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Comment on Political Prisoners:
By Steve Bloom
I attended the Malcom X Memorial Dinner this year. It was not my first time. I am among those whom Dequi refers to in her remarks as coming and going and coming back again. But this year was different from any of the previous occasions. I didn’t just attend as an individual. I mobilized five other members of the Green Party of Brooklyn to join me as a delegation from the party.
The work around political prisoners suffers from the fact that it tends to exist in a Black ghetto, with considerable support and solidarity also from the Puerto Rican movement but with only a sprinkling of white activists involved. At the same time the Green Party suffers from the fact that it tends to be overwhelmingly white, with only a few people of color who participate in its work. It seemed obvious to me that this was an opportunity to begin bridging both of these gaps, that the Green Party and the movement to free political prisoners/prisoners of war would mutually benefit from making a connection. In general the white left in the USA pays far too little attention to this issue, and I believe that other white activists would benefit substantially, as I have over the years, by becoming immersed in the spirit of Black love, Black resistance, Black family, and Black community that this dinner embodies.
I do know that the other Green Party members who came felt good about their participation, agree with me that the party as a whole should try to find other ways to connect with struggles that are of specific concern to communities of color—as a step in trying to break out of the white ghetto that the Green Party has been in for far too long.
And let me also take this opportunity to present some personal testimony, about how an involvement in work with prisoners has enriched my experience both as a social activist and as a human being. Taking the steps suggested by Dequi, in terms of visiting or contributing money, can, I believe, do the same for others. I will close, therefore, with a brief poem composed in 2014, after actually visiting a prison for the fist time in my life. That visit was associated with a literary project, in collaboration with several women inmates at the State Correctional Institute at Muncy, in Pennslyvania. But whether the reasons for your visit are personal, or literary, or political, I think everyone who engages first hand with prisons as a social institution can enrich their own understanding in similar ways.
There is a Difference . . .
. . . between being opposed to war
and being a soldier in a war. This,
allow me to suggest, is not hard even
for those of us who have never been soldiers
        to imagine.
There is also a difference
between being opposed to prisons
and being an inmate in a prison,
something most of us who have never
been inmates can, it seems likely,
        imagine too
        without much difficulty.
What I had never imagined
until today, however, is the difference
between being opposed to prisons and
        simply paying a visit to one.
Walk through the razor wire for yourself,
however, as I did, this morning (for the first time),
feel what it is like to observe just a fraction
of the regulations, for only a few hours,
that residents of this edifice are expected
to abide by strictly, twenty-four hours each
        and every day, some
        for the rest of their lives.
And I believe that you, too, will find yourself
searching for words that might, somehow,
        help us to comprehend.

Steve Bloom
March 2014