Governor Tom Wolf is sanctioning the unlawful MURDER of Russell Maroon Shoatz & Philly Rapper Ar-Ab
“We are men. We are not beasts, and we will not be treated as such!”
— L.D. Barkley, 21-year-old spokesman for the Attica prisoners, killed by New York state troopers on September 13, 1971
Any Black man that is currently being detained within America’s massive prison population should technically be considered a US political prisoner. While not all political prisoners are created equally, their collective imprisonment is a direct result of America’s systematic campaign of Black incarceration, that has been pursued relentlessly over the past 50-years.
The internally developed US counter-insurgency strategy, that was put in place immediately following the dismantling of the militant Black orgs of the 1960’s, was aimed at reducing the number of free Black men in this country. Said differently, in response to the heightened resistance displayed by Black freedom fighters in America, the US government deployed a combination of legislative, military, and subversive tactics, aimed at arresting the movement (both physical and political) of free Black men.
This illegal, and genocidal war against the Black community is the reason why every Black inmate in America, should technically be classified as a political prisoner. However, within this larger grouping of political prisoners, we can further segment the Black prison population into two distinct groups: 1.) Prisoners of War (POWs); and 2.) Casualties of War (COWs).
The first group, POWs, can be defined as those prisoners currently being held (often on false charges) for consciously attempting to advance revolutionary struggle, via a wide range of tactics. Some advocated the use of armed resistance, while others attempted to incite revolution via non-violent means. Regardless of method, their imprisonment can be tied directly to the threat they posed due to their political ideology.
The second group, COWs, represent the multiple generations of Black youth who were targeted by America’s mass incarceration system, due to America’s fear of a new generation of Black youth adopting the radical politics of their predecessors (i.e. the POWs). The following excerpt, which was taken from the afterword of Bad: The Autobiography of James Carr, speaks directly to this fear:
The U.S. state machine is always scared at the prospect of the
street gang system becoming united and radicalized — George Jackson
stopped the bloody racial gang wars between prisoners by appealing
for unity against their common enemy — the prison authorities. In
response, he was put in solitary confinement. Panther leader Fred
Hampton was seeking a merger between the Chicago Panther chapter
and the Blackstone Rangers, a South Side street gang with several
thousand members, as well as with other local black gangs and, most
amazingly, Latino groups like the Young Lords and poor immigrant
Appalachian whites. For a brief moment there was some success: this
is why the American State was so scared of Fred Hampton.
In the wake of the generation of Fred Hamptons, and George Jacksons, America set-out to intentionally manufacture a generation of counter-revolutionary Black youth. Through the strategic placement of drugs (and weapons) in our community, along with a counter-revolution in Black entertainment, the self-destructive potential of the Black masses was unlocked in ghettoes across America. The outcome of this process resulted in the the revolutionary freedom fighter of the 60’s — being replaced with the hustler in the 70’s; the gangster in the 80’s; and the “street nigga” in the 90’s.
The governments creation of these counter-revolutionary identities was meant to serve as a safety valve against the radicalization of subsequent generations. According to David Hilliard, the former Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party, “Mao’s “Little Red Book” was abandoned for Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather” once the zeitgeist images were changed.” Instead of Mutulu, Sekou, Malcolm, and Huey, black youth were encouraged to take on the destructive persona’s of Gotti, Nitti, Corleone, and Capone.
This government induced cultural transformation is poetically borne out in the life of Hip Hop megastar, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. Having been born on the same day as Fred Hampton’s assassination, Carter’s life, in more ways than one, epitomizes the birth of the American manufactured counter-revolutionary. (i.e. The generation of young Black men born during the tail-end of the 60’s, who became the new heroes for the generations to follow.)
God to these dope boys, how do you not be a HOV fan?
I’m what Meech shoulda been
I’m what Supreme didn’t become
If Alpo didn’t snitch, niggas’d be like Young
— Jay Z
With the creation of a new class of cultural icons (i.e. “the shooter,” and the “dope boy”), the US government had successfully turned a counter culture fueled by resistance to oppression, to a counter culture obsessed with the “get money” images being pushed through Hollywood (e.g. Scarface, King of New York, New Jack City, etc.).
When we examine the recent lyrics rhymed by Jay-Z on the song, “Universal Soldier,” it’s clear that Jay-Z is attempting to wrestle with the legacy of being the most notable drug dealer to ascend the heights of America’s counter-revolutionary trap, to become the trap himself:
Back when Emory Jones was catching a FED charge
I knew less about Chesimard
All about Pablo Escobar
The reference to “Chesimard,” in the aforementioned lyrics, is an homage to famed freedom fighter, and political exile, Assata Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard. In classic Jay-Z fashion, he uses the gift of rhyme to highlight the process of hero replacement that decimated our community, in tandem with the crack epidemic.
The likelihood of a Black teenager, who came of age during/after the crack epidemic (AC), knowing the story of freedom fighters like Assata Shakur, Ruchell Magee, or Jonathan Jackson is slim to none. But that same teenager would’ve been an avid consumer of every gangster flick that was targeted at our community as “entertainment.”
The stories of our true freedom fighters who were murdered, exiled, or falsely imprisoned, were strategically erased in favor of Hollywood mafiosos, Latin American drug lords, and counter-revolutionary Civil Rights icons, such as John Lewis, Al Sharpton, and Harry Belafonte. This attempt by the US government to erase our warriors from memory, was done so that future generations would not be able to draw from their experience, and pick up where they left off.
For this reason, urban youth who show themselves to be skilled organizers, and effective leaders, are targeted by law enforcement, so they can be taken off the streets before they evolve politically, and become a threat to the system. One such example is Brooklyn rapper, Ra Diggs, who was sentenced to 12 life sentences, plus 105 years, in Federal court.
“I’m so inspired and influenced by George Jackson, Assata Shakur, Huey P. Newton… all of my predecessors that came before me.”
— Ra Diggs
Diggs was accused by the government of running a violent street gang around the “Gowanus and Wyckoff Gardens housing developments in Brooklyn.” But when you listen to an interview that was done with the Brooklyn rapper, before his imprisonment, it becomes abundantly clear why they wanted him off the streets.
The intersection of Russell “Maroon” Shoatz & Ar-Ab
“They will never count me among the broken men.”
— George Jackson
The first grassroots campaign that I ever supported, on behalf of a US political prisoner, was the effort to get Mumia-Abu Jamal the proper medical treatment for a curable Hepatitis-C infection. This is where I first learned of the concept of “Death by Medical Neglect,” where the State attempts to kill a prisoner, by denying them adequate care.
Since this initial campaign, I have continued to lend my voice, and platform, to amplify the struggle to free our political prisoners, and ensure they have proper medical care. In addition to this, I’ve been highly critical of the role prison reform advocates have played in assisting the State to silence the cries of the most vulnerable segment of the US prison population: our sick & aging political prisoners.
“That any Black man in America would be willing to entertain a discussion on Prison reform, that doesn’t involve the release of these political prisoners, and the pardon of those still in exile (e.g. Assata Shakur) is the deepest of tragedies.” — Omowale Afrika
Just this past weekend, I attended a virtual teach-in event for Russell Maroon Shoatz, where we heard a phone recording of the 77-year old freedom fighter explaining how he’s being denied proper medical treatment.
It was heart wrenching to hear the voice of one of our most fierce warriors, explain the conditions he’s being kept in, where he’s forced to defecate on himself, because he’s being denied medical care. This cruel and inhumane treatment of the sick and infirm, has sparked a national outcry demanding Governor Tom Wolf to grant compassionate release for Russell Maroon Shoatz.
However, our cries to Governor Wolf have gone unanswered, even as older inmates like the Luzerne county judge, who sold Black children to prison for cash, has been released to his private Florida residence over COVID-19 concerns.
The lack of compassion on the part of the Governor has called into question the sincerity of the entire Criminal Justice Reform movement.
Many are now asking, why is Philly’s most prolific voice for prison reform, who made a public commitment to “speaking for the voiceless,” completely silent, as PA prisoners are being forced to endure cruel and unusual punishment under the direction of Governor Wolf.
What’s more disappointing is that on the same day it was announced that Philly rapper Ar-Ab was being denied treatment for an infection, that could be deadly if untreated, Rapper Meek Mill took to twitter to send well wishes to Governor Wolf, who had “no symptoms,” and was “feeling well,” despite his COVID positive diagnosis.
Unlike Governor Tom Wolf, who would have access to the best health care in the world, should he fall ill, Ar-Ab is being denied medial treatment, while his conditions are rapidly worsening.
The connection between the denial of medical treatment to Russell Maroon Shoatz, and the denial of medical treatment to Ar-Ab, should not be ignored. There has always been a symbiotic relationship between the brother on the streets, and the Black freedom fighter. Both are products of the same conditions, but the latter has been politicized to fight against the system that created them (i.e. the conditions).
Beyond the “Top Goon” rap persona that was strategically crafted for entertainment, Abdul West, is a brother of extraordinary leadership talent, who actively took care of his community. Similar to Brooklyn Rapper Ra Diggs, Ar-Ab was a leader of men, which made him a target of the ongoing US counter-insurgency program. The denial of proper medical treatment is simply an extension of that targeting.
We cannot allow the government, or government officials like Tom Wolf, to get away with homicide through medical neglect, when they have a responsibility to provide adequate medical treatment for the prisoners in their care.
If you are a person of good conscience, I’m asking you to join me, and other concerned community members across the State, to demand that Governor Tom Wolf take action to stop the killings of Ar-Ab and Russell Maroon Shaotz.
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About the Author
Omowale Afrika is a Garveyite, and grassroots institution builder, with over 15 years of student & community organizing experience. Omowale has served the local Philadelphia community in a variety of roles, including, the former President of Marcus Garvey’s, UNIA & ACL, Division 121, and as an Anti-Violence activist with Men United for a Better Philadelphia.
He currently serves as the Vice-Shenuti for the Philadelphia Chapter of Afrocentricity International, where he oversees Youth Programming. His responsibilities include managing the community outreach initiatives for the African Heritage & Cultural preservation fund, through which he launched the #BlackInstitutionalGiving challenge in 2019.
Omowale was the lead organizer for the RBG Centennial Conference, and the 2020 Remaking Black Power Summit. In addition to his organizing efforts, brother Omowale is an independent filmmaker & community lecturer, with his most notable works being the Strike Drum lecture series, and the Un-American Dilemma project.
Brother Omowale lectures, writes, speaks, and organizes around the following issues:
- Pan Africanism/Black Nationalism
- Afrikan Spirituality
- Political Prisoners
- Black Liberation
- Black Power
- State Sanctioned Violence
- Rebuilding Black Families
- Community-led Development
- Nation Building
If you’d like to make a contribution to support his work, you can do so using the link below.
Thanks in advance for your consideration!