Published in: SF Bay View
By Ikemba S. Mutulu, s/n Marritte Funches
Reading the Nevada Prisoners’ Newsletter today, I learned of the death of my friend Bro. Muteen (Robert Brown), caused by the state’s deliberate indifference to his medical needs while caged in the Northern Nevada Correctional Center. As I mourn this beautiful brotha’s passing, my heart rages over the loss of another life that could’ve been saved. And in spite of the state’s rejoicing, having rid itself of a worthy opponent, at the same time making room for another body and paycheck, I know that Bro. Muteen left this field of battle in victory. Finally free of all the bullshit. He died honorably, unbroken and on his feet.
When I say this was a friend of mine, I mean I prayed with this man. We spoke at length on many subjects, like how to reach these young men, the importance of exposing to the world what’s going on behind these walls, organizing our own education programs etc.
This was an amazing brotha, who dedicated his life to helping others. He worked tirelessly learning the law to become a “jailhouse lawyer.” And he was largely responsible for my successful defense against some false charges back in ‘07.
Even against the threats of the crooked warden here at Ely State Prison, Bro. Muteen helped me, secretly working for months on the various motions and briefs I filed. And indeed when they found out, he was fired from his job in the law library.
He died shut away in Nevada’s dungeons but never shut up. He got a lot of respect and took great pride in helping other convicts fight for their rights and their freedom in the courts.
This is what happens when men and women in prison stand up to the state administration. They shut us up in the hole, isolate us from the population, relentlessly harass and deprive us of our basic human rights.
Here we are trying to make a difference with our lives, trying to help heal our broken communities and pull these young men – some only boys – away from that criminal gangster deathstyle, often at great sacrifice to ourselves.
Yet you, society, accepting the lies of this prison for profit machine, the media, the state, you view us all as monsters. You say “good riddance” when the pigs murder us or allow us to suffer and die from a curable illness. And despite all of the mountains of evidence created by DNA testing, exposing the flaws and corruption inherent in the system.
Have you thought that you might be celebrating the death or suffering of an innocent man or woman? Or maybe their lives were such that crime was the only way out, the only way to feed their family, the only way to keep some sense of dignity. And maybe in prison they found a new way and were remorseful for the mistakes they made.
Did you know that Martin Luther King Jr. went to prison? That Malcolm X was born in a cell? Nelson Mandela did 28 years. Jesus died on death row.
Do you know what a political prisoner is?
I’m sick of society’s ignorance and refusal to see the truth. It’s been a minute since they did it in Attica and New Mexico. And it’s been 40 years since the young comrade Jonathan Jackson and his brilliant brother, Comrade George, forced you all to see just how deeply this problem of prisons and these corrupt courts are affecting the people.
Must history repeat itself? How many more like Bro. Muteen must die needlessly, sailing our prayers into the dark, hoping you, society, will wake up? Who prescribes more poison to cure poison?
Hate will never cure crime. Maybe the movement needs its own earthquake to shake things up. But instead of shifting tectonic plates, it’ll be the stomping of fed up feet tearing down these concrete walls – demanding freedom and equal justice and an end to oppression of the poor.
I honor the names of my true teachers, men and women like Assata, Che and Huey – and too many more to name. But without them, nothing you know would be as it is. Understand what it is I am saying to you, Society. I don’t want to kill anymore, and I don’t want these young men to start killing or to be chewed up by this prison for profit industry.
So I’m reaching out to YOU for help to reach these young men here. Nevada has nothing. We need a comprehensive correspondence course, free to convicts, teaching leadership and community organization. We need a free-books-for-prisoners program and a legal aid group.
These are the things myself and men like Bro. Muteen have been striving towards. But we need your help. Go to the website Augustinitiative.org to see the beginnings of what we’ve been working on. This was begun with the help of a single comrade across the water. And from this, NevadaPrisonWatch.org and the NevadaPrisoners’ Newsletter were developed.
But unfortunately, the little progress we’ve made is in danger of falling apart, unless we can find a few helping hands here at home. We do not want your money. In fact, neither I nor anyone associated with the August Initiative will accept personal donations of money from volunteers.
We need you, your hands, your ideas, your support. So as I began this letter to society solely as a process of mourning the loss of a loved one, I end with hope that you will help me to continue planting the seeds.