Dear environmentalists, ecologists, bioneers, blue-gold/rain forest protectors, movers, shakers, GMO opponents, green tech innovaters, indigenous leaders, social justice activists, and jail-house environmentalists gathered here today, as one.
I want to thank you for your magnanimous invitation to join all of the “environmental
regulators,” at this unprecedented “Bend the Bars,” conference.
Today, I’d like to re-introduce myself to the watchers and protectors of the earth—revolutionary environmentalist. I speak with conviction to share with all those gathered here today the uncommon inspiration and energy to further encourage a “peculiar people” to continue to fight wherever an environmental “hot-spot” crises arises, or the most extreme situation beckons your call to rise to the occasion.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane—no. It’s the 1st “jail-house” environmentalist! My name is Bryant
Arroyo, a bilingual Puerto-Rican, who, at this time has spent a third of my life in prison, at SCI Mahanoy, Southeastern part of Pennsylvania.
In part I didn’t fathom to plan on such an endeavor, and as far as I was concerned, I didn’t ever consider myself an environmentalist—much less, a “jail-house” environmentalist, in the State Correctional Institution, at Mahanoy. This was unforseenly forced upon me.
As a “jail house lawyer” my routine consisted of religiously visiting the prison law library, and by happenstance, I discovered a sixty (60) day Environmental Impact Statement notice indicating the building of the collosal coal-gasification plant, adjacent 300 feet from the center point of the prison yard.
At this juncture, I was determined to get acquainted and acclimated with environmental regulatory law, which compelled me to take a crash-course. I began working to engineer a proposed “formal objection letter,” wherein, it was initially designed to include everyone—all inmates, etc. Resolute in my stance, I whole-heartedly went up against the “corporate raiders” who consisted of former Gov. Tom Ridge, Jack W. Rich, Jr. (Anthracite Baron of the Eastern Region), WMPI Party., LLC, who formed a team that included Rich’s waste management team &. Processors, Inc., SASOL fuels of Africa, Uhde, GmbH, Bechtel, Shell and Chevron Texaco. Eastman Chemical was named as the company that may operate the monsterous coal-gasification plant.
The idea of knowing about Jack Rich Jr.’s many financiers were enclosed by the world’s “corporate elite”— Morgan Stanley and United Bank of Switzerland would be co-managing the financing of $612 million coal-to-diesel project in Frackville, and undertake subsidized in $47 million in state tax credits coupled with a $100 million in federal grants, was amazing.
One of the main obstacles immediately encountered was the Department Of Correction’s unambiguous rule that severely hampers and discourages inmates from signing a petition. By definition a petition is considered a petition when it is signed by two inmates, or more. This is not only frowned upon, but, categorically prohibited by the DOC.
I revised the “formal objection letter” from “we, our, us” to “I, me, my,” which circumvented the DOC’s rule regarding petitions by re-defining it into a singular “formal objection letter.” This was a first—defying the DOC’s policy in such an unprecedented way—which agitated and riveted the attention of the security department, which scrutinized me for several weeks, in hopes of either manufacturing and/or fabricating a pretext of allegedly violating a DOC rule to have me locked up under adminsitrative custody— out of the way—to stop me from mobilizing and organizing, on an individual basis. I must admit, I was cleared.
To organize effectively you need to utilize that which “bends the bars” to access the people who make up your community—your voice!!! It starts with “we the people,” challenging well settled laws that violate community and human rights. People need to be willing to bend/break illegal laws that are designed to run over the average citizens with impunity.
On Aug. 9, 2006, I received a letter from the Environnmental Legal Defense Fund attorney, Thomas A. Linzey, acknowledging our efforts, which were highlighted in the Pottsville Republican & Morning Herald entitled: “402 Inmates Slam-Plant,” opposing the proposed “coal-to-diesel” plant. Finally, we garnered the attention of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) who would assist us in leveling the playing field, against the “corporate-giants.”
On Sept. 25, 2006, I met with both Atty. Thomas A. Linzey and community organizer, Benjamin Price to discuss the proposed local ordinance. Also, I was honored to become the 1st prisoner to take the “Daniel Pennock Democracy School Curriculum” named after Daniel Pennock, a teenager in Robesonia, Berks County, whose life was tragically cut-short by contracting an infection from sewage applied to neighboring farms by a corporate sludge hauler.
There are many fundmaental truths I’ve learned beyond the ones I know. When it comes to the decisions that affect your community and your children, and what the common future will be like, who will decide? Hopefully, it is you. If not you, then who???
The material interest of corporations are superior to the interest of the working class people. We should never allow the corporate bullies to just bogart their way into our community without protesting and laying out the proper local ordinance to truncate their intentions to build a coal-gasification plant which would exploit the citizens and future unborn generations, at our expense. We have a voice and face—all we have to do is use them simultaneously coupled with a plan to execute a local ordinance and get it passed and signed by your township supervisors.
The environmentalists are the new, original pioneers responsible for mankind’s future. Then, what is required to “bend the bars?” You are going to have to accept uncomfortable circumstances which forces you—of your own volition—to take action to raise your voices, and broaden out to speak to your local community base.
So, here are some ideas to think about what is required of us to “bend the bars.”: 1) We must accept and validate that we are all in synch with the beating heart of mother earth; 2) By knowing we are all on planet-earth, we are inter-connected and inter-dependent on on another as a family circle; 3) If we are not challenged by all of the ecological threats to our water supplies, clean air, and the damages done to our ozone layer, then, what is the sense of living and remaining, as part of the problem, and not the solution?
As a prisoner, and citizen, one would think about what would be literally required to actually “bend the bars”, as an example, a hammer, chisel, blow-torch, hack-saw, saw-blade, electric saw, etc. Well, you are correct in your common way of thinking to have come up with these instruments, tools to assist one, in the arduous task to “bend the bars.”
Ultimately, I challenge you to an unprecedented way of thinking. As human beings, we need to continuously and consistently remain curious about educating ourselves and become engaged through other people’s experiences, in life. To “bend the bars,” one must free the “bars of your mind” and be willing to feel vulnerable about uncommon experiences. Expose yourself to unchartered waters and become vulnerable to the uncommon experiences right in our own backyards.
As I close, I depart with the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I humbly ask for everyone to raise your right index-finger and repeat after me: “It takes a village to raise a village,” but, I say to all of you—It takes one person to start a fire. You are the blaze that the corporate raiders will have to reckon with, as the environmental pioneers of the future. Set them on fire by presenting yourselves to welcome the fight of your lives on behalf of mankind.
The face and voice inside the Nation of Prisoners, Bryant Arroyo For Prison Radio.