I heard the stories
I seen the pictures
of these monoliths
erected out the ash
of the depression
hanging like wind chimes in the sky
amongst the Goliath
there was David
“Those who commit the murders write the reports.” — Ida B. Wells, Lynch Law In All Its Phases, 1893
In 2017, at least twenty-two people died at Chicago’s Cook County Jail (CCJ). This news is not readily available. Rather, multiple Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests filed by the Illinois Deaths in Custody Project (IDCP) with Cook County entities to confirm names and glean a few more institutionally produced “facts” produced the following: Clifford V. Nelson, 49, died while being transferred; Lopez House, 47, collapsed and died at the jail; Lindbert McIntosh, 57, died in his sleep; Jerome Monroe, 56, also died in his sleep at CCJ. By November of 2017, a few of these deaths, somewhat surprisingly, began to make local news.
Yet, the deaths are not actually that surprising. Death is business as usual in our nation’s prisons and jails.
Gaspar Sánchez and Veronica Morris-Moore are young organizers from Honduras and Chicago, respectively. Gaspar is a leader of the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) and a Lenca indigenous LGBT activist. He was mentored by the late Berta Cáceres, the COPINH co-founder who was assassinated on March 2, 2016. Veronica has been on the front lines of youth struggles in the era of Black Lives Matter, from winning a trauma center to helping oust the state’s attorney who played a role in covering up the Chicago police murder of Laquan McDonald.
In 2010, Marissa Alexander, a mother of three from Jacksonville, FL, was violently attacked by her abusive, estranged husband. Just nine days after giving birth, Marissa’s husband strangled her, and tried to prevent her from escaping her home. Marissa was able to make it to the garage where her car was parked but could not open the garage door. Trapped, she retrieved her permitted gun from the car and re-entered her home where her husband lunged at her, yelling, “Bitch, I will kill you.” At that moment, Marissa fired a single warning shot upwards into the wall, causing no injuries, but saving her life.
The Praxis Center is proud to feature The Lit Review’s weekly interviews conducted by hosts Monica Trinidad and Page May. Every week, the hosts of The Lit Review chat with people they love and respect about relevant books on Black struggle, movement history, gender, cultural organizing, speculative fiction, political theory and more. Sparked by the urgency of November 2016, they recognized that political study is not accessible to many for a variety of reasons, and their hope is that his will make critical knowledge more accessible to the masses.
Last week, hundreds of people welcomed political prisoner Oscar López Rivera home with a march and celebration in Chicago’s Puerto Rican neighborhood, Humboldt Park. Before leaving office, President Barack Obama commuted his 55-year sentence, and Rivera Lopez was released on May 17. In 1999, President Bill Clinton had offered López Rivera clemency, but he rejected it because clemency was not offered to all of the Puerto Rican political prisoners. Long-time activist and historian Barbara Ransby offered these remarks at the celebration to welcome Oscar López Rivera home.
By Monica Cosby
This past Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration, hosted an Incarcerated Mom’s Day Vigil and Toiletry Drive outside Cook County Jail. We’ve been doing this for 3 years running. As an organizer with Moms United who was formerly incarcerated, I know how necessary this is. Moms of all kinds, who are struggling to survive on the inside, need hope. And their families need help too. We live in a world that does too little to support incarcerated moms and women, yet criminalizes their survival. We don’t have enough support before, during and after release from prison.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a millionaire privatizer, made her name in Michigan with for-profit charter schools and a preference for private Christian schools. Her vision is to gut public education and teacher unions and replace public schools with vouchers. But to be clear, the ground for De Vos’ frontal assault on public education was prepared by the neoliberal policies of previous administrations. Neoliberal restructuring of public education has been a bi-partisan agenda in the U.S., going back to Ronald Reagan, so the challenges we face today are, in some ways, not new.
“Little by little the raindrops swell the river.” (African Proverb)
All over this country, and the world, women (and some male allies) marched on Saturday, January 21st, 2017. Each woman who marched was a rain drop in a river of resistance to an increasing turn by demagogic leaning world leaders toward policies that trample on human rights. For us in the United States those world leaders are Donald Trump and Mike Pence and their allies in the Republican led Congress: Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and others.
By Alice Kim
“Greetings, these words travel to you over a great distance of time and space for I write to you all live from planet Stateville, a dark place physically made to mentally break men by oppressing their bodies and shackling their minds to a sinking depth of hopelessness.” This is how one of my students aptly described where he is currently incarcerated.