Saturday, June 30, 2012


I posted this on the Facebook watch page for our area a few hours ago.  The event described below occurred early this afternoon.  Just another day in amerika (as we used to spell it).  By the way it was around 104 degrees at the time.  The majority of those who responded to the facebook post have not been at all happy with my remarks.  One even criticized the woman for not finding a store to go to instead of bothering people in their homes.  The ambulance guys, one black, one white from the fire department were courteous as was the 911 operator with whom I spoke.

"After reading all the precautionary statements, warnings, etc. on this page of people worried about anyone not white, anyone who comes to their door, anyone who looks out of place, and all that rot, I present you this story from our neighborhood and direct from my house."

"A young African American woman just came to my door in bad shape. She was pregnant, had an infection, had been in an ER yesterday with a cyst, had just walked for then 40 blocks in one hundred degree heat. She was chilling, numb in hands and feet crying, etc. I brought her in, gave her some water, called an ambulance and woke up my wife, who is a nurse, from her nap. Karen took care of her until the ambulance arrived. She was a very nice young woman, very polite, and very scared, and very sick. She had knocked at about twenty doors in my wonderful neighborhood and no one bothered to open their doors. No one offered to help until she reached my door."

"Shame on this whole neighborhood!"

"Shame on this whole neighborhood!"


For theoretical weekend at Scission, I am today presenting with a little story and analysis about a small bit of self organizing by a few people in in an apartment building in New York City.  This story won't make the news, it won't make the big left blogs, it won't be read by millions, and it won't have hardly any impact on the world.  Still....

The following is from Recomposition: Notes for a New Workerism.

Direct Action Begins at Home

 | Filed under For discussion

Our friend Amédée Garneau sends along this story about tenant organizing in New York.

Direct Action Begins at Home: On organizing with fellow tenants
by Amédée Garneau

The other day I met a student named Yusuf who said he wanted to figure out how to organize with the other tenants in his building.  “I was active in community stuff when I was back in L.A.” he said.  “But since I moved to New York, I haven’t met any of my neighbours.  The one time I did was when my upstairs neighbour had locked himself out of his apartment, and he needed to crawl through my window and onto to fire escape to go in his own window.  Other than that, I haven’t met anyone and I don’t know how.  I barely see them.”

I understood his frustration – it took me years to meet my own neighbours.  People in New York aren’t as unfriendly as our reputation suggests, but we don’t tend to form relationships with the people down the hall, in part because we all work different schedules, and in part because people move around a lot, usually in search of a slightly better combination of rent, closeness to the subway, roommates, and space, and so you’re never sure how long your fellow tenants are going to hang around.

I can also understand why Yusuf wanted to organize.  Being a renter in New York is pretty tough – rents are really high, and the living conditions aren’t great.  The buildings are old, and much of them were built cheaply in the first place, which makes infrastructure like plumbing and heating unreliable – I have a recurring roof leak, my apartment isn’t hot enough in the winter, and my water takes a long time to run hot.  Being a populated city, New York also has a lot of vermin like cockroaches and mice – I have dealt with both.  There is also noise and light pollution from nearby bars or construction, which some buildings block out better than others.  Landlords tend to move very slowly in resolving any of issues.  It took me seven months of calling and emailing my landlord before my last roof leak was fixed – seven months of catching drips with towels, and plaster falling from the ceiling.

Housing, Capitalism and the Law

There is a reason why landlords aren’t very motivated to spend money on repairs.  In a capitalist society, the goal of housing is not to give people shelter, but to generate a profit.  We’ve seen this with the latest economic crisis: when a homeowner can’t make their mortgage payments, even if those payments no longer have anything to do with the value of the house, they are no longer allowed to live in that house: the bank would rather see it sit empty.  The same principle of profit-generation applies to rent.  Rent is not determined by what a person can pay, or what kinds of amenities an apartment has, but by what a landlord can command for their own profit.  There are a lot of empty buildings in New York just because their owners don’t think the profits would be big enough if they were to get them up and running and fill them with tenants.  With the buildings that they do operate, landlords always try to squeeze as much rent as possible out of tenants while providing as little in terms of living conditions as they can get away with.  That makes us our interests opposite to the landlords’, and if they have the upper hand, we are vulnerable.

For this reason, some cities like New York have actually written a series of laws to protect tenants.  These laws are meant to give tenants some rights to healthy and safe living conditions, to protect them against eviction, and to rein in skyrocketing rents.  Without the intervention of these laws in New York, working people would have been completely displaced out of Manhattan a long time ago.

The problem is, those laws don’t always help much, in practice.  Most tenants don’t really know their rights, and enforcing them means going through a very slow-moving city bureaucracy, and/or hiring a lawyer.  I learned this firsthand when I challenged my landlord for refusing to stabilize the rent on my apartment, even though it legally should have been.  I filed a claim, and it took almost a year to get a response from the City, and that was just the beginning of a process that dragged on for several more months.  In the meantime, my landlord sic’ed their lawyer on me, and I didn’t have one of my own.  Out of fear I settled, dropping my claim about the rent stabilized status of my apartment in exchange for slightly lower rent.

Landlords harass and exploit and bargain with each tenant individually, just like bosses do in the workplace, and they use their superior resources to intimidate us, even finding bogus ways of evicting people if they cause too much trouble (which I was afraid of too).  Because of my experiences, and of what I’ve heard from other people, I now believe that tenants, like workers, only have power when united, and that we have to band together to get what we need and want.  So Yusuf’s question about organizing is very on point.  And I was happy to realize that I had some advice for him.

The Story of My Building
About six months ago, something interesting happened in my building.  One of my neighbours, Dean, had managed to collect most of the tenants’ email addresses, just by stopping them in the hallway and asking them.  I think his original intention was to invite people to his gigs, since he is a musician.  But one day, out of the blue, Dean emailed our landlord’s property manager, Steve, asking very politely if the hallways could be cleaned – they were very dirty, there was mold pushing through the paint, and some minor repairs needed to be done.  Dean had emailed the landlord about this many times in the past, but this time he also cc’ed the six other tenants whose email addresses he had collected.

The response from Steve was almost immediate, which was pretty remarkable for a guy who often doesn’t respond at all.  Steve told Dean that he would attend to the hallways soon.  More interestingly, he asked Dean not to cc the other tenants on correspondence about maintenance issues.

His reaction told us we were on to something.  Sure enough, the very next day, for the first time in ten years, the landlord started cleaning the hallways.  They sanded down the areas where the mold had grown, scraped the grit off the tile floor, and taped the baseboards and door frames for painting.  We were all amazed – ten years of asking for these things, and finally we had some action.  It was then that we knew how powerful our simple tactic of speaking to the landlord in unison had been.

A few days later, the hallway work stopped.  A week went by.  Again, the tenants emailed the landlord, this time with a different neighbour initiating the email chain.  And the following day, work started on the hallways again.  At this point, people realized this was how to get things done.  We started voicing our concerns over this email chain about our own apartments: one tenant’s bathroom tile work was unfinished, and mold was developing; another was suffocating from the dryer exhaust whenever anyone did laundry.  The email chain got to be about fifteen emails long with complaints.

Somewhere in this period, I invited everyone on the email list (except Steve, of course) to my apartment for a coffee klatch.  A bunch of people rsvp’ed, and a few actually showed.  Two of the newer tenants were able to learn from one who had been around for longer about the struggles that had taken place with the landlord in the past.  Apparently this wasn’t the first time that the tenants had banded together to get a problem solved.  About six years ago, they had formed a coalition to pressure the landlord to reinforce one of the foundation walls, which was showing cracks.  One of the tenants knew a good lawyer, and collectively they took the landlord to court.  The judge found in the tenants’ favour, but the landlord continued to drag their feet on the repairs.  The lawyer then had everyone’s rent reduced to one dollar a month until repairs were done.  It seemed like even when using a lawyer to enforce tenants’ rights, it was important to band together, to share the legal resources people were aware of, and to make sure everyone got the same deal.

Once my neighbours and I got in touch, we realized some specific ways we could help each other out directly.  One day, my neighbour Jen left a note in my mailbox asking if I could keep an eye on her apartment.  She attached an article from the New York Post about a rent-controlled tenant whose landlord had evicted all of her stuff while she was away on vacation.  Jen was going away for the weekend, and as a rent-controlled tenant, she wanted to make sure this didn’t happen to her.  Of course, I watched her apartment, and kept in touch with her via text while she was away.

The most inspiring moment in our tenant organizing came a few weeks after the hallway work started.  The landlord had painted a few swatches of colour in the front entrance hall, apparently testing out different paints to see how they would look.  And spontaneously, without any coordination happening over email, the tenants voted on them.  There were strips of masking tape beneath each colour swatch, and we wrote our thoughts about the colours directly on them: “Ick!” “Too dark!” “Gross!” “YES!” “This one.”  As it happened, the vote was unanimous.  And a few weeks later, the landlord painted the hallways with our chosen colour.

This seems like a small thing, but it felt great.  We had never had an opportunity to exercise a democratic impulse as tenants.  For a long time, we had experienced a landlord who didn’t give a crap about how we felt, never consulting us where the building was concerned, and even ignoring us when we expressed our demands.  Now we were talking amongst ourselves, and speaking in unison, and the landlord was actually listening to us.

Extending the Struggle

When Yusuf asked me about tenant organizing, I told him this story.  I mentioned the email chain, which seems to work in cases where people have very different schedules.  I also talked about posting a “grievances collection” sheet in the lobby, next to the mailboxes, as a neighbour had once done in my building.  This is useful for letting tenants know they are not alone in their complaints – maybe everyone has drafty windows, maybe everyone has mice.   A grievances sheet can also be used in legal battles with the landlord to show evidence of their negligence.  I also mentioned the idea of inviting people to a meeting in his apartment like I had done, sending the invite either via email or a sign posted in the lobby.  Yusuf seemed excited about these ideas.

I feel that my experience with my fellow tenants shows once again that the direct action efforts of a small group of united people can accomplish a lot.  This time, we didn’t even have to take legal or coercive action to get what we wanted.  The very unity of our voice got the goods.  And it felt great to use a little bit of democracy to do so.

It was also great to realize that I had advice for Yusuf about tenant organizing.  Winning short-term gains from my landlord was satisfying, but helping someone else build their own struggle is even better.  If this kind of tenant organizing could spread – to all of the buildings owned by my landlord, further around the neighbourhood, and around the city – we could really get something going.

Friday, June 29, 2012



It is political prisoner Friday and I am about to do a post on a guy, I few people know or remember, and even fewer want to talk about.  You may not agree with any of his actions, but that doesn't mean he is not a political prisoner.

Kojo Bomani Sababu is a New Afrikan Prisoner of War. He is currently serving a 55 year sentence for actions with the Black Liberation Army and attempted prtison break of FALN leader Oscar Lopez Rivera.  He was convicted of one count of conspiracy in the case (He is also serving a whole lot of time for the killing of a drug dealer).

Jan Susler, the attorney for Lopez Rivera, said at the time of the trial relating to the prison escape "plot" that the Government had created the conspiracy.' 'The way this case was done was down and dirty,'' she said. ''The Government, through their informants, agents provocateur and undercover F.B.I. agents spent millions trying to create a conspiracy to get these defendants.''

Defense committee members Julio Cortes, a spokesperson for the group, told the Chicago Tribune at the time of the trial that the FBI set up the defendants, and Lopez Rivera in order to, ``ensnare his outside supporters and show a conspiracy in order to end our fight for the independence of Puerto Rico.``
A main witness in the case was one George Lebosky, a jailhouse snitch and a convicted New Jersey bank robber.

Denver Anarchist Black Cross writes:

Kojo was born May 27th 1953 in Atlantic City New Jersey.  In 1962 his father died coming home from work and just two years later his mother was murdered.  A guiding presence in his life, Kojo was devastated by the loss of his mother.  Still, he continued to live out the lesson he taught him, that education is a tool with which to change society.

Kojo was captured on December 19th 1975 along with anarchist Ojore Lutalo during a bank expropriation.  He was also charged with the murder of a drug dealer in his neighborhood.

The following comes from Break the Chains.  The interview, I believe was conducted in October of 2010.

Kojo Bomani Sababu self interview

Below is a self interview I recently received from Kojo Bomani Sababu...

Self interview

1: How did you come by your current name and how old are you? The name Kojo comes from my comrades in arms. It means unconquerable, my full name is Kojo Bomani Sababu which means “unconquerable warrior, one who takes the people to heart”, our names, derived from African roots were adapted as inspiration. I am currently 54 years old, born May 27th 1953 in Atlantic City New Jersey.

2: What caused you to accept revolution in a country where so much is offered? I grew up in a turbulent time in America where racist oppression and repression of New Africans was in vogue, and a great deal of political agitation occurred in the New African communities. Thus I heard speeches by Malcolm X, Elijah Mohamed and so forth and listened intently to their words. As a result I made a transition in my young life as I began to understand what was taking place around me from a nationalistic perspective. The deeds of the Black Panthers pushed me to act.

3: Was your life hard or difficult? With the exception of the loss of my parents, life was not so difficult, in 1962 my father died coming home from work, in 1964 I was devastated with the murder of my mother. She was a guide for me, emphasizing education as a tool with which to change society, so her death caused me a pain I still experience. However her advice, that I learn all that I can, still resides within me.

4: How long have you been incarcerated? I was captured on December 19th 1975 along with the anarchist Ojore Lutalo during a bank expropriation, subsequently other charges were added in relation to the elimination of social parasites from New African communities, ie drug dealers were killed, so I have been interned since that time. The war on drugs was started by New African liberation forces not the US government.

5: Your incarceration over all these years has lead you to see many changes in the struggle, what do you now think of the struggle in America? The struggle lost its popularity because the contradiction between the oppressed and their oppressors became blurred, people think everything is resolved by having money, so it was made available by the oppressor. Now the torch bearers who articulated the logic of struggle against the oppressor nation have either been confined in prison cells for a long time or have a comfortable job. This is no indictment against the movement itself, because just as rapidly as it declined, it can experience a great resurgence given the right opportunities. However we must make great strides, reorganizing ourselves to embrace the difficulties we face. I have no solutions but I will say this: There are some great political minds contained in America's prisons, which are growing old as their era of life departs, this resource needs to be tapped before it expires. Do not abandon the political prisoners and POW s, they are still insightful with their knowledge and experience.

6: Is there a statement or message you would like to pass on? Yes! Immerse yourselves in learning to apply current technologies to organizing. Your problems, your advances, your struggles can become international in seconds so blog constantly, equip our movement with a new voice, use admirably what is used against you. We have had setbacks due solely to our arrogance, our refusal to change and modify our approach. We have to rebuild our resources by seeking effective new ideas, if we commit to that, I believe we will be successful.

7: Would you do it all over again? Of course, anytime. Free the land, build to win!

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Declaration to the People of America, read on Sept. 9, 1971, by L.D. Barkley at Attica

Prison, especially, the real thing sort of prisons, are no fun.  We all know that.  However, always happy to make things worse the prison bosses, like the bosses out in the free world, are more than happy to make things worse.  Throw in some racial hatred, fuel it with some gang talk, toss in a privilige here, a rumor there, mix in some white supremacist guards, make sure everyone is packed together, make sure insane rules are not enforced in any sane manner,  and what have  you got.  You got a firestorm is what you got...

I ain't making this shit up.  Officials may talk about getting rid of violence and gang strife in their prison, but the reality is quite different.  They love and promote it.

Just last year, the ACLU filed a law suit charging that Idaho prison officials "promote and facilitate a culture of rampant violence that has led to carnage and suffering among prisoners at the state-owned facility operated by the for-profit company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)." 

the lawsuit charges that epidemic violence at the facility is the direct result of, among other things, ICC officials turning a blind eye to the brutality, a prison culture that relies on the degradation, humiliation and subjugation of prisoners, a failure to discipline guards who intentionally arrange assaults and a reliance on violence as a management tool.  

In September of last year, the ACLU accepted a settlement with the Idaho Department of Corrections.  I wonder what has changed.

If this stuff goes on in Idaho, it goes on everywhere. 

And it is supported by government officials as well.  For example, not all that long ago after listening to reports of stabbings and broken bones,  eye gouging and heads split, at a hearing, Curt Hagman, a California Assemblyman from Chino (location of one of California's many prisons), merely shrugged and said,  "By nature prions are violent."  Mr. Hagman is joined by countless Americans who could care less what happens behind the walls and bars.

In the free world we know that if we want to make a better world, a new world, it is up to us, the multitude, to do it.  We can't wait for and we surely cannot  expect the rulers of the Empire to do it for us.  

Well, the same holds for those in prison.  The prison officials are not going to fix anything and neither are the government officials who fund them. Only the prisoners themselves can do it.  

However, prisoners can't do it totally by themselves.  They need us out here beyond the walls to help them when they ask us.  Prisoners alone are an isolated, atomized mass existing in a society of pure repression and isolation.  We can help break that isolation.  We can come at their cagers from the outside.

Whatever.  Read the article below from the San Francisco Bay View and think about it...and act.

Support the Pelican Bay State Prison Peace Talks

June 26, 2012

Mission Statement

by Abdul Olugbala Shakur, s/n J. Harvey

In 1989 the California Department of Corrections opened Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP). Their primary stated reason for its construction was to reduce prison violence by isolating “alleged” gang leaders and members, but contrary to their stated purpose, prison violence has both rapidly and dramatically increased. The California prison system is more violent now than it was before the opening of Pelican Bay State Prison; in fact, it is the most dangerous and deadly prison system in the country, and the statistics will clearly attest to this.

Prisoners, their families and much of the general public are recognizing the need to overcome all efforts to exploit racial divisions to stifle the aspirations of the 99 percent. – Photo: Thomas Good, NLN
In February of 2000, California witnessed one of its most violent race riots here at Pelican Bay State Prison, where approximately 38 New Afrikan (Black) prisoners were stabbed. A message was delivered to me a day after the riot via the prison guard from a group of brothas that was involved in the riot. They were requesting my assistance with resolving this racial conflict/war.

I am being housed in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in solitary confinement – isolation – here at PBSP, so I am in a position to talk to certain influential Mexican and white prisoners. That night I wrote the warden – Warden Ayers – a letter explaining to him I would like to initiate a peace talk designed to resolve this conflict. The following morning I was escorted to the warden’s office. He was interested in my proposal. While in his office, he asked what can he do to facilitate this peace process; I told him I need to speak with a number of prisoners. He told his staff to accommodate my endeavors. I was able to bring all relevant parties to the table and a peace plan was adopted and a ceasefire was imposed.

We knew there were a number of associate wardens here at PBSP as well as IGI administration in Sacramento – i.e. the Institutional Gang Investigation Unit – along with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) that did not want this truce to take place, and true to form they sabotaged our peace talk with lies and negative propaganda. And being that we had failed to mobilize an outside grassroots support base, we were not able to effectively challenge the lies and distortions that were being told by the CDC.

Prisoners in New York’s Attica Prison hold a press conference during their massive rebellion and partial prison takeover in September 1971. The rebellion was deliberately multi-racial to defeat authorities’ favorite technique for dividing and conquering prisoners. – Photo: AP-Wide World Photos
The CDC also told the politicians and the media they did not need us to resolve this conflict. When I say “we” I am referring to those New Afrikan, Mexican and White prisoners presently being housed in the Security Housing Unit – the hole – here at PBSP in D Facility Units 1, 2, 3 and 4. Many of us are between the ages of 40 and 65 and have been in solitary confinement/isolation between 20 to 40 years; I personally have been in isolation 24 years. We are the only ones with the respect and influence to end this conflict.

We could have resolved this racial conflict five years ago, but the CDC did not want us to achieve this goal, and as a direct result the conflict has spun out of control. Since 2000, there have been at least five hundred race-based riots and approximately as many individual stabbing assaults related to this conflict. Over 200 riots took place in 2005 alone but, more importantly, since 2000 the conflict has now spilled over to the community, especially in Southern California. Now the communities are caught up in this conflict, but the facts remain, it was the CDC that sabotaged our endeavor to resolve this conflict, and now it has enveloped the entire state of California.

We can no longer afford to depend on or expect for the CDC/government to end this conflict. The escalation of this conflict is indicative of the CDC’s criminal negligence. We as a class of veteran convicts are reaching out to the outside community for your assistance with resolving this conflict; with your help, we can put an end to this war.

We have developed a plan that would consist of a joint effort, but an effort led by US. What we need from you is to force the CDC to allow us to initiate discussion of a Peace Resolution. At present we are not allowed to get together and dialogue on a truce.

The April 1993 rebellion at Lucasville Prison in Ohio, called the longest prison riot in U.S. history, was also deliberately multi-racial. The negotiators, who remain on death row, have maintained their unity to this day. – Photo courtesy Staughton Lynd
We are presently looking for outside volunteers to serve as facilitators and coordinators. The facilitators will assist those directly involved in this process; being in isolation limits what we can do and this is why it is very important for us to have outside assistance, i.e., the facilitator. The coordinators are grassroots organizers that will be responsible for mobilizing a community effort in support of our Peace Talk. If you are interested in being a facilitator or coordinator, you can either contact me, Abdul Olugbala Shakur, or Brotha Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa.

Along with this mission statement, we have prepared a petition in support of our peace talk. Our goal is to collect at least 1 million signatures in the state of California by Aug. 1, 2012, when we present this petition to the California Department of Corrections (CDC). We also intend to collect a million signatures outside the state of California.

We are up against one of the most powerful and corrupted lobbyist forces in the country, and we will need all the support we can get to defeat the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA). We need your concrete support, not lip service or rhetoric. Support our Peace Talks!

Write to Abdul Olugbala Shakur, s/n J. Harvey, C-48884, D-4-112 PBSP SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA, 95532, or Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R. Dewberry, C-35671, D-4-117 PBSP SHU, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA, 95532.