We can no longer pretend there is a proper place and a proper occasion for politics. Robert Sobukwe


Toni Morrison’s eulogy at James Baldwin’s funeral in Dec 1987. 

The season was always Christmas with you there and … you did not neglect to bring at least three gifts… You gave me a language to dwell in, a gift so perfect it seems my own invention… . The second gift was your courage, which you let us share: the courage of one who could go as a stranger in the village and transform the distances between people into intimacy with the whole world… The third gift was hard to fathom and even harder to accept. It was your tenderness – a tenderness so delicate I thought it could not last, but last it did and envelop me it did.

You knew, didn’t you, how I needed your language and the mind that formed it? How I relied on your fierce courage to tame wildernesses for me? How strengthened I was by the certainty that came from knowing you would never hurt me? You knew, didn’t you, how I loved your love? You knew. This then is no calamity. No, This is jubilee. “Our crown,” you said, “has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do,” you said, “is wear it.”

And we do, Jimmy. You crowned us.

(via utnereader)


There are 5,393 carceral facilities in the United States, places where people are held in local jails, state prisons, federal corrections facilities, immigration detention centers – “anywhere where an individual can be sort of confined and locked up,” explains Josh Begley, “and, in some of the bigger instances, warehoused in one place.”

Begley is a master’s student in the Interactive Telecommunications program at New York University. He wanted to graphically represent what all of this means, to communicate not just the sheer quantity of prisons in America (a number that has been booming for decades), but their volume on our landscape. As part of a class project, he created the oddly beautiful website Prison Map, which offers a mashed-up birds-eye view of all of these places, taken from Google Satellite images.

 (via The Stunning Geography of Incarceration - Design - The Atlantic Cities)

(via theatlantic)

Plantations, Prisons and Profits - ›


Stuff you already know, but always good to see those sobering numbers. Also, read the Thirteenth Amendment very carefully—”Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, EXCEPT as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”


“Louisiana is the world’s prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran’s, seven times China’s and 10 times Germany’s.”

That paragraph opens a devastating eight-part series published this month by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans about how the state’s largely private prison system profits from high incarceration rates and tough sentencing, and how many with the power to curtail the system actually have a financial incentive to perpetuate it.

The picture that emerges is one of convicts as chattel and a legal system essentially based on human commodification.

First, some facts from the series:

• One in 86 Louisiana adults is in the prison system, which is nearly double the national average.

• More than 50 percent of Louisiana’s inmates are in local prisons, which is more than any other state. The next highest state is Kentucky at 33 percent. The national average is 5 percent.

• Louisiana leads the nation in the percentage of its prisoners serving life without parole.

• Louisiana spends less on local inmates than any other state.

• Nearly two-thirds of Louisiana’s prisoners are nonviolent offenders. The national average is less than half.

In the early 1990s, the state was under a federal court order to reduce overcrowding, but instead of releasing prisoners or loosening sentencing guidelines, the state incentivized the building of private prisons. But, in what the newspaper called “a uniquely Louisiana twist,” most of the prison entrepreneurs were actually rural sheriffs. They saw a way to make a profit and did.

It also was a chance to employ local people, especially failed farmers forced into bankruptcy court by a severe drop in the crop prices.

But in order for the local prisons to remain profitable, the beds, which one prison operator in the series distastefully refers to as “honey holes,” must remain full. That means that on almost a daily basis, local prison officials are on the phones bartering for prisoners with overcrowded jails in the big cities.

with ah: Mad Girls ›

Captures my feelings exactly. Worth reading and well-put (especially since TNC’s disappointing take).


…It’s not that Girls’ purported realism seems betrayed by the exclusion of brown faces. It’s that Girls seems too real in its exclusion of brown faces. The fact that this “true to life” series about young women in the city can easily go along with four exclusively white faces appears confirmation of what black girls already sense about their existences as people, as women, anywhere, in any city.


Portrait of Audre Lorde by Robert Alexander, 1983. Jackie Kay writes,

Audre Lorde dropped the y from Audrey when she was still a child so she could be Audre Lorde. She liked the symmetry of the es at the end. She was born in New York City in 1934 to immigrants from Grenada. She didn’t talk till she was four and was so short-sighted she was legally blind. She wrote her first poem in eighth grade. The Black Unicorn, her most unified collection of poems, partly describes a tricky relationship with her mother. “My mother had two faces and a frying pot / where she cooked up her daughters / into girls … My mother had two faces / and a broken pot /where she hid out a perfect daughter /who was not me”…

After her mastectomy, she chose not to have prosthesis, opting for asymmetry instead, and wore one dangling earring and one stud for unequal measure. From the little girl who loved those matching es, she’d come not exactly full circle but a revolution and a half.

(via beatsthatarefunky)

No one asked their names. ›

In the days following the rogue US soldier’s shooting spree in Kandahar, most of the media, us included, focused on the “backlash” and how it might further strain the relations with the US.

Many mainstream media outlets channelled a significant amount of  energy into uncovering the slightest detail about the accused soldier – now identified as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. We even know where his wife wanted to go for vacation, or what she said on her personal blog.

But the victims became a footnote, an anonymous footnote. Just the number 16. No one bothered to ask their ages, their hobbies, their aspirations. Worst of all, no one bothered to ask their names.

In honoring their memory, I write their names below, and the little we know about them: that nine of them were children, three were women.

The dead:
Mohamed Dawood son of  Abdullah
Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma
Nazar Mohamed 
Shatarina daughter of Sultan Mohamed
Zahra daughter of Abdul Hamid
Nazia daughter of Dost Mohamed
Masooma daughter of Mohamed Wazir 
Farida daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Palwasha daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Nabia daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Esmatullah daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Faizullah son of Mohamed Wazir
Essa Mohamed son of Mohamed Hussain
Akhtar Mohamed son of Murrad Ali 
The wounded:
Haji Mohamed Naim son of Haji Sakhawat
Mohamed Sediq son of Mohamed Naim

(via derica)

• • • low end theory: Justice for Trayvon… but how?



Reading about Trayvon Martin’s killing and am beyond saddened, sickened, and outraged at the continuation of state-sanctioned killing of black and brown youth. I wonder, however, if there another way to push for justice for Trayvon, without appealing to the prison-industrial complex as a means of retribution. Even if the state does prosecute his killer, what does it do to our communities in the long run when we ask for more surveillance, stronger penalization, more brutal justice? In the end, whose bodies will be most subjected to the PIC? 

As we demand Justice for Trayvon, I wonder if we can keep the call for prison abolition and real social transformation in mind.

A few resources on the prison abolition movement and the prison-industrial complex’s disproportionate targeting of communities of color, especially women and queer/trans people of color:

Women of Color and Prisons / INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence

Trans Youth and the Prison Industrial Complex / Sylvia Rivera Law Project

Yes.  This is one of the complicated paradoxes of demanding justice from the very state that is so often the object of our critique—in order to demand justice we end up conferring legitimacy on the state whose ability to use violence we try to delegitimize. We may want George Zimmerman’s arrest, prosecution, and, probably, imprisonment, not only because some of us, in our more sadistic moments, would like to see him suffer (and thereby collapse suffering into our imagination of what justice should look like), but also because some of us likely believe it will be a way to register our collective rejection of the white supremacist imperatives that make a person like Trayvon Martin killable. Yet, in appealing to the power of the police to arrest, and to the power of the courts to sentence Zimmerman, we also make heard a message that we might otherwise hesitate to send: namely, that we believe that these institutions—the police, the courts, the law—are institutions capable of delivering the justice we want.  The irony here is especially high in light of the track record of the Sanford Police Department that would, ostensibly be doing the arresting we demand.  To what extent are we willing to appeal to a white supremacist police force as if it were capable of delivering justice for Trayvon? And also, why is this just about justice for Trayvon?  

It is no disrespect to Trayvon Martin’s memory to point out that our ability to make him into a slogan is based less on who he was as a person as on our desire to fit him into a mold that will allow others to see him as worthy and deserving of justice.  That mold is called the Innocent Victim, and its shape can be seen in the details that we choose to highlight and repeat ad nauseam about the case: He was unarmed, he was holding Skittles and Arizona Ice Tea, he was on foot, he had no criminal record, he was a “good kid.”  Add whichever narrative that you’d like to hang on him here.  It’s rather perverse, really, our collective love and desire for the innocent victim, the victim who “did nothing,” the victim who, we convince ourselves, must have been so pure that we immediately scoff at George Zimmerman’s alibi that he was acting in self-defense.  What if Trayvon Martin had come at this white man who held a gun?  Would his killing have been justified?  Would we be protesting and petitioning as righteously as we are?  What if he’d had, instead of Skittles, a bag of weed?  Or a beer?  Or a knife?  Or something else that made it harder to make him look like a kid?  How many fewer signatures would that correlate with on  

It should hardly be disputable that a great share of what killed Trayvon Martin was his existence in a racist state system in which to be black is always to be seen as being guilty of something, a system in which criminality is always implied in blackness and in which blackness is understood as a predisposition toward criminality that nonblacks learn to imagine themselves as the innocent victims of.  

It should also hardly be disputable that a great share of what subjects young black persons like Trayvon Martin to “the state sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death” has something significant to do with the ways in which we fetishize innocence.  It has something significant to do with the ways in which in order to see a person, or a group, as deserving of justice, we expend so much energy toward shoring up evidence that they did nothing at all, toward proving, once and for all that the Trayvon Martins of the world get killed not because of what they did—not, that is, because they broke the law or used viollence—but because of who they are.  Black.  Not criminal.  

But what about the blacks who do commit crimes?  The blacks who have criminal records?  The blacks who might be found carrying knives rather than Skittles, or, lord forbid, both?  The blacks who, unlike Trayvon Martin, might not have a parent living in the subdivision in which they happen to be walking at night?  Would George Zimmerman’s bullets have been more appropriately directed at them, and not Trayvon?  It may sound vulgar to say this, but in our collective dwelling on the details that make Trayvon Martin’s the innocent victim we want him to be, I get the sense that the answer is, more or less, yes.  Or, to put it less vulgarly, I strongly doubt that if it were the case that Trayvon Martin had a criminal record, we would be seeing anywhere near the degree of public outcry that we currently are.  There would be, in other words, much less of a palpable feeling that there has been a major and significant breach, breakdown, and failure of justice.  We’d have a much harder time maintaining certainty that Trayvon’s killing was caused by what he was (black) than about what he’d done (break the law, in whatever fashion).

Innocence, Victimhood.  Two social and legal constructions that make an almost inordinate claim both on whom we are and are not able to see as deserving of justice, and on whom we are and are not able to tolerate seeing as targets of violence.  Our insistence in representing Trayvon Martin as an innocent victim is a stark reminder of how much we will will have to shift our angle of vision—to say nothing of our social infrastructure—in order collectively to regard millions upon millions of black and brown people as not only deserving but fundamentally entitled to a substantive kind of justice. For so many of those who have no claim to innocent victimhood, to have not done anything wrong, our public discourse has a radically difficult time imagining a form of justice whose instruments are something other than the barrel of a gun, or the interior of a cage.


more words... ›


Beyond Guantánamo, a Web of Prisons for Terrorism Inmates

“It is the other Guantánamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads. Today, it houses far more men convicted in terrorism cases than the shrunken population of the prison in Cuba that has generated so much debate.”

(via ziatroyano)



On this day, 50 years ago, Frantz Fanon passed away. A psychiatrist, Pan-Africanist, writer, and revolutionary, he was born in Martinique in 1925. In 1952 he published Black Skin, White Masks, which exposed the negative effects of colonization on the mental state of subjugated peoples.

As a psychiatrist in Algeria, he joined the FLN (National Liberation Front), which waged a war of independence against France. In 1961, Fanon published The Wretched of the Earth, a book on decolonization that has remained a classic and influenced revolutionaries the world over, including Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Che Guevara, and the South African Steve Biko, founder of the Black Consciousness movement. Fanon died in Maryland, where he had sought treatment for leukemia, and was buried in Algeria.

Troy Davis' sister has died ›

Amnesty International issued a statement Thursday night hailing Martina-Correia as a “Hero of the Human Rights Movement.”

“Our hearts are breaking over the loss of this extraordinary woman,” Amnesty International CEO Curt Goering wrote. “She fought to save her brother’s life with courage, strength and determination, every step of the way. She was a powerful example of how one person can make a difference as she led the fight for justice for Troy Davis, even as she endured her own decade-long battle with cancer. And despite the terrible blow of his execution, she remained brave and defiant to the core of her being, stating her conviction that one day his death would be the catalyst for ending the death penalty.”

(via ziatroyano)

Fuck Yeah Radical Literature!: Book: This Bridge Called My Back ›


First published in 1981, This Bridge Called My Back has been out of print since the expiration of its contract with Third Woman Press in 2008. Hopefully the digital copy will find its way to those who will circulate it and possibly build up pressure to have it printed again.

URL Set:

The Paris Review - Arundhati Roy on Walking with the Comrades

I want to ask you about your “political journey” of the past decade or more. Among Indian writers, you’ve come to occupy a unique place—not only have you remained in India, you’ve been extremely vocal and critical on a variety of national subjects. Is this a role you’ve embraced?

Yes, I have, but only reluctantly. You see, when you live here, inside of all of this, you end up writing to refuse to be humiliated.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has authorized more executions than any governor in the history of the United States. He said at a Republican presidential debate Wednesday that he has never worried that the state of Texas has executed an innocent man.

“I’ve never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place,” Perry said. […] “In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed.”

When NBC’s Brian Williams asked Perry the question about the death penalty and pointed to the 234 executions – even before Perry answered – the Republican debate crowd erupted in applause for the governor’s actions.

“Death Penalty: Applause for Rick Perry’s ‘Ultimate Justice’ at Republican Debate”, ABC News

This is where US politics have arrived: probably the most crowd-pleasing moment of last night’s Republican debate was an enthusiastic ovation for killing people. And it’s not just the GOP: the most popular moment of Barack Obama’s presidency thus far has been his announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination. Bill Clinton also bragged, during his presidential campaign, about ordering the execution of a mentally ill inmate as governor of Arkansas, flaunting his tough-on-crime support of the death penalty (and mandatory minimums). As the empire erodes and its institutions crumble and fail, you can always fall back on bloodlust and the spectacle of killing.

(via zuky)

history shows that the U.S. specializes in this sort of "spectacle of killing"

(via ziatroyano)

Uh, what do asylum issues and alleged ties to criminality have to do with her being raped? ›

The sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is on the verge of collapse as investigators have uncovered major holes in the credibility of the housekeeper who charged that he attacked her in his Manhattan hotel suite in May, according to two well-placed law enforcement officials.

"Strauss-Kahn Case Faces Test in Hearing", NYT

Also: really?