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Power to the People: A Welcome Prison Victory in Ohio

January 23, 2011

Although on a very small scale (which by no means diminishes the deed), we, the people, have wrought a revolution – “a sudden and momentous change in a situation” – and accomplished in 12 days what the powers that be have repeatedly told us would never happen. Indeed, for the first time in 16 years, I will be able to hug and kiss my family again! There are no words to express the profound gratitude I feel.

The late, great, revolutionary leader, Che Guevara, once said: “A true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love!” Well, while I cannot claim to be a revolutionary in the strict sense of the word, it is a great feeling of love – for you, the people – that is guiding me right now: Even as I write this, tears of hope and determination are streaming down my face.

When one has been forced to live in a space no larger than a closet for 16 years, 23 hours a day, not only does one begin to feel extremely insignificant, but the very world begins to shrink; and everything, even the smallest thing, seems impossible. Hence, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the overwhelming outpouring of love and support that came flooding into my cell after I cried out for help.

People from all over the country and the world – England, Ireland, Serbia, Amsterdam – reached out and joined together with us to right an injustice; and surprisingly, miraculously, we succeeded! Everything we demanded was properly handed over.

It would be great if I could say that the worst is over now, and that, with victory in hand, I can live happily ever after. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of living in a fairy tale; the people who are trying to take my life are real, not a figment of my imagination.

In fact, not even a week after my piece, “If We Must Die,” was posted and we embarked on the hunger strike, a federal district judge turned down my appeal, which placed me even further in the balance. It would be naïve of me to believe that this was just a coincidence, an unrelated incident that just so happened to coincide with our peaceful, nonviolent demonstration.

As you may recall, I said some very harsh things – all of them true – against the system; and I say them again: This system is bogus and sold to those with money. In other words, if you don’t have the capital, you get the punishment, and justice, like everything else in this capitalist nightmare, is nothing more than a commodity that is reserved for the highest bidder. Need I say more?

Friends, I beg you not to abandon me to this mockery; inasmuch as my life is not for them to take, I intend to fight them, and I (we) need your help. What they did to us cannot stand up under the bright light of scrutiny.

Because of who we are, they felt that doing a thorough job wasn’t necessary. After all, who’s going to give a damn about a bunch of criminals? With this as their attitude, they utilized a “first-come-first-served” strategy and ended up charging several different people with the same crimes, using different theories; and, in some cases, allowed the actual perpetrators to point the finger elsewhere if they were willing to assist the prosecution in cleaning up its books.

Simply put, what they did to us is a travesty of justice; and yet, our convictions have remained intact through the lower courts of appeal and are quickly making their way through the federal courts. In other words, if we don’t do something to get out in front of this thing, they are going to kill us soon. And it may be that, no matter what we do, they are going to kill us anyway. Well, OK. But if that be the case, let us at least make sure that they not be able to call it justice. If they kill us, let us at least be able to call it what it really is: murder.

Friends, we don’t have to accept this; we don’t have to continue down the path of least resistance, allowing them to do with us whatever they please. If we stand together and speak truth to power, they will have no choice but to right this wrong. They did it in the current confrontation, and they will do it again, not because they want to but because they have to.

Whenever hypocrisy is confronted by the truth, it must capitulate. Therefore, the key to fighting these people is to expose the truth and then hold it up next to what they claim to represent. If we can do this well enough, they will either have to practice what they preach or, as Malcolm X suggests, preach what they practice. Our job is to make sure they don’t have it both ways.

Our friend, Staughton Lynd, has written a book about the uprising, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising, and we need to encourage people to read it. In the coming days, weeks and months, we need to formulate plans to reintroduce the play and launch the documentary, Dark Little Secret, all with the intended purpose of making as many people as possible aware of what actually happened during the uprising and its aftermath.

Ultimately, the goal is to compose a petition, similar in scope to the ones that were recently circulated, which will then be presented to the governor with the demand that he either issue a general amnesty with respect to all of the Lucasville cases or, in the alternative, convene a panel of qualified experts to determine whether or not a general amnesty is warranted.

In closing, I want to thank each and every one of you for coming forward as you did. I am both humbled and uplifted by the support. When I phoned my 8-year-old niece, Kayla, afterwards and informed her that “Uncle Keith will be able to touch your little hand soon,” she, with excitement brimming in her voice, said, “That’s awesome!” And I couldn’t agree with her more: What we did was awesome! We came together and spoke truth to power and won! Imagine that!

Power to the people!

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