Follow the author's odyssey from lumpen drug dealer to prisoner, to revolutionary New Afrikan, a teacher and mentor, one of a new generation rising of prison intellectuals. This book consists primarily of letters between Rashid and Outlaw, another revolutionary New Afrikan prisoner, smuggled between the segregation wing and general population over a period of months. These comrades educate themselves - and us as well - on Marxism and Maoism, the Five-Percenters, Dialectical Materialism, Dead Prez, Capitalism, Racism, Imperialism, Class Struggle, Revolutionary Nationalism, New Afrikan Independence, Psychology, and a host of other subjects, as they grapple with how to promote revolutionary consciousness in the most hostile of environments.
Rashid has been in prison for twenty years - the past eighteen of which in segregation (solitary confinement). Shortly after this correspondence between himself and Outlaw, he and his comrade Shaka Sankofa Zulu founded the New Afrikan Black Panther Party–Prison Chapter. The NABPP-PC has since developed branches in various prisons across the u$ empire and has its own newsletter, Right On!
A number of Rashid's essays written as Minister of Defense of the NABPP-PC are also included in this book.
I hope to study this book at greater length, thanks to Kerspledebeb and my Virginia comrades for giving this underground classic to the world. The almost folkloric story of Rashid Johnson's transformation from apolitical gangster to dedicated Marxist-Leninist revolutionary is one of Virginia's most captivating and inspirational. A rousing introduction by Big Tom Warrior, an Appalachian legend in his own right, sets the score for Rashid's dramatic autobiography and, best of all, a clandestine prison correspondence between Rashid and a fellow New African prisoner named Outlaw, smuggled between segregation and general population at the notoriously gruesome Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, VA.
The letters offer a huge insight into contradictions within the movement. Rashid on the one hand is a hardline Maoist, Outlaw on the other hand quotes Nechaev with enthusiasm. When the two men muse about the issue of homosexuality, Rashid clearly sees the phenomenon as a subjective product of the capitalist superstructure whereas Outlaw entertains the notion that homosexuality is genetic. Rashid pens a brilliant critique and analysis of the 5%ers, possibly the only Marxist criticism of the group in print. Outlaw on the other hand seems partially open to the possibility of synthesizing Marxism with 5%er ideology, although later expresses frustration that his cellmate shows more interest in religious mysticism than the materialist analysis of history. (I skimmed this book very quickly in the course of a drunken yuletide family reunion so apologies if my analysis is sketchy and incoherent. Again, I desperately hope for the opportunity to give this book a thorough study)
A spiritual sequel to George Jackson's canonical Blood in My Eye, every bit as rousing and inspirational. A must-have for those interested in researching the US prison system, the history of Virginia, or the intersection of Marxism and black nationalism.
On a final note, as an anarchist and unorthodox marxist, I must say that I strongly disagree with Rashid and Big Tom when they characterize folks' of Rashid's background as "lumpen". The supposed "lumpen" class was never a real part of Marx's economic analysis, only a derogatory term he occasionally applied in journalistic accounts as an expression of his cultural chauvinism. For better or for worse, the kids in Rashid's childhood neighborhood encapsulate the US proletariat. The young, criminal-minded Rashid was, in the words of Mike Ely, just a working-class kid caught up in some bullshit.
I loved reading this as it was tremendously inspiring to read the politicizing process of Outlaw through the back and forth, inside the prison letters on revolutionary theory and practice, between him and Rashid. I found the essays at the end to be thought provoking, motivating and lucid, particularly ‘What’s left of the Left?’ I highly suggest this to folks interested in prison abolition work, and really anyone interested in expanding their own political education or learning how people behind bars do it. Also every single art piece included is amazing.
This book is a engaging and well written insight into political struggle and the development of revolutionary consciousness within the US prison system not in the 1970s but today. essays, autobiography, poetry and correspondence are all included, among them some great historical/political overviews courtesy of Rashid. I will (hopefully), be doing a promo event for this book at the Flying Brick Infoshop in Richmond VA, sometime in December, with all proceeds going to prisoner support work by SPARC (supporting prisoners and acting for radical change), also Kerspledebeb who did a lot of work to put this out is a great political publisher and distributor who deserves your money. So buy it, the more copies the better, make your friends buy it, buy a boxload and sell them on the street corner like hot dogs. (end of shameless advertising).
must-read collection of writings from several incarcerated brothers (plus some powerful art by the main author kevin rashid johnson) regardless of where you are coming from politically morally humanly spiritually,the musings of these minds will affect you and move you and inspire you reread them annotate this book follow your questions and hunches do your own research and most important spread the word
Like a modern day George Jackson, Kevin 'Rashid" Johnson writes profoundly about life in prison, the machinations of the state authorities against the prisoners who dare to raise their heads, and the various political trends that rise among prisoners. His writing and politics are sharp, and I learned a lot from this book. I understand that Rashid is still facing heavy repression from the state, for his leadership of prison struggles.