WITH ART BY
WITH WORDS ABOUT
- Never Let Those Sacrifices by in Vain (by Leonard Peltier)
- Thoughts on the Occupy Movement from Inside Prison (by Herman Bell)
- It Didn't Start with Occupy, and it Won't End With the Student Strike! The Persistence of Anti-Authoritarian Politics in Quebec (by Sandra Jeppesen, Anna Kruzynski and Rachel Sarrasin of the CRAC)
- Palestinian Prisoners Put Their Bodies on the Line (by Tadamon!)
- Egypt: No to Military Trials (by Lillian Boctor)
- Bored But Not Broken (by Mandy Hiscocks)
- Souls on Ice (by Peter Collins)
- Syvia Rivera Law Project's Gender Self-Determination Teach In at Occupy Wall Street (by Reina Gossett)
- Resisting the Global 1% (by David Gilbert)
- Kari-Oca 2 Declaration: Indigenous Peoples Global Conference on Rio+20 and Mother Earth (by Melanie Cervantes)
- Prisoners, Political Prisoners and the 99% (by Jaan Karl Laaman)
- Prisons as Power: The New Jim Crow (by Laura Whitehorn)
It may be cliché to say that we live in interesting times, but at this moment in history it is undeniably true. While the cracks in the walls of this unjust system have been showing for quite some time, the past 18 months or so have seen a remarkable number of instances of ordinary people come together en masse to say ‘enough!’ From the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement, it seems that the simmering inequalities in people’s lives have reached the point of boiling over into the streets. With much less media attention but no less significance, prisoners all over California – over 6,600 at one point – undertook a mass hunger strike last summer in an attempt to bring some relief to the deplorable conditions in which they are held; when the hunger strike resumed at the end of September 2011, 12,000 inmates refused meals. This action in turn inspired work strikes, hunger strikes and other actions in various prisons across North America.
Resistance to the rule of this global elite – the ‘1 percent’ as described by the Occupy movement, though in fact they are far less than that – makes sense to so many both inside and outside the prison walls at this particular time. It is clearer than ever how the wealth and power of such a small group of people is directly dependent on the poverty and oppression of the rest of humanity.
Not too long ago, there was another moment in history when masses of people around the world were coming together to take control of their lives. In the 1960s and 70s, as multiple countries threw off colonialism, mass movements including Black Power, women’s liberation and resistance to the Vietnam war were sweeping this continent. It’s no coincidence that the spark of hope for change blew over into the prison yards, resulting in widespread organizing inside – most famously, the Attica rebellion in the U.S. and the Kingston Pen riot in Canada.
Predictably, one response of the powers that be to the social upheaval of that period was mass incarceration. Particularly in the U.S. (though Canada is following suit) a huge increase in the number of people locked up has kept organizers off the streets, resources stretched thin, and created a very real and effective threat to anyone who might think of fighting for change. Targeted incarceration of the leadership of movement organizations like the American Indian Movement, the Black Panthers, and many others dealt a major blow to these struggles as well. Some of them have been in prison since that time. Yet these political prisoners are not relics of past movements; despite the hardships of organizing in prison, they continue to organize for justice in the present day.
This is a history that the “1 percent” would rather have us forget, for to understand it only strengthens the movements taking root today. Part of the philosophy of Certain Days is that by learning from the past experience of political prisoners, and looking to movement history in general, we can be better informed today, draw inspiration, and also learn from past mistakes, rather than repeating them.
Looking back over the past months at the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, the California prison hunger strikes, and more recently the Quebec student strike, we thought it was apt to reflect on these events and draw some connections between them.
The Certain Days Collective: Amy Schwartz,
Helen Hudson, karen emily, Nora Butler Burke and Sara Falconer
David Gilbert and Robert Seth Hayes
and Herman Bell's Jericho page
The Certain Days collective can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or else at:
Certain Days c/o QPIRG Concordia
1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. O.
Montreal, QC H3G 1M8
They also have a nice web presence at http://www.certaindays.org