out that already have doubled the number of people who can be cured of hepatitis C. Now the race is on among drug developers to market the first medical cocktails that would cure almost everyone on the planet, and do it safer and faster than the best treatments currently available.

New treatments - both those already available and those expected to be approved in the next five or so years - were a large part of the reason the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended this summer that all Baby Boomers get screened for hepatitis C.

That generation is thought to have the largest number of undiagnosed cases of the disease, with so many of them potentially exposed to the virus in the wild, drug-friendly hippie years of the '60s and '70s. Until recently it wasn't practical to screen millions of people for possible cases of hepatitis C because few good treatments were available.

Hepatitis C's spread

Hepatitis C is a virus transmitted through the blood, similar to HIV. It's often spread through shared needles used by intravenous drug abusers. Decades ago, and even still in some developing parts of the world, people were exposed to hepatitis C through unsterilized equipment used for tattoos or surgical procedures. Also, the U.S. blood supply wasn't screened for hepatitis C until the early 1990s, so people sometimes became infected from a blood transfusion or organ transplant.

In roughly 20 percent of hepatitis C cases, the body's immune system fights off the virus without any medical intervention and probably without the individual ever being aware of having it. The remaining cases develop into chronic hepatitis C.

In some of those cases, the virus may lie dormant for decades, or even a lifetime, but in about 1 in 5 chronic cases, the virus will attack the liver, scarring it and causing cirrhosis, and potentially leading to liver cancer and liver failure. The infection causes about 10,000 deaths a year in the United States, and it's the leading reason for liver transplants. Hepatitis C is especially prevalent in people who also have HIV infections; in fact, HIV-positive patients are more likely to die of hepatitis-caused liver disease than of AIDS or HIV.

Antiviral drugs

It's only in the past seven years or so that doctors and scientists discovered the first antiviral drugs that can stop the virus, giving the body's natural immune system a chance to fight it off. The cure rate with those drugs is 75 to 80 percent, but they require that patients also take interferon, a toxic medication that can cause disabling side effects for a year.

In the next five years, researchers expect to develop even more potent antiviral medications - drugs that will cure more than 90 percent of patients, and do it in half the time and without the interferon.

"There's no question that with these new treatments, cure is going to be the rule and not the exception," said Dr. Brad Hare, medical director of the HIV/AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital, who studies HIV and hepatitis C co-infections. "It's more important than ever to identify people with hepatitis C, because we have something even better to offer them."

That said, Hare added, it's unlikely that the virus will ever be eradicated. There will always remain a pocket of people who don't respond to drug therapy or aren't able to take it for some reason. Those who have been cured can be reinfected.

And getting new medications to the tens of millions of people affected by hepatitis C won't be easy, especially because the drugs will almost definitely be expensive.

Strains on the system

Just screening the millions of Baby Boomers in the United States, and getting those who test positive for hepatitis C into treatment, could be an overwhelming strain on the health care system, public health experts say. Drugs in development could ease some of that burden if they're easier to take and more effective than the current treatments.

Hepatitis C was discovered in the late 1980s, although scientists had known for years that a virus existed that was causing inflammation in the liver and that wasn't the hepatitis A or B viruses.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first treatment for hepatitis C - the chemotherapy drug interferon - in 1991, and added a second drug, ribavirin, in 1998. Those two medications were considered a breakthrough therapy for a virus that had previously been untreatable, but the treatment itself was rough and not all that effective.

The ribavirin comes in pill form, but the interferon has to be given intravenously three times a week for 48 weeks. Both drugs, especially the interferon, often come with awful side effects - major depression and, sometimes, suicidal thoughts, plus fatigue, nausea and flu-like symptoms.

And the worst of it is that the treatments lead to a cure only roughly half the time - less than half for patients with the most common strain of hepatitis C.

"A lot of us didn't have bad symptoms before we went on treatment," said Daniel Berrner, a San Francisco resident who was diagnosed with both HIV and hepatitis C in 2005, and underwent successful treatment for the latter in 2009. "People maybe feel some fatigue, but that's it. So to convince them to feel awful for a year when they're not feeling that bad to begin with is a really hard thing to do."

Because treatment was, for many people, tougher to endure than the virus itself, many doctors over the years have "triaged" patients by performing liver biopsies or blood tests to determine if hepatitis C was causing severe enough damage to treat even at the risk of failure. If patients weren't experiencing acute symptoms and their livers seemed relatively healthy, they'd often postpone treatment.

More seek treatment

Whether to get treatment for hepatitis C is still a personal decision and best made after a thoughtful conversation with a primary care doctor or a liver expert, doctors said. But increasingly patients are being encouraged to get treatment, even if their infection isn't particularly virulent.

"I still try to triage based on the risk of end-stage liver disease. But now more patients are willing to be treated," said Dr. Natalie Bzowej, a liver disease specialist at California Pacific Medical Center.

Bzowej helped lead national research into one of the first antiviral treatments that targeted hepatitis C, a protease inhibitor called telaprevir made by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which was approved by the FDA in June 2011. A similar drug, boceprevir from Merck, also won FDA approval last year.

Remarkable success

In clinical trials, about 80 percent of patients with the most common strain of hepatitis C who took one of those drugs, plus the usual interferon and ribavirin combination, were cured. That was a remarkable improvement over the previous 40 to 50 percent cure rate.

Also encouraging: Most of the patients who were cured were able to stop taking the medications after just 24 weeks, cutting the treatment time in half.

The reason for the difference is that the new drugs single out the hepatitis C virus specifically, whereas the interferon and the ribavirin essentially just give a boost to the body's natural immune system. For many people, the immune system is not strong or fast enough on its own to fight off the virus.

Protease inhibitors are best known as a class of drugs used to treat HIV infection. They work by attacking specific enzymes, or proteases, in a virus that are a key part of the replication process. By inhibiting those enzymes, the virus is unable to reproduce and eventually dies off.

Now, scientists are looking for the next line of drugs to attack other points of the hepatitis life cycle. The pharmaceutical industry is racing toward clinical trials - companies battling to be the first to get new drugs, especially those that would make interferon obsolete, to the market.

Multidrug attack

Doctors and scientists alike expect the first of the new wave of drugs to be available in four or five years. Part of the reason not everyone can be cured of hepatitis C is that, like many viruses, it mutates so quickly and becomes immune to drugs. So ideally, doctors will have at their disposal several drugs - maybe dozens - that will attack the virus on several fronts at once.

If those drugs are strong and fast enough, they could cure patients without the need for interferon. Protease inhibitors and other antiviral drugs aren't without side effects, but the symptoms are much less severe than those from interferon, and the newest classes of drugs may work in as little as 12 weeks, or about half the time it takes telaprevir, the protease inhibitor, to do the job.

"I feel like we are glimpsing the beginning of the end for hepatitis C," said Dr. Cami Graham, vice president of global medical affairs at Vertex. "We really are beginning to see what that path to eradication is going to look like."

Long incubation period

Both drug developers and doctors alike said they are advising patients not to raise their hopes too high. Almost all of the clinical trials are in their earliest stages, and for the Baby Boomers especially, patients with decades-old infections may not have even a few years to wait for new treatments.

"What we have now is better than anything we've had in a long time," said Dr. Joanna Ready, chief of gastroenterology at Kaiser Santa Clara. "What will be even better is interferon-free therapies, and the early studies have been very, very, very promising. But the disease has such a long incubation period and damages the liver over decades, so we really need to be following people over time.
Still, Ready said, she's hopeful.

"If we don't wipe out hepatitis C entirely, we can probably make it go away like polio, where you haven't gotten rid of it but you've really beaten it down," she said. "The science behind these treatments is improving every day. And the more we know, the better we are at treating it."

Erin Allday is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: eallday@sfchronicle.com 

---------------------

FIGHT THE SPREAD OF HEP C TODAY. 



Thursday, September 13, 2012

The state of White Anti-racism on this September 11


Turning Away from Fear: Thinking on 9/11 About White Anti-racism

Tue, 09-11-2012

This morning, I listened to the words of the inimitable Suheir Hammad, from her poem “First Writing Since.” Suheir ends that powerful piece by saying

“Affirm life. Affirm life. We got to carry each other now. You are either with life, or against it. Affirm life.”


I listen to this poem of hers every year today, and every time, it makes me cry. It unleashes my grief, rage, desperation, relief, and love. It reminds me how I am so lucky to do the work I get to do. Affirming life and every day learning how to better put that into practice collectively.

***
In 2001, I was living in Washington D.C. for a few months working on the international mobilization against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings scheduled for late September. This was during the height of the global justice movement within the U.S.. We had high hopes and brilliant plans for this convergence challenging the current form of colonialism and empire that millions of people around the globe were rising up against.

On the morning of 2001, I watched the World Trade center towers fall on TV in the living room of the house I was living in with my affinity group, those of us who were organizing the office space that the Mobilization for Global Justice operated from. Some of us had loved ones in New York and were frantically trying to get through blocked phone lines. Others went on reconnaissance downtown and came back telling us that tanks were out in the streets while the Pentagon smoldered.

Some of my affinity group members had been involved in land defense occupations with the American Indian Movement (AIM). Body-memories of being viciously attacked during raids, and the realities of violent state repression were prickling their skin to get the hell out of Dodge. Public transit was shut down and we tried to rally enough bikes to get us all into Virginia if it came to that. Remember that on that first day, nobody knew where this was going to go. No one did. All we knew was that people were dying and more were going to be killed in response. In the midst of the ash and fire, the looming specter was of violent repercussions on a mass scale, likely directed at brown people.

We knew the history of white supremacy and state violence in the U.S., and we did not leave D.C. that night. None of us are Arab or Muslim and most of us have white skin privilege. Those who had been injured standing with AIM knew that they had only been targeted like that because they were working within the indigenous resistance movement that has been the longest-running target of U.S. militarism in the history of this country. We knew that majority white activist movements which aim to challenge state and corporate power are, overall, third-tier targets, following the resistance of movements of color, and poor and working-class communities whose daily lives are marked by state repression. We also thought it was possible that we'd see live ammo at street protests. CNN sure made it sound that way.

We canceled the convergence and planned a peace march for which we fielded flack and accusations of cowardice from all over the country. In our house, we filled the bathtub with water, cooked gallons of soup for our friends and neighbors, drank whiskey, and cried together. We found fellowship and tried to figure out what the hell to do. We talked to west coast loved ones who seemed to be living in an entirely different reality.

We slept in our boots. Grief shook us down. That week is now fogged over with a level of confusion, mourning, and fear that I can recognize later as an experience of collective trauma. And underneath it all was the sense of helplessness, as Bush began rattling the swords and, within a month, made war on Afghanistan amidst an eruption of cheers and applause from all over this country. American flags hung off every highway overpass from D.C.to NYC.

Eleven years 

It's 2012, and millions of Iraqis and Afghans have been killed, injured, maimed, displaced from their homes, and have endured the staggering trauma of having their lives invaded. 'Collateral damage' of 'soft targets.'


It's 2012 and the names of everyone who died in the 9/11 attacks, including the first responders, have already been lost just as thoroughly as the names of the 6,000 some U.S. service members whose deaths are officially recognized.

It's 2012 and I don't know who has generated a head count of how many people inside the U.S. who are or appear to be Arab, Muslim, North African, South Asian have been harassed, detained, assaulted, fired, evicted, bullied, raided, surveilled, and killed.
State violence. Street violence. In the schools, the convenience stores, in the lines of men between certain ages from certain countries standing outside Homeland Security during the “Special Registrations.”

It's 2012 and the “war of civilizations” and fear-mongering frameworks of the hawk opportunists in power have devastated Afghanistan and Iraq, and eaten an abyss into the U.S economy, social fabric, and soul.

It's 2012 and a veteran of the U.S. military commits suicide every 18 hours according to some studies, or every 80 minutes, according to the VA. Then there's the epidemic of sexual assault and rape within the military, PTSD, physical and mental injuries, poisoning from chemical weapons and toxics “in theater.” The impacts ripple out into families and communities  when one person comes home bringing the war in their body.

This morning the Cost of War counter [2] was around $1,372,000,000,000 for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Better believe that doesn't include reparations or sufficient care for veterans.

In 2012, the Israeli military trains the U.S. National Guard in tactics that were developed on the U.S. taxpayer dime and tested on Palestinians. I have a veteran friend who endured multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then was dispatched to New Orleans post-Katrina. He became an antiwar organizer after the similarities in those experiences sunk into his bones.
He speaks of what he saw in peoples' faces while transporting prisoners and transporting evacuees.

It's 2012 and the U.S. leads the world in incarceration. The carefully fabricated fear of black and brown bodies, of poor people, of “immigrants,” makes security and safety impossible for most people who live in this country, and has repercussions around the world.

In 2012, though it is not new, more and more people inside the U.S. are being pushed into a desperate situation. The economic violence committed against to so many uses a cover of racism, invoking peoples' manipulated fears and grief.

White narrative divides us 


For those of us who are white, coming from every class background across the spectrum, we have to recognize how racism in the U.S. is fundamentally a divide and conquer strategy to convince non-ruling class white people to align with the 1%, against our own interests. It's a class war strategy presenting itself as a race war. The “clash of civilizations” rhetoric, which the Christian-dominated ruling class has employed for generations to expand its power, or to reach its 'manifest destiny,' got a massive steroid shot with 9/11.

I couldn't say it more clearly than a college acquaintance of mine said on Facebook today: “I will never forget how agents of the religion of war and genocide attacked innocent civilians in New York simply because they were who they were. People who loved freedom, their families, their work and America.”

Yep. There's the narrative right there. That's what we are fed in order to continue enlisting us in this project of accumulating wealth and power for a tiny handful of people, while Oakland and cities across the country are closing schools and telling teachers there's no money to pay them, and anyway, your unions are the real problem with this economy. That's how you enlist white people to support welfare deform, even though statistically white people receive more support than the African-American women who are attacked with obscene racist caricatures of  “welfare queens.”

But today I am thinking about some of the other layers in addition to the economic realities of why white supremacy hurts white people when we collaborate with racial oppression of communities of color.
When some peoples' lives are devalued, nobody's full humanity can flourish. When you see some of your neighbors as less than human, how does that affect your understanding of yourself?  When you permit some of your neighbors to be treated as less than human, you agree that those practices are acceptable.

Do you think it will never trickle down to you? When you believe that some mothers celebrate burying their children, how does that distort your own ability to love people from the deepest place in you?
When you co-sign a war budget that bleeds our schools in order to drop bombs on other peoples' children, what kind of future are you endorsing? When you make excuses for racial profiling, mass imprisonment, children losing their parents to deportation, torture in prisons in the U.S. and in our overseas allies, what part of your ability to love yourself dies?

Survival is at stake: economic survival, survival of the planet, and the survival of our core selves. Our abilities to fully love, connect, build healthy societies, look out for each other instead of tearing each other up.

Decolonizing our lives

The histories of people coming together to dream new visions, to develop functional alternatives to what we're strong-armed to accept, to find common points of interest and build joint struggle- that is the river into which flows the best legacies of white anti-racist organizing. We need each other. Across lines of power, privilege, violence, oppression, and the very real legacies of colonialism and racism that are inscribed differently in each of our bodies, we need each other. Navigating those lines is complicated and painful and we are all bound to mess up at times when we take risks. But if fundamental social transformation isn't going to necessitate some complicated, risky messiness, then what is?

I believe that my heart is sound enough to support me on a lifetime journey of decolonizing myself from the lies I've been taught. I believe I can unlearn the ways I've internalized privileges that distort my ability to connect with myself, other people, the world around me. I choose to believe that all of us are capable of this. And we all need to do this because we are all needed. We all must bring our varied strengths to bear on changing this world. No more 9/11s. No more CIA-backed coups like the overthrow of Chile's democratically elected Salvador Allende on 9/11/73. No more open-air prisons like the Gaza Strip. No more shootings in mosques, gurdwaras, burnings of Black churches, white supremacist attacks on Jewish communities. Affirm life.

What I might love best about Suheir's poem, beyond her fierce honesty and vulnerability, is the firm re-invention of Bush & Co.'s binary. You are indeed with us, or against us. The question is all about who is “us?” And as Arundhati Roy says in her heartshaking piece “Come September,” 9/11/2001 could be an opportunity, “To say to the citizens of America, in the gentlest, most human way: Welcome to the World.”


 

What becomes possible when we start understanding ourselves as being part of the world, rather than above it, or bunkered down against it sending out drones and poor and working-class kids to shoot other impoverished kids?

What becomes possible when we accept that invitation to re-grow our collective humanity?
There are so many places that sun is shining through the cracks right now. What I'm thinking about this morning:

In 2001, I was deeply engaged in immigrant rights work. When I returned to my home in San Francisco from D.C., just after the war in Afghanistan had been launched, it was heart-rending to hear from the immigrant leaders who had, prior to 9/11, been building powerful local and national movement. People said, “This just set us back ten years.” The levels of fear and repression hit different communities of color differently, and nobody escaped the impacts.


So it's eleven years later. The UndocuBus tour with the No Papers No Fear riders' historic freedom ride through the South just ended at the DNC to pressure Obama, who is deporting people faster than Bush ever did. The level of courage and militancy in the migrant justice movement, in the face of escalating state and federal level attacks, has risen to a higher public level than where it was on September 10, 2001.

There's more. Every day there are victories. Movements, woven out of relationships, organizations and community structures, are inexorably opening space for survival and dreaming our desires into reality.

This is a love letter. To the First Nations people whose occupied land I live on. To the folks in my life, particularly people of color, who have supported me in continuing to grow in my capacity to effectively place myself on the side of justice. To my affinity group in Washington D.C., to a memory of swimming in the Potomac with you all less than a week after September 11th and feeling us buoyed up by the river and knowing that we were going to pull each other through because we were people who loved each other who were held by a movement so big it spanned the globe. To the global peoples' movements for democracy and liberation that have inspired every successful justice movement in the U.S.  And to those who continue to grieve, while they continue to love, whose hearts are so big that nothing can stop them. The work of affirming life is what makes our hearts unstoppable. To my white people, working together against racism is a love letter to the world, and to our own potential to regenerate the humanity that white supremacy asks us to cash in.
 
Thanks to Max Elbaum and Rahula Janowski for feedback.