Filed under: Announcement, Incarceration, Police, Political Prisoners
This announcement comes from NYC Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and details new art work released from political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal to benefit young people wrongfully arrested on gang charges in New York.
In September of 2017, political prisoner, scholar, artist, and author of the new book Have Black Lives Ever Mattered, Mumia Abu Jamal, created a piece of original artwork to be sold as a fundraiser for young people who have been wrongfully arrested in connection with fabricated “gang” related charges in New York.
Now, his one-of-a-kind watercolor, measuring 8.5” X 11”, is available, with all proceeds going to those directly impacted by the violent multi-agency raids. Mumia Abu-Jamal called these raids “state terrorism”, and described some of the scenes faced by individuals impacted by the raids: “[agents] invade homes as if they were foreign nations [and]…held mothers and children at gunpoint.” Mumia also analyzes that this particular tactic in the “war on the poor” is a result of legislation that ended the legal use of the NYPD’s notorious “stop and frisk” program.* With one tool out of their arsenal, the NYPD has teamed up with the FBI, Homeland Security, the DEA, and other state, local, and federal institutions to reinvigorate a method originally created to prosecute mafia bosses.
Now, instead of prosecuting crime bosses sitting on millions of dollars, policing agencies are using the “Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)” to put young men living in public housing in federal prison for years. Far from living in riches, many of these young men are working to support their families, and in many cases their incarceration has led to the further impoverishment of their families, especially their mothers, partners, and children. Unable to afford private attorneys, raids victims are given overworked court-appointed attorneys who pressure their clients to take unfavorable plea deals, often confessing to crimes they did not commit. In many cases, the arrests are tied to the forced eviction of families living in public housing through NYCHA’s “permanent exclusion” policy, which allows NYCHA to evict families if someone previously involved in the criminal justice system is found inside their home. This punitive policy creates an impossible situation for families, who need to house their loved ones once they come home from incarceration, but risk losing their housing if they do so. Mothers are being forced to make the heart-wrenching choice between their own housing and their children’s.
Besides the exorbitant costs of fighting eviction and finding new housing in rapidly gentrifying New York City, the slave-catching methods surrounding the RICO Act push an array of costs on family members. Between paying for commissary to cover basic necessities (such as food, toiletries, phone calls, etc), covering the lost wages from incarcerated loved ones, the cost of visits, missing work, and legal fees, the carceral system leaves families impoverished.
The prison-slave system aims to put not just those incarcerated, but all those in their community, into poverty and debt. Abu-Jamal’s painting reflects this reality, showing how “Then…” black folks faced chattel slavery, and “Now…”, that system has been transferred to prison and policing. The painting suggests that just as slaves fought against their conditions and to support one another into freedom, we need to fight now to support our incarcerated brothers and sisters as well as their families, and to abolish the current manifestation of the slave system.
Place your bid on the painting here: https://www.32auctions.com/herenow.
*From Mumia’s Podcast, found here: http://www.prisonradio.org/media/audio/mumia/war-bronx-254-mumia-abu-jamal
NB: It’s been almost two years since the largest raid in the state, now referred to as the “Bronx 120” citing the number of young people kidnapped, and slowly our comrades are returning home. With many having taken pleas such as possession of marijuana, it is clear that the raids had no basis in reality, and yet they still had to suffer two years (and more) in federal prison, eviction, and the destruction of their lives and their families’. If you’re in New York, join is April 21st at the Bronx Social Center for a welcome home party and fundraiser, and you can always contribute to [email protected] on paypal if you cannot bid on the painting or make it to an in person fundraiser.