Kuwasi Balagoon: Anarchist Warrior

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[Note: December 2016 marks both what would have been Kuwasi’s 70th birthday and the 30th anniversary of his death (murder) from AIDS-related illnesses while serving a life sentence on charges related to the robbery of a Brinks armored car undertaken to fund guerrilla activities.]

I became acquainted with Kuwasi Balagoon in the 1990s through his writings and the writings of revolutionaries that knew and fought alongside him. What is clear is that Kuwasi had an intense love for New Afrikan people and all oppressed people, and an equally intense hatred for racist and oppressive authority, and dedicated the bulk of his life in defense and liberation of all oppressed people. First as a member of the Central Harlem Committee for Self-Defense and later as a Black Panther and soldier within the Black Liberation Army. Soldier is really a misnomer, because a soldier is one who follows orders and the dictates of authority without question. And that wasn’t Kuwasi. We see that Kuwasi was rebellious as a young kid and later in his stay in the military. Kuwasi can best be defined as a warrior who lived to fight.

Sundiata Acoli, a comrade of Kuwasi’s within the Black Liberation Army, wrote that if we had read Kuwasi’s poem “I’m a Wildman” we would know Kuwasi, because he was a wildman – and that we need more of today. Sundiata also wrote that Kuwasi hated authority. I don’t know when Kuwasi officially or theoretically became an anarchist, but it’s clear that he was always an anti-authoritarian. He exemplified that through the numerous actions he carried out, from bucking in the military to the numerous prison breaks after being captured, which one isn’t supposed to do simply because authority says you should. It’s against the law, right?

Well, Kuwasi didn’t give a flying fuck about the law. He understood to really be free, one must act outside the law and destroy the lawmakers and their authoritarian institutions. Kuwasi’s trial statement says it all – it’s brilliant, defiant, and clearly shows what we should be about. I’m sure Kuwasi caught a lot of grief and heartache for becoming an anarchist because it’s seen as a white thing, just as Ashanti Alston spoke about. But I’m sure Kuwasi said fuck you to those who criticized him for being an anarchist.

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Update from C-dorm (10/7)

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This is Michael reporting from Holman. Oct. 7th at 2:00 am there was/is a disturbance where prisoners in C-dorm got into an argument with other prisoners, and the riot squad pig that is temporarily working at Holman placed a chain on cell door, locking everyone in. Now pigs waiting on full riot squad to arrive. Crip gang say they will fight. I don’t know if you got this report so I’m responding it with the latest. The full riot squad arrived about 4:00 am and just stood outside the cell looking in. Then, about twenty minutes ago, the riot squad entered C-dorm and escorted two prisoners with their property out the dorm to place them in lock up or transfer them. These prisoners are influential within the Crip gang.

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Riot squad attacks C-dorm (10/3)

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The riot squad hit C-dorm like a tornado. Destroyed much of our property. Confiscated over forty knives and I don’t know how many phones. They came early this morning, Monday the third of October, in full riot gear. They are now searching other dorms. I’m going silent now.

Michael

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Riot squad arrives at Holman (10/2)

As of 6:00pm at shift change, the riot squad arrived at Holman, but not in riot gear. They say they are here due to the shortage of staff. That may be true, but we believe that they also have more nefarious intentions. We know that they want to disarm us, confiscate all cellphones because they know that the strikes were organized through prisoners networking by way of contraband cellphones. And to crack some skulls in retaliation for the death of a pig on Sept. 1st by a prison rebel, and all the other actions that has taken place. We will continue to resist.

Michael

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Update from Holman (10/2)

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Clenched fist salute: this is a short update to inform everyone that the riot squad did not arrive at Holman prison as was expected, but we do believe that they will most likely come sometime this week. Holman prison is at a real shortage of pigs. They are quitting, some just refuse to come to work. We are having an impact and know that the state has the intentions to destroy the resistance here and regain total control of our bodies and mind. Will keep you posted.

MICHAEL

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Report from Holman (9/27)

About 12:00am a prisoner was stabbed by another prisoner while in the bed asleep. The disturbance came after the perpetrator ran out the dorm. The pigs let the prisoner in C-dorm even after being told earlier not let anyone in C-dorm by prisoners who are housed in C-dorm. Prisoners ran after the prisoner who committed the stabbing, got out the dorm, surrounded one pig who came out the control cubicle, but was asked to wait before doing anything and just help the injured prisoner to the infirmary. What you are seeing in this short clip is a bunch of angry prisoners who see the pigs as facilitators of violence against one another. This is Mike reporting from Holman prison.

Watch video here

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Michael’s out of segregation

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As of September 15th, 2016, Michael and others out of segregation. He says he thinks the call-in played a major part in them getting released. Thanks to everyone who called in!

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The Untold Story

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The web has been abuzz with information about the recent riots here in Alabama at Holman prison – the stabbing of a warden and correctional officer, the fires that were set, the overcrowding, etc. – but what has been left out of this narrative is that the catalyst for the riots was a fight between two queer prisoners about queer relations. After quelling their beef, a pig and the warden attempted to intervene and was stabbed.

No one wants to mention that out of the six prisoners who were charged with the stabbings of the warden and correctional officer, four are queer. Historically, attempts have been made to write queer resistance out of history. But, despite all the attempts, queer folk have refused to allow these stories to go unknown.

What I think most people refuse to acknowledge is that prisons are extensions of patriarchal control. Male prisons are hyper-macho environments with very hierarchical structures and class divisions. In the prisons, queer prisoners have taken on a submissive and passive persona, because they themselves are not immune to all the psychological bullshit that society teaches about gender, sex, and class, and how that gender should be lived – you know, ‘females are weak and only to use, and control.’ The queer prisoner is on the bottom of the social ladder, just above snitches. The life of the queer prisoner is one of gross disrespect, violence, and oppression, from prisoners and pigs alike. Most prisoners look at being queer as an abomination, as something nasty and weak.

But on March 11, 2016, that narrative was shattered after queer prisoners went on the offensive against the pigs.

One queer prisoner went from dorm to dorm inviting, exhorting, and encouraging prisoners to come out of their cells and join in tearing the prison down. One dorm refused and placed a lock and chain on their dorm’s cell door, successfully locking themselves in and everyone else out. The queer prisoner started calling these guys on this and called them pigs, Uncle Tom, etc. all while brandishing a knife.

And this is not the only instance of queer resistance against the pigs:

– In 2012, a stabbing of a guard in the segregation unit at Holman was taking place while showers were being done, and Fredricka, a queer prisoner’s, cell door hadn’t closed and she ran out the cell, down the stairs and into the control unit. She kicked the pig down who was in the control unit, handcuffed him and opened some of the segregation cell doors, allowing other prisoners to come out their cell and attack the police.

– Also in 2012 at Holman prison, queer prisoners formed the “Gay Militia” as a prison gang for the protection of themselves against homophobes.

– At Donaldson prison in Alabama, queer prisoners form F.A.G. as a self-defense organization.

– In 2015 at Holman prison, a queer prisoner set fire to a guard in the segregation unit.

The history of queer resistance is long and beautiful. It didn’t start with Stonewall.

In Solidarity,
Queer Resistance

[French translation]

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On Non-violence, Part 1

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Every time you see some major action being planned by prisoners, they always state that it is a “peaceful” and “non-violent” action.

I think this is because a lot of Black prisoners who are basically behind a majority of these actions come from an Islamic/Black cultural nationalist background and it seems as if they look at the Civil Rights Movement as a model and frame of reference as opposed to the Black Liberation Movement, to which most claim to be heirs. They think it’s safer and can get more participation and good propaganda to induce those who adamantly oppose violence to get on board.

I bring this up because a few ‘rades on the outside has brought it up recently and it’s constantly being debated by prisoners at Holman. It’s a debate that will keep rearing its head.

Martin L. King, Jr. wasn’t assassinated because he promoted or practiced violence. Personally, as an insurrectionist, I don’t hold the notion that peaceful protest/non-violence should be used as a strategy and/or tactic at all times, in all places. This is not about a diversity in strategy and tactics. This is about some people, so-called anarchists and other anti-prison activists, and even some prisoner activists, not giving support or solidarity, and attempting to impose their views and practice on those of us on the inside who question the insistence on “non-violence.” Let’s call it what it is: pacifism, and it’s anathema to anarchy.

The prisoners who support F.A.M. are not all stuck on “peaceful protest,” “non-violence,” even though it’s prominently displayed on F.A.M.’s website masthead and in F.A.M. literature. These guys are far from being pacifist.

The point is that if your solidarity and support is predicated on prisoners being “non-violent,” we don’t want or need it, because you are trying to control us.

I struggle within F.A.M. not because I believe in the system, but because it causes pain to the state, but in no way do I think F.A.M. or any of the Freedom movements are going to topple the state.

“Violence is only justifiable when it’s necessary to defend oneself and others against violence […] The slave is always in a state of legitimate self-defense and so his violence against the boss, against the oppressor, is always morally justifiable and should only be adjusted by the criterion of utility and economy of human effort and human suffering.” – Errico Malatesta

[Greek translation]

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Continuous Rebellion

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At the moment I’m writing from segregation (lockup) after being stripped, handcuffed, slapped, and placed here by the CERT (riot squad) on Monday, August 1, 2016 at approximately 11:45 pm. It’s now Wednesday and I haven’t been given my personal property (shoes/slides, soap, deodorant, clothes, toothbrush, etc.) nor have I received a 72 hour investigation notice as to why I’m being held in segregation.

I’m assuming that I’m being held for being involved in a rebellion (riot) that popped off on August 1, 2016 at around 3:06 pm. Initially there was a fight between prisoners, but escalated into a rebellion against the guards when they tried to intervene after being told numerous times that things were under control.

The guards didn’t listen and was chased out of C-dorm, which has become a space of self-governance and resistance against prison officials. Fires were set, control units taken.

I’m one of about ten prisoners who was also placed in segregation.

So, if you don’t hear from me personally, it means that all my property, including letters, addresses, phone numbers, have been destroyed or lost. I’ve had to borrow writing materials to get this out.

[Spanish translation][Greek translation][Italian translation]

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