How do you fight an unjust and racist system? Definitely not by being their good nigga. How do you find an unjust and racist system that uses the power of the state to grind people into the dirt?
Currently, there’s all this talk again about criminal justice and prison reform in the wake of all the violent protests resulting from the death of George Floyd. Here in New York state, the legislature was quick to pass legislation seemingly aimed at curbing police brutality.
Here’s my question though: didn’t we already know that there was a big problem with how the police treat and interact with black, brown, and poor people? We black, brown, and poor people have known this intimately for several decades. So what has changed now?
What happened to George Floyd isn’t no surprise to us. So what has changed then? We have Governor Cuomo talking on TV about the systemic racism that existed in the criminal justice and prison systems, but we knew this already! What has changed now with Governor Cuomo and others now seemingly give a fuck.
You know what has changed? Violence, mass fucking violence, because there has been mass protest for years that was peaceful. Black Lives Matter has been around for a while, but still George Floyd was murdered by police in cold blood. But this time there wasn’t just mass protest. There was mass violence.
Now politicians and governmental officials are seeing people getting real fed up with all the talk and half-baked attempts at reform. So these politicians and governmental officials are rushing to pass these laws to show they’re paying attention, but it’s all a front. You know how I know?
Because all of this has happened before. The violent protest will die down. People will get tired and have to go back to work when COVID-19 clears up. And the police, once again, will go back to cracking skulls. They do it behind these prison walls unabated.
My neighbor, Louis Perez, was beaten so bad by prison guards in Bare Hills Correctional Facility that he had a seizure and suffered a fractured head. Then they falsely prosecuted him for assaulting a prison guard who was struck with a baton by a fellow guard. The guards here at Great Meadow punched my nineteen-year [inaudible] Maurice Stansbury five times in his face and then sprayed him with fire extinguishers. Last year, they murdered another prisoner. Who’s protesting for us? Prison lives matter too.
Now let’s talk about the injustice I’m suffering. I’ve been in prison over 23 years since I was 17 years old, but I didn’t hurt anyone. I’ve been placed in solitary confinement in February for possessing literature and materials about my UFD organization, to which I positively organize, motivate, inspire, educate, and mentor young prisoners and work to steer them away from gangs, drugs and violence.
Some of my supporters don’t seem to get this. They don’t seem to understand that the injustice and racism inherent in the criminal justice system and prison systems are why I’m still in prison and why UFD has been disapproved by DOCCS. These supporters say, “Mfalme, you should just focus on your freedom; if you keep doing the UFD thing, getting into trouble, it’ll hurt your chances at clemency.”
Think about what these people are saying. UFD isn’t a gang nor some violent or disruptive group. If anybody actually cared to look, they would see how UFD is inspiring young black and brown men to think seriously about change and betterment. UFD teaches them how to work together to achieve something positive and mutually beneficial.
So people want me to give this up to placate a racist system that still has me in prison after 23 years even though I didn’t hurt anyone, as if me giving up my UFD work will make the difference. You know what this bullshit sounds like? It sounds like the saying that George Floyd, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and other victims of white violence were to just stop being black, they’d be alive today.
Think about that, really think about what I just said when people suggest that if I just focused on my freedom and pushed UFD off to the side, they’re suggesting that I give up my rights and have faith that this racist and unjust system will actually work so long as I be a good nigga and cause no trouble.
It amazes me how naive people can be. I’m not still in prison for not being a good nigga. I’m still in prison because not enough people are expressing their anger with Governor Cuomo for keeping me here. UFD is actually my means to get attention for why I should be released.
Any man willing to place himself and his freedom at risk to help young men, like he once was, to avoid the trap he fell into and to grow into better people, then the public should be angry he isn’t out there working to save at-risk youth before they get caught in the system.
The truth? The problem isn’t UFD or me exercising my constitutional rights. The problem is that the criminal justice and prison system are racist and unjust, and politicians pay lip service about reforming them only until they’re forced out. More people should be like me and speak truth to power, unafraid of the consequences. There’s no compromising with racism and injustice. It’s only the fight.
This is Dontie S. Mitchell, better known as Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @freeDontieMitchell. Also, join the Dontie Mitchell support committee Facebook group if you want to help with my clemency campaign, my legal battles and my UFD outreach and mentorship work with young prisoners. Thank you for listening, and God bless.
These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan.