An essay by Coyote (incarcerated in Ely Max), originally published in California Prison Focus 26 (2006).
From the cemetery, I salute you! May my words be heard, shared, and reflected on, from prisoner to prisoner, state to state. Although, I’m not saying anything new, I still believe there are some who haven’t yet heard it, and the ones who have, well maybe you need to hear it again.
The situations we’re faced with, the shit we’re up against, some think its cool to “do time”– this ain’t cool, this is war. I’ve seen these lock-down situations turn solid cons into funny-style P.C.’s!
This strategy keeps us hating on each other and at each others’ throats, rather
than aiming our anger at our oppressors, they got us thinking that we have to survive by any means. It’s true we have to survive, but there’s many means in which we can be doing this, rather than destroying each other we could be surviving by uplifting each other. You think Brown Power, Black Power, White Power is achieved by controlling and dominating other races? No! it is achieved by uplifting yours, and this can be done without stepping on the necks of the next man’s race.
I’ve read about many warriors before who have liberated themselves, who have found redemption through the knowledge of books such as Malcolm X, Dennis Banks, George Jackson and Tookie Williams just to name a few. Did the state rehabilitate those people? No, they took it upon themselves and they also were surrounded by a solid support group inside prison who encouraged and helped uplift them. In the case of all of these greats who have rehabilitated themselves, who have found redemption and liberation, not once did any of these men say that we should cooperate or identify with the people who oppress us. The entire time they were aware of who their enemy was. These are the people who went to the extreme to lift their own people up, to make the situation better, all while standing a firm ground against the people who oppressed them.
As a prisoner I represent the prisoner class. I represent the poor and the oppressed, of all races, nationalities, creeds and religions. We are all trapped in the system; we are all under the same gun. Remember, they don’t have to worry about killing us as long as we’re killing each other. We’re doing the job for them. As I’ve mentioned in the beginning of this essay, I’ve seen good men go funny, so, I encourage you, if you have books, to pass them around and share them, to hold discussions and study sessions, without being disrespectful to anybody else’s race, religion or creed. Keep it on a positive vibe; it’s all about uplifting each other. Who knows, you could be the next Malcolm X or the next Dennis Banks, or you could be the one who helps create him [or her]. Incarcerated, locked-down, slammed, torcidos. In these situations, resistance is critical. We are at war, in struggle. This is a psychological war, so we must defend ourselves by strengthening our minds. I encourage you to read any books you can find on psychological warfare, so you can study what they’re doing to you and seek ways to combat it. Knowing is the first step to consciousness. Consciousness is the first step to organization. Organize your mind and then your people. To the activist, concerned citizens and people on the streets, those who write to prisoners, who are concerned with their struggles and developments, if you are writing someone who you know is seriously committed to higher learning or further developing their skills, I encourage you to get involved with them and help them progress. If they’re into writing, then help them get into a correspondence class for writers. If they’re trying to study and learn the law, help them out with some law books. If they’re into art then help them get materials and supplies they need.
Whatever it is they’re trying to do, help them if you can, because they can’t do it without your help, and they can’t expect the same people who oppress them to help them. You would be surprised how far your help can go. The things you do for us, even the smallest of things, means so much to us; we can’t do it without you. We need outside support to get things done in here. As prisoners, we face many obstacles, many fights. For some of us the fight goes beyond survival, in the physical sense, it is a fight amongst ourselves, between good and evil. Our souls are in turmoil. We need books; we need to feed our souls with knowledge and spirituality, so that we can grow inside, progress, become stronger and intelligent, all while in this state of ongoing turmoil.