When we don’t fight hate, we are preparing for others to die

by Michael ‘Zaharibu’ Dorrough
Originally published in: SF Bayview, Dec. 24, 2016

“You can never solve a problem with the same kind or thinking that created the problem in the first place.” – Albert Einstein

“Bringing Down the Flag of Hate” – Art: Lester Ransburg III, V-09164, 4B-4L29, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212. This drawing was inspired by Bree Newsome climbing the flagpole in South Carolina and taking down the Confederate flag.

In light of what occurred in Orlando, Florida, and other mass shootings, it comes as no surprise to any of us that the political establishment wants and encourages us to think of madness like this within the narrow context of gun control – taking guns out of the hands of criminals. But, the question must now be asked of the larger community: Why are we so unwilling to view and struggle around what these acts really are – hate!

We do understand that these specific acts, whenever they occur, constitute hate crimes, but those crimes occur as a result of our people being under the influence for the past 400-plus years of white supremacy and patriarchal authoritarianism. Hate is a weapon, a tool, to prevent those of us who are subjected to it from coming together to rid ourselves of it.

As long as we view, define or discuss hate within this narrow context that we have been conditioned to define and discuss it in, hate will continue to manifest itself exactly as it has.

Why are we so unwilling to view and struggle around what these acts really are – hate!

This country, indeed the planet, should be ashamed of itself that we are so unenlightened that in this day and age communities are under siege for any reason, that the humanity of people continues to be disrespected because of color, class, gender or who they sleep with is just utter insanity!

We realize that when hate has manifested itself on a scale like this, it causes us to feel that much more vulnerable. And that vulnerability actually can, and does, push us into the camps of those who are responsible for the maintaining of hate.

Those who advocate hate have to be made uncomfortable, believing that if they do so, it will cost them their jobs, their careers! Any attempts by the political establishment, law enforcement, churches – anyone – that reduce or try to reduce any of us to “those people” should be shut down.

This is Michael Zaharibu Dorrough in a photo taken in December 2014. We at the Bay View don’t know of any prisoner – except perhaps Hugo “Yogi” Pinell – who is so universally loved. Everyone who knows him has praise for Zah.

Words are instruments of power. Hate speech does in fact result, eventually, in the loss of life. Hate speech does disrespect the humanity of the citizens and community it is directed towards. If we are to live in a civilized society and planet, there are rules that everyone has to play by.

And if we are to live in such a place, we must all be willing to subordinate ourselves to the greater good. The greater good is the kind of society that we want to live in. We have a responsibility to contribute to what that will look like, what it will sound like.

But we must be willing to fight and sacrifice to create and live in that kind of society. How can there possibly be any doubts that this is the only logical course and that we must take it.

Words are instruments of power. Hate speech does in fact result, eventually, in the loss of life. Hate speech does disrespect the humanity of the citizens and community it is directed towards.

Far too many of us have already died. By not fighting back, all we are doing is preparing for others to die.

Former San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman, always a friend of the Bay View, gave us a folder of photos from the Selma March on March 21, 1965, given to him by Doug Knott. In this one, haters displaying a Confederate flag watch the brave marchers. – Photo: Doug Knott

We must come together. We must set aside our tribal differences, the things that separate us. Even those who know better but will not join this cause maintain their tribal positions because they – and we – continue to be under the influence of white male supremacy and patriarchal authoritarianism.

The most effective way to overcome our tribal attitudes is to form coalitions, just as we did during the recent protests to end solitary confinement, with everyone who loves liberation. If we don’t, whether it is in churches or clubs, on the streets or in the alleys, people will continue to die.

History will judge us harshly, as will future generations, because of our failure to fight back.

We have had an opportunity to meet some really good people here, people who have really helped us to avoid making some mistakes in making the transition to the general population, a transition that is ongoing. The people – the prison population – has been very approachable. There are quite a few younger guys here, good people, but we have learned that young people are going to make mistakes.

Far too many of us have already died. By not fighting back, all we are doing is preparing for others to die.

What’s important is that we be there to try and help them to have a cushion to protect them from making costly mistakes. It occurred to me that the biggest adjustment was that I needed to rethink the way that I have thought about some things.

This is Zaharibu and his family back in the day, before he was sent to prison in 1988 for a crime he didn’t commit and spent about a quarter of a century in solitary confinement. He was one of the leaders of the peaceful protests that didn’t end solitary but scaled it back considerably.

Educationally, when I first saw a math problem [after coming out of solitary] it was, quite honestly, a bit intimidating. The language used, the look of it, is very different from what I remember. So, I am now being tutored in a class that I have enrolled in.

There is also an effort being made by this administration to bring quite a bit of programming to this prison that could provide people with some of the skills that they will need upon their release. Skills that might be useful. Of course, the problem with this is that there are twice as many people as there are opportunities. There are also a couple of lifers’ programs here that should be a model for other prisons throughout the state.

One such group is called LWOP. This is an acronym developed it by its founders into Lifers With Optimistic Progress. Although the title most commonly reflects prisoners sentenced to life without parole, membership and participation of all prisoners are welcomed and encouraged.

The LWOP group or organization was established to provide a voice to an often unheard and/or overlooked segment of the prison population. There are workshops that help individuals unite and declare their rights to all available rehabilitative tools and activities – the focal point being, “At some period all men will be freed from this form of incarceration, thus every man and woman should be prepared for that eventual re-embrace of societal norms.” That is the official position of the group.

There are also a couple of lifers’ programs here that should be a model for other prisons throughout the state. One such group is called LWOP. This is an acronym developed it by its founders into Lifers With Optimistic Progress.

The lifers group is also committed to contributing to abolishing life without parole sentences. Also appropriately called “the other death penalty.”

Artist Lester “Hollywood” Ransburg III

There is also a website now for the group, https://liferswithoptimisticprogress.wordpress.com. There are sponsors as well. They are from the education department in the community here and are genuinely committed to the development of anyone who is interested in developing himself.

There are young people here who are involved in youthful offender programs (YOP) and a lifeline program – all a part of the LWOP program. There are some very beautiful brothas who are trying to give back and have already reclaimed their humanity.

I also have a promise that I made to myself that if the opportunity presented itself, I would overwhelm myself with jazz. So I had Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” and John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” sent – with some Whispers of course (smile).

Struggling with you always,

Zaharibu

Send our brother some love and light: Michael “Zaharibu” Dorrough, D-83611, CSP Solano Level III B7-131, P.O. Box 4000, Vacaville CA 95696-4000. And go online to read this 2013 story to learn more about Zaharibu from a comrade: “Tribute to Zaharibu.”

Joseph Bell

Photo of Joseph Bell

Joe Bell

Joseph Bell Jr., #K30059, 7-235
CSP-Solano, P.O. Box 4000, Vacaville, Ca. 95696

Thank you for taking time out of your day to look at my profile and the LWOP page, I would like it to be known that I am a Husband, Father, Grandfather, and Uncle that is passionate about giving back to
my community.

While incarcerated I was instrumental in helping over 300 at-risk youth, earned my AA Degree in Social Science, Certified Microsoft Specialist in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and I am now actively facilitating and mentoring Youthful Offenders in the Life Line program sponsored by L.W.O.P. (Lifers With Optimistic Progress).

I stand convicted of a 1995 felony-murder or murder with the special circumstance of robbery to which I am not guilty, although I do accept some responsibility. I was not convicted as the “actual killer” and I am hoping to bring some light to this unconstitutionally vague law that was illegally enacted from 1990 to 1996, according to the California Constitution Art.II§10(b). “If provisions of 2 or more measures approved at the same election conflict those of the measure receiving the highest affirmative vote shall prevail.”

Data Facts About lwop 1990 – 2015

In 1990 there were two initiatives, Proposition 114 and Proposition 115, that the California voters
voted on. Proposition 114 won, but the Legislatures enacted both initiatives, which resulted in two
versions of Cal. Penal Code §190.2 in violation of Cal. Constitution. (see Yoshisato v. Superior Court 2 Cal. 4th 978).

This illegal Proposition 115 law allowed minors age, 16 and 17 to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP); it allowed non-killers and or aiders and abettors to receive LWOP or the death penalty and exploded the prison population and Level IV maximum security California prisons.

As of 9/30/2015 CDCR reports California is holding 5,012 prisoners sentenced to LWOP whether or not they were under 18 of the actual killer, because there is no clear definition of reckless indifference to human life or who is a “major participant” in this vague law.

Twenty-five (25) years later the California Supreme Court on July 9, 2015 is attempting to fix
this wrong (see People v. Banks, 61 Cal. 4th 788), stating “it would be impermissible for a state legislature to declare all participation in broad classes of felony murders, such as Burglaries or robberies, punishable by death without further inquiry into each individual defendant’s mental state.”

I hope these facts shed a little light on injustice in our judicial system and how very important
your vote is. If I could vote, I would. Please vote for Proposition 57 and Proposition 62.

Thank you,
Sincerely, Joseph Bell Jr.
Founder of E.D.G.E.

Michael Brown: About the Lifeline Youth Offender Program

By Michael Brown
Contributing Editor

Throughout my eighteen years of incarceration on a life sentence, there have been many times where I’ve found myself trying to discover a renewed sense of purpose and way to be of service to others. I realized that as a lifer I’m part of the class of prisoners that is often discriminated against by the prison system. We are usually housed in facilities that limit our activities and our access to positive programs. Moreover, society rejects us (lifers) because, from their perspective, we have nothing to offer or give back to their communities… as we are sentenced to die in prison.

However, the program, Lifers With Optimistic Progress program (L.W.O.P.), is more than an activity to partake in or just another program. After 18 years of incarceration, with the last twelve of those years being serviced in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), the L.W.O.P. Lifeline Youth Offender Program provides me with a new sense of purpose – mentoring the youth who are entering the prison system. This amazing program also allows us as a collective group to give back to society.

The L.W.O.P. program illustrates how this class of life prisoners generally rejected by the system and society can be a positive and productive resource for both the prison system and society. The L.W.O.P. mentors with more than 200 years combined experience in prison utilize their experience and insight to teach incarcerated young men the importance of participating in positive prison programs. Allowing these lifers to give back to society by enabling them to assist and influence young men who will reenter their communities with a more positive and productive mindset, is beneficial to all of us.

It is important to understand that the real engine or driving force of the L.W.O.P. Youth Offender Program is the youth! These young men made a conscious decision to work on bettering themselves while incarcerated so that they will reenter society better prepared to succeed as men and fathers: to be positive examples in their respective communities and for their families. It is for these reasons that the system and society should begin to recognize and utilize the insight, experience and will of the lifers in prison. It’s time to fully acknowledge and treat Lifers as having something valuable to offer.

My hope in writing this on behalf of the L.W.O.P. Lifeline Youth Offender Program is to increase interest and receive much needed and deserved support and sponsorship from those on the outside. It is one thing for society to overlook the lifers, but another issue all – together for society to NOT take an interest in the incarcerated youth who will return to their communities in the near future. It all begins by supporting the positive programs available to them while they are still behind the walls.

LIFERS OFFER RENEWED HOPE

Lifers with Optimistic Progress

By Michael Brown, Contributing Editor

Throughout my eighteen years of incarceration on a life sentence, there have been many times where I’ve found myself trying to discover a renewed sense of purpose and way to be of service to others. I realized that as a lifer I’m part of the class of prisoners that is often discriminated against by the prison system. We are usually housed in facilities that limit our activities and our access to positive programs. Moreover, society rejects us (lifers) because, from their perspective, we have nothing to offer or give back to their communities… as we are sentenced to die in prison.

However, the program, Lifers With Optimistic Progress program (L.W.O.P.), is more than an activity to partake in or just another program. After 18 years of incarceration, with the last twelve of those years being serviced in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), the L.W.O.P. Lifeline Youth Offender Program provides me with a new sense of purpose – mentoring the youth who are entering the prison system. This amazing program also allows us as a collective group to give back to society.

The L.W.O.P. program illustrates how this class of life prisoners generally rejected by the system and society can be a positive and productive resource for both the prison system and society. The L.W.O.P. mentors with more than 200 years combined experience in prison utilize their experience and insight to teach incarcerated young men the importance of participating in positive prison programs. Allowing these lifers to give back to society by enabling them to assist and influence young men who will reenter their communities with a more positive and productive mindset, is beneficial to all of us.

It is important to understand that the real engine or driving force of the L.W.O.P. Youth Offender Program is the youth! These young men made a conscious decision to work on bettering themselves while incarcerated so that they will reenter society better prepared to succeed as men and fathers: to be positive examples in their respective communities and for their families. It is for these reasons that the system and society should begin to recognize and utilize the insight, experience and will of the lifers in prison. It’s time to fully acknowledge and treat Lifers as having something valuable to offer.

My hope in writing this on behalf of the L.W.O.P. Lifeline Youth Offender Program is to increase interest and receive much needed and deserved support and sponsorship from those on the outside. It is one thing for society to overlook the lifers, but another issue all – together for society to NOT take an interest in the incarcerated youth who will return to their communities in the near future. It all begins by supporting the positive programs available to them while they are still behind the walls.