A Word to the People
by Kamau Tebogo Zulu Damali (Raynell D. Morgan),
March 4, 2007
It is often stated that the youth are our future, and that if we want our future to be promising we must give them the guidance to be successful members of this society. In the Black, Brown and Red communities of Amerika, the youth are being sucked up by the prison industrial complex, and falling victim to homicide and self-destruction. If it is true that these youth are our future, then unless we get involved in their lives, and reclaim control of our communities, we're in a lot of trouble.
In assessing how our youth and community are being consumed by the prison system it must be noted that, at the dawn of the 21st century, the United States of Amerika has a cumulative incarceration populace of 2.7 million citizens of varied ethnicities-a non-negotiable figure that exceeds the prison population of China, which stands at 500,000, in a nation of over 1 billion people. The population of United States barely exceeds 291 million.
Throughout the first three quarters of the 20th century, the U.S. incarceration rate remained relatively stable, at about 110 prison inmates for every 100,000 people. In the mid-1970s the rate began to climb, doubling in the 1980s, and again in the 1990s. The rate now is estimated at around 760 per 110,000. Among adult men between the ages of 18 to 34 it is estimated at 1,160 per 100,000. 45% are of Alkebulanian (Black/Afrikan) descent.
It is no coincidence that the majority of the people incarcerated in Amerika's gulags are poor people and people of color. Without question, the conditions of the Black, Brown and Red community(s) in Amerika are designed and rooted in the legacy of racism, kapital exploitation, and apartheid/Jim Crow politics. We too, are to blame for the current dismal state of our communities. The physical poverty of the community, for instance, is the
result of irresponsibility and complacency. We have been programmed to believe that there is nothing wrong with being impoverished, and have come to accept it. The unemployment in the community is a result of us not coming together to build/create jobs and support each other in business. The genocide/fratricide in the community is the result of fear, self-hatred, lack of respect, lack of unity, lack of self-knowledge, and a lack of
concern for the welfare of others. The vast majority of our problems as a community could be solved by us. Our inactivity has aided the overall assault that's been lodged against us by the government. We need to come together, to work on ways to curb the pernicious behaviors that result from the structures of poverty, racism, kapitalism, unemployment, etc.
It must be emphasized that the youth emulate what they see us do, and also what they witness in the community. If we act responsibly, so will they. If we demonstrate responsibility and positive conduct and instill such values in them, they will act accordingly. If we don't teach them how to be responsible and respectful, they will turn to the streets for guidance. And, if the streets are saturated in negativity and criminal conduct, their attitude and behavior will reflect such. I base everything stated herein on
personal experience, for instance:
My parents were a part of the Black consciousness movement in the 60s and 70s and tried to influence me and my two brothers with those experiences. They encouraged us to read, to be righteous, and to take pride in our Alkebulanian heritage, but they didn't lead by example. Well, Mama did, but not Pops. Pops had his problems with drugs and alcohol and was abusive to Mama, and that's what I picked up.
Pops and Mama split when I was nine years old, and although he stayed in touch, without his presence and discipline the household became fragile, and we (my eldest brother and I) wandered. To top it off, Mama became preoccupied with three jobs and thus had no time for us. We fell into the politics of street life and became the antithesis of everything our parents wanted us to be. Mama and Pops tried to reach out to us, years down the line, but it was too late. Had our parents and the parents of those we ran with in the streets been involved in our lives on a consistent basis, led by example, and helped shape the community in a positive sense, most of us probably would have become productive members of society.
I've been in prison since 1993, and before that in and out of group homes and juvenile detentions. All of the brothers (and a few sisters) who I came up with are either dead, in prison, or strung out on drugs and alcohol. The community failed us, and it failed itself. I'm not suggesting that an individual is not responsible for his or her own actions. For I'm the first to point a finger at myself. I'm only highlighting the fact that such actions are shaped by one's upbringing and, like the Afrikan proverb says, "It takes a village to raise a child"- translation: the child belongs to the community and therefore the community is responsible for the child. If the child succeeds, the community succeeds, and likewise when it fails.
Investing in the youth/community and building educational institutions and programs designed to edify the youth and community as a whole will not obliterate every problem that we as a community face, but it will definitely improve our condition and curtail many dilemmas that result from the lack of structure and opportunity.
Here are some ideas for community development:
1. Form a coalition with concerned members of the community. This coalition should be based on resolving issues in the community, such as crime, poverty, and unemployment.
2. Form a committee that specifically deals with the economic, political, educational, and social reconstruction of the community.
3. Become acquainted with every member of the community, if possible.
4. Form a committee that deals with beautifying the community. If you don't have funds to purchase needed supplies, petition your local politicians and ask for access to the sanitation building in your city, for brooms, rakes, and other utilities. This committee should involve the youth, to teach them the value of responsibility.
5. Form an economics committee, that will teach the community about business, and how to properly manage money. A savings account for each household should be established. This committee should teach the importance of spending money wisely and investing in beneficial ventures.
6. Write letters of complaint to local legislators and ask them why your tax dollars aren't being spent on programs in prisons that actually help in the rehabilitation of prisoners. Programs such as accredited college courses, vocational training, business school, and similar programs that would help the returning prisoner contribute to society. This is an issue that should concern all, considering that most of you have relatives in prison, and most of the people being released from prison will be returning to your communities. You the people must not remain silent on this issue. Become vocal and demand that your money (taxes) be spent to rehabilitate, and not just to punish.
7. Create Peewee football, baseball and basketball leagues for the community youth. This will give you something constructive to do, and will teach them the importance of sportsmanship, unity and teamwork.
8. Form a book reading club not only for the youth, but for adults as well.
9. Create a conflict resolution committee. The purpose of this committee will be for peace treaties between brothers and sisters who are at odds with each other. A lot of social groups, labeled by some as "gangs," could actually become true fighters for, and protectors of, the community. The agenda of these groups are rooted in community activism. But due to the lack of guidance, they have lost track of such teachings. Most of the conflicts that take place in the community are reconcilable, but usually blow out of proportion because no one ever steps in to mediate.
10. Form a community patrol task force. This task force will consist solely of people from the community, who are concerned with keeping it safe and watching out for each other. It's time we stand up and control the things we can.
I write these words, not only to persuade, but to encourage you to get involved with the affairs of the community and embrace all of the community youth, as if they were your own children. We can't save the world, but we can save our communities, and this is no one's responsibility other than own. On that note, I will conclude, and pray that Allah (God) will bless us all with direction and guide us to greater promise, greater than this world can offer. Peace!!!
Yours in Continued Struggle,
Kamau Tebogo Zulu Damali
(AKA Raynell D. Morgan)
Wisconsin Secure Program Facility
P.O. Box 9900
Boscobel, WI 53805
Kamau Tebogo Zulu Damali is housed in Wisconsin's sole supermax, the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility. He describes himself as a self-educated man who has been learning Swahili and dreams of receiving a college degree if ever released. He is helping his wife-to-be plan the founding of a nonprofit organization for underprivileged children in Washington, D.C. Kamau recently completed a book entitled, Prison Letters, and is working on a second, called Poetic Revolution. He is looking for progressive publisher
for these two works. If interested (or if you'd simply like to write), please contact Kamau by writing to him at the address listed above. Below are links to his previously published
[You may contact Kamau T. Z. Damali directly by writing to him at the address listed above. The following link offers tips for writing to prisoners: https://prisonersolidarity.org/TipsForWritingPrisoners.htm