by Urszula Wislanka
San Francisco, Ca. – On March 25 the California Coalition for Women Prisoners celebrated International Women’s Month by featuring women fighting criminal injustice. The audience of about 100 heard Picola from the Third Eye Movement, which organized against the California anti-youth Prop. 21 initiative. She said that we have not seen a movement like this, led primarily by young women under 17, since the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. Picola said, “this movement is my home until I see a revolution come.” Despite the fact that Prop. 21 passed, she said youth are ready to start fighting, organizing, for example, a demonstration to oppose guards getting paid $50k while teachers get $30k.
We heard from other friends and family of incarcerated women and former prisoners themselves. The most moving was the appearance of Paula, the mother of Marcia Bunney, who told how her daughter kept expressing her love after going to prison through her handicrafts, displaying the stunning sweater she wore, which was knitted by Marcia. Cynthia Martin spoke about the hell-hole a prison can be for anyone needing medical attention. They all spoke about the importance of recognition that under prison conditions every act of kindness is a struggle. Charisse Shumate, who has been leading the fight against medical abuse in prison, sent a statement:
I Charisse Shumate must say first and foremost I give my deepest thanks to you for not closing your ears or eyes for our pleas for help with the CCWF medical department. Our fears grow as fast as weeds in a garden. We are forced to watch others suffer in pain begging for help. A lay-in is a mission impossible. Lifers are being denied by the Medical Review Board tests that a specialist has reccomended. Oh I could go on and on. As a soldier I’m wounded badly inside and out. My fellow peers wipe my tears and ask me not to give up. Just as I look with one eye at these gray bricks I know behind these walls I will die, but not ashamed. Just wounded and proud of the battle we fought.
Aya deLeon gave a stirring spoken words performance. Luis Talamantez spoke of the investigations into the recent Pelican Bay shootings and Judy Greenspan honored Bunny Knuckles, who died this past year, for her courageous fight on behalf of women prisoners with HIV/AIDS. Many in the audience said they were inspired by what they heard. Prisoners face directly the increasing brutality of the state. People were interested in prisoners’ ideas and perspectives on changing this whole society.
by Urszula Wislanka