We Were Ready
By Uhuru B. Rowe
November 14, 2017
I went outside this this morning. The first time I’ve been outside since the weeklong lockdown. The energy is different. The air is thin. The sky is clear. The sun is shining. Casting dynamic rays of light on the brothers huddled together beneath the pullup bars. Policking about the Black condition. The frustration is obvious. The pain is heavy. The tension is thick. The brothers are in a rage!
I hear phrases like Black Unity. Black Power. Black Revolution. Yeah! I like the sound of those words. They shoot thru me. Sending shockwaves throughout my body. Rattling the ground beneath my feet. We are in a rage! We are ready!
Our fists are clinched. Our hearts are racing. Our jaws are tight. With blood in our eyes. And Liberation dripping from our tongues. Revenge! Revolt! Retaliation! Revolution! Yeah, we like the sound of those words.
The guard blows his whistle.The dogs are barking. The sharpshooter is poised up above. Its time to return to our cages. And, as if almost on cue, Our rage dissipates; Our words cease; Our sweat turn into tears. And then we all bow our heads. Disperse into individual paths. And begrudgingly march back again towards slavery.
By Uhuru B. Rowe
November 6, 2017, Day 1 of Lockdown
It is 3:35 AM and we were just abruptly jolted from our sleep by the screams of a Sergeant making his rounds for count. “I need to see movement,” he screams, “so that I’ll know that you are alive.” Since arriving at Sussex 2 State Prison a little over a year ago, there have been a series of overdose deaths here and at other prions and correctional facilities across the state. The current opioid crisis affects, not just people in rural white communities, but also people in prisons. So during this count, on this particular day, we were instructed to move to show that we weren’t dead.
Continue reading “Sentiments of a Conscious Prisoner During Lockdown”
By Uhuru B. Rowe
December 31, 2016
“This operating procedure provides an administrative process for resolving offender issues and complaints through fair, prompt decisions and actions in response to complaints and grievances from offenders incarcerated in the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) institutions.”
The above is a verbatim quote of the VDOC Operating Procedure (OP) 866.1 (I), which governs the Offender Grievance Procedure in all Virginia prisons. But the offender grievance process DOES NOT operate to resolve offender complaints and grievances in a fair and prompt manner. Instead, it is designed to hinder them.
Continue reading “A Rigged System: Why Prisoners’ Grievances Are Designed To Fail”
By Uhuru B. Rowe
September 28, 2016
Just imagine: One day you go into your kitchen to get a glass of water. You turn on the water and out from your faucet flows water that is yellow or dark brown in color. Or the water may be somewhat cleat but contains black specks that resembles oil or coal and wreaks of chlorine or ammonia. Would you drink it? Even if the government tells you it is safe to drink?
Continue reading “Fight Toxic Prisons: Water Contamination and Air Pollution in the Virginia Prison System”
By Uhuru B. Rowe
December 5, 2015
Today was quite extraordinary. My eldest niece came to visit me today, along with her boyfriend and three wonderful children. Its been nearly four years since she last visited me and I was so excited when she told me that she was coming to visit me on this day I could barely contain myself. Out of my entire family Nonie has been the second-most constant in my life during my incarceration- second only to my mother. Nonie and I have a pretty unique relationship in a family divided by deeds done and words said…and words left unsaid. When Nonie was younger, my mother used to baby-sit her so often that it seems as if she was staying with us on a permanent basis. But I was a momma’s boy who demanded all of my mother’s attention; and so I felt that Nonie was encroaching on my territory, so to speak. I began to feel neglected by my mother because I selfishly felt that all of the love and attention she was showering Nonie with belonged to me. And so I began to resent Nonie and I began to verbally and physically abuse her. I didn’t understand it at the time but Nonie’s presence in both me and my mother’s lives during a difficult period for the family was a blessing in disguise. My parent’s marriage was on the verge of collapse and I was battling mental and emotional problems. I vaguely remember one day when I was sitting in my room crying after suffering a traumatic experience, Nonie came to me and put her hand on my shoulder and asked me what was wrong. When I turned to look at her in the eyes, I saw nothing but pure and genuine concern for my well-being. I remember feeling quite fine after that. And here I am after nearly 21 years of incarceration, she is still showing me that same love and concern. She is quite an extraordinary person, so full of love, compassion and loyalty. I am blessed to be her uncle. Her consistent presence in my life serves as a powerful reminder that I must fight with every ounce of my being to regain my freedom.
Black people make up 60% of Virginia’s prison population- 90% of which are black men. Consequently, mass incarceration is destroying black communities and is crippling the foundations of black families. It is an injustice to keep rehabilitated prisoners behind bars for decades who could otherwise serve as a powerful and positive role model and example for our sons and daughters. America’s criminal injustice system punishes not only prisoners, but also our families and communities. I bear witness to this fact when I see the look in Nonie’s eyes when it’s time for us to part was from our visit.
Written in 2008
Look at us young black youth with out pants hung low as if to say we will always be down and out. We don’t even bother to pull them up.
Perhaps it is an accurate expression of the life that we will come to know and experience in Amerikkka.
The product of a single-parent home where our mother is on welfare and our father is a rolling stone, caught up in the game, strung out on drugs and women. Our father barely even knows our name.
It is common for us to walk past old school pimps and prostitutes, used drug needles and crack pipes, empty shell casings and yellow crime scene tape on our way to the corner store.
We question ourselves as to whether we should take such a low road. But what options do we have in the ghettos of Amerikkka? Who will find us worthy enough to invest enough time in so that we stay on the straight and narrow? Where are the strong black male role models who can inspire us, give us wisdom and encouragement, instill in us good morals, values and principles, and teach us the importance of gaining a knowledge of self so that we don’t fall victim to (or engage in) black-on-black violence, police brutality, mass incarceration, and self-annihilation? Who among us will show us that even though our fathers lacked the capacity to teach us how to be real men, we still can learn to be courageous in overcoming systemic racism, oppression and genocide; that we still can grow and mature to become a honor to our mother, an excellent husband to our wives, a shinning example to our children and a blessing to our community?
With the days days of Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and Huey P. Newton long gone, what inspirational revolutionary black leaders remain who can show and teach us how to love, embrace and respect our blackness?
The constant feeling of not progressing in racist Amerikkka causes us much frustration and rage. So we vent our frustration and rage on our black brother and murder him in cold blood because of a petty dispute and we degrade and abuse our black women, treating her as nothing more than a temporary fix for our sexual desires, leaving behind a long trail of children who will grow up never feeling the affection that can come from a father because we never received such affection from our own. So our children must suffer because we suffered, and the cycle repeats itself perpetually. UNTIL WE BREAK IT!
Look at us young black youth with our pants hung low as if to say we will always be down and out. Now is the time to pull them (and ourselves) up!