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“Pride month” commemorates the anti-police stonewall riots of late June 1969, when gays, drag queens, trans people, and other ancestors of today’s queer, trans, and otherwise gender-varient and/or non-straight-sexual people literally fought to free themselves from police repression and societal marginalization. There are more than a few groups and individuals carrying that torch forward but you wouldn’t know it, looking at all the corporate floats and mainstream flag-waving that went on today and throughout the month. Some gayness has found its way to normalcy, assimilation, and co-optation and some of its constituency and profiteers want to sit back, cash in, and celebrate a previous generation’s struggle and a present generations triumph over bygone wicked times. Celebration is fantastic but without continued resistance, it makes no sense.
Think about it: the stonewall rioters of 69 fought to expel the police and deny them their routine of raiding, arresting, jailing, beating, and assaulting their people and their scene. While it is now a lot more legal for queer and gender-variant people to congregate in bars etc, police invasion and control has reached new heights with “stop and frisk” tactics and operation clean halls which brings harassment and ID checks into NYC apartments– just like people were lined up and ID’d in places like the Stonewall Inn and arrested for not conforming to their assigned sex as read by police. And how much has changed there?- as trans people are still discriminated against in terms of IDs, access to healthcare, and access to social services. There’s also the proliferation of the various prison systems in which “Trans women are up to 15 times more likely to be incarcerated than the general population, “ and once in, they tend to be housed in male prisons and put at risk for rape, assault, and abuse. Many trans women of color were killed this year in the united states, hundreds of trans people are killed globally each year, and as the story often goes, CeCe McDonald, a trans woman of color who defended herself from a bigoted transphobic racist attack was recently convicted of manslaughter and put in a male prison. These are just a few examples.
Stonewall veterans and revolutionaries like Sylvia Rivera founded groups like the Gay Liberation Front and STAR (Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries) and worked with the Black Panthers and Young Lords. She didn’t restrict herself to gay rights nor did she take opportunities to become an assimilated victor, not that she had them.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any problem with pride, celebration, and festivities. In fact, I love them. I just take issue with the mainstream delusion that the fight is over and that queerness can be divorced from other social struggles. It was wonderful marching with the Trans Day of Action in NYC as well as the Drag March. When pride and celebration of who and what we are comes from a rich and broad spectrum of light– when the rainbow comes from the rain as well as the sunshine, when we know there is more struggling to do but we celebrate anyway, that is a truly beautiful thing. And that’s why I love June. There really is a lot to be proud of.
This was a quick rant. For further reading, of a more thoughtful variety, check out. . .
Jalil Muntaqim, mentioned in my previous post, wrote something just posted to his blog about the issue I raised in my post before that!– about the ny parole board’s opposition to parole. Things are coming together! It includes an action alert that may be more strategic than the one I posted.
Read Jalil Muntaqim’s recent post . . .
My last post briefly discussed new york state’s stubborn opposition to parole, and how and why a lot of people, including some freedom fighters, are stuck. new jersey is not too different and I’m sure other u.s. states aren’t either.
All of this can serve our desire to delay, opt out, and/or rationalize not writing the letters and helping prisoners of war and political prisoners when they come up for parole. Especially for anarchists and others who are rightly pessimistic about institutional reform and wanting to concentrate energies on autonomous and anti-state endeavors as much as possible.
If you’re like me and aware of these things, you’ve delayed as much as possible and maybe too long. As much as I’d like to say the letters don’t matter and we can disregard those calls to action with a clean conscience, if you’re like me, you really can’t. The truth is there is a chance it will help. And it’s a chance we can’t afford to pass up.
Sundiata Acoli , Seth Hayes, and Jalil Muntaqim are all up for parole in June any day now. It may be too late but send your letters in now. I don’t want this to be a do-this-now kind of blog but I gotta blog like that today before I head to the mailbox.
If you’re not familiar with political prisoners, prisoners of war, and related issues, now is a great time to learn about them and possibly help stop states from continuing to make examples of people, at great human cost, to discourage dissent and community action. All three of these men have made sacrifices for the cause of Black Liberation and the cause of humanity and have contributed to the lengthening of chains some of us enjoy out here in minimum custody. Leaving them to struggle alone now would be to turn our backs on the past and the future at our own peril.
Follow this link for information about Sundiata Acoli and his parole hearing and scroll down this one to “Parole Hearing Support” for Seth Hayes and Jalil Muntaqim.
Under the state of new york and similar states not terribly long ago, and in other parts of the world more recently, there are many examples for how political prisoners and prisoners of war gain freedom. It can be done.
Meanwhile, today in new york state, many of these avenues are closed or not working. As much as people are trying and possibly making strides toward bigger, stronger, tighter, more disciplined movements with broad and deep community involvement and support, capable of great deeds, time is ticking. Movement prisoners are getting older under harsh conditions and with horribly lacking healthcare and nutrition.
Most pps and pows in new york state prisons are facing special repression and discrimination for their political activity, views, and/or affiliations. Political discrimination and related vendettas may be keeping them locked up. However, there’s no way to tell, because the thing that is definitely keeping them locked up is also keeping many, many new york state prisoners locked up, regardless of politics.
NY State lets very few so-called “A1 violent felons” out . . . Ever. And they don’t let too many people out at all.
NY’s ruling elite have the conundrum of
1) needing to keep large sections of the population well below poverty levels so as to keep wages down and keep business profitable
2) needing to manage their “reserve army of labor” so that crime and revolt can’t hamper quality of life for the wealthy.
They do this through policing and mass imprisonment and part of their approach is keeping people locked up indefinitely at the expense of families, communities, and tax payers. (Recommended reading: Lockdown America by Christian Parenti)
The infuriating thing is that ny state just passed a law requiring the state parole board to use a risk-assessment procedure rather than using the “severity of the crime” as an excuse to keep people locked away forever, and they’re ignoring it. The parole board has elected to use the new procedure without allowing it to interfere with their old procedure or lack thereof. They have, in effect, arrogantly circumvented the law so as to keep a large group of people indefinitely under lock and key . . .
Excerpts from article . . .
“Effect of Risk Assessment Rule on Parole Decisions is Unclear”
April 30, 2012
ALBANY - A new law requiring the state parole board to consider inmates’ rehabilitation and use a “risk assessment” procedure to gauge whether parole-eligible inmates have reformed appears to be having little effect as release rates are largely unchanged and the board is routinely basing its denials on boilerplate statutory language emphasizing the offense, records suggest.
In October, the panel was legislatively required to “incorporate risk and needs principles to measure the rehabilitation of persons appearing before the board, the likelihood of success of such persons upon release.”
The board did so, but advocates say the new process appears to have no impact. . . .
In the meantime, advocates, and lawmakers who helped get the item into a budget bill, view the revision as a mandatory shift in focus, with the parole board directed to view eligible inmates in the light of who they have become rather than who they were when they committed their crime.
But the board sees it simply as an updated mechanism for viewing an inmate’s rehabilitation, one of the several statutory factors it already takes into consideration.
In an Oct. 5 memo to her colleagues explaining the new provision, parole board chair Andrea Evans directed the members to “ascertain what steps an inmate has taken toward their rehabilitation and the likelihood of their success once released to parole supervision.”
But Evans also advised the board that “the standard for assessing the appropriateness of release, as well as the statutory criteria…has not changed.”
But Philip Genty, a professor at Columbia Law School and director of its Prisoners and Families Clinic, is not sure there has been no change in the statutory standards, even though the section that lists the criteria is unaltered.
Genty noted that Executive Law §259-i(2)(a) says that release determinations must be in accordance with guidelines requiring written procedures focused on rehabilitation.
“In that sense, the criteria have changed, and parole seems to be out of compliance with the new requirements,” Genty said.
. . . . • The release rate for A-1 violent offenders appearing for the first time has decreased considerably since the new law took effect. So far this year, fewer than 4 percent have been granted parole. Last year, 10 percent were released, and 11 percent were granted parole in 2009 and 2010.
If you agree about this being infuriating, while this has your attention, take a moment to write, call, and/or email Chairwoman Andrea Evans. . .
Andrea W. Evans, Chairwoman
New York State Division of Parole
97 Central Ave
Albany, NY 12206
RE: Recent Amendment of Executive Law §259-c(4)
- express your concern and outrage over the parole commissioner’s arrogant refusal to adhere to the guidelines/standard of the new parole law now in effect
- demand that the parole commissioners stop refusing parole to those parole candidates who have long completed their court-set minimum sentences
- ask why those serving 25-life for violent felonies are condemned to additional 35 or more years for their crimes. Ask what is the purpose of rehabilitation and good behavior if nobody can get out?
- If you’re a new york state tax-payer, say so, and say that you don’t want your tax dollars going to keep people indefinitely in prison when the budget is so tight and money could be spent on other things.
- Say that people need to be reunited with their families and communities.
“You may also contact the Governor’s office by phone (518) 474-8390 or mail:”
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Once you’ve sent your letter and/or made your call, repost or reblog.
I should also mention that a tremendous reform of prison policy has been achieved at least on paper. . .
I truly hope that new york state, and other u.s. states and the federal system, will abide by these new guidelines rather than say, reverting to existing practices which have been horrific for trans and gender-non-conforming people in prisons. Of course, people are watching to see.
Oh and PS, down with prisons and long live every neighborhood, block, building, village, worksite, — long live every group of people capable of working collectively, defending themselves, taking care of each other, and holding each other accountable for each other’s actions and working to heal each other and themselves. I’m talking about the real ones, not the fakers. People working and living like neighbors is way better than police and prisons and way better at achieving peace. If you are out there, doing that, keep doing it because you are what I believe in.