by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington, Chief Spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement
Published originally on the SF Bayview, Jan. 28, 2019
“The prison industrial complex has created a kind of ‘third-world colony’ right here in the United States. Prison systems outsource prisoners for slave labor to major corporations for pennies per day. Prisoners perform data entry and work auto industry jobs that used to belong to free-world workers. The workers left unemployed become the desperate criminals of tomorrow, getting locked up and getting their old union job back … in the prison factory … for pennies a day.” – From “Why Should Free-World Workers Care About Prisoners?” in The Incarcerated Worker, Issue 2: Summer 2015, a publication of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
Revolutionary greetings, comrades and fellow workers. Well, here we are four years later and the analysis of the IWOC (Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee) and the NABPP-PC should be starting to hit home and resonate in your heart, mind and soul.
It is our intention to transform “prison slaves” into respected and productive members of the international proletariat movement. As a proletarian, YOU, the sister or brother sitting on your bunk, or in your cubicle, or in the day room reading this essay – YOU are a WORKER and not a SLAVE. Your lives matter, and you have great potential to be an extremely productive and successful member of the new society we are struggling to create.
It is our intention to transform “prison slaves” into respected and productive members of the international proletariat movement.
As deputy chairman of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, Prison Chapter, and as the chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, I wear many hats but without a doubt my most important task is to ensure that I adhere to our PARTY LINE and teach as well as uphold it.
Many may view me as the “hype man” of our movement; however, I have assumed the responsibility to awaken and then develop the class conscious worker. In order to provide you with a clear and concise explanation of the class conscious worker, allow me to quote our minister of defense, Comrade Kevin “Rashid” Johnson.
Comrade Rashid says: 1) “The class conscious worker can be of two sorts: the militant and the revolutionary. The militant worker takes sense of commitment beyond the family into the workplace and will stand up to the bosses for workers’ rights, even to the extent of jeopardizing one’s employment, freedom and safety by participating in strikes and job actions.”
Comrades, for the past couple of years we have seen thousands of prisoners all across the United States and some in Europe and Canada embrace class consciousness and join in our solidarity actions. Now we are engaged in a process of revolutionary development, so allow Comrade Rashid to explain the other aspect of the class conscious worker.
Rashid continues: 2) “The revolutionary worker takes the sense of commitment even further and challenges the oppressive social order to change the social relations for ALL and put an end to class exploitation and oppression once and for all. The revolutionary is inspired by a great LOVE for the people and sense of DUTY to the masses and to future generations.”
And this, my respected sisters and brothers, is our aspiration and hope for ALL OF US throughout the United States, Europe, Asia the Middle East to include Israel where my Palestinian home girls and home boys are trapped in Israeli slave kamps and gulags. We are seeking to revolutionize the way you think and act.
Knockin’ doors down
Comrades, the theme I have chosen for this year’s Prison Abolition Struggle is “Knockin’ Doors Down.” Chad Butler, better known as Pimp-C of the rap duo UGK, penned a smash rap hit entitled “Knockin Doorz Down” before his untimely and some say mysterious death.
The lyrics were directed to hip-hop and rap artists in the music industry who had allowed themselves to be manipulated, exploited and turned against one another by the corporate capitalist pigs who run the major record labels in Amerikkka. Some may liken them to the pigs who operate Texas prisons and numerous other departments of corrections throughout the U.S. Whether you want to admit it or not, we have allowed ourselves to be PLAYED. Oh – they ain’t gonna like this one, y’all.
For decades, approximately five major corporations have run the record industry, telling artists what type of lyrics they can write, what topics were taboo, and what CDs would be allowed to drop and when. They even control what songs get serious rotation on local radio stations.
In order to control independent or “renegade artists” like Tupac Shakur, the major record executives have actually created beefs and rivalries between artists who for all intents and purposes should have been allies and comrades in struggle against these pigs. So Pimp-C made a clarion call of solidarity and unity among all hip-hop artists and rappers, especially in my city of Houston, Texas.
Basically Pimp-C was saying: “Let’s stop all the cappin’ and dissin’ and get this money together. Forget them corporate pigs. Let’s make our own record labels and distribute our own artistic product.”
The theme I have chosen for this year’s Prison Abolition Struggle is “Knockin’ Doors Down.”
“Knockin’ Doors Down” calls us to destroy all boundaries and walls which separate us and keep us from striving for the greater good of all humanity. As you can see, I’ve taken this concept and applied to our Prison Abolition Movement.
Comrades Swift Justice and Kinetik Justice of the Free Alabama Movement and I have come to the decision that it is wise for us to work more closely together and attempt to achieve some REAL GOALS like voting rights. But that isn’t all; we also want to open up a couple other “fronts” in order to confront and destroy the School to Prison Pipeline and join in solidarity with our immigrant sisters and brothers along with their children as they seek to either gain asylum or just be treated like human beings and not like cattle. All this falls under the auspices of ENDING PRISON SLAVERY.
The vanguard in Texas
Now the vanguard in Texas that is actually trying to change things in a positive way is made up of a loosely connected collective of Anarchists, New Afrikans, Mandingos, Muslims and others who have embraced the strategy and tactics of direct action. We are a small but very vocal minority who file lawsuits, write grievances, and engage in journalism, organizing and educating the people, our fellow prisoners. Our “watch words” are RESIST AND REBEL.
With the help of various Anarchist collectives across the nation and Europe – Canada too – we’ve been able to launch some successful political projects. Last year’s International Solidarity Action which took place on June 19, 2018, was one such project, and another project which has become extremely relevant this year in Texas is the Bamboozled Zine that Austin ABC and Central Texas ABC helped me and Norris “Fajr” Hicks create. Fajr is the other co-founder of this awesome movement which seeks to End Prison Slavery in Texas.
Bamboozled focuses on the fraudulent good time and work time credit system inside Texas prisons. If there is one thing that I have found that will get Blacks, Mexicans and whites to cooperate together in Texas, it is when we focus on a COMMON G0AL – and I can tell you WE ALL WANT TO BE FREE. Sooner rather than later. You feel me?
Our “watch words” are RESIST AND REBEL.
Texas has set-up a horribly corrupt and biased parole system, and it has been like this for DECADES.
One of our core demands during this year’s legislative session in Texas is to have legislators address this fraudulent credit system and create new laws which give us reasonable and realistic opportunities toward gaining our FREEDOM. For the most part, legislators in Texas have continued to ignore our demands for a more equitable and fair parole system even as we have seen reported in the media that Texas prison officials often SET UP prisoners with bogus and fabricated disciplinary cases when they near PAROLE ELIGIBILITY.
This is not fantasy, y’all. This is a fact. All you had to do is read the Houston Chronicle or even the Prison Legal News last year and you can see for yourself what these unscrupulous violators of the public’s trust have been doing to hold us hostage down here so they can have them some well trained slaves to till they damn fields. We the prisoners in Texas are going to have to organize and act soon. BUT WE WON’T BE TELEGRAPHIN’ OUR MOVES.
On a very positive note, we had one of our core demands recognized. The jury is still out on whether or not the bills will pass, but I can tell you that two Black Texas legislators from Houston have heard our pleas for independent oversight.
It is not exactly what we have been proposing, but Texas Rep. Jarvis Johnson, D-Houston, and Texas Sen. Borris Miles, also D-Houston, have drafted identical pieces of legislation that call for the creation of an Independent Ombudsman Office. If you are interested, you can have your family or friends research these current proposed pieces of legislation: SB-188 and HB-363.
The current Ombudsman Office is under the umbrella of TDCJ and is about as effective as the current Offender Grievance System. Prisoners and their family as well as friends all across Texas will tell you that the grievance and ombudsman systems are ineffective, corrupt, biased and an absolute waste of taxpayer dollars. These people down here are stealing money from taxpayers, giving our folks the impression that they have some kind of honorable vehicle for review of our complaints.
Texas Rep. Jarvis Johnson, D-Houston, and Texas Sen. Borris Miles, also D-Houston, have drafted identical pieces of legislation that call for the creation of an Independent Ombudsman Office [see here also for more info and HB3303 -ed.].
What Rep. Johnson and Sen. Miles are proposing is placing the current TDCJ Ombudsman Office under the purview of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. My main problem with this is that all we will be doing is changing offices but retaining the same corrupt and unethical individuals working the program. For meaningful change, we need to CLEAN HOUSE AND START OVER.
The current TDCJ Ombudsman Office serves as a liaison between the public and these un-ethical pigs who run these slave kamps and gulags. My experience and the experience of my close comrades and friends has shown us that many of the current ombudsperson’s staff used to be ranking TDCJ employees who worked inside these prison facilities. One I know of is Jane Cockerham who on more than one occasion responded to our complaints in such a manner as to cover up and conceal mistreatment, abuse or unconstitutional living conditions, and I do have proof.
In the past three years my support network has filed more ombudsman complaints on my behalf and for other prisoners than any other support network in Texas. Now all of our complaints and responses are supposed to be available to the public – so all you have to do is email the Ombudsman Office and request to see all the complaints filed on behalf of Keith H. Washington, TDC 1487958 within the past three years.
One thing I can say is that I admire both of these Black legislators from H-Town because they not just acknowledged the flawed office, they have taken active steps to fix it. I encourage everyone of you reading this article to have your family or friends who have ever utilized this corrupt Ombudsman Office to resolve complaints to contact Rep. Johnson or Sen. Miles and ask them when the committee hearing is scheduled for these bills and, if you choose, how you can testify on behalf of yourselves and your loved ones. We need to make our experiences public so the world can hear how Texas has violated our rights consistently.
The power is in the people
As I said previously here, Swift Justice, Kinetik Justice and myself have come to the realization that re-enfranchisement is a goal we would like to achieve for ALL PRISONERS and former prisoners. I believe the state of Texas already has a law on the books which grants former prisoners their right to vote after they have completed their sentences and finished parole.
Florida recently passed a law which restored the voting rights of over a million women and men. However, there was a major flaw in the Florida legislation. It excluded murderers and those with sex offenses.
My problem is this: The U.S. Constitution has an Equal Protection Clause under the 14th Amendment. Now, if you are going to restore voting rights to some and not ALL, that presents a serious constitutional question. I am hoping that the Human Rights Defense Center will address that anomaly in the law. And by the way, I send out a clenched fist salute to PAUL WRIGHT of PRISON LEGAL NEWS.
For decades – maybe even over a century – white supremacist politicians and lobbyists have come up with creative ways to stop prisoners and former prisoners from voting. We even saw a free world “agent” in North Carolina trying to sabotage the vote of free world folks during the mid-terms. However, when we consider that 85 percent of all prisoners will eventually someday be released to society, WE MUST FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHT TO VOTE SO OUR VOICES CAN BE HEARD.
I’m not going to keep quiet while Texas legislators like Sen. John Whitmire misrepresent our interests. When prisoners were down here dying of heat stroke, Sen. Whitmire was lobbying against air conditioning – FACT.
Swift Justice, Kinetik Justice and myself have come to the realization that re-enfranchisement is a goal we would like to achieve for ALL PRISONERS and former prisoners.
When Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was a member of the Texas Legislature, he crafted a bill that called for zero tolerance of retaliation against those who file grievances or federal civil complaints. Sen. Whitmire stopped the bill – claiming that TDCJ already had policies prohibiting retaliation.
Sen. Whitmire knew good and well what was happening down here to litigators such as myself and Kevin “Rashid” Johnson. And Rashid’s case is exceptionally disturbing because there were deaths of Texas prisoners at the hands of TDCJ prison guards – and Sen. Whitmire pretty much was complicit in the retaliation against Rashid when TDCJ prison officials conspired with the Florida Department of Corrections to send Rashid away when he exposed circumstances that showed these deaths of prisoners at the Bill Clements High Security Unit were actually MURDERS.
And there is no statute of limitation on murder or investigating cold cases, folks. Even now in the heated climate and atmosphere in which Texas citizens are screaming for independent oversight, we have legislators like Texas Rep. James White who claim everything is all right. NO need to change the system, Rep. White has been saying. Sisters and brothers, this system is BROKEN, period.
We must secure our voting rights and use them so we can vote Whitmire and other Dixiecrats like him out of office. We the people have power if we tap into it.
Y’all reading this essay knew it wasn’t going to be no “Jeffin House Negro” and “Uncle Tom Trash.” I am a servant of the people and I’m gonna put the truth and the facts in they face. We must collectively encourage our loved ones and friends in the free world to get directly involved in the political process. Attend a committee hearing, send an email, make a phone call, organize a rally or a protest. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD.
We must secure our voting rights and use them so we can vote Whitmire and other Dixiecrats like him out of office. We the people have power if we tap into it.
Why should prisoners join the IWW?
Sisters and brothers, I am going to end this provocative essay with an invitation to all prisoners in the United States, Europe, Canada, Asia, the Middle-East, Africa, as well as South and Central Amerika to join our ranks of fellow workers. I will quote a section right from our wonderful publication: The Incarcerated Worker:
“The majority of people in prison will get out and return to prison again. The prison system creates a class of people unable to successfully advocate for themselves, robbing them of necessary skills, catching them in a revolving door.”
“Prisons are used for economic purposes. Prisons are a way to lock up the unemployed and to create desperate people to work rotten jobs at low pay. This serves the interests of the rich and powerful and it harms the workers and the poor.”
“Prisons are used for political purposes. Prisons lock away the poor, those who are in favor of more ‘radical’ solutions. Taking away votes and power from the poor communities, prisons ensure that politicians will be puppets of the war mongers and fear mongers.”
“Prisons are used for demographic purposes. Black men are the largest segment of the prison population. Black women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population. Prisons are used to maintain radical inequalities.”
“Children with at least one parent in prison are far more likely to go to prison also. Children of prisoners are the prison population of tomorrow. The cycle continues for generations.”
“You cannot change this situation through a grievance process that doesn’t work or through courts that are clearly against you or through petitions to lawmakers who don’t care about you because you don’t vote or through hunger strikes against prison officials who want you to starve or through letters to newspapers who have ignored this situation for decades.”
“We know what will happen if you DON’T join the INDUSTRIAL WORKERS of the WORLD (IWW). Let’s see what happens when you DO. PRISONER MEMBERSHIP IS FREE. Join the Industrial Workers of the World TODAY. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS.”
Comrades, I’m leaving you with some addresses for the IWOC, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, so you can get your application to both the IWW and IWOC. Basically we are one organization but the IWOC exclusively serves our incarcerated fellow workers. THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES. Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win, All Power to the People.
- Kansas City IWW and IWOC, P.O. Box 414304, Kansas City, MO 64141-4304
- Oakland IWOC, P.O. Box 6305, Oakland, CA 94603
- Milwaukee IWOC, P.O. Box 342294, Milwaukee, WI 53234
- UK IWOC, P.O. Box 7593, Glasgow, G42 2EX, UK
Postscript: A call to action
Sisters and brothers, I am sending out a national call and request for civil and human rights lawyers to take an interest in the struggles of my comrade and friend Jason Renard Walker as well as myself. Jason and I have been subjected to a coordinated campaign of harassment, retaliation and racial hatred by employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (sic.). White supremacist Klansmen jumped on my comrade Jason in November 2018 at the Ellis Unit located in Huntsville, Texas.
Even the federal courts have joined in the campaign against Jason and I. I have had a “mysterious” Fusion Center Report placed in my file and, without a board certified lawyer, we may never know exactly what is in that report and why this corrupt and unethical agency refuses to release me from Ad-Seg. We need help gaining the attention of Texas legislators now that the legislative session has begun.
I’d also like to echo the call of Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun of the Free Alabama Movement as he has called for the creation of an app whereby lawyers, activists and legal aid organizations can gain direct immediate access to the various abolition movements and groups throughout the United Snakes of Amerika as well as Europe and gain specific information about our various struggles – right now.
I am hoping that Queen Tahiyrah’s words proclaiming Justice in 2019 will prove to be prophetic as we head into unchartered territory in a tumultuous world. It most definitely is time to END PRISON SLAVERY and together we will achieve that goal. UHURU! Free Comrade Jason! Free Comrade Malik! FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!
Send our brother some love and light: Keith Washington, 1487958, McConnell Unit, 3100 S. Emily Dr., Beeville TX 78103.