And I have been terribly impressed by the youth of America, black and white. I am proud of them because they have reaffirmed my faith in humanity. I have come to feel what must be love for the young people of America and I want. It is not fully awake yet, but there is soul in the air I have watched the sit-ins, the f, ' dom raids, the Mississippi Blood Summers, demonstrations. We are a very sick "'ry-I, perhaps, am sicker than most. But I accept that. I you in the beginning that I am extremist by nature-so it And the one I am now is in '""' ways a stranger to me.
You may fmd this difficult to under I but it is very easy for one in prison to lose his sense of self. E1ke the point of being attractive to women. In prison he gets only lt. Years and years ofbitter looks. It is a deep hole out of which to climb. What must be done, I. I know that the black man's sick attitude toward the white woman is a revolutionary sickness: it keeps him perpetually out of harmony with the system that is oppressing him.
Many whites flatter themselves with the idea that the Negro male's lust and desire for the white dream girl is purely an esthetic attraction, but nothing could be farther from the truth. His motivation is often of such a bloody, hateful, bitter, and malignant nature that whites would really-be hard-pressed to find it flattering.
I have discussed these points with prisoners who were convicted of rape, and their motivations are very plain. But they are very reluctant to discuss these things with white men who, by and large, make up the prison staffs. I believe that in the experience of these men lies the knowledge and wisdom that must be utilized to help other youngsters who are heading in the same direction. I think all of us, the entire nation, will be better off if we bring it all out front. A lot of people's feelings will be hurt, but that'"is the price- that must be paid. It may be that I can harm myself by speaking frankly and directly, but I do not care about that at all.
Of course I want to get out of prison, badly, but I shall get out some day. I am more concerned with what I am going to be after I get out. If I had followed the path laid down for me by the officials, I'd undoubtedly have long since been out of prison-but I'd be less of a man. I'd be weaker and less certain of where I want to go, what I want to do, and how to go about it.
The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less. Don't you '1. All of which is true. But what matters is that I have fallen in love with my lawyer! Is that surprising? A convict is expected to have a high regard for anyone who comes to his aid, who tries to help him and who expends time, energy, and money in an effort to set him free.
But can a convict really love a lawyer? It goes against the grain. Convicts hate lawyers. To walk around a prison yard. Convicts uiltd knowingly and told me that I had gone for the greasy l''i'. It was my turn to smile knowingly. A convict's paranoia is " t l. Even our wives and lovers whose beds "1 have shared, with whom we have shared the tenderest mo""nts and most delicate relations, leave us after a while, put us. All society shows the convict its ass and 'pects him to kiss it: the convict feels like kicking it or putting ' bullet in it.
To intain a hold on the ideals and sentiments of civilization in. How much more.. Use a lawyer, yes: use anybody. Even tell the 1. But you will always know when you 1. And why does it make you sad to see how everything hangs by such thin and whimsical threads? Because you're a dreamer, an incredible dreamer, with a tiny spark hidden somewhere inside you which cannot die, which even you cannot kill or quench and which tortures you horribly because all the odds are against its continual burning.
In the midst of the foulest decay and putrid savagery, this spark speaks to you of beauty, of human warmth and kindness, of goodness, of greatness, of heroism, of martyrdom, and it speaks to you of love. So I love my lawyer. My lawyer is not an ordinary person. My lawyer is a rebel, a revolutionary who is alienated fundamentally from the status quo, probably with as great an intensity, conviction, and irretrievability as I am alienated from it-and probably with more intelligence, compassion, and humanity.
If you read the papers, you are no doubt aware of my lawyer's incessant involvement in agitation against all manifestations of the monstrous evil of our system, such as our intervention in the internal affairs of the Vietnamese people or the invasion of the Dominican Republic by U. And my lawyer defends civil rights demonstrators, sit-iners, and the Free Speech students who rebelled against the Kerr-Strong machine at the University of California.
My love for my lawyer is due, in part, to these activities and involvements; because we are always on the same side of the issues. And I love all my allies. But this, which may be the beginning of an explanation, does not nearly explain what goes on between my lawyer and me. I suppose that I should be honest and, before going any further, admit that my lawyer is a woman-or maybe I should. I know that she believes that I do II'Jlly love her and that I am confusing a combination of 1.
Lust and gratitude I feel abundantly, 1-nt I. And I fear that, believing that I do "' l11ve her, she will act according to that belief. At night, I talk with her in my sleep, long dialogues in lu1h she answers back. And let me say that I don't believe a word she. Except for a few lost In s in which she slips away and I fall into a deep sleep, I t.. It does not bother me now. I have often gone. Of course, when I was out of prison I ,,. I had a profound desire t I didn't know how. Getting to know someone, entering that new world, is an tit 11uate, irretrievable leap into the unkno"Wn.
The prospect is 1 Iifymg. The stakes are high. The emotions are overwhelm! How often they inflict pain and torment upon each other[ Better to maintain shallow, superficial affairs; that way the scars are not too deep. No blood is hacked from the soul. But I do not believe a beautiful relationship has to end always in carnage, or that we have to be fraudulent and pretentious with one another. If we project fraudulent, pretentious images, or if we fantasize each other into distorted caricatures of what we really are, then, when we awake from the trance and see beyond the sham and front, all will dissolve, all will dit" or be transformed into bitterness and hate.
I know that sometimes people fake on each other out of genuine motives to hold onto the object of their tenderest feelings. They see themselves as so inadequate that they feel forced to wear a mask in order continuously to impress the second party. If a man is free-not in prison, the Army, a monastery, hospital, spaceship, submarine-and living a normal life with the usual multiplicity of social relations with individuals of both sexes, it may be that he is incapable of experiencing the total impact of another individual upon himself.
Yet I may believe that a man whose soul or emotional apparatus had lain dormant in a deadening limbo of desuetude is capable of responding from some great sunken well of his being, as though a potent catalyst had been tossed into a critical mass, when an exciting, lovely, and lovable woman enters the. What a deep, slow, torturous, reluctant, 'l'lohned stirring! His body chemistry changes and he is "" rlwd with new strength.
He has imperative need of the kind-. It is as if one had been left to die The sun is hot and the shade of "" hush, if not offering an extension of life, offers at least a 1. And just when one feels the next I ,oth will surely be the last, a rare and rainbow-colored bird 11lc:-; on a delicate twig of the bush and, with the magic of. Seeing her image slipping away from the weak fingers of. Jealously, he hoards the fading memory of their encounter, like a miser gloating over a folio of blue-chip stock.
The unfathomable machinery of the subconscious projects an image onto the conscious mind: her bare right arm, from curve of shoulder to fingertip. Had his lips quivered with desire to brand that soft, cool-looking flesh with a kiss of fire, had his fingers itched to caress? Such is the magic of a woman, the female principle of nature which she embodies, and her power to resurrect and revitalize a long-isolated and lonely man.
I was twenty-two when I came to prison and of course I have changed tremendously over the years. But I had always had a strong sense of myself and in the last few years I felt I was losing my identity. There was a deadness in my body that eluded me, as though I could not exactly locate its site. I would be aware of this numbness, this feeling of atrophy, and it haunted the back of my mind. Because of this numb spot, I felt peculiarly off balance, the awareness of something missing, of a blank spot, a certain intimation of emptiness.
Now I know what it was. After eight years in prison, I was visited by a woman, a woman who was interested in my work and cared about what happened to me. And since encountering her, I feel life, strength flowing back into that spot. My step, the tread of my stride, which was becoming tentative and uncertain, has begun to recover a definiteness, a confidence, a boldness which makes me want to kick over a few tables. I may even swagger a little, and, as I read in a book somewhere, "push myself forward like a train. They were wearing jubilant, triumphant smiles, '"' Originally the term was coined to the youth who had lowered the bodies of their cars so that they rode low, close ' ,,,..
When these '"II ,fl, hipsters alighted from their vehicles, the term low rider stuck with them, evol""1 '"I he point where all black ghetto youth-but never the soft offspring of the black I "" J"oisie-are referred to as low riders. I ,, '''"'. Break it down for me, Baby. Then one low rider, stepping into the center of the circle formed by the others, reared back on his legs and swaggered, hunching his belt up with his forearms as he'd seen James Cagney and George Raft do in too many gangster movies.
I joined the circle. Sensing a creative moment in the offing, we all got very quiet, very still, and others passing by joined the circle and did likewise. It was a cleansing, revolutionary laugh we all shared, something we have not often had occasion for. Watts was a place of shame. We used to use Watts as an epithet in much the same way as city boys used "country" as term of derision. To deride one as a "lame," who did not know. A barbiturate, called Red Devi. But now, blacks are seen in Folsom saying, I"' from Watts, Baby! Confession: I, too, have participated in this 1 uu, saying, I'm from Watts.
I was just a young tud. Before me tll. A jukebox was blaring a tune of the times and I got ght up in the music as I walked along. I was kind of walking '" rnne to the music. Sitting up on the customer's seat was a big luw :. Then, without warning, she sang: "Beautiful, beautiful brown eyes. That did me in, cleaned me out, and I realized that I was standing there gaping at her like a country fool. I was really confused and embarrassed and I cut out, completely blowing my cool.
And as I split, I saw her cracking up with kicks. It really made me feel good though, and I've always treasured that memory because the incident was so penetrating. I had quite a different experience during a factional power struggle among the Muslims in San Quentin. A rightwing brother tried to undercut me with a smear tactic: "Brothers," he said to all of us one day, "Brother Eldridge should not be allowed to hold any position until he's been a Muslim for seven years. He's got the Mark of the Beast on him. Look at his eyes-he's got the devil's eyes.
A lot of other brothers were also confused. But one of my friends saved the day by pointing out that "many so-called Negroes have funny beast eyes. The devils have mixed us all up. Even the Honorable Elijah Muhammad has light-colored eyes. Brother Malcolm has light-colored eyes. So don't be going around here talking like that because you're only spreading disunity. The Honorable Elijah. Muhammad teaches unity. If you call yourself a Muslim, brother, you're going to have to start thinking Positive and put down all that Negative. Now that they have the price.
The main reason Elijah Muham, The point is that when you get all those blacks uoped up in the ghetto with beef steaks on their minds,. The system has made oll,wances for the ghettoites to obtain a little pig, but there " uo provisions for the elite to give up any beif!
The walls come '"'11bling down. I was baptized, made my first Communion, my Confirmation, and I wore a Cross with Jesus on it around my neck. I prayed at night, said my Rosary, went to Confession, and said all the Hail Marys and Our Fathers to which I was sentenced by the priest.
Hopelessly enamored of sin myself, yet appalled by the sins of others, I longed for Judgment Day and a trial before a jury of my peers-this was my only chance to escape the flames which I could feel already licking at my feet. I was in a California Youth Authority institution at the time, having transgressed the laws of man-God did not indict me that time; if He did, it was a secret indictment, for I was never informed of any charges brought against me.
The reason I became a Catholic was that the rule of the institution held that every Sunday each inmate had to attend the church of his choice. I chose the Catholic Church because all the Negroes and Mexicans went there. The whites went to the Protestant chapel. Had I been a fool enough to go to the Protestant chapel, one black face in a sea of white, and with guerrilla warfare going on between us, I might have ended up a Christian martyr-St.
Eldridge the Stupe. It all ended one day when, at a catechism class, the priest asked if anyone present understood the mystery of the Holy. I had been studying my lessons diligently and knew by h. Up shot my hand, my heart throb"1" '. To my great shock and embarrass"" rll, the Father announced, and it sounded like a thunderclap, rl. I saw in a flash, stung to the quick by the jeers I ury fellow catechumens, that I had been used, that the Father I, ,,j been lying in wait for the chance to drop that thunderbolt, I.
I had intended to explain the Trinity with an analogy to 1 "'. During that time, a saint walked t'. He was a. It is easier just to say he taught Lovd1' If. He himself claimed to be sort of a. Watts, whom he used to bring over to Q '" lt,ture us now and then in Hinduisim, Zen Buddhism, and "'' the' ways the peoples of Asia view the universe.
I never. It may be that I received this impression from having been exposed more to Lovdjieff than to Watts. Yet there was something about Watts that reminded me of a slick advertisement for a labor-saving device, aimed at the American housewife, out of the center page of L! Under Lovdjieff I studied world history, Oriental philosophy, Occidental philosophy, comparative religion, and economics. I could not tell one class from the other-neither could the other students and neither, I believe, could Lovdjieff.
It was all Lovdjieff. The walls of his classrooms were covered with cardboard placards which bore quotations from the world's great thinkers. Once Lovdjieff gave a lecture on Merton, reading from his works and trying to put the man's life and work in context. He seemed desperately to want us to respect Merton's vocation and choice of the contemplative life. It was an uphill battle because a prison is in many ways like a monastery.
The convicts in Lovdjieff's class hated prison. We were appalled that a free man would voluntarily enter prison-or a monastery. Let me say it right out: we thought Merton was. We thought the same thing about l. I ret disgust was that in many ways I was nothing but a I was mystified by Merton and I could not believe in his 1 ""nate defense of monkhood. I distrusted Lovdjieff on the. My mind heard a special pleading '1. In his ardent defense of Merton, Lovdjieff seemed.
One I ' I ovdjieff confided to us that he had tried to be a monk but He made it, all right, without even realizing I,. He was horror-stricken that they could Reluctantly, he'd sit down heavily '" Ill'. If a guard came and ,. He got a secret kick out of this victory over his tormentors. If, as happened once, he was. The officials did not deem it wise, at that time, to allow me to circulate among the general inmate population.
I had evolved a crash program which I would immediately activate whenever I was placed in solitary: stock up on books and read, read, read; do calisthenics and forget about the rest of the world. I had learned the waste and futility of worry. Years ago, I had stopped being one of those convicts who take a little calendar and mark off each day. When I asked for books to read in this particular hole, a trusty brought me a list from which to make selections. I thought of Lovdjieff. Here was a chance to fulfill my promise. I was tortured by that book because Merton's suffering, in his quest for God, seemed all in vain to me.
At the time, I was a Black Muslim chained in the bottom of a pit by the Devil. Did I expect Allah to tear down the walls and set me free? To me, the language and symbols of religion were nothing but weapons of war. I had no other purpose for them. All the gods are dead except the god of war.
I wished that Merton had stated in secular terms the reasons he withdrew from the political, economic, military, and social system into which he was born, seeking refuge in a monastery. Despite my rejection of Merton's theistic world view, I could not keep him out of the room. He shouldered his way through the door. Welcome, Brother Merton. I give him a bear hug.
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Most impressive of all to me was Merton's description of New York's black ghetto-Harlem. I liked it so much I copied out the heart of it in longhand. Later, after getting out of solitary, I used to keep this passage in mind when delivering Black Muslim lectures to other prisoners. Here is an excerpt:. Here in this huge, dark, steaming slum, hundreds of thousands of Negroes are herded together like cattle, most of them with nothing to eat and nothing to do.
All the senses and imagination and sensibilities and emotions and sorrows and desires and hopes and ideas of a race with vivid feelings and deep emotional reac-t tions are forced in upon themselves, bound inward by an iron ring of frustration: the prejudice that hems them in with its four insurmountable walls.
For a while, whenever I felt myself softening, relaxing, I ha? I vibrate sympathetically to any protest against tyranny. But I want to tell more about Lovdjieff-The Christ. Chris Lovdjieff had a profound mind and an ecumenical education. I got the impression that the carnage of World War II, particularly the scientific, systematic approach to genocide. It was as if he had seen or experienced something which had changed him forever, sickened his soul, overwhelmed him with sympathy and love for all mankind. He hated all restraints upon the human mind, the human spirit, all blind believing, all dogmatic assertion.
He questioned everything. I was never sure of just what was driving him. That he was driven there could be no doubt. There was a sense of unreality about him. It seemed that he moved about in a mist. The atmosphere he created was like the mystic spell of Kahlil Gibran's poetry. He seemed always to be listening to distant music, or silent voices, or to be talking in a whisper to himself. He loved silence and said that it should only be broken for important communications, and he would expel students from his classes for distracting the others by chatting idly in the back rows.
In his classes he was a diatator. He enforced certain rules which brooked no deviation-no smoking in his classroom at any time, before class, during class, at recess, or even when school was out; no talking in Lovdjieff's class unless it was pertinent to the subject at hand; no eating or chewing gum in his classroom; no profanity.
Simple rules, perhaps, but in San Quentin they were visionary, adventurous, audacious. The Christ entorced them strictly. The other teachers and the guards wondered how he got away with it. We students wondered why we enthusiastically submitted to it. The Christ would look surprised, as if he did not under stand, if you asked him about it. If one of the other teachers forgot and came into Lovdjieff's classroom smoking, he was sent hopping. The same went for prison guards. I can still see the shocked expression of a substi-. If' you betrayed other motives, "Get out of here this minute!
He was a magnet, an mstitution. He worked indefatigably. He never ceased complainntg because the officials refused to allow him to eat lunch in the rncss hall with the prisoners. Had they given him a cell he would have taken it. After lunch, he'd teach until 3 P. When night school convened at 6 P. J'hen, reluctantly he'd go home to suffer in exile until school npened next day. On Saturdays he'd be there bright and early I o teach-Lovdjieff. He would have come on Sundays too, only the officials put their foot down and refused to hear of it.
The l 'hrist settled for a Sunday evening radio program of two hours which he taped for broadcast to the prisoners. His classes were works of art. He made ancient history c on temporary by evoking the total environment-intellectual, :;ocial, political, economic-of an era. He breathed life into the shattered ruins of the past. Students sat entranced while The Christ performed, his silver-rimmed glasses reflecting the light in eye-twinkling flashes. He dressed like a college boy, betraying a penchant for simple sweaters and plain slacks of no particular distinction. He was drawn to those students.
Lovdjieff didn't believe that anyone or anything in the universe was "set in its ways. Leave me. You don't need me. These others do. Lovdjieff would weep over a tragic event that had taken place ten thousand years ago in some forgotten byway in the Fertile Crescent. Once he was lecturing on the ancient Hebrews. He was angry with them for choosing to settle along the trade routes between Egypt and Mesopotamia. He showed how, over the centuries, time and time again, these people had been invaded, slaughtered, driven out, captured, but always to return.
He lost his breath. His face crumpled, and he broke down and wept. They have to sit down in the center of the Freeway! That's all it is-look! The Christ wept all through the tape. Once he lectured us all week on Love. He quoted what 1nds had said of Love, what :q. Over the weekend, each student was to write an I quoted Mal,,,JmX: How can I love the man who raped my mother, killed my father, enslaved my ancestors, dropped atomic bombs on Japan, killed off the Indians and keeps me cooped up in the slums?
I'd rather be tied up in a sack and tossed into the Harlem River first. Lovdjieff refused to grade my paper. He returned it to me. I protested that he was being narrow-minded and dogmatic in not understanding why I did not love white people.. He told me to talk with l1im after class.
Instead of answering, he cried. Two days later, he returned my essay-ungraded. There were instead spots on it which I realized to be his tears. Although Lovdjieff's popularity among the prisoners conI inued to soar and the waiting lists for his classes grew longer. Then they stopped him from coming in on Saturdays. Then they. Then they took away his pass and barred him from San Quentin.
I must say that this man has not been adequately described.
Certain things I hold back on purpose, others I don't know how to say. Until I began writing this, I did not know that I had a vivid memory of him. But now I can close my eyes and relive many scenes in which he goes into his act. I'm usu. The first thing I do is make up my bed.
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- Eldridge Cleaver - BIRSS: Eldridge Cleaver and Soul on Ice - LibGuides at Roger Williams University;
- Tomás en la Cocina. Recetas y secretos para principiantes (Spanish Edition).
Then I pick up all my books, newspapers, etc. In my cell, I have a little stool on which I lay a large plywood hoard, about by 3 feet, which I use as a typing and writing 1able. At night, I load this makeshift table down with books and papers, and when I read at night I spill things all over the floor. When I leave my cell, I set this board, loaded down, on my bed, so that if a guard comes into my cell to search it, he '"'ill not knock the board off the stool, as has happened before. Still in the nude, the 'way I sleep, I go through my routine: knee-.
I continue for about half an hour. Sometimes, if I have something I want to write or type so that I can mail it that morning, I forgo my calisthenics. We are required, if we want our mail to go out on a certain day, to have it in the mailbox by about When we leave our cells at to go to breakfast, we pass right by the mailbox and drop in our mail on the way to mess hall.
Usually, by the time I finish my calisthenics, the trusty we call him tiertender, or keyman comes by and fills my little bucket with hot water. We don't have hot running water ourselves. Each cell has a small sink with a cold-water tap, a bed, a locker, a shelf or two along the wall, and a commode. The trusty has a big bucket, with a long spout like the ones people use to water their flowers, only without the sprinkler.
He pokes the spout through the bars and pours you about a gallon of hot water. My cell door doesn't have bars on it; it is a solid slab of steel with fifty-eight holes in it about the size of a half dollar, and a slot in the center, at eye level, about an inch wide and five inches long. The trusty sticks the spout through one of the little holes and pours my hot water, and in the evenings the guard slides my mail to me through the slot.
Through the same slot the convicts pass newspapers, books, candy, and cigarettes Lo one another. When the guard has mail for me he stops at the cell door and calls my name, and I recite my number-Ato verify that I am the right Cleaver. When I get mail I avert my eyes so I can't see who it's from.
Then I sit down on my bed and peep at it real slowly, like a poker player peeping at his cards. I can feel when I've got a letter from you, and when I peep up on. It's like having l1 r aces. But if the letter is not from you, it's like having two ol1uces, a three, a four, and a five, all in scrambled suits. A bum J. What is worse is when the guard passes my door wi1hout pausing. If he stops at my 1lnor the keys sound like Christmas bells ringing, but if he lttcps going they just sound like-keys. I live in the honor block.
In the other block, the fronts of tlw cells consist of nothing but bars. The cells seemed made lir a dungeon. The heavy steel doors slammed shut with a , l. But just as quickly as the feeling came, it went, dissolved,. I felt that I could endure anything, everything, even the test of being broken on the rack.
I've been in every type of cell they have in the prisons of California, and the door to my present cell seems the most cruel. However, I have grown to like this door. When I go out of my cell, I can hardly wait to get back in, to slam that 1umbersome door, and hear the sharp click as the trusty snaps the lock behind me. The trusties keep the keys to the cell of the honor block all day, relinquishing them at night, and to get. Once inside my cell, I feel safe: I don't have to watch the other convicts any more or the guards in the gun towers.
Whenever I live in one of those barred cells, I keep a blanket within easy reach in case of emergency, to smother a fire if need be. Yes, but it's the least one can do for oneself. In my present cell, with its impregnable door, I don't worry about sabotage-although if someone wanted to badly enough, they could figure something out. It's usually about by then. From then until , when we are let out for breakfast, I clean up my cell and try to catch a little news over the radio. The programs are monitored from the radio room.
The radio schedule is made up by the radio committee, of which I am a member. At , breakfast. From the mess hall, every day except Saturday, my day off, I go straight to the bakery, change into my white working clothes, and that's me until about noon. From noon, I am "free" until , the evening mandatory lockup, when we are required, again, to stand before our cell doors and be counted. There is another count at P.
When I'm through working in the bakery, I have the. When I first came to Folsom, I was astonished to see the old grizzled cons playing marbles. J'he marble players of Folsom are legendary throughout the prison system: I first heard about them years ago. Some guy might boast. The marble players have the game down to an art, and they play all day long, fanatically absorbed in what they are doing. If I have a cell partner who knows the game, I play him hess now and then, maybe a game each night.
I have a chess. But I have never been able to give all my time to one of these games. Whenever I go out on the yard these days, I'm usually 1m my way to the library. Sometimes I visit the shack to shoot the bull and get the latest drawings. And sometimes I go out to the weight-lifting area, strip down to a pair of trunks, and push a little iron for a while and soa. Stand for count. After count, off to the evening meal. Back to the cell. Stand for count at After the 6: 30 count, we are all let out of our cells, one tier at a time, for showers, to exchange dirty socks and towels for clean ones, a haircut, then back to the cell.
I duck this crush by taking my showers in the bakery. At night, I only go to exchange my linen. In the honor block, we are allowed to come out after count every Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday night to watch TV until , before we are locked up for the night. We recently got the rule changed so that, on TV nights, those in the honor block can type until It used to be that no typing was allowed after I am very pleased to be able to get in that extra typing time: I can write you more letters. On Thursday I go out of my cell after the count to attend the weekly lAC meetings. These meetings adjourn promptly at On Saturday mornings, my day off, I usually attend the meetings of the Gavel Club, but this past Saturday I was ln the middle of my last letter to you and I stole away to my cell.
I enjoyed it so much that I am tempted to put the Gavel Club down, but I hope that I don't because that's where I'm gaining some valuable experience and technique in public speaking. On the a. I enjoy the solitude. The only drawback is that I. There are quite a few guys here who write. Seems that 1ery convict wants to. Some of them have managed to sell a pi1:ce here and there. They have a writers' w:orkshop which llteets in the library under the wing of our librarian. I've never h.
Soul on Ice - BIRSS: Eldridge Cleaver and Soul on Ice - LibGuides at Roger Williams University
Mostly, I suppose, it's because the I nembers of the workshop are all white and sick when it mmes to color. They're not all sick, but they're not for real. They're fair-weather types, not even as lukewarm as good white liberals, and they conform to the Mississippi atmosphere prevalent here in Folsom. Blacks and whites do not fraternize 1ogether in comfort here.
Harry Golden's concept of vertical mtegration and horizontal segregation about covers it. The whites want to talk with you out on the yard or at work, standmg up, but they shun you when it comes to sitting down. For instance, when we line up for chow, the lines leading into the mess halls are integrated. But once inside the mess hall, blacks sit at tables by themselves and whites sit with themselves or with the Mexicans.
There's this one Jewish stud out ofNewYork who fell out of Frisco. He thinks he is another Lenny Bruce. In point of fact he is funny and very glib, and I dig rapping talking with him. He's a hype but is very down with the current scene. Says that he lived in North Beach and all that, and that he has this chick who writes him who is a member of the Du Bois Club in Frisco. Well, this cat is well read and we exchange reading material.
The Everoreen Review kills him. We communicate pretty well and I know that stud is not a racist, but he is a conformist-which in my book is worse, more dangerous, than an out-and-out foe. The other day we were talking about the Free Speech Movement. We were very hung up talking and then it was time for lunch. We got in line and continued our conversation. He was trying to convince me that the whole FSM was predicated on the writings of Paul Goodman, and that he had heard, with his own ears, Mario Savio say as much.
Then all of a sudden I noticed this cat grow leery and start looking all around. He made me nervous. I thought maybe someone was trying to sneak up on us with a knife or something. When he kept doing this, I asked him what the fuck was the matter with him. He turned real red and said that he "just remembered" that he had to talk to another fellow.
I dug right away what the kick was, so I said, "later," and he split. I'm used to such scenes, having a year heritage of learning to roll with that type of punch. I saw him in the mess hall looking very pushed out of shape. I had to laugh at him. I felt that he was probably thinking that if the whites put the blacks in the gas chambers they might grab him too if he was with me. That thought tickled me a little as I wat.
One of his points of indignation is that, he says, he will never forgive Israel for kidnapping and killing Eichmann, and he gets mad at me because I take Israel's side, just to keep the conversation alive. Too much agreement kills a chat. What really bugs him is when I say that there are many blacks who, if they were in the position, would do a little rounding up of the Eichmann types in America. He looked as if he expected or wanted me to hit him or something. I told him that te was good for nothing but to be somebody's jailhouse wife and he laughed, then launched into a Lenny Bruce-type tnonologue.
My own reaction is to have as little as possible to do with the whites. It's not that I'm dying to sit with him either, but there is a principle involved which cuts me deeply. Talk about hypocrisy: you should see the library. We are. Of the law books, we can only order books containing court opinion.
We can get any. District Courts, the Circuit Courts, and the U. But books of an explanatory nature are prohibited. Many convicts who do not have lawyers are forced to act in propria persona. They do all right. But it would be much easier if they could get books that showed them how properly to plead their cause, how to prepare their petitions and briefs.
This is a perpetual sore point with the Folsom Prison Bar Assodation, as we call ourselves. All of the novels one needs to read are unavailable, and the librarian won't let you send for them. I asked him once if he had read a certain book. Hernton's Sex and Racism in Americahe won't let you have. There is a book written by a New York judge which gives case histories of prostitutes. The authors explore why white prostitutes, some of them from the deepest South, had Negroes for pimps, and I wanted to reread it.
He is indifferent to the fact that it is a matter of life and death to me! I don't know how he justifies this because you can go over to the inmate canteen and buy all the prurient pot-boiling anti-literature that has ever been written. But everything that "is happening" today is verboten. You can have Reader's Diaest, but Playboy? I have long wanted to file suit in Federal Court for the right to receive Playboy magazine. Do you think Hugh Hefner would finance such an action? I think snme very nice ideas would be liberated. The library does have a selection of very solid material, things done from ten years ago all the way back to the Bible.
But it is unsatisfactory to a stud who is trying to function in the last half of the twentieth century. Killens, etc. Robert F. Williams' book, Negroes with Guns, is not allowed any more, I rdered it from the state library before it was too popular. I devoured it and let a few friends read it, before 1he librarian dug it and put it on the blacklist. Once I ordered I wo books from the inmate canteen with my own money. When they arrived here from the company, the librarian impounded them, placing them on my "property" the same as I hey did my notebooks.
I want to devote my time to reading and writing, with verything else secondary, but I can't do that in prison. I have to keep my eyes open at all times or I won't make it. There is always some madness going on, and whether you like it or not you're involved. There is no choice in the matter: you cannot sit arid wait for things to come to you.
So I engage in all kinds of petty intrigue which I've found necessary to survival. It consumes a lot of time and energy. But it is necessary. The skin all over my body tightened up. The distress was obvious in his voice. All they said was Malcolm X was shot and they were rushing him to the hospital. I felt his reassuring hand on my shoulder as he faded away in the darkness. For a moment I pondered whether to go outside and get more information, but. I remember distinctly thinking 1l1at I would know soon enough. On the screen before me, Viclnr Buono had a woman by the throat and was frantically chokmg the last gasping twitches of life out of her slumping body.
I w;ts thinking that if Malcolm's wounds were not too serious, I hat if he recovered, the shooting might prove to be a blessing disguise: it would focus more intensified attention on him. The possibility that the wounds may have been fatal, that. After the movie ended, as I filed outside in the long line. We mingled in the crowd of convicts milling around in the yard. I Ie's dead, their faces said, although not one of them spoke a word.
As we stood there in silence, two Negro inmates walked by and one of them said to us, "That's a goddam shame how they killed that man! Of all people, why'd they kill Malcolm? Why'n't they kill some of them Uncle-Tomming m. I wish I could get my hands on whoever did it. What does one say to his comrades at the moment when The Leader falls? All comment seems irrelevant. If the source of dea. But when the cause of death. One wants to strike out, to kill, crush, destroy, to deliver a telling counterblow, to inflict upon the enemy a reciprocal, equivalent loss.
Everything will be made manifest in time. Give it a little time. As-Salaam Aliakum. It is so popular that one sometimes grows weary of shaking hands. If a Muslim leaves a group for a minute to go get a drink of water, he is not unlikely to shake hands all around before he leaves and again when he returns. But no one complains and the convention is respected as a gesture of unity, brotherly love, and solidarity--so meaningful in a situation where Muslims are persecuted and denied recognition and the right to function as a legitimate religion.
I headed for my cell. I lived in No. Advantages: a larger cell, TV every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday night, less custodial supervision, easier ingress and egress. If while living in the Honor Unit you get into a "beef" which results in action against you by the disciplinary committee, one of the certain penalties is that you are immediately kicked out of No. As I walked along the first tier toward my cell, I ran into Red, who lived near me on the tier. The questions were advanced tentatively, cautiously, because of the treacherous ground he was on: a red-headed; blue-eyed white man concerned by an event which so many others greeted with smiles and sighs.
I went into my cell. Although I heard it blared over the radio constantly and tcad about it in all the newspapers, days passed during which my mind continued to reject the fact of Malcolm's death. From most of the whites there was a leer and a hint of a smile in the eyes. They seemed anxious to see a war break out between the followers of Elijah and the followers of Malcolm. There are only a few whites in Folsom with whom I would ever discuss the death of Malcolm or anything else besides baseball, or the weather.
Many of the Mexican-Americans were sympathetic, although some of them made a point, when being observed by whites, of letting drop sly remarks indicating they were glad Malcolm was gone. Among the Negroes. Nobody talked much for a few days. The only Negroes who were not indignant were a few of the Muslims who remained loyal to Elijah Muhammad. They interpreted Malcolm's assassination as the will of Allah descending upon his head for having gone astray. To them, it was Divine chastisement and a warning to those whom Malcolm had tempted.
It was not so much Malcolm's death that made them glad; but in their eyes it now st:emed possible to heal the schism in the movement and restore the monolithic unity of the Nation of Islam, a unity they looked back on with some nostalgia. Many Negro convicts saw Malcolm's assassination as a historic turning point in black America. Whereas Negroes often talk heatedly about wiping out all the so-called Negro leaders whom they do not happen to like or agree with, this was the first significant case of Negro leader-killing that anyone could remember.
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