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”
The Free Virginia Movement
By Uhuru B. Rowe, Founder
REVISED May 12, 2017
WHO WE ARE
The Free Virginia Movement is an Inside-Out/Outside-In all-inclusive, coalition-based statewide movment and organizing effort founded by incarcerated people in the Virginia Department of Corrections in solidarity with the class struggles of Black, Brown, poor, low-income, disenfranchised, and working class people, to redress inhumane and harsh prison conditions; racial, class, and gender bias in the criminal legal system; the effects of mass incarceration and felony disenfranchisement laws on Black, Brown, poor, low-income and working-class communities; and the miriad of other laws, policies, and practices and procedures which discriminates against people because of their race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, age, or disability. We recognize that incarcerated, Black, Brown, poor, low-income, oppressed, disenfranchised, and working-class people, are all victims of capitalist oppression and exploitation, Inside and Outside of prisons.
Continue reading “The Free Virginia Movement”
By Uhuru B. Rowe
March 1, 2017
WHY THE FREE VIRGINIA MOVEMENT?
A Federal law known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (VCCLEA) includes a provision called the Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth in Sentencing Incentive Grants (VOITIS) which provides grants to state and local correctional systems to expand their capacity to incarcerate violent offenders and impose larger and more determinate sentences.
Continue reading “Announcing the Free Virginia Movement!”
Why We Can’t Go Free in Virginia
By Uhuru B. Rowe
August 18, 2016
Every year, hundreds, perhaps thousands of bills are introduced and passed by congress into law on the federal, state, and local level without the knowledge of the average American citizen. Most people are unaware that they can show up at committees when these bills are being debated, analyzed and voted on by politicians and voice their opposition to said bills in an effort to prevent them from becoming law. Many bills are introduced, passed and signed into law with little to no input from the public, especially from those who will be adversely affected by these laws. One such law is the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
Continue reading “Why We Can’t Go Free in Virginia”
By Uhuru B. Rowe
February 18, 2016
“The Commission did not specifically address reinstating discretionary parole due to the limited time for the Commission and the interrelated and complex issues (including incomplete data), which made this issue difficult to address in the time period allowed….,” Governor Terry McAuliffe revealed about the Commission on Parole Review in the Executive Summary section of his December 4, 2015 Governor’s Commission on Parole Review Final Report and Recommendations (Final R&R, p. 5).
This statement came as a surprise to Virginia prisoners sentenced under the draconian no-parole (85 percent) law, our loved-ones and community grassroots organizations because we all were extremely optimistic that the Commission would do the just and fair thing and recommend that parole be reinstated. But, what is even more shocking is that the Commission did not even consider or address the issue of parole reinstatement even though this was the main reason why the Commission was established in the first place. Continue reading “The “Non-Review” of Parole Reinstatement by the Parole Review Commission”
By Uhuru B. Rowe
January 20, 2016
Today marks the 21st year of my incarceration here in Virginia. I remember quite vividly the first day I arrived at the old Richmond City Jail on the 20th of January, 1995. I was barely 18-years old, 140 pounds soaking wet, with no facial hair, naive and completely oblivious to the many struggles that lay ahead of me. Whatever innocence I retained after experiencing and surviving the deadly streets of Richmond was snatched away from me when the jail bars slammed closed behind me. I was thrust head first into a predatory prison environment full of hopelessness, violence, madness, insanity and chaos. Back then, if someone would have told me that after 21 years I still would be in prison, I would have found such a statement quite humorous. But spending decades in prison as I slowly transform from a vibrant teenager into a middle-aged adult with a salt-and-pepper beard is no laughing matter. Continue reading “21 YEARS A PRISONER”
Uhuru B. Rowe (a.k.a. Brian L. Rowe), is a self-rehabilitated, self-educated writer, poet and activist who has been incarcerated for nearly 21 years at various prisons with the Virginia Dept. of Corrections. Uhuru is currently in prison pursuant to a robbery he participated in on 1/19/1995, when he was barely 18 years old, that resulted in the shotting deaths of two people. Uhuru was not the trigger-man, but he accepted responsibility for his actions and plead guilty. Even though the sentencing guidelines recommended a maximum sentence of 13 years in prison, the sentencing judge ignored the recommendation and sentenced Rowe to a total of 93 years in prison. This sentence is eighty years outside of the recommended guidelines. Because Virginia abolished parole in 1995, Uhuru must serve 85% of his sentence. Uhuru is a first time felon and deserves a second chance. If he is not granted a second chance via clemency he will die in prison before his scheduled release date of 5/21/2076. Uhuru’s clemency petition has been pending with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe since June 2014. A more in-depth discussion of Uhuru’s case, his accomplishments while in prison and the politics surrounding Virginia’s decision to abolish parole can be found here. This article, written by Uhuru himself, also contains suggested ways you can aid and assist him. Uhuru’s family, friends and community needs and wants him home! You can write to Uhuru at:
Uhuru B. Rowe
P.O. Box 430
You can contact Uhuru’s attorney, James B. Craven III, by phone at 919-688-8295 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please donate much needed funds for Uhuru’s legal fund by here. It is imperative for citizens of this country who are fed up with and impacted by mass incarceration to raise our collective voices in support of incarcerated people like Uhuru. Uhuru, as well as his family, friends and supporters thank you in advance for any support that you can provide.
With the recent rash of unjustified killings of Afrikan men, women and children at the hands of racist, trigger-happy cops, we continue to march, protest and demonstrate while screaming “No justice, No Peace!”; “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!”; “I Can’t Breathe!”; “Black Lives Matter!”; and now “16 Shots!” in regards to 17-year-old Laquan McDonald who was shot a total of sixteen times by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014- many of the bullets piercing his body after he fell to the ground.
The lynching of Afrikans in America is not a new phenomenon. As the wise King Solomon once famously lamented, “There is nothing new under the sun.” The soil upon which this country was founded is saturated with the blood of Indigenous Natives (so-called Indians) and our enslaved Afrikan ancestors. Yes, it is true; Afrikans in America have been dying for over 400 years!
We died during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
We died during plantation slavery.
We died during slave rebellions.
We died during Reconstruction.
We died during the Black Codes.
We died during Jim Crow.
We died because of Willie Lynch.
We died in church bombings.
We died from ku klux klan terror.
We died from legal lynchings.
We died from the Fugitive Slave Act.
We died during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.
We died from COINTELPRO.
We died from eugenics and forced sterilizations.
We died from the rape of our minds, bodies and culture.
And we continue to die!
We die from divide-and-conquer.
We die from systemic racism.
We die from system oppression.
We die from monoply capitalism.
We die from fascism.
We die from colonialism.
We die from imperialism.
We die from liberalism.
We die from neo-conservatism.
We die from genocide.
We die from patriarchy.
We die from gerrymandering.
We die from redistricting.
We die from racial profiling.
We die from the criminalization of our communities.
We die from disenfranchisement.
We die from poverty.
We die from joblessness.
We die from gentrification.
We die from landlessness.
We die from homelessness.
We die from powerlessness.
We die from medical neglect.
We die from preventable diseases.
We die from food insecurity.
We die from undiagnosed and untreated mental illnesses.
We die from hopelessness.
We die from suicides.
We die from miseducation.
We die from low self-esteem.
We die from ignorance.
We die from the lack of a vision.
We die from disunity.
We die from rugged-individualism.
We die from hyper-consumerism.
We die from serving in the military to defend a racist government that does not value and respect us.
We die from mandatory minimums.
We die from Three Strikes.
We die from the abolition of parole.
We die from the war on drugs.
We die from zero-tolerance.
We died from red tape.
We die from redlining.
We die from self-contempt.
We die from black-on-black violence.
We die from police brutality.
Our children die while playing with toy guns.
We die with our hands up.
We die while walking home with a bag of skittles.
We die because we’re wearing a hoodie.
We die because the music in our car is too loud.
We die because we’re standing on the street selling cigarettes to make money to feed our family.
We die during traffic stops.
We die in our jail cells under suspicious circumstances.
Everywhere we go we die.
Everywhere we are we’re dying.
We’ve been dying so often for so long we have nightmares about dying.
We fantasize about dying.
We talk about dying.
We rap about dying.
We sing about dying.
We expect to suffer the unfortunate fate of a premature death while trying to survive in a decadent American society.
Afrikans (Blacks) in America are just DYING TO LIVE!
I just learned that an older comrade of mine was denied parole for the 10th time! It seems that the abolition of parole in VA in 1995 has had an unofficial retroactive effect upon those who remain parole-eligible from before 1995. The Virginia legislature abolished parole back in 1995 for people who committed crimes on or after January 1, 1995. However, of the state’s 38,000 prisoners, approximately 4,300 are still eligible for parole because they committed their crimes before 1995. This post is to express my concern and solidarity with those prisoners affected by the Virginia Parole Board’s (VPB) parole denials that contain no explanation of the VPB’s decisions other than standard boilerplate terminology, without reference to efforts about rehabilitation or other facts that the VPB may have considered. Continue reading “INCARCERATED LIVES MATTER IN VIRGINIA”
I am a 38-year-old Black male from the city of Richmond, Virginia, who has been incarcerated at various prisons in the Virginia Department of Corrections for over 20 consecutive years. I am serving a 93-year prison sentence without the possibility of parole for my participation in a robbery that resulted in the shooting deaths of two innocent people.
Faced with overwhelming evidence of my guilt, I entered into a “blind” plea to two counts of second degree murder, robbery, and three counts of use of a firearm during the commission of a felony, although I never possessed a gun. Little did I know, my fate was sealed. Continue reading “My Struggle for Freedom in the midst of Virginia’s Truth-in-Sentencing and Abolition of Parole Laws”