Prison Radio

Dear Friend,

We amplify political prisoners and politicized prisoners voices. We work with people who are in prison because of their political beliefs, associations, and actions and also people inside who have become conscious of class, race, and gender based reasons for mass incarceration. Our correspondents are frequently targeted, banned, and throw in isolation for speaking out. The prison industrial complex knows resistance and resilience is a special danger to its continued existence. 

“When you have a voice that can draw a crowd and you speak truth, Oh my god”  notes Mike Africa, Jr.   

Prison Radio amplifies the unscripted, and uncensored experience of people talking directly from behind the walls of America’s vast prison system. This is first person radio. Radio that delivers, to listeners, real time crucial information. Unlike slick prison-approved programs that you are allowed to hear on radio and TV, Prison Radio essays are like glorious “B side” tracks that have been slipped by the censors. Our distribution network of radio station DJs and multimedia producers are dedicated to these voices reaching the airwaves. 

It is an act of rebellion to speak. To honor our humanity, and to continue.    

Mumia Abu-Jamal is notorious, famous, special, a one in a million vocal talent: James Earl Jones in a concrete box. And he is, also, just like every single other Black man from North Philadelphia, subject to a lifetime of degradation, and inhumanity.  When I think of Mumia I think of Miles Davis being hassled by police outside a NYC club for just being a Black man. 

Members of the Black Panther Party, stripped, handcuffed, and arrested after Philadelphia police raided the Panther headquarters, August, 1970.

Mumia was not at the infamous raid on the Philadelphia Black Panther Party headquarters that day.  He was 14.  He had a wicked sore throat, and his mother, Edith Louise, kept him home.  The indignity of being paraded naked for the press by Philadelphia police chief Frank Rizzo and his thugs was done to intimidate anyone who challenged the racist police force. 

Mumia, first, as Minister of Information for the Philadelphia Chapter of the Black Panther Party, then as reporter for WUHY (now WHYY) NPRs flagship station, and for the last 38 years has continued to educate, inform, and help us understand the insidious corruption that has haunted marginalized communities. These communities are controlled for the benefit of the let’s be real– the capitalist class.  The capitalist use jobs and employment as a divisive tactic, and to use white working class folks in the jobs required to subjugate those targeted by the carceral police state. 

Mumia reaches us, and reaches our ears because he speaks with a passionate love for his community. His compass is the truth. Myths and misinformation are vanquished by our correspondents. The state does not want you to know, to feel, to hear how beautiful and compassionate people are in prison. 

Prison Radio began with a 1990 New Year’s day collection of voices of  U.S. women political prisoners, held at the federal correctional institution in Dublin, CA. These courageous women – Linda Evans, Laura Whitehorn, Dylcia Pagan and Carmen Valentin, women had challenged U.S. neo-colonialism and imperialism. Prison Radio continued with a documentary series, “You Can’t Jail The Spirit” which covered U.S. political prisoners from Plowshares activists to Puerto Rican Independentistas. 

Today we offer a platform to keen political thinkers whose resistance continues from behind prison walls. Lori BerensonChelsea ManningMutulu ShakurEddie AfricaJalil MuntaqimJanine Africa, and Lynn Stewart are just a few of the political prisoners who have shared their commentaries through us. Shaka Nantambu, Kenneth HartmannKevin Rashid Johnson, and Dontie Mitchell are just a few of the folks who have aired their work through us who have become politicized during their time in captivity. 

Our liberation is bound with theirs, a future based on the abolition of prisons is not only possible it is necessary.

We stand with our political prisoners because we love them; we honor them, their clarity, their purpose, and because we need them. They offer us models of resilience, compassion, and commitment.

Consider this call: let’s bring our political prisoners home. Every historical movement that has demanded justice has been targeted by the state, and its most unyielding and brilliant leaders have often been imprisoned. Eugene Debs, Crazy Horse, Ethel and Julius, Huey Newton and Martin Luther King. Today it is Dakota Access Pipeline Native Resisters and BLM protesters – and there will be more.  

We call all comrades who end up behind bars to reach out to the public by calling us.  Share your experience and your analysis on Prison Radio’s airwaves.

Ruthie Wilson Gilmore explains to us about “intentional abandonment” – how the prison industrial complex is the result of intentional abandonment of certain communities, and how an abolitionist future includes a deliberate and joyful investment in those communities. At Prison Radio we know that incarcerated people ARE one of those abandoned communities and our work is a deliberate and joyful investment in those communities. We have not abandoned them, and they have not abandoned us. Together we liberate each other’s voices.

Join us: listen, share, donate. If you know someone inside, tell them to call us. We are standing by the phone, recorder in hand.

When We Fight, We Win!

Noelle Hanrahan P.I. J.D. & Jennifer Beach
Co-Directors of Prison Radio