Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ramadan Mubarak

A blessed Ramadan to all who are observing the fast this year. Today is also the first day of the resumption of the hunger strike in California prisons and solidarity hunger strikes elsewhere. 30,000 prisoners refused their meals today.

I am sure this is not a coincidence.

Ramadan references the fourth pillar in Islam and philosophically ties one to the humanitarian ethics connected to Al Islam and human decency, both which are disrespected when one considers the Secured Housing Units or SHUs in Pelican Bay and elsewhere in California's extensive and unparalleled prison industrial complex.

What makes these containers such a travesty of justice and alarming that after hearings and recommendations by the State Assembly last year to stop there use, is the sensory deprivation. If that isn't enough to put a stop to this human rights violation, the reasons why men and women are assigned to these places is as arbitrary as justice in America.

Economically dependent and racially and politically motivated, this SHU, which sounds like footwear, is reason for prisoners to starve themselves, for some, to death.

The prisoners housed in the SHUs are not necessarily violent or a risk to the general population. Assignments vary in their inconsistency. A short term punishment has for many inmates become a cross many bear to their untimely graves.

The effect is one that is irreversible once the prisoner is released from such custody; this counters any potential for "rehabilitation." Breaking another human being's spirit is not good policy in anyone's book, judicial or biblical or qu'ranic. 

During Ramadan one feels the burning sensation of hunger and thirst as one fights vigorously the warring Satan who is tied up but still struggling to make one lose one's form. I hope the strikers demands are met this time and that the fast ends sooner than it did last time and without any casualties.

Here in Dar es Salaam, there are billboards with Ramadan Karim written on them. President Obama's face covers polls on the major boulevards, one renamed in his honor. I learned that businesses give their employees vacation during this time and start major projects. In places like Zanzibar, if one is staying in a hotel not catering to tourists, during the daylight hours one cannot find food (smile).

At an artist residency or workshop, Nafasi Art Space, the group decided not to book too many evening activities because during Ramadan, the public tends to go to the mosque after sunset and are less likely to attend secular events.

It works out well for the students are University of Dar es Salaam. Classes resume in September after the fast ends (smile). I am traveling, so not obligated to fast. I will probably feed a few hungry people this month while traveling as Allah encourages us to do. It is a large university with extensive grounds and lots of student housing with medical services. I saw a business school with a separate school for entrepreneurial development. The school of fine arts, distance learning, history and other schools. The chancellor is appointed by the president of Tanzania. I was surprised the government is linked so closely to the institution.
I wonder if that is a good thing.

As we were headed home last night, my tour included the First Lady's offices. I thought that nice that the First Lady of Tanzania has a place to conduct business and make policy.

Back to the Hunger Strikers. Here are links to coverage in 2011 and to a story I wrote after the hearing hosted by the California State Assembly Health and Safety Committee:

Wanda's Picks Radio July 15, 2011


Bay Area Playwrights Festival, July 22-31 at Thick House in San Francisco: features the work of guests: Jackie Sibblies Drury, "We Are Proud to Present a Presentation..." & Chinaka Hodge, "700th & Int'l." Amy Mueller, Festival Artistic Director and Edris Cooper Anifowoshe, director of Hodge's work,join us.

Next, Douglas Milton and Pat Baxter announce the National Black Cyclists Cycling Conference, AUG 4-7, 2011 in Oakland, CA.

We close with a look at the hunger strike July 1-now @Pelican Bay and the Bring the Noise Protest this afternoon in San Francisco. Guests are: Dorsey Nunn, ED, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Dolores Canales, parent of a prisoner in the SHU, Deirdre Wilson & Manuel Manuel La Fontaine, All of Us or None, both fasting, as a part of "Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition," determined to amplify the voices of those on hunger strike, put and end to torture inside the Security Housing Units in Pelican Bay, & Corcoran, and win their 5 core demands. Samson from Revolution Book will speak about “Bring the Noise!” March In Support of Hunger Strikers at Pelican Bay and Beyond in downtown SF at Rush Hour @UN Plaza, today, Friday, July 15, 5 PM July 1, 2011, more than 500 inmates refused food at Pelican Bay State Prison and that 6,600 prisoners in 13 different prisons participated in the hunger strike on the weekend of July 2-3. This is an extremely significant and extraordinary development, something that challenges people on “the outside” to sit up and take notice. Many have been moved to support the prisoners in their just demands” ( Sit-in or similar action planned for July 18, 2011 at Capital Bldg. targeting the head of CDCR and Gov. Brown

Visit for regular updates from the inside.

Wanda's Picks Radio July 22, 2011

Program Notes: 8:00 AM: Update on the Hunger Strike at Pelican Bay with Deirdre Wilson Project Coordinator for CCWP and Free Battered Women,  and a supporter of the Fast for Justice started by inmates at Pelican Bay, July 1, 2011, and Linda Evans, a former anti-imperialist political prisoner, released in 2001 via a pardon by president Bill Clinton, along with Susan Rosenberg, another political prisoner.

8:30 AM: Maria Acuna, English professor, musician, composer, and Avotcja, Poet/Playwright/Multi-Percussionist/Photographer/Teacher join us to talk about a celebration of Pablo Neruda, Nobel Laureate Chilean poet, 7 PM, Wed., July 27, 2011 @ Cafe Leila, 1724 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA. Avotcja is also celebrating her 70th birthday at La Pena Cultural Center, Sunday, July 24, 7 PM. Visit and 9 AM: Dr. Beheroze Shroff teaches in the Department of Asian American Studies at UC Irvin. She is a documentary film maker whose research for the past 15 years has been on the Siddi or African Indian community in India where she is now.

Dr. Henry J. Drewal is the Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Adjunct Curator of African Art at the Chazen Museum of Art, UW-Madison. Dr. Sarah Khan, born in Pakistan and raised on the East Coast, received her BA from Smith College majoring in History with a concentration in the Middle East and Arabic. She has a Ph.D in Ethnobotany from CUNY with a specialization in South Asian and Asian Healing systems, specifically Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Drs. Khan and Drewal, the curators of the MoAD-SFexhibition "Soulful Stitching: Patchwork Quilts by Africans (Siddis) in India," July 1-Sept. 18, give a lecture at MoAD, Sun., July 24, 2-3:30 PM. 9:30 AM: Noa Ben Hagai, dir., "Blood Relation," @ 31st Annual SFJFF screening July 30, 11:30 AM at JCCSF and again at the Roda at BRT, Aug. 3, 12:25 PM

Wanda's Picks Radio August 18, 2011

Program Notes: 8 AM: Stepology choreographers: Jason Rodgers & Channing Cook-Holmes; 8:30 AM: Carol Stickman, Staff Attorney, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children re: Legislative Hearing and Rally in Sacramento, August 23, 2011, on Pelican Bay Hunger Strike & CA Corrections;

9 AM:
Dinizulu Gene Tinnie re: Commemoration of the End of the Slave Trade and the Haitian Revolution. Historic Key West African Cemetery, in Florida, located on Atlantic Boulevard adjacent to Higgs Beach, between the White Street Pier and the West Martello Tower fort, will be the special venue for the Third Annual Observance of the International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, on Sunday, August 21, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. 9:30 AM: Ava DuVernay, director, "I Will Follow," which is having its DVD release Tuesday, August 23, 2011.


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