“The Plight of Political Prisoners in America” by Delbert Africa.
On A Move! This is Delbert Africa from Dallas Prison speaking about the plight of political prisoners here in America – especially in light of a conference on political prisoners is about to be convened at Temple University. I just want to start off by saying a quote from MOVE’s founder, John Africa: “This system is not something to be discussed as a form of stimulation. It is not to be treated as a fencing exercise by intellectuals who use words as dueling pistols and people as target practice. Life is not a game. Life is a need. When games are allowed to be played with people’s lives, people’s lives are reduced to a game. History will show that the game players are reduced to ashes when the people truly realize they are being played with.”
That speaks to the fact that I am very glad that people are convening a conference on political prisoners but I hope that it is not just, as John Africa said, an exercise in intellectualism. Today in America there are hundreds of political prisoners being held far longer than the criminal apartheid government of South Africa held Nelson Mandela and just because they’re being held here in America, that don’t make it any less criminal, any less wrong, any less vicious than the demonized apartheid government of South Africa back in the day
There have just been news reports of the brother Herman Bell, who was beaten September 5th viciously, up in prison. Being escorted by a guard who claims that, out of the clear blue sky, Herman Bell turned around and slapped him. It ended up with Herman Bell getting cracked ribs, punched in the eye, maced repeatedly, and kicked by other guards who joined in. Now here’s a man that hadn’t had a misconduct write-up in over 20 years and he was due to have a visit with his family, a three-day visit. Who in the world would believe that he would turn around and, out of the clear blue sky, slap a guard. These are the lies that this system puts out on political prisoners.
This is the vicious treatment that we – and I say “we” because the MOVE 9 are also political prisoners – this is the kind of treatment that political prisoners get here in America. We get treated more harshly than the average so-called criminal, the social criminal. We get beatings like Herman suffered. We get long hole time like Russel Maroon Shoats here in Pennsylvania, who spent decades in the prison and who, just recently, because of his continued fight, won a court case and was released into general population.
This is the kind of treatment that political prisoners in America get and it’s time that people realize it’s a fact that despite the lie that America has told for years that they don’t have political prisoners, they have hundreds of political prisoners that are suffering under this. Lack of medical care – everybody knows about Mumia Abu Jamal almost killed by the lack of medical care. How about Leonard Peltier? How about Phil and Merle Africa, our beautiful sister and brother, who have died under these conditions because of medical care. You got Jaan Laaman, you got Richard Manning, you got Ed Poindexter, all who are right now suffering from lack of medical care. This is the kind of thing that this system does for people who have fought for liberation, for freedom for all peoples. I’m talking about men AND women, I don’t care what ideology they done fought under, be they eco-warriors, be they black liberationists, be they LGBT fighters, it doesn’t matter. If you are labeled as a political prisoner in this country as we have been, you will get the harshest treatment of any other prisoner in America.
When it comes to parole denial, you have people like Sundiata Acoli who has taught computer classes, remained misconduct-free and done everything that you’re supposed to do to be given parole and yet he’s be given 15, 20 year hits by the parole board just because he is Sundiata Acoli. You have the MOVE 9. All of us were given sentences of 30-100, we now have 39 years in. We’ve been eligible for parole for these last 9 years and every time we come up for parole, they come up with a new excuse not to give us parole. They came up recently with the brand new excuse – after 9 years – we are a risk to the community. It’s the police that are a risk to the community. In fact, people in the community of Philadelphia have started a petition stating that it is the police that burned down four square blocks and murdered 11 MOVE members. It is not MOVE they fear, it’s the police that they fear. Then you have people like Dr. Mutulu Shakur who has blazed a trail of freedom fighting and has all the support of the people in his community behind him, yet the federal government says he’s not suitable for parole. What do we have to do to be “suitable for parole?”
This foul system will murder and lockup anyone, be it female or male, no matter their ideological flag they’re fighting under. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are, either. This is because these people, this system, is afraid of political prisoners getting out and lighting the fire and keeping that fire going in people’s minds. They’re not afraid of our bodies because many of them have aged for 35, 40 years within the belly of this beast. They know that the minds that kept us determined, did not give in to this system – did not become a system robot – will light a fire and keep the fire going on the street, who ain’t playing games but are serious about social change.
This is what I want to keep going in people’s minds: If you understand that there is a whole cadre of political prisoners who need to be in your midst, need to be encouraged and supported, it is important for you to get on that internet, find out others whose names I haven’t mentioned, and give them all of the support you can. Do not use this upcoming conference as a game-playing intellectual exercise. Be real about it. Get on the move.
We often say in MOVE that one doesn’t have to be IN MOVE to be on a move. If you ain’t on a move in whatever you’re doing, then you’re stagnating and we all know stagnation leads to sickness. You can’t drink no stagnant water. You can’t eat no spoiled food that’s been sitting around. You gotta keep fresh food and stay on the move with it. This is what I want to say and I want to thank Noelle Hanrahan and everybody else at Prison Radio for giving me this opportunity. Everybody out there, stay on the move.
Long live freedom. Long live revolution. Long live John Africa forever.