I wish you all well and hope that this letter finds you in good spirits. The past few months have been full of good and exciting news, as well as some that was saddening. I honestly don’t know where to begin.
Jack Johnson, the other BPP member who was held on the same charges as me was released from prison in May of this year. This was news that I found both good and bad. I was pleased to see the brother gain his freedom after forty years of fighting this corrupt and racist criminal justice system. However, I am still being held illegally after four decades and nothing can make right the destructive actions of the COINTELPRO operations. This does however push me to work even harder for my release.
The saddest and hardest time of this whole prison ordeal just recently hit me. My mother, Eleanor Conway passed away in early June. Though she died peacefully in her sleep, her transition has left the family sad and in pain. This was due in part to my inability to start the grieving process by viewing mother as she made her final rest, or attending her funeral. While I recognize that my mother has made her transition to join the ancestors, the loss is still too profound for words because my mother was so dear to me. During this time, I fasted and reflected upon her life, and eventually found some degree of spiritual comfort. I thank all of you who faxed letters, sent email messages and made calls to the secretary of public safety on my behalf.
In the midst of this period of grief, another issue came up that caused confusion and concern among family, friends and supporters. This is the issue of my relationship to Sister Nzinga. For clarity, we have been divorced for over seven years. I am married only to gaining my freedom, and living with a little sunshine in my life.
The fundraising effort has received much support; we are now less than $10,000 short of our target. This money goes to pay the legal team that is being headed up by Phil Dantes. For some, it may seem discomforting to speak of freedom and money together. I find it surreal, something reminiscent of a time when the terms were clear, and people of African descent had to buy their freedom or steal it. But this is the reality of the present day criminal justice system. Freedom ain’t free. That said, thank you to all of you who have purchased the book, The Greatest Threat and helped to organize events. The next letter will provide a legal update, and information about what people can do to help with the legal effort.
My supporters are planning several events for the summer and fall. The main happening is an August 20th program featuring the artist Emory Douglas who has donated a print that we will be using to raise funds. He will be on hand to sign prints; there is a flyer for this event enclosed in this letter or attached to this email. September 23rd, AFSC, AK Press and the Creative Alliance in Baltimore will host a pre-release event for my memoir Marshall Law: The Life and Times of a Baltimore Black Panther. Local activists and artists will be reading selections from the book. We are also interested in planning programs in other cities.
On the prison front, the Friend of a Friend (FOF) mentoring program here in this institution continues to grow. The program successfully graduated our first class of men who received mentoring. Of this group, we have several who will become mentors; we have other activities scheduled for the summer ranging from mediation training to theater activities. FOF keeps many men in the prison connected to the outside community, and helps them to thrive despite incarceration. Through this program, we have created a community service/outreach project. Collectively, mentors and mentees have adopted the United African Alliance Community Center run by Bro. Pete and Sister Charlotte O’Neal in Tanzania. The members of FOF had the opportunity to meet Sister Charlotte when she came to the prison back in April. The men felt so moved by the O’Neal’s work that we pulled together a fundraising effort for UAACC, and we plan to continue our support of the work of our brother and sister.
At present, I am in good health, but I still have high blood pressure, and often I am in a battle with the medical department each month to get the necessary medication. At the time, I am contemplating legal action if the issue continues. Finally, as the economic situation continues to worsen for oppressed communities, we must focus some of our efforts on building solid networks. It is critical that we learn to set aside differences that are petty and squash some of our real disputes so that we can work together across communities. Basic survival should be a part of the dialogue anytime groups come together because many of our people are scrounging for bread and land. There is a need now for the same social programs that the Black Panther Party implemented 44 years ago. The need never went away.