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About the Author
Russell Maroon Shoatz is a founding member of the Black Unity Council, former member of the Black Panther Party, and soldier in the Black Liberation Army. He is currently incarcerated in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Quincy Saul writes columns for Capitalism Nature Socialism and the Africa Report and is a cofounder, a writer, and an organizer for Ecosocialist Horizons. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. Fred Ho is a jazz baritone saxophonist, composer, bandleader, playwright, writer, and social activist. His previous books include Diary of a Radical Cancer Warrior and Raw Extreme Manifesto, and he is a cofounder of Scientific Soul Sessions. He lives in New York City. Chuck D is a rapper, an author, and a producer. He helped create politically and socially conscious hip-hop music in the mid-1980s as the leader of Public Enemy. He lives in Ventura, California. Matt Meyer is an educator, an activist, an author, and an editor whose previous work includes Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from the Movements to Free U.S. Political Prisoners. He is a founder of the anti-imperialist collective Resistance in Brooklyn and served as national chair for both the War Resisters League and the Peace and Justice Studies Association. He lives in New York City. Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge is a South African politician and activist. A founding member of the Natal Organization of Women, she has worked as the Chairperson of the ANC Parliamentary Caucus, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Deputy Minister of Health, and Deputy Minister of Defence. She is currently the executive director of Embrace Dignity.
Read an Excerpt
Maroon the Implacable
The Collected Writings of Russell Maroon Shoatz
By Fred Ho, Quincy Saul
PM PressCopyright © 2013 PM Press
All rights reserved.
I Am Maroon! (1995)
The wild Maroons, impregnable and free,
Among the mountain-holds of liberty,
Sudden as lightning darted on their foe,
Seen like the flash, remembered like the blow.
Many have asked me why I call myself "Maroon." Most have never heard of a name like this but suspect that it has some meaning outside of a color associated with the dark reds. I had adopted the name Harun Abdul Ra'uf in 1972. In 1977, I escaped from the State Prison in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. I lived off the land for twenty-seven days while trying to evade scores of state police, prison personnel, FBI agents, and local police and volunteers. I had cause to reflect on and gain courage from all of the freedom fighters I'd read about and this did much to guide and reinforce my determination to succeed.
However, I was recaptured and on my return to prison, a friend mentioned that he had kept up with the search through the press. After a while he said, "They were chasing you like a maroon!" "Harun" (Ha-roon) sounds like "maroon" and he started calling me "Maroon." From that time on the nickname stuck.
I knew very little about the maroons at that time. I certainly did not know that their hundreds of years of struggle totally annihilate the commonly held view that our Afrikan ancestors (by and large) did not fight tenaciously, heroically, and brilliantly against their slave owners!
Historically, "maroon" came to be used as a generic term for slaves who became fugitives from their owners in North and South America and the Caribbean Islands. You have (what I consider) two types of maroons: "treaty maroons" and "fighting maroons." Treaty maroons are those who, after militarily defeating the Spanish in Mexico, the Dutch in Suriname (South America), and the British in Jamaica, succumbed to collaborating with their former enemies — similar to the way many later North American "reservation" Indian tribes did, such as those who helped kill Chief Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, or subsequently ran Geronimo to ground, who had fought against other Native Americans for either the French or British in their ongoing struggle to control the Americas.
The treaty maroons fell victim to their own lack of a comprehensive "pan-African" world-view, which caused them to settle for their own freedom from slavery, not recognizing that until all Africans were free, all remained in peril from those bent on subjugating them.
The "fighting maroons" were fugitive slaves "of iron will, nurtured in survival tactics; cruel, courageous, resourceful and scornful of danger." Fighting maroons began their struggles from the first years of landing in the Americas. They had established the "Republic of the Palmares" in northern Brazil as early as 1595. For two hundred or more years, fighting maroons used and perfected guerrilla warfare to defeat the best armies that the European powers could field against them.
Theirs was a struggle that was no less than heroic! They broke their shackles; took to the woods or swamps or mountains; found, took, or grew their own provisions while simultaneously fighting and defeating their former slave masters. The efforts of these men, women and children cannot be matched in world history. Their struggle was only eclipsed by that of revolutionary Haiti (1791-1804). There, the revolutionary slaves and their maroon allies had a clearer idea of how to consolidate and extend the gains they had won on the battlefield.
Among this group of illustrious fighters, a few names stand out for honorable mention:
The legendary "Granny Nanny" of eighteenth-century Jamaica is variously recognized as a female guerrilla leader, guerrilla spiritual leader (Obia or Obeah), a freedom fighter who has a town named in her honor in the maroons' "liberated territory." There may have been more than one Nanny (of note). At this time in Jamaica, Nanny is looked upon as a national hero.
Zumbi dos Palmares and his maroon community of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Brazil deserve special praise. The republic of the Palmares was forged and maintained for over a century by African slaves and their allies among the Indians and anti-colonial whites bent on having their freedom or death! From 1595 to 1659, through twenty-seven major wars with the Dutch and Portuguese colonialists, the maroons maintained their liberty. Against all odds, they never gave in, preferring death in battle or suicide to a life in slavery. To this day, November 20 is commemorated in Brazil to honor Zumbi dos Palmares.
The redoubtable Makandal of prerevolutionary Haiti is recognized as spending ten years of his maroon experience organizing an island-wide conspiracy, designed to free all of the island's slaves. Descending on the slave owners' plantations and towns, he held their lives and property in the balance while he recruited, organized, and trained a secret cadre for the planned uprising. He was betrayed before he could launch the revolt.
His efforts were not in vain. Two of those who followed, Jean-François and Biassou, carried their own, and other maroon communities into the front ranks of the Haitian revolution (1791-1804). Both of these fighters and their comrades were among the first leaders, even before Toussaint L'Ouverture, Dessalines, and Henri Christophe. They provided heroic and invaluable service to the Haitian people's determination to be free.
There were "fighting maroons" throughout South and Central America in countries like Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, and Brazil. For hundreds of years, they honed their fighting skills to the point where they were unbeatable on the battlefield!
It is certain that maroon communities existed in what is now the United States. However, most scholars either are unaware of them or feel that it's not worth mentioning. Herbert Aptheker is a rare exception with his American Negro Slave Revolts and a number of other writings on the subject. The "African-centric" scholars have been aware of this part of history and have produced some work on the subject, but not much has been circulated to date.
I had in the past gained inspiration from reading about the intrepid Native American fighters and their struggles and exploits against the people who were trying to take their land and oppress them in the early centuries of the European arrival. The lives of individuals like Mangas Coloradas, Victorio, Nana, Geronimo and the exploits of the Apache, Sioux, Modoc, and various other tribes gave guidance to my thinking. Their unbending efforts on behalf of their people always inspired me to dig down deeper within myself for strength and courage. I was also greatly encouraged, of course, by the sheer tenacity and bravery of Harriet Tubman while admiring all of those African slaves who revolted against slavery, whether it was Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Gabriel Prosser, Will the Executioner, or the lesser-known men and women. I was, however, duped by the Eurocentric-dominated sources of information (books, movies, TV, etc.) into thinking that the most tenacious fighters against early amerikkkan settlers and slave owners were non-Africans.
The maroons' accomplishments are unequaled in the historic annals of "slave" vs. "slave owners" whether among the Greeks, Persians, or even the great Spartacus-led rebellion against the Roman Empire. The maroons are alone in defeating their owners militarily before all parties sat down to sign treaties that allowed them to coexist in the same society as free individuals. Haiti, as mentioned, went a step further by totally suppressing or expelling the former slave owners from the society.
As I gradually began to learn about the maroons, I became inspired by these audacious fighters and the nickname "Maroon" became a badge of pride and a constant source of spiritual inspiration. I would later become sick at heart to learn of the shortcomings of a number of "treaty maroons." Their collaboration with their former owners and downright betrayal of other Africans were disgusting! My study of history also indicated similar betrayals experienced among their "comrades-in-arms" — the Apaches, Nez Percé, Sioux, and other Native American fighters. This does not excuse the "treaty maroons." It does, however, give one pause before dismissing the unbelievable "turnaround" without a thorough analysis, an attempt to learn the causes of this phenomenal turn of events between victorious slaves and beaten slave owners. These "treaties" enabled the enemy to gain through diplomacy far more than they could ever have hoped to gain through warfare. They lost the war, but won the peace. Nonetheless, the history of the maroons still remains glorious and heroic by any standard! It cannot be judged by the faults of those who were "tricked" out of the gains the fighters made over hundreds of years. Those were hundreds of years of liberty from slavery. No matter how painful it was to keep that liberty, it cannot equal the humiliation, degradation, and soul-killing experience of remaining enslaved.
Just as I still have profound respect for Geronimo, Victorio, Nana, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and the other tenacious fighters, and I do not hold against these fighters the short-sighted collaborationist betrayals by Cochise, Chief Joseph, or Little Big Man, I cannot apply any other standard to the maroons!
Rest easy, fighting maroons. There are many now and to come who will derive inspiration from your valorous examples — inspiration that will "arm their spirits" to fight the good fight ... till victory or death!!!CHAPTER 2
Message from a Death Camp (1997)
There is a war going on in America.
Normally we can't see it, because our enemies have laid down a heavy smokescreen to maneuver behind. Our enemies have become so skilled at these maneuvers that at times they even tell us about this war. Yet even then their deception is working to put us to sleep — all the better to attack us. They call it a "war on poverty," a "war on crime," a "war on drugs," or a "war on childhood disease," and tomorrow they will make up another deceptive title to maneuver behind. Hide they must, because our enemies fear the day when we wake up to the fact that hidden in all of this rhetoric is an impoverished spirit which is alienated from life, fearful of difference, greedy, and confused.
We are involved in a "cultural war" which has many fronts: political, economic, social, moral, and ethical. However, it's the ideas, behavior, and institutions of America — in their many forms — that are being fought over. If you do not recognize this fact, then your soul will be stolen by our enemy and used to fuel their machine. They are death-dealers and death-merchants, and they destroy anyone who threatens to slow down or expose their mindless accumulation of wealth, power, and control. It makes no difference whether you are the innocent, the young, or the elderly. If you cannot add to their accumulation of power, they will grind you to dust! Still more, they will vilify, mock, and otherwise distort who you are to the end of getting everyone on their side.
They will use their monstrous media apparatus and their agencies of government — soldiers in police uniforms, judges, and prisons — to help do the dirty deed. They will even use you against yourself or some other "target" if you're not constantly vigilant, watching for their maneuvers and tricks.
They are always maneuvering under the cover of a catchy slogan like "welfare to workfare," which really means "take them off our dole and put them in a hole." We were warned that the so-called "war on drugs" was really a nickname for a stepped up war on Black youth. The tens of thousands of young Blacks in the federal and state prisons show this was all too true!
There is virtually no end to the examples of this "real war" if we only just look! But we are bombarded by the enemy so often that most of us have become shell-shocked. For all too many of us, it's just a matter of survival on a day-to-day basis. If our enemy sets off a firecracker, we dive into our bunkers and wait until the "shelling" is over.
I cannot think of a better way to seal our own fate. Those of us who recognize that our enemy is trying to destroy our spirit of resistance, our spirit of life, and most of all our human soul, realize that we must resist, that we must get others to resist, and that we must destroy this culture of death.
I'm writing these words from a prison. Don't get bent out of shape about that, because I'm actually freer than many of you. I am no less community-minded, moral, or ethical. You see, everyone in prison ain't a "bad guy." In fact, you can be put in prison for refusing to be a bad guy — that is, refusing to go along with the real bad guys: the greedy billionaires, lying politicians, and visionless social workers.
I have a warning that I need to relay to you: I have to let you know that you have to get up out of your bunkers and do something about it before it gets worse. I'm being housed in a "death camp." I mean that literally. It's going to be hard for most of you to take that seriously enough, because of who I am and where I'm at and the fact that our enemy has laid down so much smoke about crime and prison that most of you are blinded.
Our enemy calls this place "State Correctional Institution at Greene," or "SCI Greene" for short. It's located in Greene County of Waynesburg, PA. That's so far from Philly that if you ride past it you end up in Morgantown, West Virginia, before you can find a new station on your car radio. I say that SCIG stands for "State Concentration and Internment Ground." That's because there is nothing resembling "correction" that goes on for most of these prisoners. Like the Nazi concentration camps, this is a death camp for sure!
Our Brother Mumia Abu-Jamal and over one hundred other men, who our enemy plans to kill, are locked up here as well. I am not under a court sentence of death. I have, however, been sentenced to "death by regulation." Our enemy calls it a "natural life" sentence. I've spent over twenty-five years in that condition.
The men in this prison are serving the full range of sentences and many of them will be released back into your communities someday, perhaps soon. Yet even they are under a sentence of death. They're under a sentence of "spiritual death."
The mission of the prison overseers is to break the spirits of these men. The point is not to break them of their bad habits and help them reform. No, the only objective here is to terrorize these prisoners so that they will carry the message throughout the prisons in this state: "if you're sent to Greene County, you ain't got nothing coming!"
That's what prisoners tell other prisoners.
I know that most of you are thinking that this sounds like a good "tough love" approach. That's because you're blinded by the smoke again. This prison has what is called a "control unit," and the enemy calls it the "restricted housing unit." It's the largest control unit in the state, with a capacity of 772 although there are about 386 here at present. This is where the breaking takes place. This is also where the court-ordered death sentences take place. I've been in this control unit for close to seven years and I was told that I will never be released.
A young prisoner who used to be a couple of cells away from me would get up every morning singing this song: "This must be hell, well, well, well" and would continue in this manner throughout the day. That's because in his bathroom-sized cell, he had nothing to occupy his twenty-three hour days but two Reader's Digests that he was allowed to order from the library once a week. He was further allowed to exercise in a "dog cage" for an hour five days per week and allowed to take three five-minute showers. The rest of the time was spent in that cell. Except for being outside of the cell for three plain meals, this is the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly routine for the majority of the men in the control unit.
Most of the men sentenced to death by the courts are qualified to watch TV or listen to radios. But, of course, if our enemies have their way this will only be "temporary." It is a good way to keep them from thinking about their fate and, for some, from working to beat the hangman.
But most others here are trapped in the twilight zone, in a life-and-death torture of nothingness that kills one's spirit and soul. The prisoners have twenty-three hours which they can in theory use to read, study and develop themselves — from a Reader's Digest or the other mindless books in the prison library. If you order or have books sent to you, they are stored away until you're released from the control unit. When your relatives come to visit you, you are separated from them by bulletproof glass and sit handcuffed to a waist belt for one hour.
When one cannot take this grind and refuses to follow one of the ever-changing set of petty rules, that prisoner will either be given more time in the control unit or be beaten by the guards. That is in addition to the "initiation beating" that most prisoners get as soon as they step in the door. Recently a prisoner named Henry Washington was beaten and had a guard's nightstick shoved up his rectum. New York is not the only place that this brutality happens! [Editors' note: This refers to the sodomizing of Abner Louima in 1997.]
Excerpted from Maroon the Implacable by Fred Ho, Quincy Saul. Copyright © 2013 PM Press. Excerpted by permission of PM Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword: To the Outer World from Within: The Ferocity to Be Free Chuck D xi
Introduction: The Revolutionary Maroon Quincy Saul 1
Prelude: Fire in the Hole!: Why Russell Maroon Shoatz Is Important to Creative Revolutionaries! Fred Ho 13
About These Writings: Author's Note Russell Maroon Shoatz (2012) 21
I Am Maroon! (1995) 29
Message from a Death Camp (1997) 37
Twenty-First-Century Political Prisoners: Real and Potential (2002) 43
Taxpayers and Prison: A Fool's Paradise (2011) 49
Death by Regulation: Pennsylvania Control Unit Abuses (1995) 55
The Black Liberation Struggle in Philadelphia (2006) 63
Black Fighting Formations: Their Strengths, Weaknesses, and Potentials (1994-1995) 79
The Dragon and the Hydra: A Historical Study of Organizational Methods (2006) 101
The Real Resistance to Slavery in North America (2005) 131
Liberation or Gangsterism: Freedom or Slavery (2006) 157
Respect Our Mothers: Stop Hating Women (2010) 191
Democracy, Matriarchy, Occupy Wall Street, and Food Security (2011) 215
The Question of Violence (2012) 227
Afterword: Let Us Not Rest Until Justice Is Done Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge Matt Meyer 271
Appendix 1 A Summary of the Case: Russell Maroon Shoatz: More Than Twenty Years in Solitary Confinement 279
Appendix 2 Manifesto for Scientific Soul Sessions 287
Appendix 3 Ecosocialist Horizons 291