Sunday, December 7, 2014

Prison Radio Interviews Keith LaMar

Really excellent short interview with Keith on Prison Radio. Please give it a listen.

Full Transcript below.

KL: My name is Keith Lamar calling from the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio.
Prison Phone God: This call is originating from an Ohio correctional institution.
KL: How ya doin'?
PR: Oh man, we're working hard, ya know?
KL: I'm looking at- let me say- I'm looking at this poster you sent me. And its just regardless of how they've tried to stifle this man over these years, his heart still beats hope, and it came through it. Try as they might, they haven't been able to. This recent move to try to silence him will also fail because the truth will prevail in the end. I think that's what happening, you know, all around the country. Even the ugly truth about how those who own society really feel about black people. People seem to be shocked at these recent shootings, even though it's an ongoing thing, not an isolated incident, as they try to portray it. It's a thing, you know, a policy.
PR: Yeah I think it's really connecting your story too. These are voices from inside that are trying to be heard and the Fraternal Order of Police and the mainstream media really want to suppress what's important to the people who are being oppressed and victimized by mass incarceration. Mumia is part of that flow, as are you.
KL: Mass incarceration is just an extention of capitalism, you know, they just came to the point with de-industrailization, they came to the point where they don't need as many people, so a lot of people, superfluous people that we no longer need are just fluff, are foam, so they just trying to fluff us off and shun us off into these prisons, supermax solitary cells. And it turns out that's not economically feasible to continue to go down this path, so they come up with all the different alternatives. Every alternative but to treat people like human beings. That doesn't seem to be an option for them. To come up with a more equitable economic distribution, that don't even seem to be on the table. We're so far from that discussion, it's just-- you know, and people don't make the connection, or the leap seems to be too far for people to connect this with slavery. But this whole thing, even after the end of slavery they didn't know what to do. Now we got all these black people, what are we gonna do with them?
PR: It's in the 13th Amendment.
KL: Right. Mhmm.
PR: The culture in this country has never dealt with the issues that it was based on, how it was founded, how its wealth was created. And there have been no reparations. There have been no significant-- and at every opportunity they try to legislate to take away people's rights to participate in democracy, whether by warehousing them or taking away their right to vote. So it's disenfranchisement based on white supremacy.
KL: And if you follow the history of it, you know, Jim Crow, reconstruction, all the way up to present day, you know, you see the various means by which they try to keep the old system intact, they just call them different names but its's the same thing just modernized. You know, slavery and that whole thing was just about-- when they brought these people, when they brought my ancestors over here, they spread the rumor, 'don't feel bad for these people because they're not really human beings.' In fact, the Supreme Court, in Dred Scott, ruled similarly. This is the same court that the law of the land rests with. This is the same court from whom I'm expecting mercy and justice tomorrow at my oral arguments. And so it's just, it's incredibly frustrating and I think that don't even come close to describing how I feel. It's not hatred and it's not just anger. There's more to it than that. You get the sense, you start reading and learning, you get the sense that you could have done more with your life. Just so a few people, the wealthiest, 1%, 10%, 20%, whatever the number is today, so they can have more than what they need to live. It's just incredible. It's not just about what's going on in this country, it's about what's going on around the world; it's this same formula, thankfully more and more people seem to be waking up. I just hope that that process continues.
PR: Tell me about the situation that you're facing tomorrow. What are the elements of the case that you need them to hear? And what is the result?
KL: The main issue is that they violated my constitutional rights by not turning over favorable evidence, exculpatory evidence as they call it. And I have the actual statements of the perpetrators--
Prison Phone God: 60 seconds left on this call.
KL: ...who came forward and admitted to killing someone. This is prior to me being indicted, prior to me being a suspect. He came forward and said, 'Hey I killed this guy.' And they indicted another guy who was a part of the Aryan Brotherhood. This other guy I just mentioned, he was a part of another gang who was thought to have presided over the riots, the Black Gangster Disciples. And so it's interesting that they indicted people from these two organizations who admitted to presiding over the riot, and yet after the fact it was just too many diversions, so they just tried to lay it all with me and hide this evidence because they thought I was going to plead guilty and not go forward with a trial. And so when I did go forward and insisted on a trial, they hid this evidence. It took 20 years for it to come out.
Prison Phone God: ...from an Ohio correctional institution and may be recorded or monitored.
KL: There are alternatives to Mcdonald's. There are alternatives to this system. I mean the main thing that I've been trying to do is use my story. I'm working on my autobiography right now. I'm trying to use my story to impact the lives of young people, particularly young black men who are involved in the criminal justice system, juvenile detention homes and whatnot. I had the opportunity, the privilege, I should say, a few months ago, to call in and share my book with a group of juvenile delinquents at the juvenile justice center in Cleveland, which is where I was when I was 13 years old. I was there when I was 13 years old and it was through reading that i was able to come into a better understanding of myself and this society that we live in. So I wanted to get books into these young people to hopefully try to affect some kind of crucial change at the fundamental, just on a minimal level so they can get some kind of sense on- you know, because what really has to happen- the trick about capitalism, the lie about capitalism is that the American Dream is available for everybody, and we all believe that, we're all taught that. And so we only think there's only one way to live, there's only one measure of success: You've either got to have this car, these clothes, this house, and this job, or whatever the case may be in order to have happiness. You know, this is the dream. We never take time to think about what a dream is. All of us dream, every day, every night and we wake up and go on with our lives, our real lives. And so that's what I'm trying to get young people to do: wake up and go live their real life. And that might not be the same as everyone else. In fact, I know it's different. So I'm just trying to do that because that's what-- you know, I really don't think its a matter of us changing the system, but changing the way we view our lives as individuals because we think we have to prevail on these people, and really it's just like McDonald's: we're trying to get them to change they menu to more healthy. All we really have to do is stop going to McDonald's and create an alternative.
Prison Phone God: ...from an Ohio correctional institution and may be recorded or monitored.
KL: There are alternatives to McDonald's. There are alternatives to this system. It's like Las Vegas, you know, it's not set up for you to win. You can understand that you're gambling every time you step out there trying to find an easy way. There's no easy way. It's just a lot of traps and those traps are easy to get into and hard to get out of.
PR: Yeah, really hard. Tell me some of them.
KL: Well, you know, they fall into this whole--you know, I think, I've been using the word 'addiction.' I think a lot of us are addicted to this dream. And I think these people, eduction, that whole process is about: to hook us on this whole thing. Because it wasn't until I was 19 years old that I got my first hit of the capitalism, so to speak. You know, I started hustling, started trying to be enterprising. Which there's nothing wrong with that, you know. Working them regular jobs I couldn't afford a polo shirt. I had to work all month shoveling snow, cutting grass, just to get one shirt. It's easier just to learn how to steal these shirts, you know what I mean? But once you become a cirminal, you know James Baldwin said, "in the private chambers of the soul the guilty party is identified and the accusing finger there is not a fantasy, but the truth." He said, "Men must pay for what they do; not for who they are, but for what they allow themselves to become." So when you become a criminal, when you become the bad guy int he movie, you can't be surprised later on if you learn that they having you dying down the elevator shaft, or they have you dying in the electric chair, or they have you dying in the shooting squad or something like that. You gotta read the whole thing and the small print to understand what's in store for you. You know, so you gotta make informed decisions. If, after learning about all the realities of the situation, you then decide to become a criminal, that's a totally different matter. But a lot of these young people are being lured into ways of looking at the world, ways of thinking about life, and that is what I'm referring to as the trap. You know what I mean? They trapped. Even right now, you can see you on death row, or you in prison for the rest of your life and you're still pursuing this faulty thing above and beyond what life is really about. And that's the problem of it, you know, in my opinion. Well not in my opinion, but based on everything I've read. This stuff I'm talking about is, you know, real life stuff.
PR: Why do they want to kill you?
KL: Well, you know I think part of the reason is because I stood up in a way that is threatening in this system that we live under. And I just stood up to them not really understanding, it was an instictive thing. They wanted me to cop out to something that I didn't do and forfeit the rest of my life, as if my life didn't mean nothing. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I had came into the awareness that my life had meant something and I wasn't just going to sacrifice it, give it up for nothing. I was angry about it, you know, and i told them no. And that's been my attitude ever since. I know I'm not supposed to use that language, but I'm just talking to you, you know, person-to-person. That's basically what it had came to. I had came to the conclusion, you know, that I wasn't taking any more bills, i wasn't selling my soul anymore, I'm done with that. I don't think they were prepared for me to go forward and demand a trial, but I did and when I did that they was caught unawares and they tried to hurry up and hide they evidence, you know. They didn't turn over their evidence. This whole system is a sham, it really is. You know, its like I requested to see the wizard, and found out there was nobody back there, it was just these people pulling these little levers and stuff.
PR: Right, right.
KL: It's all, it's all-- and then that's the thing about people, you know, I'm on death row so there's always the possiblility that I might be executed. You know, I'm fighting as hard as I possibly can, I really am. And I've got a lot of my friends and family who are fighting just as hard, but I'm saying, "For what?" To continue to be a part of this world. So that's the reason I'm trying to be a part, not just to save my life, but to be a part of that process of change, trying to get people to change, because I'm fighting so hard to be a part of this life, to be a part of this world, but I don't really like this world the way as it is right now.
PR: Right.
KL: You understand what I'm saying? So it's like, "What am I doing?" And so in order for me to continue to fight for my life I have to try to incorporate myself into larger things. Otherwise, what the hell am I doing? So that's what I've been trying to do with my story, trying to incorporate into that larger process of change, you know, because if you're going to be alive, you want to be alive in a world that's worth being alive in.
PR: Wow. [sigh]
KL: Yeah, you gotta take care to breath deep with all this stuff, it take your breath away, don't it? It just really do sitting here thinking about it, just talking about it. It just brings it all to the front of your brain and its just too hard and you gotta [sigh].
PR: You know, it's funny, they make you pay a price every time you stand up for yourself. So that's how I feel about it, that every time we stand up on the outside we have organizations. They're not wanting us to do the work or the job of being journalist, they're wanting to shut us down. So every time we stand up and work to bring these voices out they're swinging. They're swinging hard nd they're telling you you're going to pay a price. Same with you: if you swing hard, tell your words, you're going to pay the price.
KL: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and you gotta be willing to pay that price once you come into the awareness that life, as they say in the Bible, for those who are religious, 'what profits a man who gains the world but loses his soul' and we have to understand, no matter what your religion or affiliation, that there's a part of you that if you sell it, if you tamper with it just a little bit, you remove all the meaning from your life.
PR: So they're asking us, they're not giving us, there's no deal out here. Like you're facing execution, we're facing no real life for the people that we care most about.
Prison Phone God: You have 60 seconds left on this call.
KL: If that's the case, if I'm gonna die anyway, which we all are, then why not do something righteous with your life? Why not give up your life for soembody else's? My name is Keith Lamar. I'm calling from the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio.

These commentaries are recorded by Noel Hanrahan of Prison Radio

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