Chris and Rec speak with Johanna Fernandez, (pictured above at left/on Mumia’s right) professor of History and Black and Latino Studies at Baruch College of CUNY and writer and producer of Justice on Trial: The Case of Mumia Abu Jamal. Connecting the campaigns to free political prisoners with other movements to attain racial justice, dignity, humanity, and self-definition, this episode of TRGGR Radio discusses Mumia Abu-Jamal’s current situation on Death Row, the state of the international movement for his release, and its relationship to the addition of Assata Shakur to the Most Wanted Terrorist list.
Our second guest is Kim Adino, speaking about the international organization Better Future and the cultural and educational work they engage in with youth in the Dominican Republic through the Women Worldwide Initiative. On the way out we briefly discuss the track, Neurotic Society, that Lauryn Hill was forced to release.
Part 1: Featuring Johanna Fernandez
Since the late 1990s, the rate of women’s incarceration nationally has doubled that of incarcerated men. In 1980, there were roughly 14,000 women incarcerated nationally; by 2008 that number was well over 200,000. Although the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has the lowest rate of women imprisonment in the country (currently at 13 out of every 100,000 people), its population of incarcerated women and mothers is growing.
As of 2010, over 60% of “women in prison in the Commonwealth had been found guilty of nonviolent crimes such as drug and property offenses.” Currently there is a Bill before the Massachusetts legislature (H 2234) that “would establish minimum standards for the treatment and medical care of female inmates to promote safe, healthy pregnancy outcomes, prohibit shackling during childbirth, and ensure that release planning includes child custody and basic family planning information and services.”
According to the Bill’s Factsheet, “Nearly two-thirds of women in prison are mothers, and 77% of incarcerated mothers report providing most of the daily care for their children before incarceration. Further, according to the Bureau of Justice in 2007, 5% of women who enter into state prisons are pregnant, and 6% of women in jails are pregnant.”
The backgrounds, experiences, and needs of these women pre- and post-incarceration require our attention if we are to reverse these trends. Groups such as the Rebecca Project, the National Women’s Law Center, and locally the Prison Birth Project and The Real Cost of Prisons, among numerous other groups, have been crucial in bringing to public light the range of issues facing incarcerated women. A newly formed Boston-based organization, Families for Justice as Healing, seeks to “organize and mobilize families of those incarcerated for drug related offenses to join the movement toward creating criminal justice legislation that heals and rebuilds families and communities.” Joining us on the phone to talk about their work is the organization’s founder, Andrea James.
Over the past two years incarcerated men and women in some of America’s most notorious prisons including Georgia, Ohio, California (on two occasions), and now in Virginia, have organized in protest to a range of human rights abuses behind bars. In most of these cases, incarcerated men and women have issued their protest in the form of hunger strikes. On Tuesday, May 22nd, prisoners at Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, Virginia went on hunger strike; today is day four of their strike. Red Onion State Prison is Virginia’s first super-maximum security facility, which began admitting incarcerated individuals in 1998. In 1999, just a year after its opening, Human Rights Watch reported that, “the Virginia Department of Corrections has failed to embrace basic tenets of sound correctional practice and laws protecting inmates from abusive, degrading or cruel treatment” at Red Onion. For insight into the strike and the strike demands, we are joined on the phone by ADWOA MASOZI of the Institute for Policy Studies, and MAC GASKINS, a former inmate at Red Onion State Prison. They are two organizers with a newly formed coalition called Solidarity with Virginia Hunger Strikers. Visit the site to read the HUNGER STRIKE DEMANDS.
Part 1: VA Hunger Strike
Part 2: Exonerations, Brian Banks, Black Male Unemployment, Mumia
Mac Gaskins is from Richmond, VA. He considers himself a liberated prisoner, having spent 14.5 years in prison with 4 of those years being inside Red Onion State Prison. Mac is anti-prison/PIC activist and organizer, and a founding member of Supporting Prisoners and Acting for Radical Change (SPARC).
Adwoa Masozi is from Newark, NJ. She has been an organizer since the age of 9 when she started a food program feeding the homeless in the cities of East Orange and Newark, NJ. Since then, she has been active in NJ groups like People’s Organization for Progress and NJ Peace Action. Currently, she’s a member of Supporting Prisoners and Acting for Radical Change (SPARC) and EMPOWER DC.
The Untouchable Caste of the United States:
The Stigma of Incarceration and the Metamorphosis of Legal Discrimination
Mount Holyoke College – South Hadley, Massachusetts – April 11, 2012
A panel featuring Rosa Clemente, Jasiri X, Jared Ball, and Marc Lamont Hill; moderated by Chris Tinson; also featured: Emahunn Campbell of Students Against Mass Incarceration (SAMI) speaking on the Charles Wilhite case, and closing inspiration by Nyle Fort. Enjoy & Spread!!
Peace, on this episode Chris and REC were joined on the phone by author Sujatha Fernandes to talk about her work exploring the global dimensions of Hip-Hop from Paris to Caracas to Australia. As she writes in her latest book, Close to the Edge (Verso 2011) “The story of the global spread of hip hop is itself one of movement. A movement of ideas, a movement of commodities, a movement of people. If there is anything that marks this moment, it is as much the motion and mobility that bring us together as it is the boundaries and borders that divide us. Hip hop is a force defined by rupture and flow, and it remains to be seen whether global hip hoppers can reinvent themselves in the diaspora and build enduring links with their homelands” (189). We also briefly provide an update on the Occupy Wall Street mobilization, as well as hear commentary from Mumia Abu Jamal. Enjoy & Circulate!