Stories Told to BA Everywhere About Those Who Have Been Locked Up

June, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


People have heard the statistics:

    • More than 2 million people, of all nationalities languish in prison-ten times the number of people 50 years ago

    • The U.S. has 5% of the world's population but 25% of the world's prison population

    • More than 60% of those in U.S. prisons are Black or Latina/o

    • 32% of Black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are in prison or on parole or probation on any given day

    • More than 80,000 people in prison are held in solitary confinement under conditions that fit the international definition of torture

    • The incarceration of women has increased by 800% over the last 30 years

    * the Stop Mass Incarceration Network's October Month of Resistance

What does this mean in terms of people's lives?

The response to "1000 years-1000 dollars for BA Everywhere" project has touched a deep vein of pain and outrage. Read these stories from reports from around the country as BA Everywhere committees have gone out to jazz festivals, to the street corners in the communities, to the beach and to local jails.

At a Memorial Day Jazz Festival:

    • A woman told about how her brother in California-who had been in prison before-had gotten a 25 years-to-life sentence under the "3 strikes" law. Then there was some change in the law and his sentence was reduced to 7 years-but he had already served 18!

    • A couple stopped to add the one year their son had already served of a 30-year sentence. They said that he is 23 years old and was in college when some of his friends "did a robbery" and he got accused and convicted of helping plan it, even though he was not involved. They bought a paper and asked to be on our contact list. The father said that they are pinning their hope on appealing the conviction and that when the judge sentenced him, he bragged that he was building up a life-time record of giving a million years in sentences! What an exposure of this putrid system-turning the shredding of people's lives into a "game" — racking up sentencing years like points!

    • A young woman in her late teens was with her parents, listening intently to the agitation. She finally blurted out: "I don't understand what you are talking about! Are you telling me that you are siding with the rapists and murderers?!" This led to some deeper discussion on what we meant by "fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution" and to our conviction that yes, even some who have done the most horrible crimes against the people can be transformed, with the revolutionary leadership of Bob Avakian.

    • A young white man who'd spent 3 years in a nearby county prison was one of the first to add his "stolen years" to the list. He expressed real enthusiasm and gratitude for what we were doing, and apologized for not having any money to give because he was currently homeless.

    • One group wanted to know the difference between "socialists" they encountered who upheld Cuba as the model, and what BA had to say about the path to revolution.

    • A young anarchist woman was not familiar with BA or the Party's views on communism, was moved to buy the paper — "sounds like we have a lot of unity, I need to share this with my friends here with me."

    • We met a retired corrections officer who had worked in a prison in NYC who made a contribution, and said that he had a hard time with the way people were treated in prison and was glad he was out.

    • One woman donated because of the case of Cecily McMillan. She told us about Cecily and her outrageous arrest during Occupy Wall Street, you can read about it in the next week's Revolution newspaper.

    • A group of three Black women stopped, and one bought the paper and gave a $2 donation. When asked if they had someone's years to add to the list, one of them said that she could put down "scores of people" because she was a defense attorney. But, she added, she also had someone she considered a friend who had served 37 years.

    • We ran into a vendor who usually buys Revolution newspaper when we see him on the street. He was struck by what our mission was at the festival, and added to the list the 10 years he served at the notorious state prison in Starke, Florida when he was only 18. And then he pledged $10 for those years.

    • A young Black woman came up and said she had a plan for how to change things, that the problem was what she characterized as a slave mentality among Black people, and the solution was to get rid of the influence of religion on Black people by separating church and state. After a lot of deep engagement, she started arguing that the problem was all white people and not the system, and she got really angry. We had some back and forth about what the problem was with white people, but at a certain point she was too mad to continue the conversation. A friend of hers pointed out how unique and important it was for this kind of conversation to be happening out there, and a few minutes later she came back to say that despite our differences she appreciated the 1000 Years — 1000 Dollars for BA Everywhere project.

    • A park worker came up to ask what we had to say about prisoners and said he had had a good job, then moved South and got caught up in the prison system and after serving time in jail couldn't get a decent job again. He added his years to the list.

A BA Everywhere team that has been going out in front of a local jail in the south west reported that people really respond to the challenge to make these years count for changing the world. The movement for revolution and BA are new to them, but on learning that there really is a solution, many people want to be part of it as they are learning more about it. They noted that people hearing BA's audio New Year's Call to Revolution has been very powerful in people understanding what difference their donations will make:

    • One young woman said that "I know what it's like. I just spent 77 days in prison and that was too long. I am donating $1."

    • A woman who gave for her mother's 5 years, said that she knew that the system would never let people know about BA and the movement for revolution, and that is what inspired her to make the donation on the spot.

    • A Black man came up after hearing BA's whole New Year's message played, and said, "Here's my donation, that all I have." He talked about spending 30 years in prison, and how he wants to help get that message into the prisons, but he didn't know how he can possibly give $30. We showed him the letter from a prisoner in the centerfold of the paper that talks about going to family and friends to collect dollars for your years, and he said, "I can do that" and he took a 1000 – 1000 flyer to use to collect donations for his 30 years. He said that he would bring it back in a couple of weeks.

    • A Black woman donated $1. She said "This donation is so the ones who are incarcerated can get a copy of the book, BAsics. This is for everybody I know who is in prison, not just my family members."

A BA Everywhere team that went to a Memorial Day Lantern Floating ceremony at a beach said that virtually every family they met included people who had friends and families in prison.

    • One Laotian family had only one person who spoke English, who shyly told us: "My aunt in prison." She was very ashamed and didn't even know what her charges were, but that she was going to be there for three years. When we said that it was the system that was the real criminal, and that most people were in jail simply because they couldn't make it in this criminal system, she smiled and pulled out $3 for the campaign.

    • A young Filipino immigrant talked about how many of his friends who had graduated with him were in jail. He related his own experience as a janitor after graduating and shrugged in a resigned way saying: "that's just what you gotta do to stay out of bad stuff," and that many of his friends just didn't want to take the kinds of jobs that are the only option for most young Filipinos and began dealing instead. We got into why the world didn't have to be this way and he became more interested, got some literature and promised to go on-line.

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