In August 2007, prisoners at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama went on a work/hunger strike in protest of the horrendous, unsanitary, decrepit living conditions and arbitrary institutional lockdowns. The initiator of this action was a young, Black prisoner named James Bond AKA Eternal. I took the time to catch up with him on the segregation exercise walk (cage) and asked him a few questions. This is his answers to the questions.
ANARCHYLIVE: What’s up brotha?
AL: For real. But let me ask you a few questions about yourself. How old are you, where are you from and how much time are you doing?
E: I’m 30 years old and I’m one of those 507 Bottom Boyz, Westside of Dothan, Alabama. I have a LWOP (Life Without Parole) sentence.
AL: At the time of the August 2007 work/hunger strike you had just recently come off of death row –
E: Yeah, yeah, my momma said I was sentenced to death before I was out of the womb, and after studying history I’ve found out that’s true. But yeah, I spent a few years on the row. I was the last of the youngest to come off death row at that time.
AL: What was it like being on death row and how are the brothas back there coping?
E: I really don’t have anything to say about what it was like, but the brothas are coping very well. They some strong brothas.
AL: I hear you. Now, can you tell me what the racial make-up was on death row and what the politics of the death penalty are, from your unique position of actually being sentenced to death and placed on death row as a teenager?
E: At this particular moment I’ not sure about the racial make-up thing. I’d be surprised if it’s not the same as it was when I was back there. When I was back there you had about 160+ people on the row with 75% black. That’s at Holman, Donaldson (West Jefferson) also holds death row inmates.
AL: 160 folks on death row at Holman, I didn’t realize it was that large.
E: No, I’m talking, you know, including Donaldson. But Holman does have over 100 on the row back there. The politics of the death penalty is always about race, fear, class, and revenge.
AL: So, you’re telling me the death penalty is not about murdering someone and breaking the law?
E: That’s what I’m saying. In order to receive the death penalty you have to commit capital murder and that’s where someone’s life is taken and you commit another crime (felony) at the same time as the taking of a life. That’s capital murder and you’re eligible for the death penalty. See, you’re not getting the death penalty for taking a life, but in reality, the other crime or felony. This shit is crazy. Then you have the economic component. I’m from a poor family who couldn’t afford to hire an attorney. Death penalty cases must have two attorneys. That’s about $100,000 or better to properly defend against capital murder. So, I was appointed a public defender who barely received compensation and the resources it takes. I’ve never heard of wealthy people going to death row. Then, I’m young and Black, another two strikes against me in racist amerika. Plus, you know the psychological factor where the jury automatically thinks you’re guilty of something or you wouldn’t be a “defendant” and where they believe whatever the district attorney (prosecutor) says. It’s the state versus me. Dig?
AL: OK. About the August 2007 work/hunger strike. What was all that about and why did you take it on?
E: One more point, people watch all these police shows on TV that show the police and district attorney as these sincere, caring, and honest people who are just trying to protect society. We know it’s all bullshit, but the average Joe believes that shit. Alright, the work strike really was what it was, but your homeboy Big Thurman added the hunger strike to it. You was here and part of it. But anyway, I had to jump that shit off, you know what I’m saying, I was tired of the shit the Warden (Culliver) had been putting down. The filth man, I couldn’t keep going for it. You know, just fucking with us in the newsletter and shit. Everybody was grumbling. People saying “These niggas ain’t gonna do shit, they done layed down.” Well, it wasn’t that, they was just waiting on someone to step up and I did.
AL: Any regrets?
E: Yeah, I regret we kept it peaceful, but it got what we asked for, so I guess it’s cool. But I sho’nuff wanted to put my foot in the police ass.
AL: I’m feeling you on that last part. So, what do you think about the January 2014 work strike?
E: Well, I had just gotten back to Holman. Remember, I was shipped out because of my jumping shit off in 2007. Not everyone got down this time like in 2007. That was the problem. I guess dudes just wasn’t ready this time, not tired of the bullshit, the working for zero or pennies. Man, these people are smart. Don’t forget they are doing time along with us, they know how we move, how to make us tick. So, from what I’ve noticed, they are constantly rotating guys in and out, to and from different camps and no unity can develop like that. In 2007, most of the guys had been here together for years. Dig? And in 2007, it was a spontaneous thing. The last one was talked about, organized to a degree. The police was prepared.
AL: Yeah, I’m feeling you on that. That’s a tactic they’ve been using for a while now. But I think we have become complacent because we have cell phones, mp3s, technology brotha, and no one wants to lose it. You know the police really don’t care, they look the other way. Ain’t nobody using them to escape, expose the system. You see what I’m saying?
E: That’s one of the ways they control us, let us have technology and not really tripping on it, the same with dope. You have guys talking about the people taking cell phones if we shut down. That was some of the talk. Back in 2007 there was only about 2 cell phones in the camp, so no one was tripping on that.
AL: We have to get around it, well, really counteract it, confront it, and deal with it. We really haven’t tried to deal with it. Do you have any suggestions?
E: Man, I really don’t know. But when things get really bad, it won’t matter.
AL: We may have to bust some heads, you with us or with the police, you know what I mean?
E: Yeah, that’s what’s up.
AL: Brotha, I’m gonna wrap this up here, any last words?
E: Shit gonna jump off. It’s coming. I rep the Westside Schoolyard Crip gang. And shout outz to the brothas in Cali and Ferguson.
AL: And sisters too.
E: Right. [laughs]
AL: Thanks brotha.
E: Any time, any time.