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Without mass actions like the current nationwide prison strike, which bring direct awareness to the issue, these stories go largely underreported.

Note: Due to the safety of the incarcerated individuals, some names were changed to allow anonymity. We speak carefully on the phone, fully aware that anything said can become grounds to get him sent to ‘segregation’, so we talk in non-absolutes and coded language. The phone line is fuzzy, distant, and unstable today—sometimes it sounds crystal clear, other times I think he may be underwater—but still, we speak with covert passion. “I’m sure you heard the news of what’s happening all around, yeah?” he asks me, not saying the words but still conveying the conversation to me. “It’s really fuckin’ courageous for people, what [they’re] doing,” Charlie, an immigrant who has been incarcerated in Georgia for almost six years and is now at Stewart Detention Center, the fifth facility he’s been transferred to, tells me. “I keep my faith, but niggas go crazy in here,” Charlie says with a voice that’s increasingly shaky. We quickly change the subject. The topic of resistance can be fleeting and constricted for incarcerated people like Charlie, but it’s often present nonetheless. The “news” that Charlie was referring to is the nationwide prison strike, which was announced in April and began last week. https://twitter.com/JailLawSpeak/status/988771668670799872 Earlier this year, incarcerated people across the U.S. announced plans to hold a nationwide prison strike from August 21st to September 9th. The dates are not random: August 21st invokes the day that comrade George Jackson was murdered by prison guards in San Quentin State Prison, and September 9th marks the day incarcerated people began the Attica Prison Uprising, one of the most notorious prison uprisings in history. Lead by an abolitionist collective including groups like Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, and others which culminate incarcerated and non-incarcerated organizers, this strike, now several days underway with many reports of involvement across the country and over 300 organizations endorsing it, could be the largest prison strike in U.S. history.

The Demands

The strike is in response to an uprising at Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in South Carolina where seven incarcerated people died on April 15, 2018. Based on multiple reports, the violence and subsequent deaths at Lee Correctional Institution was provoked by prison guards and then sustained by prison officials who turned their backs on the incarcerated people as the violence increased, not attempting to break up the fighting or give medical aid. The demands were issued in direct response to the violence at Lee Correctional Institution,” said journalist and prisoner advocate Jared Ware. “Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is a human rights organization inside prisons, and the language and the choice of their demands in many ways reflects the way they work, they deal in policies, they examine laws, they write writs, they help with appeals, they file grievances against abuses in prisons.” The strikers’ demands are both straightforward and complex, with the crux of them calling attention to the need for “humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform and the end of modern day slavery.” While organizers have noted that their demands don’t illustrate or tackle the totality of problems they face as incarcerated people, they do cover much important ground that we on the outside should pay close attention to and appreciate.
The demands are crafted as calls to uphold human rights standards, and intentionally so.
In a recent interview with Ware for ShadowProof, a representative from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak said the creation of the demands came from “talking to a number of prisoners in a number of different locations”, narrowing them down from over 30 demands to the ten we see today. They wanted the demands to be specific in their aims, but speak to as much of the incarceration as possible, from women’s prisons to immigrant detention centers. Of the demands, the first two may be the most general: immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women, and an immediate end to prison slavery by paying incarcerated workers ‘the prevailing wage’ in their state for their labor. The demands are crafted as calls to uphold human rights standards, and intentionally so. Utterly inhumane conditions are a permanent fixture in most jails and prisons across the country, and have been the catalyst for many prison uprisings. In the Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC), incarcerated people have reported the spreading staph infections and other diseases due to the unsanitary, dirty environment. In other cases, incarcerated people have died from heat exhaustion due to lack of air conditioning, have been denied access to clean drinking water, or have had minor health problems become life-ending occasions due to medical neglect. Following Hurricane Harvey last year, reports piled in that incarcerated people in Texas were left with no electricity, no running water or working toilets, and no ventilation for several days.
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If you think someone is in trouble, you should reach out to them. Not the other way around.

[TW: this essay contains descriptions of suicidal ideation, attempted death by suicide, abuse, trauma, and depression.] In 2002 I moved from California to Switzerland, back in with my family, after attempting suicide. It was actually my second attempt, but I never told anybody about the first time I tried in 1996 when still ​in high school. After the second attempt followed by being involuntarily committed, I thought it best to keep my history with the act private. And I certainly didn’t tell any of the doctors entrusted with my release papers that suicidal ideation was almost as old a friend to me as reading. The first time I recall thinking about killing myself I was around ​seven​ or eight years old—​growing up in a violent household will have that effect on a person—and I’ve mitigated the urge in different ways ever since. In Dexter Morgan’s words: My dark passenger. Those early days of recovery in 2002 were a new kind of nightmare, made worse by the fact that my father found my traumatized presence at home​ a nuisance and my youngest sister outright told me I should throw myself in front of one of the trains that passed regularly in front of their house. My sister stood by her words so strong she even​ said them with my visiting best friend standing right next to me. My friend, who had come to offer the kind of support I’d never get from my family, left with her own secondary traumas of the experience. She’d never seen or heard a family member be as openly cruel as mine were to me, and it shook her core. The worst part about my sister’s flippant push toward my suicide was that nobody knew how I would sometimes sit at the train stop watching the train go by, mustering up the courage to fling myself off the edge. I would ride the train from the quaint Swiss village my family called home into Geneva, making note of the accessible areas where the train didn’t slow down so I could make sure I got the job good and done. When my therapist would ask me if I was still thinking about suicide I would lie to him. The only reason I survived that time at all was because at least I had my familiar, my half wolf, half German Shepard Cubby, who offered some of the only comfort that actually helped me heal.
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The gatekeepers of publishing keep marginalized people from getting their work out there. Jemisin is proof that this practice needs to end.

N.K. Jemisin just won her third Hugo award in a row accomplishing something that no other author in history has done. This wasn't a fluke, this wasn't a one off, Jemisin is proving that the stories Black women have to tell aren't just for other Black women. They're creative, powerful, and worth your time and money. Science fiction and fantasy have been genres dominated by white boys since time immemorial. Why? Not sure, since people from all across the spectrum have been creating spectacular work in the genre. Jemisin has come out to stop this erasure of diverse voices by taking home the Hugo Award not once, not twice, but three times in a row — a feat that has never been done before, not even by the most famous and prolific white boys. Jemisin has won the last three years since 2016, each year for a book in her Broken Earth trilogy, the first of which is being developed into a series for TNT. This accomplishment is amazing but also shows that Black women have been creating powerful and memorable works that deserve a space in larger, more mainstream arenas, something Jemisin highlighted in her acceptance speech on Sunday:This is the year in which I get to smile at all of those naysayers: every single mediocre, insecure wannabe who fixes their mouth to suggest that I do not belong on this stage, that people like me cannot possibly have earned such an honor, and that when they win it’s meritocracy, but when we win it’s identity politics,” she said. “I get to smile at those people and lift a massive shining rocket-shaped finger in their direction.” Maybe this doesn't seem important if you think that science fiction and fantasy is just entertainment, but it's not. It is, at its heart a political and revolutionary genre. Sure there are aliens and ray guns but the work has always been about the human experience, our fears, our hopes. The problem is that the majority of the work that is considered classic, that gets notice and notoriety has been focused on the fears and hopes of white men, leaving out the entire spectrum of culture and reality that anyone else has to offer.
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