The Lucasville Uprising was a rebellion against oppressive and racist policies at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville, OH. Nine inmates and one guard died during the uprising in April of 1993. Today, many people are serving time or condemned to death by the state of Ohio in relation to the uprising. We demand amnesty for all of these inmates. The conditions at SOCF were (and still are) intolerable and unconscionable.
Revolutionary Greetings! It is an honor and privilege for me to be allowed to share my thoughts and insights with you. Before I get to the main points of my observation, I want to make it abundantly clear that you—all of you present here today—are the real heroes of the world. I mean, you are the moral and spiritual compass. You are the progressive, freedom-loving people of our world, that remind nations of their democratic obligations espoused in their respective national constitutions and in the United Nations charter that protects human rights from government excesses.
You have sacrificed the comforts and conveniences of your home to be here. Your revolutionary spirit and iron-willed determination made you strong enough to ignore the discouragement of unsupportive family and friends who pleaded for you not to get involved—that is, not to cause trouble. For these reasons, I tip my hat and surrender to you the revolutionary command and salute: SHIELDS UP!
Does anyone in this audience know what day it is? Again, does anyone in this audience know what day it is? [Someone responded: “May Day!”] That’s correct. It’s Tuesday, May 1st, and that makes it May Day. May Day is an international working-class holiday that originated in this country on May 1st, 1886. Thus, today is the 126thanniversary of a real general strike for the 8-hour workday we now have in place. Today is the 126th anniversary of when tens of thousands of industrial workers—skilled and unskilled, men and women, black and white, native and immigrant—across this country prepared to come together to protest the long workweek. So today is a momentous day, a historical day, for several reasons.
We are gathered here to commemorate the anniversaries of various movements and struggles whose origins coincide with this date or time of year, especially of union workers, Occupy Wall Street, and the Middle East uprisings. The momentum and velocity of this righteous energy has resonated within every layer in society, inspiring many others to discard the mental shackles of powerlessness and replacing it with amour of hope and defiance. For this reason the prison liberation movement has joined the ranks of the global resistance movements just mentioned, with ours in recent time being initiated by the December 9, 2010, Georgia prison work stoppage for living wages; and then the January 3, 2011, successful hunger strike here at Ohio State Penitentiary, which was enthusiastically endorsed and followed up on July the 1st of the same year by the California hunger strikers. Our display of solidarity with our California brothas shows that there exist genuine unity and affection inside the U.S. prison system. And in the last couple of months, the savage and chicken-hearted murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin sent hundreds of thousands of people to the streets demanding accountability for his killing. These protesters—though crowding the streets for justice in Trayvon’s murder—are all a part of the 99-percenters, and their mobilization will eventually increase the participation in movements that have broader goals and ramifications. Not since the 1960s anti-war and Civil Rights movements have such a large, disparate percentage of Americans have amassed to voice their demands for justice and equality. That’s why I tell you we’re experiencing a momentous time.
Though we have separate groups, we have the same agenda—to promote equality and terminate oppression. What’s so special about this is that we are more emotionally and philosophically mature than our ‘60s predecessors, which will enable us to be able to understand how important it is for us to unite instead of wasting valuable time and human capital pointing out the flaws and shortcomings that the ‘other’ groups have. Because of our disciplined unity, the enemies of progress have doubled their machinations in order to slow down or kill our momentum. They have tried to assassinate our message and the values we are exposing. They have said things like “The Occupy Wall Street movement is leaderless.” They recklessly characterize us as savages, rapists, hobos, uncaring and unsympathetic monsters, and a host of monstrous names. However, most of us are too sophisticated in our thinking to fall for their amateurish counter-protest schemes, and we continue to believe in the truth and rightness of our Cause despite enormous pressure from the government and corporate America. Thus we stand here today—united. United against the powers that be. United we stand…but if we ever allow our enemies to divide us again, we will take a hard fall.
The prison liberation movement is naturally tied to the various protest movements in society. We are natural allies, for our enemies and yours are one and the same. The same government and corporate America that are oppressing you, are the same government and corporate America that are oppressing us behind enemy lines. It should never be about you against us, or us against you. It should always be about us against them, for prisoners feel the physical extremes of brutality and the brunt of oppression and exploitation that some of you present can only partially imagine. People in society get sprayed with tear gas that burn the eyes, but prisoners are treated more brutally. For example, prison guards smash our faces into walls and break our bones with all kinds of take-down maneuvers; they gash our noses and swell our faces with bare knuckles— of course while our hands are cuffed behind our backs and our feet are in shackles. Still worse, they occasionally murder prisoners without any fear of judicial prosecution. We are condemned to solitary confinement for doing things much less threatening as you are doing today, and we are kept beyond our earliest release dates. However, many of us have not given up championing the cause of truth, freedom, justice and equality, and for this reason we sympathize with everybody here at this gathering. And though we are locked up, our fighting spirit and souls are there with you. And that’s real talk!
We are all excited today, but we must moderate our jubilation because of what lies ahead. We have two major challenges ahead of us—staying unified and not getting discouraged by unexpected encounters. Because our movement is constantly evolving and growing, naturally our ranks will swell and further diversify. But, sometimes with diversity comes dissension. However, dissension is not always a by-product of diversity.
The longevity and durability of our unity will depend upon how we conduct ourselves, and upon how we manage differences of opposing opinions. We must not forget that dissenting perspectives are an element of a progressive, democratic movement. It is not something we should feel ashamed of. Managing dissenting views will require us to be flexible in our thinking, to be humble, and to be open for learning new things. Our humility will make it comfortable for us to accept agreed-upon group stances that may not be exactly our preferred choice. Another challenge is, we must show the would-be protestors and our oppressors that we are not a passing fad, that we are not weekend warriors, that we are not bored adventurers. Instead, we are the real deal—we are revolutionaries.
They must know we are here to stay. We are here for the long haul, or at least until our demands are met.
Our struggle is not a one-night thing. It is not something that will be accomplished in a month or two, and perhaps not even in a few years. It is a struggle that must stay vibrant for an entire generation or until need be. Many struggles in history took years and even decades, so we are no different. Our objective requires us to fight and maintain our fervor and tenacity for however long. We can’t get exhausted, we must not become dismayed. We must stay vigilant. We can’t lose heart when we can’t measure our success with some type of yardstick, or when we don’t see change right away.
Have I given up? No. In fact, HELL NO! Never! Giving up is not an option. It’s not in my DNA. My stance has been firm and consistent, even though the prospect of death has been hovering over my head for the last two decades. Come what may, and let the wind blow wherever, for I refuse to capitulate.
Our reward, you see, lies not so much in achieving our goal—though that is what we strive hard for—but our reward is already given to us. Our reward comes with the feeling of pride and human dignity that is stirring our souls right now—that is the true reward. It is knowing that we are not among the naysayers—the people who never leave their couches to join movements of change; the people who don’t think they have a chance—those who Frantz Fanon aptly described as “beaten from the start.” They are the know-it-alls, the people who claim to have all the answers, yet they sit on the safe sidelines. Let’s thank our Creator, and the positive forces in the Universe, for not making us a part of that group.
Peace, and may God bless all of you.
From death row, this is Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan.
Imam Hasan is looking for political support from concerned persons—professors, students, journalists, radio and news personalities, religious and community leaders, activists, etc.—who are ready, willing and able to help him build a movement to expose the gross miscarriage of justice in his case. To learn more about Imam Hasan’s case, log onto www.lucasvilleamnesty.org and see his web pages at www.facebook.com/siddique.hasan andwww.myspace.com/freesahasan.
This address was delivered May 1st, 2012, to the Denver General Strike assembly in Civic Center Park. The event was organized and supported by the Denver chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World, Occupy Denver and other groups. An audience of approximately 150 people from all walks of life—students, people experiencing homelessness, radicals, progressives, artists, activists and people just passing by—quietly gathered to hear Imam Hasan address them. At the end of the speech, several remarked that his comments were the best part of their May Day event.