Only their tactics have changed. But white nationalism is alive and thriving. You see it every day in their laws and draconian police brutality. How many black and Brown brothers have to die at the hands of a predominately white police force? How many families of Latin descent have to be separated? How many prisons have to be built? How many walls have to be erected? The hate-mongering infests our nation at its core. That “legal” document I quoted earlier was written 500 years ago, yet it’s still reflected in our society today. Just because it’s not laid out so cut and dry. Believe me, we are still living under the same colonial belief system that tried to destroy us back then.
They want to classify us as subhuman, barbaric, savage, illiterate, drug dealers, gangbangers, murderers. This image they want to portray reinforces their own rationalization that we need to be governed and controlled. This gives them the moral and intellectual right to claim superiority. And then depict themselves as brave and courageous seekers of justice and freedom. But I say fuck their misconceived moral right from god. We will outlast, outbreed and overcome them on every level. They are the true savages that destroy and annihilate entire nations and cultures. They kill indiscriminately. Everywhere the white man went he brought death and destruction. Stealing and raping the land of all its natural resources. They take our wealth and then subject us to the yoke. And when we struggle in poverty, they call us lazy. Our children end up attending the worst school districts in the nation. And they call us illiterate. But they fail to recognize that the adversity and hate and pain we endure daily only makes us stronger, and more dangerous. And one day in the near future they will awake in fear and feel our feet on the back of their necks!
To write to Pedro send letters to:
Pedro Chairez Y35814 Pontiac C.C. P.O. Box 99 Pontiac, IL 61764
Solidarity, I was recently informed of Reverend Al Sharpton’s visit to the city along with the speech he delivered on the lack of diversity within the state’s judiciary branch. I in comradery with our people have felt the importance to acknowledge this moment. To express my thoughts on the plight of those generations to come, who will ultimately be subjected to the torture of a broke antiqued racist system. A system that not only endorses the owning of human beings, but also the acquisition and financial capitalization of owning human beings called “Indentured Servitude”. A system that indulges in quid pro quo for retaliation. Publicly advocating for prison reform and humane conditions for those incarcerated, simply to appease its democratic base to secure votes! Than ultimately using taxpayers to turn around and ship inmates” Majority Black bodies” and those at the bottom of the social-economic ladder to be subjected to tortures conditions in out of state prisons like me & my co-defendants’. History tells us that there is nothing more important to a revolutionary change than “MOMENT”! If you are able to consciously identify & seize the MOMENT, then you can completely alter the trajectory to which those who capitalize off, of this evil system, wish for us to remain on. I suggest that as a people our goal has to be to squeeze everything out of the MOMENT and not simply accept what they concede to us as a shallow victory that inevitably won’t have any true effect on change. Mrs. Tamika Montgomery- Reeves’s appointment is a win for our people. President Barack Obama’s election was a great historical victory for our people, yet the true change we sought to grab from the MOMENT slipped through our hands because every Pivotal bill he attempted to pass that could have had a positive multi-generational impact on our communities’ was denied by congress. Therefore, while Reverend Al Sharpton’s attack on the judiciary branch is an admirable first step, ultimately to have a true impact on this racist capitalistic disease that’s breaking apart families & destroying our communities we have to apply this cure of diversity to every political branch of Delaware’s bureaucracy. Truthfully, before & after this is accomplished we have to demand transparency & integrity from our leaders and let them know they can no longer just deliver our votes to whomever they politically endorse. Simply being an orator of beautiful speeches will no longer be accepted they have to truly move out for the people! With visions of a Better future! Stay strong & Stay focused! All power is the people!!
Peace & Resilience! I heard Reverend Al Sharpton came to the city and spoke about the lack of diversity in the state’s judiciary system. This is definitely an issue worth fighting because it coincides with the disproportionate number of Black prisoners within their system. Who is Sharpton’s contact in Delaware? Al said he was coming back, so why not make the best out of it. For starters instead of speaking at Kingswood let’s take him in front of 500 N. King St. Sharpton knows the 13th amendment of the US constitution endorses slavery for prisoners. Delaware paying 30 million to send 300 prisoners to another jurisdiction was a “slave trade” (human trafficking). This very judicial system exonerated my codefendants then shipped them to Pennsylvania where they remain isolated in solitary confinement. I have to get with some of y’all to see what needs to be addressed on the street level. “All” inequalities or injustices that stem from the lack of diversity in Delaware’s judicial system needs to be included in his presentation. When is Al “suppose” to return? I would hate to think his ulterior motive for going after Biden, was to assist whatever presidential candidate he’s endorsing. If so, then he and whoever invited him to our city must be addressed accordingly (I’ll give them the benefit of doubt for now). In the meantime, I’m looking for some courageous hearts and righteous minds that want to unite for the greater good of the community. We’ll stand on integrity as we push audacious concepts, visions and ideas. Even if we can’t see the staircase, we still take the first step in faith. The belief in self will illuminate the way! Power is the People! BIM
To write to Jarreau Ayers, please address the letter to:
“Courage is the most important of all virtues because, without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”
For those of you who have shown support for the Vaughn17, I
am sending you this message in order to express my appreciation and to commend
you for your courage and work that you have done and continue to do for all
prisoners suffering behind enemy lines. Despite our short encounters of
success, the fight against this unproductive, oppressive system is far from over!
Not only is there a lot of work that needs to be done, but we have to remain
diligent in our efforts to combat this system. Speaking of system, as you know,
it is once again an election year. Politics play a pivotal role in how this
country operates its systems. I am not sure how many of you Brothers and Sisters
believe in politics and voting, but for those of you who do not—you need to.
As we all know, mass incarceration is a real thing that is
affecting all races in this country, especially people of color. In saying
that, a lot of these politicians are now using mass incarceration as a stepping
stool to win the Black and Latino vote. Therefore, all of you need to make sure
that you have valid reasons on why you are voting for the politicians that you
are voting for. Whatever you do, please do not mistake the dialogue and charisma
of a politician as a way of promise and capability, because thisis nothing but
a sales pitch to win your vote. If you start to develop a good vibe from
somebody, then make sure that you investigate them because it is wiser to base
your vote off of something you have actually investigated than on something
that you feel. Remember, deception is real and politicians have a way of
portraying images for the benefit of their personal agendas. In closing,
continue to live the spirit of our ancestors and remain steadfast in our
struggle against oppression and the prison state. Peace.
Your Brother In Struggle
Abdul Haqq ~Last of a dying breed~
To write to Abdul, please send letters to the following address (must include birthname and not Islamic name)
Luis Sierra SBI# 455723 Unit SHU17Z James T. Vaughn Correctional Center 1181 Paddock Road Smyrna, Delaware 19977
This land is cursed by a plague called ” The System”. It’s an omnipresent pestilence that’s inextricably intertwined within the depths of our lives. Victims of this infectious disease exist (occupy a space in objective reality) as expendable pieces of flesh, that are cast into an assemblage of sub humanistic waste used as fertilizer to nourish and cultivate the roots of capitalism. The fruits that its branches bear are gathered and allocated amongst the most avarice, which accounts for about 7% of the population. These demagogues fortify their supremacy by using sophisticated methods of legerdemain (misinformation & miseducation) to suppress the masses in a labyrinth of chaos, confusion, and illusions. The more removed one is ( in terms of ethnicity, gender, ideology, geographical location, net worth, etc) from the oligarchs the more ostracized or disenfranchised they become. Politics — is the driving force behind the dissemination of injustices and inequalities used to perpetuate is agenda. For many, life’s peregrination will sadly equate to involuntarily aiding in the fulfillment of “Quotas” that correlates with financial incentives. The compilation of such results in disproportionate statistics that evince what class of people are being suppressed, stifled, profiled, exploited and discriminated against. These are the symptoms that enable one to know if they’ve been inflicted with this disease. Those of us who test positive must continue fighting, resisting, and struggling with the hopes that “we” as a people will become the panacea.
Some events in life can change a person dramatically and
these experiences we can carry for a lifetime. It has been about ten months
since I found myself preparing for an upcoming trial I assumed would be March
2019 for an incident which occurred at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center at
Smyrna, Delaware on February 1st, 2017. Seventeen individuals held
accountable for a disturbance which left one officer dead. That day of February
was a day I will remember forever and the aftermath was no pleasant memory.
Still to this day, the corruption by prosecutors and the
Department of Corrections are being observed, but to deaf ears and blind
individuals which believe themselves to be law abiding citizens and true
Americans upholding a system which has only tormented and broken individuals
outside of their circle and agenda. Some do not agree with my opinion or
idealism, but that is left up to discussion.
Truth is, I believed the Delaware Department of Corrections
is the most corrupt, but I’ve come to learn that all of America’s Department of
Corrections are unstable and unjust.
When I look back and reflect on the events of the past, the
hurt and pains, struggles and hardships, I would not be a better man today.
That came from the comradery and genuine brotherhood we shared as Vaughn
Seventeen. We were not perfect and may have our issues, but at the end, we
stood for each other wholeheartedly. Maybe not for the same reasons, but
whatever that may be, it was together. There were genuine sacrifices for each
other, and respect was earned and not one day passes I don’t think on the casualties
of our battles. Men I’ve come to love and respect as my family and my brothers.
We should never forget those individuals who were crucified
by society for hope in a better tomorrow, a better system for all and for
The prison culture teaches us to be tough, cruel and selfish
to survive. However, may we inspire a new culture not of color, race, status,
etc, but one of brotherhood.
The powers that be will not let the events of February, 2017
go forgotten, however, let those powers know that the true power lies with the
people. In war, there will always be casualties, however, does one life surpass
another? Are we not equal in the eyes of God? Without the rage in our hearts,
would our system ever progress? America’s history speaks volumes; progression
came from change and that came from the people. People like you and me that
say, “Fuck that! This shit ain’t right.” That’s the revolution my friends:
sudden, radical, complete change. It starts in our own hearts and minds.
Whether in prison or not. Revolution starts when one system is conducting
something improper. Throughout time, the people continue that same idea in
different shapes and forms.
What we do is important. How we carry ourselves, treat
others and behave. You cannot stand against a corrupt system if you corrupt
others and yourself. These are only my opinions, my words that have been
presented by trial and error. I, myself, am no Che Guevarra or George Jackson,
however, I respect the stories of our past leaders from all sides. The moments
I spent with my seventeen comrades I learned so much. I truly can say I was
inspired to stand for something far greater by Zach and Fariha, the supporters
and true soldiers on the front lines. Anonymous anarchists.
I was all about my own people, brown pride, my attitude was
different, but through this experience, I am reborn, liberated. I truly can say
I embrace my brothers not by color or set clique, no, no, no. I embrace my
brothers, black, white, brown as one.
I thank those who taught me truth: Dwayne, Rome, OB, Pedro, Zack. And the others I stood with: Smoke, Ruk, Capo, Kevi Kev, Luski, Cream, Nil. And the one fallen soldier we lost but cannot be forgotten, Kelz, who passed away, way too soon, a brother who truly proven to me the power of love is real. No matter what, each one of us matters, we all do, never forget what true brotherhood and love can do and we can change the world.
To write to Robert Hernandez, send letters to:
Robert G. Hernandez #55368 4B-F108 Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility P.O. Box 639 Las Cruces, NM 88004
1st, I’d like to say that it is a blessing and my
pleasure that I got to speak with you, the people. Because we the people make
the difference. I pray that all is well with you and yours. And despite the
current challenges and disadvantages that Vaughn17 prisoners and other
prisoners who are on the RRL and/or trapped in the RHU face, your support, time,
solidarity and love mean a ton to us all. Also, know that we’re fighting from
the inside just as vigorous as you are from the outside. And as a now fool said
when he was once wise, “The revolution shall
be televised.” (They always said I should be a poet. LOL!) But let me get back
to the real.
My name is Derick L. Forney #NS2698. I am a Delaware prisoner currently being held captive in Pennsylvania’s SCI-Coal Township (SCI-COA). At the present time, the central office has approved me and most of the Vaughn17 prisoners to be placed on the RRL. This indefinite status is located in the RHU—the hole! So, basically, we’re to be locked down indefinitely in the hole. I’ve been housed in the RHU going on 190 days, today is 11-14-19. I’m still being punished for a crime I did not commit. All of Vaughn17 is, being Delaware has acted maliciously by sending us to facilities in the PA/D.O.C so that we’d be further oppressed. This is an act of double jeopardy. Vaughn17 prisoners charged in the uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware who were exonerated on all charges are not being treated as such—innocent. And the b/s is that not all of Vaughn17 who were transferred to PA is on the RRL.
Yeah! Some b/s!
In the RHU, prisoners are treated like animals. There is no system of order back here. The staff goes rogue, the meals are skimped and served cold, and there’s no curriculum. Instead, we’re warehoused in cells with very little to do. There’s no rehabilitation involved with the RHU/RRL unless one develops his own. And for those on the RRL, they have it the worst. We are absolutely stuck with no time as to when we will be let go. There is no systemic design for RRL prisoners to take advantage of. Nothing for us to look forward to. Nothing for us to do. Little to no hope.
The education system is very biased. Teachers and the board
of education here at SCI-COA has petitioned and grieved that they don’t want to
teach prisoners in the RHU. They don’t want to have to travel back here just to
teach us. And unless you’re 21 and under, you will not receive an education on
the RRL. And it is such a shame to hear that educators are protesting in order
to not educate a certain group of prisoners.
The only program for prisoners on the RRL is a Step Down Program which
can only be recommended by the PRC team. And then the Central Office,
specifically the Secretary of Corrections, John E. Wetzel and the Executive Deputy
Secretary, Tabb Bickell, will decide and make the final approval or denial on
recommendations related to the RRL. So, basically, these two figures are responsible
for all prisoners who are on the RRL.
According to the policy statement for the PA-DOC (commonwealth), under the DC-ADM 802 (Administrative Custody (AC) Procedures Policy), Section 1, (Placement on Administrative Custody (AC) status, paragraph C 1 and 2, there is a criterion that states what one should meet in order to be placed on the RRL. Paragraph C is the Restricted Release List (RRL) Placement “Procedure.” Now, this is where the b/s gets heavy because the AC status is correlated to the RRL status. A prisoner cannot grieve the RRL status, only the “long-term” AC status. This loophole is created in order to trick prisoners into grieving a non-grieveable situation. Which supports the fact that ambiguous standards exist.
So if I try to grieve the RRL instead of the AC, my grievance
will be denied as non-grieveable and I will be time-barred.
Also, none of the Vaughn17 prisoners meet the criteria. We’ve never done PA time nor have we violated any policy rule or displayed any actions in PA that support this status of RRL. But due to the matter back in Delaware. We are treated as atypical. And DE/DOC seems to be the center of our hardship. PRC (Program Review Committee), the warden, the deputy warden are all aware of the fact that Delaware’s D.O.C./personnel is in the middle of this. Mental Health is aware, even regular guards are aware.
The PRC team is nothing but a gang of brown-nosers who will lie to you like it’s the truth. They will spin you just to keep you off balance, to keep you calm, to mislead you, but keep you in the dark. The standards, the protocol, the procedures, the rules, the chain of command(s), everything! It is ambiguous, misleading and at times, confidential. And the confidential policies open doors that enable PA-DOC to create loopholes to satisfy their illegal activities.
The Vaughn17 prisoners, as well as other prisoners, housed in the RHU and on RRL, are subjects who are being subjected to the vilest and inhumane treatment. The Central Office has given some of the SCI’s superintendents the discretion to run their prison in some unique ways. Arbitrary behavior is the main ingredient in this bowl of dysfunction. I’m including with this letter an RHU handbook written by superintendent T. McGinley. It is the handbook for the RHU here at SCI-COA. It is a contradiction to the PA-DOC handbook briefly. I’ve requested the handbook multiple times. I am still without it. They won’t give me one because they know once I possess this jewel, I’ll have the key to unlock the doors to revelation. And some of their loopholes will be ineffective.
This handbook for the RHU at SCI-Coal Township allows the
staff/guards to violate prisoners’ rights. The handbook gives c/o’s, sergeants,
lieutenants and other personnel the ability to take recreation (rec), showers,
food and whatever they deem an activity. They use the 6:15 am count as a way to
determine who gets these rights (but they consider these rights a privilege).
If you are still in bed, or if your cell light is out, or if your bed isn’t
made or if you aren’t dressed according to the guard’s standards, you will not
get your rec (yard), showers, razors (to shave), cell cleaning, even food is
used as a punishment.
The 6:15 am is the most vulnerable time of the day for prisoners. We are either still asleep or just still in bed. And the counts are supposed to be announced via the PA system (loudspeaker). But it isn’t. Never do they call count time over the PA system in the mornings. And throughout the day, count is called “some times.” This is a practice that, because of how the RHU handbook is languaged, allows guards to burn prisoners for the following: showers, yard (rec), cell cleaning, razors (shave) and meals. You see, I can use the phone still, commissary and visit as well even if I don’t stand with the lights on, dressed, etc, during count. And no other count except the morning will cause RHU/RRL prisoners to lose their rights. If there’s something out front of the cell door that’s in my area, I can lose all activities for the day.
Activities can be the mentioned rights. Showers are not to exceed 72 hours without one. And Mon-Fri rec is done for the standard of 1 hour. No movement in the RHU throughout the weekends. Showering every other day so when those pussies do the dumb shit and take what is a prisoner’s right, a constitutional right, we are to go without showers, out-of-cell recreation, food, cleaning the cell, shaving…for days at a time. I’ve lost count of how many days I’ve gone hungry or without a proper hygiene opportunity.
I can’t even get my G.E.D. because they don’t offer
prisoners on the RLL or in the RHU education! I am a Delaware prisoner along
with the Vaughn17 prisoners who suffer because of something I had nothing to do
with. Treated atypical and retaliated against, discriminatory conditions and
inhumane treatment is what I live. Delaware has sent a message with us and
PA/DOC is honoring the request. Treat these individuals poorly. Violate their
rights, their bodies, humiliate them, make their lives a living hell! And PA
has yet to disappoint. Most of the Vaughn17 prisoners are held in cells
indefinitely for no valid reason. The conditions are beyond poor, below egregious,
surpassing inhumane, unjust and unconstitutional. It is blatant disrespect. We
are shown the utmost prejudice and biased treatment.
So it is up to you, the people, sand us, the Vaughn17
prisoners and fellow comrades on RRL, to raise awareness. To raise a fist and
fight the powers that be. Because we’re the true power—the people. And we will not
be overpowered by any opposing power. We will stand up. We will expose these
pussies, expose their illegal activities. I thank you all for your ears. I pray
that you all continue to be safe and suckafree. God bless you and yours. Peace.
In the name of Solidarity, Strength, Resistance and Resilience.
Blessings and Love
To send messages to Deric, contact him at:
Smart Communications / PA DOC Deric Forney – NS2698 SCI Coal Township PO Box 33028 St. Petersburg, FL, 33733
We have set out on a very specific mission to enhance the level of social awareness and unity in not only America but abroad. The Philosophy behind our course of action is the best way to help yourself is to first help others and don’t ask of anyone what we don’t ask of ourselves. At this time we are looking at ways to better serve the communities that we have a presence in. We are also looking to build and unite resources to accomplish these goals. We can not refer to ourselves as a non-profit because we gain the same way that all those who participate do and that’s by the building of unity, culture, and the passing of knowledge and wisdom.
We have to reconstruct our approach to problem-solving and make a deep logical assessment of where we are today and what is our best course of action to change tomorrow. All we are asking is that you aid us in aiding you. It’s not about where you came from or where you are at now, it’s about taking what you have learned from point A (where you started) to point B (where you are at today) putting them forward and making a change not only for others but also yourself. You can and will get out your environment and self what you put in it. One person’s problems ignored is sure to one day become our own. there is no mission that is impossible because a people united is unstoppable.
You may see plenty of things on this website telling you who we are. Our actions show how much we desire meaningful change not only for ourselves but for all those who are willing to accept it and the price we are willing to pay for it, but like I said to help others will always help you in return and that’s the reason we stand here today seeking to further unite and make a real positive different. We believe in our methods and practice only strengthen them, so we ask that you support us in supporting you, the people.
My name is Pedro Chairez and I am one of the V-17 comrades who was publicly persecuted, vindictively indicted and quietly exonerated. All at the hands of a corrupt and incompetent justice system.
But the injustice, abuse and oppression that preceded that monumental event and saturated every facet of our arrest, still lingers on…as our new captors enforce their own brand of internal retribution. Passed around like cheap liquor we were shipped off to different states with a wink and a nod. The meaning clear: teach these boys a lesson! We may have been exonerated in a court of law, but as far as prison officials go, we are guilty as hell. Like the stigmata, we will forever be stained with labels such as; instigators, trouble-makers, agitators, ring-leaders, gang-members, etc.
I was banished from my home state of Arizona and exiled to a foreign land, thousands of miles away from my family and friends. Not for my safety or better living conditions or rehabilitation. Nothing so magnanimous. It was purely punitive. It is a tool and instrument to inflict psychological harm. They want to break down one’s mental fortitude, severe him from his foundational support, weaken his resolve, silence his voice, and crush his spirits. “Why,” you ask? Simple. To make one more pliable and obedient.
Now I reside in Pontiac, Illinois. At their most restrictive and isolated prison facility. I am currently in Administrative Detention. A nice way of saying solitary confinement or segregation. Here, I am warehoused like you would food products in a pantry. There are no programs, jobs, schools, or any other meaningful treatment available. No contact visits, chow halls, or religious groups. I live in a windowless cell, five feet wide and ten feet deep. With a tv to pacify me and a fan for the summer.
Furthermore, there’s no legal justification for placing me here. Because my institutional behavior and 10yr sentence qualify for me minimum custody status. However, when one challenges their procedures and reasoning, we get the intentionally vague and overused catch-phrase “institutional security”. Which means everything and absolutely nothing. They know the courts are disinclined to intrude upon prison security matters. It is an unassailable position.
Equally important is that once we are entombed within these gulags, under the false pretense of being a security threat, they offer no viable means to work our way out of segregation. There are no rehab programs, step-down programs or “corrective” measures in place to help us transition back into the general population. We are in penitentiary purgatory. Stuck. There are people who have been in here for decades. Without any tickets or gang-activity. Yet we are continually denied release without rhyme or reason. For some it becomes hopeless. Suicide and serious mental illness are at an all-time high.
The purpose of explaining all this is because these are the same oppressive and draconian conditions that plague the prison systems across the nation, and which gave to the V-17 movement. When you dehumanize people long enough they have a tendency to become inhumane. The government has marginalized and abandoned our Constitutional Rights. But the 8th Amendment is based on the fundamental premise that prisoners are not to be treated as less than human. It is a right animated by broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity and decency. Something our congressional representatives have failed to uphold. But we have not. Nor will we bow down or cower under the weight of oppression.
But I ask myself…why does violence have to erupt before it garners national attention? Why does tragedy have to precede accountability? Why is change so intimately linked to pain? Why is transparency so heavily shrouded in darkness? Why do we have to lose (fallen friends or buried alive) to win? I wish I had the answers, but I know why its called a struggle.
To write to Pedro send letters to:
Pedro Chairez Y35814 Pontiac C.C. P.O. Box 99 Pontiac, IL 61764
Throughout ancient and modern times, there’s been acts of rebellions, uprisings and insurrections orchestrated by valiant souls for the sake of a greater good. Unfortunately, a lot of these events were either erased or distorted by the writers of history. This reality is why it’s of the utmost importance for us to preserve the Vaughn17 saga and any other narratives that capture the same spirit of sacrifice, liberty, resistance and greater good as the martyrs that came before us. One of the most renowned representations of such is Harriet Tubman. She not only liberated herself from the jurisdiction of slavery but on numerous occasions jeopardized her life and freedom to rescue thousands of others. When the mind morphs into a by any means mode, the level of threat to the overall objective is what dictates the necessary. At times Harriet had to execute the fainthearted who denied themselves salvation to remain on the plantation. They were eliminated because in that instant they’d become a liability. It was too much at stake to take a chance on them not compromising or sabotaging the mission. In her eyes, she’d make sure they were freed one way or another….Nat Turner is another notable who marshaled one of the more militant rebellions that slaves themselves organized against oppression. Their fight was to ensure everyone’s freedom and dismantle the whole plantation and political system. Nat made practicable the element of surprise. He patiently waited while contemporaneously coordinating a clandestine ambush. For them, an insurrection was the gateway to emancipation. Though less publicized than the others. Denmark Vesey spearheaded one of the most “boldly conceptualized” uprisings that ever materialized. Sadly his demise came by the hands of house niggers and informants. Denmark was sentenced to death because of the audaciousness of his ambitions. The judge was so desensitized to the disenfranchisement haunting the slaves’ existence, that the immensity of Denmark’s sacrifice was unfathomable. This was conveyed when he dumbfoundedly stated, “What infatuation could have prompted you to attempt an enterprise so wild and visionary. You were a free man, comely, wealthy and enjoyed every comfort compatible with your situation. You had, therefore, much to lose and little to gain. Is slavery, then, a thing so detestable, that a man favored will engage in a plan that desperate merely to rescue his children from it?!” POWER IS THE PEOPLE!
My name is Fariha, and I am a house co-manager
at the Peace House, D.C. Dwayne Staats asked me to answer a few interview
questions to which he already has the answers. However, our audience might not. I
remember the day of the James T. Vaughn uprising well, because in D.C.,
protestors were on the streets having their voices heard. I chose to stay home
that day. As I was scrolling
through my social media feed, I ran into a live coverage of the uprising. I had
pushed it back in my mind and memory until my friend, Betty, asked if I wanted
to go with her to the first day of trial. I remember saying and thinking, “oh,
yes, I remember seeing that.” Honestly, I
am convinced that the universe wanted me to be there. Truthfully, I was
initially not as enthusiastic to go
there. I was suffering from activist burn out, I was losing hope, nothing was
making much sense at that time in my life, and yet we left to go support the
I remember very well the extreme security measures, I remember how packed it was even outside the courtroom which forced my group to wait for empty seats before we were allowed inside. In D.C., we are used to appearing in court and doing court support. It was interesting to experience Delaware all in all for the first time. Surprisingly enough, it was not the defendants catching my immediate attention; it was the old white judge sitting in front of colonizer flags. Fast forward, not only was I highly impressed with the pro se defendant Jarreau Ayers and Dwayne Staats, the entire courtroom was. Judging from the judge’s face, even he was. Let’s be clear, anyone with even no understanding of the law could see that the state had pushed former subjects to become their star snitches. Their intention was never, ever to see justice as they claimed. Rather than finding real answers to questions, they were too focused on blaming just about anyone, and as history has shown us in cases similar to the James. T Vaughn Prison uprising, those who refuse to cooperate with the state or those who refuse to lie and snitch, are subjected to the states hunt for “people to blame.”
After closing arguments, something incredible happened: the defendant, Jarreau Ayers, was getting off his chair and, as his handcuffs were put back on his wrists, he turned around towards my little group, and thanked us out loud. Surrounded by COs, Court Police, and Delaware state police, he found it important to stand up and turn around toward us. Let’s repeat this one more time, he thought, as he was getting handcuffed to be forced back into his cell, that he needed to face us and he spoke the following words, “where you all from? I thank you all for the energy you brought in here. What’s your names? I will write you all.”
Listen, that was the craziest shit I have seen and I know everyone from my group was very touched. I remember leaving the courtroom thinking, “this guy did not care that he was surrounded by all those PIGS, he had the courage to do that while surrounded by all that.” It goes without saying that impression is what we took from thereon, and for me, it was the motivation to carry on what became some of the most important work I have been involved with.
I need everyone to understand the vaughn17 defendants are different and unique. They speak more about helping others than they speak about themselves. They are fathers, brothers, sons and husbands who, if given the chance, would be a great asset to our communities. I have been in contact with many of them now since the trials have ended. We have gone through creating workshops on the incarceration of youth, discussing how to break cycles of violence, we speak of faith, and many, many times, they mentor me with advice on things I face and my community faces in our lives. They not only made me a better community organizer, but they also helped me be a better version of myself. I am in particular thankful to Dwayne Staats and Jareau Ayers who have welcomed me into their families and continue to guide me to always see the bigger picture in doing this work. Last but not least, I am thankful to everyone in the Peace House and my friend, Betty, without whom I would have never been able to push through this work.