Kevin "Rashid" Johnson
& the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter
In 1990, Kevin "Rashid" Johnson was a drug dealer, an ambitious member of amerika's Black lumpen proletariat, or underclass. Like so many, as a young adult he was arrested and received a lengthy prison sentence. He has been incarcerated ever since - for the past eighteen years in conditions of solitary confinement.
As Rashid has written, "Because I accepted my lifestyle and all of its consequences, I was always reluctant to involve my family or others on the outside of prison in my conflicts with the pigs. I dealt with my own problems–directly."
In 1993, Rashid was transferred to Greenville prison. As he has written:
What I was to encounter at Greensville defied anything that I’d expected. The pigs had a refined system and license for brutalizing prisoners. I was not to understand the magnitude of the situation until a few days after being there. The pigs had a tier of handpicked proxy prisoners, whom they used to violently suppress those who got out of line. The ringleader – I’ll call him Pumpkin – was a career con with a reputation for butchering other prisoners. He had a trustee job (all trustees were similarly selected). Pumpkin was allowed by the pigs to keep weapons on his person. Part of the mental terror game was that while he was out cleaning (everyone knew he was a pig hit man and stayed armed), the pigs would bring others out around him in handcuffs (segregation prisoners must be handcuffed from behind when outside their cells, unless they have a trustee job, or are locked inside an exercise yard or shower stall). The she-pigs (guards and nurses) were the tools used to sic Pumpkin on others. He regarded and jealously guarded these she-pigs like actual mates, whereas all they did for him was bring him bubble gum, watch him masturbate in their presence and flirt with him.
The setup game usually went like this: one of their she-dogs would provoke an argument with the target (refuse him something he was due, etc.). She’d then report to Pumpkin that the target had “disrespected’ her, or any of many other claims. Pumpkin would then come to the target’s cell and start a hostile verbal exchange, send a challenge via third-party message, etc. Once the conflict was established, the pigs would move the target into the tier with Pumpkin and his cronies – the entire tier rode with him. The pigs would thoroughly search the target’s property for weapons before moving him, to ensure that he had no means of defense. Once assigned to a cell on Pumpkin’s tier, the target was fair game. If he was stouthearted, he’d stand his ground. The next day or so the pigs would put them on the exercise yard together, remove everyone’s handcuffs except the target’s (they’d put five to seven prisoners in each pen), and allow them to mob attack the still handcuffed target. Or if they wanted him butchered, he’d be unhandcuffed and left to contend unarmed against a knife-wielding Pumpkin.
Rashid took the lead in organizing and waging war against the "Pumpkin" and his goon squad, and the guards who were giving the orders to dole out abuse as well. Not only did this force Pumpkin's crew to back down and sue for peace, but it brought about some limited reforms at Greenville itself, though it also led to Rashid's being transfered again, and to the beginning of what would be 18 years (and counting) in "segregation":
On account of the systematic attacks on the pigs at the height of their abuses, the DOC’s internal affairs office decided to get involved in investigating the years of prisoner complaints of brutality in the unit. In their efforts to neutralize our responses, the internal affairs unit ended up having a dozen pigs criminally prosecuted for brutality and using other prisoners to enter prisoners’ cells and attack them – once allowing a prisoner to use riot gear. Two pigs were ultimately convicted. Pumpkin was also prosecuted and convicted for an incident where the pigs opened another prisoner’s cell, allowing him to ambush him. The prisoner was stabbed multiple times. Pumpkin’s trustee job was immediately terminated under the backlash of this incident. [...] Several weeks later I was transferred back to Mecklenburg prison, returning to the scene of past abuses [...]
During my stay at Mecklenburg, one of the ranking pigs, who were instrumental in torturing me with the freezing strip cell treatment, was ambushed. On this occasion I’d been strapped to the bunk by the pigs. In order for a prisoner to receive meals and toilet breaks while strapped down, the pigs must come to his cell, remove the chains and straps and handcuff him. They will leave the cell, close the door, and remove the cuffs through a hatch in the door. However, during this 1994 episode, when the pigs came in to release me for a toilet break, the claim is that I’d gotten out of the restraints and was lying on the bunk under a blanket as though still strapped down. When the ranking pig and two others moved to lift the blanket, I allegedly rose up, with weapon in hand, and attacked. Two of them (the ranking pig included) received multiple stab wounds, and the third pig received a cracked jaw. This incident, in its obvious preplanning and execution, left the pigs in such a quandary that no retribution followed. Indeed, I was several days later transferred to Buckingham and quickly released into the general population.
By this time it was realized that I was not insane at all, but calculating and determined. While prison administrators and those who proposed to “study” me from a distance put forward the fiction that I was inclined to “unprovoked” violence against the pigs, the pigs who dealt with me on a day-to-day basis knew, very clearly, that any violence from me was always in response to their own acts of violence or abuse of me or my peers. As long as the pigs remembered this, things went well, but there was always some lone pig with a cowboy complex who had to test his hand, and I’d answer it. The majority of the pigs at Buckingham didn’t want me in the population walking about. They therefore attempted several times through trumped-up reports to have me returned to segregation. On the last occasion that this was done, I was charged with being in an “unauthorized area” of the prison. The pigs waited until I’d locked into the cell at count time to come and lock me up in segregation. I refused to go peacefully. One pig threatened that if I didn’t, I’d receive a severe “ass-whipping.” In response I agreed to walk peacefully to segregation. When the pigs opened the cell door to escort me out, the threatening pig received a nose broken in two places. I’ve been in segregation ever since.
While in segregation, Rashid taught himself law, and began litigating against the prisons. For a period of six years he launched various lawsuits, and at first scored several victories, until he acquired the reputation of being troublemaker with various judges who then sought to shut him out of the courts:
With the added psychological deterrent of litigation, my clashes with the pigs declined somewhat in frequency. They focused primarily on isolating me from others. Their efforts to perpetuate a discontinuity in our unity has been the pigs’ only effective weapon against me. And they’ve admitted in a thousand ways that their greatest fear is ending up with many other prisoners on their hands who think and act as I do. Their isolating me was long a tactic that I could not devise an effective countermeasure against, that is, until after 2001, when I was first exposed to revolutionary theory and have since come to understand the role of ideology. Without a unifying ideology, there can be no unity of struggle. Ideology was something I’d never had, and thus something I could not share. The prisoners who’d united in struggle with me had done so because of me. Not because of a shared principle. Therefore, when I was no longer around, they lost the initiative to struggle on, and the pigs were free to resort to their old oppressive acts.
With the beginnings of my studies in revolutionary history and theory in 2001, litigation and my isolated clashes with the pigs paled in importance. My first exposure to revolutionary ideas came with my meeting Hanif Shabazz-Bey in 2001. Hanif is a political prisoner who is apparently well known within prison movement circles. Upon meeting we developed an instant affinity. He began sending me a variety of publications through which I was first exposed to the works of George Jackson. [...]
I became engrossed in acquiring and studying all that George had studied and more, which included the classics and not-so-classics: Vladimir Lenin, Mao Tse-tung, Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon, Kwame Nkrumah, Che Guevara, Rosa Luxemburg, Harry Magdoff, Paul Sweezy, Albert Szymanski, bell hooks, Cornel West, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Vo Nguyen Giap, etc. I investigated the various revolutionary schools of thought – Communism, Anarchy, New Afrikan Nationalism, Feminism, and other left-leaning theories. I studied military thinkers and military history, sociology and history, political science, economic theories (left and right), revolutionary history, etc. and I am still studying, refining my views, and testing them in practice.
The more I studied, reflected, practiced, and drew insight from my own practical experiences, the more it all fell together, so clear and obvious. As my conceptualizations developed, I wrote a few essays, usually at others’ requests, (my ideas were still forming, some I could not clearly articulate, so I adopted terms, thoughts, and ideas. But it was all quickly coming together.) I could see where the failures and successes had occurred in various anti-colonial, class, anti-racist, feminist, and anti-imperialist struggles. And I could see where the failure to apply the scientific Marxist approach to the study and practice of resisting oppressive conditions (Historical and Dialectical Materialism) resulted in failed idealist attempts to make the desired social changes. [...]
I still endure repression at the hands of the pigs, as do my peers. I still take a principled stand against this repression. But above all else, I am working on bringing my peers into a principled ideological and political consciousness that will give them discipline and a cause to struggle for, while simultaneously imparting to them the correct methods of mass based struggle. The pigs’ response continues to be to isolate me. Their violence has proven futile. Even in this most totalitarian of environments, innovation and relentless commitment to an ideal has proven, to my satisfaction, that the oppressive institutions are not invulnerable. Fear is our greatest hindrance. Fear and half measures. They can isolate me, but they cannot isolate an ideal.
In the mid-2000s, Rashid took up an illicit correspendence with another revolutionary held at the same supermax prison as him, but in general population. Messages were smuggled back and forth between segregation and general pop for several months. This correspondence, in which Rashid and "Outlaw" discuss revolutionary theory and practice, the challenges of dealing with other less committed prisoners, reactionaries, and snitches, and the question of how to best organize behind bars, has been collected together and is available now in the book Defying the Tomb, published by Kersplebedeb in 2010.
As well as Rashid and Outlaw's letters, Defying the Tomb contains several essays by Rashid, a foreword by Russell "Maroon" Shoats, a foreword and afterword by Tom Big Warrior, and an afterword by Sundiata Acoli. (The quotes above are from Rashid's autobiographical sketch, also included in the book.)
In 2011 Pelican Bay State Prison in California ruled that Defying the Tomb was "gang material" and as such would be considered contraband within the prison. Kersplebedeb Publishing is appealing this decision; to read Kersplebedeb's position click here.
Defying the Tomb has been reviewed by:
For more writings by Rashid, see below, or visit Rashid's website at www.rashidmod.com
A few months after Outlaw and Rashid exchanged the last letters included in this book, Comrade Shaka Sankofa Zulu and Rashid came together to found the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC). The NABPP-PC has since developed branches in various prisons across the u$ empire and has its own newsletter, Right On!
Many of the thoughts and ideas that went into the formation of the NABPP-PC and its mass organization, the New Afrikan Service Organization, can be seen in their developmental stages in these letter exchanges with Outlaw.
Right On! is published by Rising Sun Press, are several other newsletters promoting Marxism-Leninism, with a focus on national liberation and the prison struggle. A collection of these newsletters from the period of 2005 to 2008 have been made available as an anthology. These were scanned in by some comrades, and are being made available for free download here with permission from the publisher. Just click on the image to the right, or else right here.
Other documents from the United Panther movement have been scanned and uploaded on the website of Revolutionary Initiative, a canadian Marxist-Leninist-Maoist group:
Rashid is a prolific writer, on subjects ranging from the class structure of the Black nation in the united states to the theory of Historial and Dialectical Materialism. Of particular importance are his ongoing exposes of abuse and torture within the dungeons of the prison-industrial complex, most specifically Red Onion State Prison in Virginia, where he is currently help captive.
Here are a few of his essays (many of which are on his website at rashidmod.com):