Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sept 9 Solidarity w/ Incarcerated Enslavement Abolition Movement

Minutes of Decarcerate the Garden State Meeting, Monday, May 16, 6:30 pm
298 South Orange Ave, Newark, NJ,
Conf:712-770-4010- Access 100577

Upon hearing about this meeting:

"That's phenomenal. I love the way the momentum is building. FREE NEW JERSEY"
Kinetik, co-founder Free Alabama Movement - and - "IF ANYONE ASKING"WHAT CAN I DO?" Start doing like (Decarcerate the Garden State) - Start Organizing Events in your City to SHOW SOLIDARITY not just say I STAND IN SOLIDARITY. Educational Rallys , Marches, Protest, Walk-Outs, Boycott Complicit Corporations. It's Time to let our ACTIONS show our dissatisfaction. FREE ALABAMA FREE MISSISSIPPI FREE OHIO FREE VIRGINIA FREE GEORGIA FREE CALIFORNIA. ..FREE YOUR STATE. .. BECAUSE IT'S A FREEDOM STRUGGLE!" - Kinetik UPDATE: On 5/29, People's Organization for Progress voted unanimously to join Decarcerate the Garden State in the initial letter inviting all NJ organizations (as well as those outside NJ) to participate in, sponsor and support these activities!

For those who attended the meeting, if there is anything that needs to be adjusted, added, etc. just let me know.  For all – any feedback or ideas as to how to proceed with this project – please send those to Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org or call 908-881-5275.  For individuals and organizations that want to get involved, offer support, invite a speaker to a meeting, organize an event or support in any way should contact us as well.

In attendance: Regina Ashford, Cassandra Dock (though occupied during meeting), Jimmy Brash, Cindy Miller, Diane Moxley, Shimeese Posey, Tim Sevener, James Turner, Leena Varughese, Bob Witanek 

Those that provided written input to the meeting in the form of endorsing comments in Facebook, etc. include: Cynthia Flood, Jim Price, Brian Powers, Sally Gellert, Max Parthas.

Consider and hopefully approve Sept 9 Solidarity w/ Incarcerated Activities in NJ (in support of multi-state work stoppage by incarcerated - strike against enslavement)

This issue was approved with a consensus – there were none opposed so it did not go to a vote.

The question was raised about whether the number of people participating was an authoritative enough call to move the letter forward.  That issue did not become a concern.  The letter is moving the proposal to other organizations to affirm some sort of activity on September 9 since that is the date that has been set by the incarcerated men that have called for a work stoppage . . . on that date.

The idea is that we would work with the other organizations that get involved to determine the precise kinds of activities to occur on September 9.  Some suggestions were discussed and they will be offered in the letter as suggestions but not as decisions.  We also discussed our approach to Peoples Organization for Progress.  Our preference is for POP to be signed on to the initial letter though we know we will be working them on this event in some capacity.

Jimmy Brash suggested possibly 3 activities – one each for north, central and south NJ with at least one having a focus upon incarcerated women.  He also suggested that students might want to have events on campus for that day which would be probably the least challenging way to involve students at that point so early in their semester. 

On the topics of the demands, on the subject of political prisoners, Jimmy suggested that we reach out to any committees and families working around political prisoners in NJ facilities.

James Turner referred to a May Day event outside a jail in New York City and suggested that similar events in NJ outside facilities either on the day of and / or in lead up to September 9 can be included in the effort.  He mentioned the organization IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee that is made up of incarcerated workers and supporters and helping other incarcerated organizations and individuals involved in the campaign to publicize and organize the September 9 and other incarcerated strike actions.  

Decarcerate the Garden State will certainly look forward to working with this organization as well as other organizations including Free Alabama Movement, Free Mississippi Movement, Free Ohio Movement as well as all of the many other organizations that will likely be joining this effort in the months ahead.

We discussed modifying the proposed letter to include a couple of sentences toward organizations and individuals outside of NJ asking for information about what might be going on in their states around September 9 as well as to offer to work with them on any efforts in that regard.

Shimeese Posey expressed concern given a formerly incarcerated person that did all sorts of highly skilled pipe work under incarceration in NJ and now that he is out, can not get employment doing the exact same line of work.  (This would make an excellent story for the BlogSite.)

Jimmy Brash who is a member of the Green Party suggested that he would be contacting all of the Green Party candidates for congress, and possibly presidential candidate Jill Stein and the chapters to join statements of support.  There was agreement with this point.

Cindy Miller who works with the Philadelphia community organizations brought up the issue of whether our effort is only focused upon NJ.  We decided that we would address that issue as follows: while we will focus on organizing activities around September 9 in NJ, we will also modify the letter so that it can also be sent to other organizations around the country.  We will seek to be advised of any “outdoor” activities in other states as well as encourage decarceration type groups in other states to also consider organizing solidarity around the September 9 date.

Leena Varughese recommended that once we get our plans together we should inform elected Senate, Assembly and the Governor’s office of our plans , we well as candidates running to fill NJ and US seats representing NJ.  This recommendation was agreed upon – the idea was that we should get letters going and tweet and e-mail campaigns inundating all of the officials and wannabe officials about the activities and our demands for decarceration and improved conditions for the incarcerated.

Diane cautioned us to keep the focus on mass incarceration related issues and especially the enslavement issue.  She recommended that we do reach out to organizations that are involved in related issues but not to slip on the list of demands away from our focus in an attempt to gain more support.  There was general agreement with that concern.

There were suggestions to reach out to religious groups and activist groups of various stripes.  The goal will be to brainstorm on who all should receive the letter and follow up and to err on the side of over inclusion as to whom we reach out.

NJ Decarcerator paper distribution workshop, bring addresses where we should mail them of family members of incarcerated and ideas as to how to get 6500 papers out across the state of NJ in an organized and effective way.

Participants in the meeting were encouraged to come up with ideas as to how to keep the NJ Decarcerator circulating.  Everyone is asked to come up with addresses of people who should get the paper including families of incarcerated men, women and youth, justice concerned activists and anyone else that should get the paper.  Lists of mailing addresses should be sent to Decarc@DecarcerateNJ.org

There was a recommendation to approach business establishments that might be willing to have 5 – 10 copies available.  Barber shops and beauty salons were suggested as good outlets.

Cindy Miller suggested that she would approach a project known as “Books Through Bars” to find out if they would be willing to send the papers to their clients.

Regina Ashford and Shimeese Posey took 50 papers with them to distribute in their travels around Newark, etc.

The fund for supporting continuation of mailing of bundles and individual copies is:

3.       Brainstorm ideas about events around the state leading up to Sept 9 (and after) to promote the demands of Decarcerate the Garden State

There were many ideas presented about the kind of activities to organize in the lead up to September 9 to encourage greater participation.  Some suggestions included:

Seeking invitations to speak to organizational meetings on the plan.

Panel discussion possibly outside Essex County jail or Northern State Prison although the accessibility and the logistics of such locations would need to be researched.

Reach out to the organizations getting involved and offering assistance to organize events with them in communities throughout the state.

Possible information picketing outside businesses that benefit from enslaved incarcerated labor.

Draft Letter Supporting Sept. 9 Call to Action

To All NJ Area Organizations and Individuals in the Struggle for Justice,

Decarcerate the Garden State invites you to join us in organizing solidarity with NJ’s and US’s incarcerated men, women and youths. Incarcerated men and women from multiple states have issued a call to action for September 9, 2016 which is the 45th. Anniversary of the Attica uprising. They are calling for work stoppages inside facilities.

According to an article from the news site The Intercept "On April 1, a group of prisoners from Ohio, Alabama, Virginia, and Mississippi called for a “nationally coordinated prisoner work stoppage against prison slavery” to take place on September 9, the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riot. “We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves,” that announcement reads. “They cannot run these facilities without us.”

We would like to participate in the coordinated action in NJ by having solidarity action or actions on the outside in support of demands for Decarcerating legislation in NJ (we call for 50% reduction in NJ’s incarcerated population), freedom for political prisoners and improved conditions for incarcerated inside the facilities. We are not suggesting any specific actions inside NJ’s facilities but should there be participation inside NJ facilities we would offer solidarity to the demands of the NJ incarcerated men and women.

We would like to invite all of the justice seeking groups in NJ to:
1. Formerly co-sponsor or endorse in principal the idea of NJ solidarity action or actions on or around September 9
2. Begin the process of deciding what kinds of activity (or activities) will be organized and where – I believe the sentiment of some of the inside organizations like Free Alabama Movement is for there to be actions directly outside the facilities. The challenge of that is the remote locations of many of the facilties making transportation an issue. It is ultimately up to us in NJ exactly what kind of activities at what locations best suits our goals to effectively advance our demands for Decarceration and for better conditions inside NJ facilities. 

For decarceration, reform, abolitionist and justice loving groups outside of NJ, we are interested in hearing about any similar efforts going on in your states to organize solidarity with the planned coordinated strike by incarcerated men and women in your states.  We are also eager to assist you any way we can in getting similar solidarity efforts going in your state if there has not been any such effort yet.

We look forward to your response to this proposal and to successfully with you launch a wave of solidarity with NJ’s incarcerated. If you would like a representative of Decarcerate the Garden State to attend a meeting of your organization to present the proposal just let us know. If you have any questions, ideas, concerns, etc. – do not hesitate to call 908-881-5275. You can also contact write to us at Decarc@DecarcerateNJ,org or discuss it with us in our Facebook group:
Stay tuned for information about meetings and phone conferences to move this effort forward.
While September 9 might seem far away now, as organizers know the time flies quickly when motivating major activities so it is best we get started sooner than later.
We look forward to working with you and your organization toward the success of this effort.

Written input before meeting:

Cynthia Flood offers the following:
 Activities don't have to be at prisons.. (secure proper permits). 2. Prisoners are abused without these type messures, therefore, look for legal assistance for those occurrences. 3. Prisoners NEED TO BE COMPENSATED FOR THEIR WORK. Kept for years then let out with nothing. Staying straight is hard enough, but then denied a job (black with jacket); return is eminent. $15 an hour out/here$7.50 an hour in there. 4. Any officer/official retaliation FIRE!

Jim Brash offers the following:
We need to support this call to action and we need to boycott products made in New Jersey by the inmate population for almost nothing....Bob Witanek I have some research to do!
We need to connect with other prison groups and activist in New Jersey across the Hudson and across the Delaware. We also need to start reaching out to the press now and get other organisations to draft press releases in support of this letter. Maybe even get a couple candidates to sign on.
I’ll be willing to reach out to every green candidate for Senate or congress to sign on and see if I could get the Jill Stein campaign as well.

Jim Price offers the following:
 Land of the free has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Whatever we have to do to get the legislature behind this... this will be a good start.
 I understand the need for planning, yet September seems so far away. Likely, prison officials will have a response, and it will come down to the individual whether to comply or defy. If they choose to defy, what consequences await? How can we mitigate those effects?
Being the Communications Director of CMMNJ, I should be able to help out with the press. Let me know how I can help.

Brian Powers offers the following:
I will put this on the agenda for the next 15 Now meeting.  am all for it brother.

Sally Gellert offers the following:
We should certainly do something, ideally where the incarcerated are aware, without putting them at further risk—find allies in and outside the state. Chat with ACLU and/or NLG on legalities? Letter looks good.

Max Parthas offers the following:
There is another way to support.

In 2010 we had a campaign called March Forth For freedom.
All over the country people gathered at prisons, jails, detention centers and youth detention centers to hold rallies and protests.

In my opinion that effort was a model later used for occupy. Independent local protests held simultaneously nationwide.

Maybe we can do that again.

Fair Justice Project Tweeted Support:

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