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.”

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A Future Stolen: Walk With Me Now

Greetings, my name is Damone Johnson and I would like to tell you about myself and how I came about being incarcerated.

Photo of Damone Johnson with family

Damone Johnson, his  mom and nephews

Well, I consider myself a fair, open-minded person, good-hearted, God-fearing, and hardworking, just to name a few. Back in 1993 the world was different. I had just turned 21 years old and never really was focused on who I was or where I was going. I grew up in a community where financial increase was the focus although I never had a problem working hard to earn an honest dollar; from the age of 10 years old, I was fixing on old lawnmowers and going door-to-door in the neighborhood, asking to cut spacious Sacramento lawns while living with my mom.

My dad taught me a good work ethic, so at the age of 12 I got my first official job with a West County Times Paper route (Man! those Sunday editions LoL). As I grew in age, so did my needs and desires, which lead me to seek better employment such as Taco Bell and Jack In the Box, which both had their pros and cons, which resulted in me sleeping in class, so I had to quit. Yes, I was working while still in high school (a Freshman to be exact). So as I became a Sophomore, my desires forced me to acquire better employment with Safeway, who was willing to work with my school schedule and I truly enjoyed working there for over a year. Around this time, I saw that the men in my era were doing less (Streets/Hustling) for a lot more money. So before I knew it, I was no longer a legit worker, but a heavy Pharmaceutical seller, which lead to time in Juvenile Hall, and then 9 months in Byron Boys Ranch, where I turned 18 years old.

The thought of going to State Prison refocused me and I got a job at UPS. My older cousin motivated me and shamed me into earning a living legitimately, although I was still keeping the wrong company which brought all the past negative elements back into my life, but without financial gain.

In 1995, as I heard the Harsh Guilty Verdict of a crime I did not nor could have committed; I say to myself, “Felony Murder! How did I get here!?” Shaking my head. “My life is over…” Fast forward, several years of incarceration, years of constantly studying in different Prison Law Libraries, and perfecting my understanding of this Justice System. God blesses me to truly understand and apply what I have spent all these endless hours learning, which resulted in me discovering that my prosecuting attorney not only was unethical and used false DNA evidence clearly exonerating me of this crime! This evidence was intentionally withheld for 18 years and the FALSE DNA has been retested by today’s technology and proven to be false.

Because I don’t have any financial means to retain a lawyer, I still sit in Prison for a crime I truly didn’t commit. IF I did have the financial means, my case would be on the news about all the injustice of my WRONGFUL CONVICTION. This is my 24th Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthdays and much more. Not only did I lose most of my life, but the passing of my Dad, the person who taught me to ride a bike, how to bathe, brush my teeth, clean up, a strong work ethic, save my money, and talk to people with respect. Yes! I experienced the teaching of a Hands on Father! Literally at times. LoL. I am worthy of your investment in my injustice. I have dignity, honor, respect, and gratitude, but most of all; I’m truly God fearing.

Thank you for reading this excerpt of my life. Hopefully it has intrigued you and I will hear back from you.
Very truly yours,

Photo of Damone Johnson

Damone Johnson youth picture

Mr. Damone Johnson J-81022
CSP Solano B8-149
Box 4000
Vacaville, California 95696

Pictures: Me, mom and nephew, and an old picture of me. LoL