Out of Print Newsletter April 2020



Our newsletter Out of Print features original artwork from writers in the free world and from our incarcerated book club members. As a $10 monthly Patreon subscriber, you’ll get your own copy in the mail!


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April 2020 Contents



Editor’s Note

The Necessity of Mutual Aid

The Real Damage of US Sanctions: How Sanctions Impede Global Health

Punishment vs. Accountability

Book Club Reading List

Fieldnotes on As Black As Resistance

FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS

Illustrations by bbyanarchists



Editor's Note



Out Of Print is dedicated to bringing the margins to center. We mean to highlight issues within the system around us, discuss our realities, and encourage action. It’s been culled together with love and with the freedom to let each voice speak their truth.

Given the state of the world, it feels even more urgent to have a means to reach one another. And though we aren’t reporting news, we’re speaking on relevant and timely topics that we hope raise our consciousness to critically think about solutions to the systems we’re forced to interact with.

Know that truth and facts are relative. There’s a reason people debate the ideas they believe to know. To that end, anything published in here is someone’s truth, and is verified by facts that we agree with. But, if we miss something or you disagree, it’s an open forum. Do reach out. We don’t have an ego. We’re here to educate and uplift together.

And maybe, to that end, we’ll begin reading the news more critically, and demand more transparency and accountability and love from those with whom we would consider leaders of our community at large. Community knows no imaginary border, nor a circumscribed gender, nor a constructed idea of race.


by the homies, for the homies: a column

The Necessity of Mutual Aid



by Delency Parham

Mutual aid —
  1. the cooperative, as opposed to the competitive, factors operating in the development of society
  2. a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit

As the COVID-19 pandemic has once again revealed that the 1% doesn’t give a flying fuck about the poor and left us to fend for ourselves, poor folks have been showing up for one another to ensure we have the resources we need to survive. The practice of showing up for one another and exchanging resources is called “mutual aid.”. And although it is a term that seems to have resurfaced and has become somewhat of a buzzword in this time of crisis, mutual aid has always been an essential part of the poor, Black experience in America. We have been using the practice of mutual aid to keep us alive, since the first enslaved African prisoner stepped foot on this stolen land 400 years ago.

That is what I hope people take from this. Too often you hear terms get coined, then co-opted or theorized in a way that makes them feel both difficult to implement and reserved for a special group of people. We cannot let that happen with mutual aid. Mutual aid is not some new theory that requires us to do a ton of reading and research, it is a survival tactic in the fabric of existence for those that have been marginalized and oppressed by this white supremacist capitalist patriarchy known as the United States of America.

Whether it was our Great Grandmothers taking bread to the house next door because she knew her neighbor was experiencing financial hardship or the “money pots” Black salon owners would contribute to and distribute to a different woman every month to cover their rent, providing and exchanging resources for our communities under the guise of survival and thrival are not new practices. Mutual aid always has been, and always will be, a necessity for the oppressed. In Oakland, I help facilitate a free breakfast program called People’s Breakfast Oakland (PBO). Through our program, we provide food, hygiene packs, clothes, and other resources to the houseless community in West Oakland.

At first glance, folks wouldn’t consider this mutual aid because there isn’t a reciprocal exchange. That couldn’t be more wrong. PBO believes that investing in the lives and survival of Black folks is mutually beneficial to Black power and Black liberation, which are at the basis of a Black radical politic. Their survival is where we see the reciprocity.

I only mention PBO because this is an example of recognizing a marginalized demographic in need of support and using our collective power to extend resources—we as people showing up for our community, instead of waiting for the government. That is what mutual aid is about. People supporting the people.

So, send a call to the elders in your family and make sure they’re alright. Ask them if they need you to make a grocery store trip for them. Have your kid reach out to that classmate of theirs that you know comes from a struggling family, and see if they need any support. Check on those you know are immunosuppressed. Tap in with your disabled folks. The best way to show up for others is to ask them what they need. I challenge you to think of ways you can be of service to someone during this pandemic. Nothing is too small. It all matters.

For anyone looking to serve tangible meals to the houseless in their city, visit hyperurl.co/PBOCovid19Meals for the PBO COVID-19 meals doc.




The Real Damage of US Sanctions: How Sanctions Impede Global Health



by Ju-Hyun Park

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Iran hard. Although there are signs Iran is flattening the curve, more than 3,000 people have died and there have been more than 50,000 cases — putting immense strain on the local medical system. The Iranian health ministry estimates one person is dying of COVID-19 every ten minutes.

It’s important to recognize Iran’s experience differs from cases like Italy or the United States. Iran has been under unilateral US economic sanctions since 2018. These sanctions have contributed to widespread poverty and deepening inflation, which has led to skyrocketing prices and shortages of basic goods like food, medicine, and medical instruments. The Iranian medical system has struggled for years to source life-saving medicines and equipment, resulting in routine preventable deaths. The severity of the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran is a direct consequence of the impact of years of US sanctions on the country’s healthcare system.


Economic sanctions are measures taken by countries against individuals, entities, or other governments by commercial and financial means. This can include anything from asset freezes and property seizures to travel bans and total trade embargoes. According to Sanctions Kill, an international campaign to stop US sanctions, the US has 8,000 active sanctions measures that impact people in 39 countries. The Office of Foreign Assets Control, the agency responsible for enforcing US sanctions on behalf of the Treasury Department, currently lists sanctions against Belarus, Burundi, Central African Republic, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Nicaragua, Russia, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, the Crimea region of Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen, former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.


The US implements sanctions through congressional legislation, presidential executive orders, and various departments in the executive branch, such as the State Department and the Treasury Department. Although often framed as responses to human rights or international security concerns, sanctions are better described as geopolitical tools. The first of several generations of US sanctions against Iran began shortly after the 1979 revolution, which deposed the US-backed Shah. Most recently, the Trump administration re-implemented sanctions after abandoning the Iran nuclear deal, which had already placed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s recent admission that sanctions are an “alternative to world military conflicts” illustrates how sanctions are a method of economic coercion used to impose US interests around the world.

US economic sanctions’ capacity for destruction is best understood through imperialism. Lenin defines imperialism as the monopoly stage of capitalism, characterized by the concentration of production and centralization of finance capital, and the economic, political, and territorial partition of the world among the great capitalist powers. Economist Ramaa Vasudevan notes that in the contemporary context, the United States singlehandedly dominates the imperialist system through the power of the US dollar, which serves as the world’s reserve and international trade currency. The dollar accounts for 60% of global foreign exchange reserves and 88% of all foreign exchange trading. This pervasive dependence on the US dollar affects the value of virtually all global currencies and makes most financial institutions subject to US law.

As the only country with jurisdiction over the world’s currency, the US has immense powers to dictate the behavior of nations and global financial institutions. This is one way US sanctions become globally enforced. A good example is the case of HSBC, a British bank that paid $875 million in penalties in 2012 for violating US sanctions against Cuba, Libya, Myanmar, and Sudan. The reason a non-US bank is subject to US law is that the entity does business in the US and, more importantly, conducts international transactions in dollars. Even if a country targeted by sanctions doesn’t have direct trade with the US, the banks they rely on usually do. Sanctioned countries can be further impacted by overcompliance, or the tendency of firms to avoid sanctioned countries for fear of repercussions even when it may be within the firm’s rights to interact with the country. 

Current sanctions against Iran ban it from access to the US dollar and forbid all transactions using the rial, Iran’s currency. This prevents Iran from conducting most international trade because it can’t pay its partners using its own currency or US dollars. The US sanctions also punish all purchases of Iranian oil by non-US governments and firms. Iranian oil exports have predictably crashed since 2018, and the downfall of the country’s largest industry has affected the entire society. ­Consequently, for the first five weeks of the outbreak, Iran had almost no means to procure the financial or material resources needed to fight COVID-19. The US eventually yielded to international pressure and freed up some Iranian assets, but not before imposing new sanctions targeting companies trading with Iran and specific Iranian firms.

Iran’s experience of US-instigated economic ruin and health crisis isn’t unique. An estimated 40,000 people in Venezuela died from 2017-2018 as a result of limited access to food and medicine following US sanctions. In 2018, 3,968 people in North Korea, 80% of them children under the age of 5, died due to delays and shortages in UN aid programs caused by sanctions which the US pushed the UN Security Council to implement. In Zimbabwe, almost two decades of US sanctions have catapulted healthcare costs and hampered the country’s ability to treat HIV, tuberculosis and malaria patients. In the age of COVID-19, Venezuela and Iran struggle to secure loans to effectively fight the pandemic, while Zimbabwe’s response is complicated by long standing financial and health crises. In Cuba, a shipment of facemasks and test kits donated by the Jack Ma Foundation was blocked by the US embargo.

In late March, a coalition of 26 organizations called on Trump and Secretary Mnuchin to temporarily lift sanctions against Iran for humanitarian reasons. This pandemic has proven that “health” can’t be regulated or contained by the imagined boundaries of borders. Our collective wellbeing is bound by the ability of all people to access quality food, medical care, and shelter. We must develop more expansive notions of care that center these vital material needs, in order to prevent the kind of unnecessary suffering COVID-19 has unleashed. The abolition of sanctions is a crucial step towards realizing this possibility.




Punishment vs. Accountability



by David “Dawud” Lee

For centuries, American society has followed the desire to engage in punishing perceived and actual criminal behaviors. However, the question that must be asked: has the pursuit of punishment made any real difference? Since 1776, the United States government has punished people for escaping bondage, illegal drug use, selling drugs, selling and drinking alcohol, prostitution, not sending their children to school, not being able to pay their bills or fines that were levied against them, and so much more. Notwithstanding, desperate acts are often defined as criminal and punished by people with the power and ability to define it as such. And, oftentimes, those in power do not define their own actions as criminal, no matter how inhumane those actions may be. We can go back to the Founding Fathers of the United States of America and see how they condoned and enslaved people of African descent, while writing how all men were created equal and have a God-given right to the pursuit of freedom and happiness. The United States government once created laws that allowed for the taking of Native American land and other atrocities, yet we do not question the true purpose of laws in this country, still.

Over a century after the emancipation proclamation and the passing of the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution, White Americans still found ways to enslave, persecute, and punish people of African descent for seeking their God-given and human right to live as whole human beings. Draconian laws were manufactured to strip Black people of their rights to live decent lives. And if Black people violated those unjust laws, they were punished by law-making White folks who would extract wealth from Black and Brown bodies. It is important we understand that the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution did not abolish slavery; it made it so you could only be enslaved for being convicted of committing a crime. Powerful White men took advantage of their control and used it to criminalize all types of normal human actions, even trying to protect their children from brutal rapes and beatings by those who felt entitled to purge their perversions on innocent children, women, and sometimes-young men. Who was ever held accountable for those horrendous crimes against African people?

In the 1800s penitentiaries began to surface in the United States supposedly to serve the purpose of giving human beings the time to repent for their crimes and adjust to American norms. But in all actuality, they did not serve any rehabilitative or restorative purposes. Being poor and Black became a criminalized offense. Black people were given fines to pay for the bogus violation of property rights, and, as formerly enslaved people we owned very little, African Americans could not pay those unjust fines. Not being able to pay those unjust fines meant being placed back into bondage, and forced to work as sharecroppers to save up enough money to purchase freedom. Unfortunately, many folks died attempting to purchase their freedom because work conditions were brutal. Again, the purpose of punishment seems to be rooted in the need to extract free or cheap labor.

Therefore, when we take a thorough look at the use of punishment in this country, historically, we can see a very dangerous pattern. Especially when we take into consideration that powerful White men were the sole architects of the US Constitution, thus setting the tone for all other laws that followed. Women and people of color were effectively locked out of the process that constructed laws that had long-term ramifications on their lives, and the lives of their offspring. The Black Codes, the Peonage System, Jim Crow, and other forms of legal discrimination prevented the progress of Black and Brown people, but that never mattered to those in power and the fanatics following their leadership.

Black people never sought punishment for those crimes, because all African-Americans ever wanted was some sort of accountability to take place, and to begin a true healing process for the damage that has been done to us.  And healing should be one of the main purposes of accountability. African-Americans understand that reparations and healing would not bring back not one of our ancestors who suffered from the brutality and horror of enslavement. And reparations would not totally assuage the pain of enslavement, but reparations could assist us in our healing process while also empowering and providing the survivors of American atrocities with the protections to create and maintain political and economic balance.

When we look at how prisons are constructed today, we can see the same dangerous patterns at work (and basically the same beneficiaries): prisons throughout the country are full of Black, Brown, and poor people. And it is primarily corporate owners who benefit from our misery, as well as the mostly-White prison staff members. (Yes, there are people of color who work in these prisons as well who benefit from the pain associated with punishing human beings by locking them inside of cages, but they are in the minority.) We cannot overlook this dangerous pattern of punishing people of color and the poor when we examine punishment in the United States, because if we do we would be ignoring a significant aspect of what has taken place and what continues to take place today.

Now this is not to suggest that some sort of accountability is not necessary to deal with people who cause others unjust harm. However, all approaches of accountability should be centered in healing people rather than causing more harm. Looking at solutions like restorative justice and transformative justice we will find accountability attached to both. They are centered in healing both victims and harm-doers. Both approaches are far more humane than what is currently taking place in this country. And both hold the parties who caused harm accountable for their actions. The key should always be accountability not punishment because punishment does not positively change those who caused harm, and in all actuality punishment just further injures those suffering from familial, communal, and systemic injury and pain.

Accountability means that we are willing to look at the totality of the lives of both the survivor and the person who caused harm to the survivor. We should try to understand why the harm-doer caused the violation and find solutions to those violations. Unfortunately, people who usually hurt other people are themselves damaged people, and in need of healing. Placing people inside of cages does nothing to heal them, and does nothing to heal the survivor either, so what good is actually accomplished? Americans have been processed to think in terms of crime and punishment, but not real solutions to problems, and especially problems associated with crime. To treat people who break laws like human beings is considered coddling criminals, rather than healing human beings who have gone astray, no matter the reason(s) for their behavior. Accountability means that we care about all human beings and try to figure out ways to save, rather than throw away people. Ergo, the process of accountability is not a stagnant concept centered on just letting people out of prison. Accountability begins with learning not to cause harm in the first place, and then, if for some reason people do cause harm, they understand what it means to take full responsibility for their actions and work to heal those parties who have been harmed. Understanding what responsible actions are is definitely a serious part of what accountability looks like. And teaching accountability should start at a very young age, so children grow up understanding the meaning of accountability. But adults currently searching for real solutions to what is taking place inside of American prisons should look at what accountability really looks like and reach for something truly novel.

Often in American society people who have been accused of and convicted of crimes are asked to repent and show remorse for their actions, but the American government has not done the same. There has never been any formal apology for the enslavement and discrimination against African Americans in this country, and therefore no accountability! Accountability should not be an act held out only for individual harm-doers, because the actions of the state are oftentimes more egregious than those of individual American citizens. But no apology, and certainly no accountability, has taken place in regards to one of the most horrific human rights violations of this country: the enslavement of African people. Neither has there been any true accountability or truth-telling in regards to the genocidal campaigns against Native Americans. How do we begin an honest healing process without first telling the truth about what has taken place in this country? Truth is the foundation of accountability because without first telling the truth we cannot be held accountable for our actions. We are not interested in persecuting anyone, because revenge is not the answer. We want to create a new American society where we are all able to live in peace and harmony.

All human beings should want to live in peace, and if they do not wish to live in peace, we should ask, why not? If government officials are not being held accountable for their actions, how then, do they turn around and expect citizens of this country to accept accountability as being a fair proposition?

We should all expect accountability from balanced human beings, and if people are out of balance we should work to assist them in finding their balance. We should not seek to create more agony. Punishment creates more anguish; contrarily accountability is about finding balance. Truth is about seeking harmony, so we should expect the truth from those in power. Justice is about fairness and balance, and we all deserve justice. We must find the intellectual courage to seek justice in areas of our lives where harm has been done, not revenge.

The Statue of Liberty is supposed to stand for liberty and justice, and that is why we see the scales being held in her hands. The scales symbolize balance, and balance is connected to fairness in the pursuit of what is right. We can remove violent harm-doers from our communities for a period of time, and help them gain or regain their balance. But placing them inside of cages does not accomplish that goal. The goal should be centered in healing the survivor, while at the same time understanding and creating balance in the lives of the harm-doers.




Book Club Reading List



FEBRUARY READS:
Sister Outsider  by Audre Lorde
Magical Negro by Morgan Parker

MARCH READS:
Love With Accountability by Aishah Shahidah Simmons
As Black As Resistance by William Anderson

APRIL READS: 
War against all Puerto Ricans by Nelson Antonio Denis
Mean by Myriam Gurba



Fieldnotes on As Black As Resistance



For the conversation about the book, As Black as Resistance, everyone was present from the Coal Township (Pennsylvania Correctional Institute) chapter of the Noname Book Club:

Qu’eed Batts aka Q
Nyako Pippen aka Yako
Avron Holland aka Black Man
David Lee aka Dawud
and Perry Poole aka Big Bro

Q: Black identity is, in many ways, inextricably linked to land. It is my understanding that to have collective power in this society, we have to purchase land. Without land which we can call our own, there is no way we can build black-owned institutions. Through the forced extraction of Africans during the transatlantic slave trade, blackness has come to symbolize a kind of rootless existence. After being kidnapped and forced to live in a foreign land, after being in this foreign land for generations, you lose a sense of your culture; the foreign ideologies forced upon you ensure that you forget who you are. White supremacists have historically supported the separationist politics of the Nation of Islam. They have seen black separatism as analogous to the white nationalist self-determination politics of the white-majority United States. Even though white supremacists want to be separated from black people, they do not wish for us to be equal to them, hence the word supremacists. I think it is important to point out that white supremacy is fueled by hate and black nationalism is fueled by people wanting to be treated like human beings. We are neither preaching hate nor trying to reign supreme over anyone.

Yako: As Black as Resistance was a powerful read. As I read pages 76 and 77, I thought about the significance of defining our own system of what is acceptable and what is not. I believe that if we want to see a world of free people, we have to establish humane principles. I am talking about principles that coincide with the freedom for everyone, unlike our current social structure, where there are rules that do not apply to everyone. As highlighted in As Black as Resistance the governing rules are, in fact, anti-Black. Also, on page 36 of chapter two, What Lands On Us (which is also my favorite chapter), they speak about how supporters of capitalism would rather invoke the concept of the Malthusian trap. The trap essentially blames the less fortunate for the lack of resources, instead of evaluating the impact of extracting natural resources in the interest of making money. From my years of study, I believe that we must emphasize defending our natural resources. We are one with nature: nature is kin. Just as we would defend our brothers we must defend our natural resources.

Black Man: Black resistance is embedded in our DNA as a God-given ability to oppose any form of oppression, racism, injustice, brutality, degradation, exploitation, or inhumane treatment. The essence of black resistance is to confront and ultimately destroy any nefarious, unscrupulous system that is designed to systematically render black people obsolete. To fully understand the inception of black resistance, it’s imperative that we immerse ourselves in the detailed cultural and historical narrative told from our illustrious ancestors on the continent and within the diaspora. The mere thought, idea, or even the slightest whisper of black resistance automatically causes paranoia, anxiety, and, most of all, fear to coarse straight through the bone marrow of white supremacy. Black resistance comes in many forms and structures and is very flexible. It has the ability to continually transform to serve its very purpose of confronting and destroying oppression.

Every time black folks demonstrate their frustration in response to an incident of injustice, the narrative is controlled by the colonizers. Throughout the years, black resistance has been denigrated. The colonizers characterize resistance negatively in order to perpetuate their false narrative and propaganda that black people are inherently violent. The idea of black resistance has been hijacked, demonized, and sullied within our subconscious to the point where any sign, talk, or whisper of black resistance is mentioned, we, as black people, immediately denounce, reject, withdraw, and capitulate from ourselves. This all contributes to our own demise.

Dawud: As Black as Resistance is a very captivating read for many important reasons. The first being the importance of defending our right to live as human beings. All human beings have a right to live in peace. And when anyone attempts to violate that peace, we have the right as human beings to defend ourselves. That right to self-defense is also extended to the right to protect our property and to defend our interests as black people. We must understand that no other people on this planet are going to protect our unique interests. It is our duty, as black people, to understand our human rights and to do what is necessary to protect those rights.

Land is essential because land is connected to natural resources and other important elements associated with liberation and empowerment. This is why as African people we refer to land as mother (e.g. Mother Nature). We have always worked to not only extract what we need from our birth mother, but to replenish her afterward. Reciprocity has always been the African way!

Moreover, a thorough examination of history tells us we must be willing to lay everything on the line to protect and preserve ourselves because there have always been efforts taking place to eradicate our progress as a Black people—Black Wall Street, Rosewood, the Atlanta riots, the destruction of Black organizations like the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the destruction of the Black Liberation Army, the Civil Rights Movement, and so forth, all tell a story about how white supremacy is always at work eliminating black progress.

Big Bro: I believe that land is important, because without land we cannot truly be free as black people. We have an important duty to nurture ourselves and to work towards building the necessary institutions to liberate ourselves; we cannot do that without land. Also, I think that a major part of protecting ourselves is to admit our flaws as human beings and to work towards fixing those flaws. We cannot continue to hide from our mistakes. It is important we examine every aspect of who we are. If we do not, we cannot truly protect ourselves. Our movement for liberation must be built on love!



FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS



Mutulu Shakur was born August 8th, in Baltimore MD, but spent most of is formative years in Jamaica, Queens, New York. At 16, Shakur became politically active with the Revolutionary Action Movement. Throughout his teens and early twenties, he worked with a number of Black Liberation movements including the Black Liberation Army and the Black Panther Party.

In 1970, Mutulu began working for the Lincoln Detox Community program as a political education instructor. He eventually became a certified and licensed acupuncturist and used his skills to help treat withdrawal symptoms with naturopathic medicine and techniques.

In 1981, Shakur and six other members of the Black Liberation Army were accused of robbing an armored car where they allegedly acquired 1.6 million dollars in cash and killed one of the guards.

Mutulu went underground and evaded capture for six years. He was eventually arrested on February 12, 1986. He was also accused of assisting in the escape of Assata Shakur which occurred earlier.

He was due for a mandatory parole determination after serving thirty of his original sixty-year sentence, which came in 2016. However, the United States Parole Commission denied his release in 2016 and 2018.

Shakur received a diagnosis of life-threatening bone marrow cancer in October, yet compassionate release has been denied. Because Dr. Shakur’s very survival depends on his release, your ongoing support is crucial.

Shakur is currently in jail serving a 60-year prison sentence

There is currently a petition to Support Parole and compassionate release. For up-to-date information on Shakur and for information on ways you can help, please visit: 

MutuluShakur.com

If you would like to contact Shakur directly:

Dr. Mutulu Shakur #83205-012
FMC Lexington
P.O. Box 14500
Lexington, KY 40512

While Dr. Shakur appreciates mail, he is unfortunately unable to respond to every letter.