Scott Sisters Update, New Articles: Gray-Haired Witnesses Plan Hunger Strike at DOJ / "No More Banquets!" by Dr. Lenore Daniels
The case of the Mississippi Scott Sisters, Jamie and Gladys who are now in their sixteenth year of an unjust and racist incarceration, is beginning to reach a wider audience and is inspiring bold actions in support of their struggle for freedom and justice, all the more urgent in light of the criminal medical neglect of Jamie Scott's end-stage kidney disease by the Mississippi Department of Corrections and particularly its head, Commissioner Christopher Epps, who is well aware of Jamie's deteriorating health and refuses to authorize her urgently-needed hospitalization.
Below are two articles sent out by the indefatigable Marpess Kupendua. The first deals with a planned hunger strike at the U.S. Department of Justice by a group of women elders--including Marpessa--which will take place on June 21, 2010. The second is another outstanding article written by Dr. Lenore Daniels, regular columnist for The Black Commentator, who wrote an earlier article which was re-published on this webzine almost a year ago.
Those who are interested in building support for the Hunger Strike and organizing further actions in support of justice for the Scott Sisters can contact folks involved in this struggle at the email addresses and/or phone numbers provided below, or myself (Paul) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Sent by Marpessa Kupendua:
Contacts: Ruby Sales / B.J. Janice Peak-Graham
1-706-323-0246 / 0247 - email@example.com
The Gray-Haired Witnesses for Justice are conducting a Hunger Strike at the Department of Justice Headquarters in Washington, DC on June 21, 2010.
We, who are three strikes removed from the center of the power structure of this country, want to raise the political consciousness of the nation while standing as the moral soul of the nation. We are Gray-Haired Witnesses who have struggled from time immemorial within the Black community. We are building towards a movement in history and we need all people of good will to be a part!
When Ida B. Wells stood up, she set in motion a resistance movement where many Americans broke their silence against lynching and said NO. She stood for a race of people bereft of political power or resources. More than 100 years later Gray-Haired Witnesses, Black women with a new Freedom Movement calling on this nation, stand in the spirit of those proud men and women who won hard-fought for victories in struggle and blood. We speak to the totality of the struggle of the Black woman who is debased regularly as uneducated, immoral, subhuman, whore, bad mother, and welfare queen. We also recognize the systemic racism that leads the police to even arrest the Black woman in the first place, the racism during sentencing, during incarceration, in dealing with social services, education, health discrimination, and beyond.
Over the last 20 years, the women’s population in US prisons has more than tripled. Most women are in prison as a result of drug selling, addiction, domestic violence and criminal acts mostly related to men. Too many are victimized by biased and negligent lawyers and judges. The evidence of oppression against Black and poor women significantly increased and continues to mount. Our Sisters are victimized, and subsequently our families, by enormous health care disparities, and emotional degradation through corporate media demonization of our image and place in our community. We now see a coalition of corporate, cultural and political wars fully embracing a White supremacist culture of domination and terrorism.
Our primary focus is the case of the Mississippi Scott Sisters, Jamie and Gladys, whose almost 16 yrs of unjust incarceration is a shocking revelation of the pure nothingness with which our lives are deemed in the eyes of this society and world, where such egregious travesties of justice are heaped upon our women with hate-filled arrogance and in plain view! In 1994, the State of Mississippi sentenced Jamie and Gladys Scott to consecutive double-life terms each for two counts of armed robbery they did not commit. They did not have prior criminal records, vigorously maintained their innocence, approximately $11 was said to have been netted, no one was harmed or injured and no weapon was ever recovered.
In January, 2010, Jamie Scott suffered failure of both kidneys. The combination of absymal health care under deplorable conditions has culminated in her steep decline to stage 5 (end stage) kidney disease. Jamie Scott has now effectively been sentenced to death. We must address this specific issue with urgency and demand that an Inspection and Observation Team be allowed into the Pearl, MS prison where Jamie Scott is being held for independent evaluation, as well as call on this government to free Jamie and Gladys Scott, wrongfully convicted and with no business being incarcerated in the first place! The case of the Scott Sisters is a horrific representation of the cases of countless other Black and poor women who have been denied the benefits of true justice and been incarcerated wrongly and in the process punishing, injuring and destroying Black families and children across the nation.
The Gray-Haired Witness are calling on all people of good will to fast and strike and resist with us across the nation on this day. The greatest asset we have is our body, mind and spirit and our willingness to step out of the daily flow of life and stand tall for what is right and just. In the tradition of race women throughout history and our survival, we declare our presence and we will not be silent and we are not afraid. Our lives have prepared us to come to this place, at this time.
STAND WITH US IN WASHINGTON, DC AND HELP TO BUILD THIS EVENT.
WE ASK THAT YOU STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH US:
1. Organize attendees to come to the event on June 21.
2. Sign your organization/club/church/mosque/temple, etc. on in solidarity with the event.
3. Put a statement in support on your website and link to our blogspot. Send a mailing to your email list and memberships.
4. Assist in distributing literature for this event to build it to the maximum level.
5. Assist in garnering press now and at the event.
6. Organize a local fast where you are and send a press release to local news outlets about the hunger strike and your local support efforts.
7. Dress and wear buttons in solidarity with us on that day.
8. Assist with donations towards expenses earmarked "Gray-Haired Witnesses" at http://www.spirithouseproject.org/donation.cfm.
We call on our Sisters, our Brothers to join with us to demand what is right. We must speak loudly and clearly to the devaluation of Black women's bodies and lives. We want people of all colors to wage a struggle and stand with us on these issues because none of us are free until we are all free.
SHAKEERAH ABDUL AL-SABUUR, Paralegal
FATIRAH AZIZ, ICFFMAJ, African American Freedom & Reconstruction League, Quba Institute
MAE JACKSON, Art without Walls
MARPESSA KUPENDUA, M'Backe House of Hope, Inc.
DEBRA D. NAPIER, PhD.
BJ JANICE PEAK-GRAHAM, OUR COMMON GROUND Communications, Inc., Progressive Alternative Talk Radio
RUBY NELL SALES, Founder and Co-Director of SpiritHouse project - Public theologian, educator and long time runner for justice
JAMIA SHEPHERD, Founder/President of S.O.P.E. - Support Our People's Efforts
The SpiritHouse Project
100 6th Street
Columbus, GA 31901
Thanks very much to the SF Bay View and Dr. Lenore Daniels for writing on the case of the Scott Sisters, we need as many people as possible to continue to write and spread the word of this travesty of justice!
The SF Bay View article is in their fantastic most recent newspaper dated May 2010, with lots of good information posted online at http://www.sfbayview.com. Dr. Daniels' article appears below from the May 6, Issue 374 edition of The Black Commentator.
Please help us continue to spread the word about the struggle for the freedom of Jamie and Gladys Scott, as well as the fight for the life of Jamie as she endures one horrific medical misstep after another. Join us in calling for Jamie to be hospitalized until she is completely free of infections, please visit the site at http://www.freethescottsisters.blogspot.com for details.
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No Banquets! Free Jamie and Gladys Scott!
Represent Our Resistance
By Dr. Lenore J. Daniels, PhD
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board
May 6, Issue 374
We, the Black masses, don't want these leaders who seek our support coming to us representing a certain political party. They must come to us today as Black Leaders representing the welfare of Black people. We won't follow any leader today who comes on the basis of political party. Both parties (Democrat and Republican) are controlled by the same people who have abused our rights, and who have deceived us with false promises every time an election rolls around.
Jamie Scott suffers from kidney disease. She receives inadequate medical care, but the Jackson County Branch of the NAACP in Mississippi last month (April) held a banquet, “NAACP: One Nation, One Dream,” to honor individuals and organizations for their outstanding service to the community. Christopher Epps, commissioner for the Mississippi Department of Corrections was recognized for his - work.
Epps (Black American) is the “longest serving commissioner in the history of the agency,” according to MDOC’s website. Appointed by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in 2002 and then reappointed by Gov. Haley Barbour in 2004, Epps must have done his work quite well.
Mrs. Evelyn (Rasco), Jamie’s mother, spoke to Epps in March of this year on behalf of her daughter. Jamie, she told him, is very ill; she needs serious medical care. Jamie and her sister Gladys were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to double life each for an $11 dollar robbery. The wallet re-appeared with the money. The accusers admitted to supplying false testimonies against the young women then. But its 15 years latter and now Jamie is ill.
Epps told Mrs. (Rasco) that he would do “everything in his power” and work to have the Scott sisters released from prison, according to legal analyst Nancy Lockhart. Now it seems that Epps isn’t so sure this is his work - securing medical care for Jamie or securing the release of Jamie and Gladys. Maybe Jamie isn’t so ill. Maybe she isn’t so truthful about her experiences with the prison’s medical personnel.
“I’ve talked with Jamie many times. I know Jamie. I can’t imagine Jamie would lie. I have never known Jamie to lie,” Lockhart told me.
No, I can’t imagine that any woman in the end-stage of kidney disease, receiving inadequate treatment, living in a cell with spiders and moldy walls would lie about her condition. No, not many could imagine a woman lying about the pain and bleeding of 4-5 caterers that had been placed in her neck or the bleeding from the caterer (placed in her groin) that fell out. No human being would imagine another would be lying while they suffer from a life-threatening disease.
But Epps seems to have doubts. Something is wrong with this story!
I agree. Something is strange about this story!
The Jackson County Branch rewards Christopher Epps for his outstanding community work! People have to be congratulated for their community work - in this post-racial era! That’s strange considering that surveillance teams are watching and recording a good many of them!
Immigrant communities, particularly Latino/as and Haitian communities, are working to organize resistance to the legalization of racial profiling and racial terror. Native Americans are working to organize resistance to the effort of the government to run bulldozers over their lands and their lives. Muslim communities are working to organize resistance to the targeting of their mosques and community organizations.
While community organizations, focusing on the fallout of war waged against Black Americans, organize to tackle housing, unemployment, gentrification of neighborhoods, and high infant mortality rates, the Black community isn’t organized to confront the U.S. Empire that perpetuates these conditions. On the contrary, mainstream Black organizations fear losing their credibility with Empire and, in turn, they fear losing economic and political support.
These organizations can’t identify themselves as critics of the U.S. Empire. So banquets - out of reach of Jamie, her sister, and their mother - are organized to do what? Honor whom? Collaborators, obedient servants - who are also intended to serve as symbols of Black success? Look at the number of Black Americans who can afford to attend the awards banquet! Look at the “exceptional,” outstanding professional Blacks honored for their work.
In the meantime, NAACP representatives aren’t knocking on Black residents’ doors to urge them to come out, stand together to engage in civil disobedience. The NAACP won’t organize troops of people from the communities of Red, Black, Brown, and Muslim to appear in Washington D.C. and demand an end to the laws and policies that have incarcerated 2.3 million Americans.
Be practical! How could we remain the NAACP without government funding?
But the question should be - how do members of the NAACP continue to tell themselves that its organization represents Black Americans, including the poor, imprisoned, and working class in the tradition of Black solidarity?
Do they know that the Black community is collapsing from without and well as from within? Or is the NAACP an organization that does what is safe for the NAACP to sustain its life. It’s safe to honor Epps, but it’s not safe to free the incarcerated like Jamie and Gladys.
When the NAACP planned a study on the effects of prison in the lives of juveniles, Nancy Lockhart approached the regional director about the Scott Sisters’ case. Lockhart was told that the Sisters “didn’t qualify” for the study, but he would refer their case to the “criminal division of the NAACP” and recommend that the division treat the case in the same manner they are treating the Troy Davis case! Lockhart: “How long was Troy Davis in prison before the NAACP responded to his wrongful conviction?” Other legal organizations did the work to free Davis long before the NAACP took note of his imprisonment.
Is it that Davis’ case like Mumia’s case has received international support and it is therefore safe enough for the NAACP?
As Michelle Alexander writes in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, “mass incarceration depends for its legitimacy on the widespread belief that all those who appear trapped at the bottom actively chose their fate.” No group believes this fallacy more than the Black middle class. While a few more Blacks per year are seated at banquet tables, oblivious to the day-to-day plight of Blackness in the U.S., there’s a steady increase of Black children and young people hurdled into the criminal justice system each year. Unfortunate environment! Wrong parents! The judgment of a divine mind! Jamie and Gladys Scott are just not - exceptional--they’re just common.
Overlook them! They can’t vote! They don’t count!
The system has regulated our relations with one another to its benefit and our detriment.
Consequently, we no longer, as a collective, heed Martin Luther King's warning that, to quote from Alexander, “racial justice requires the complete transformation of social institutions and dramatic restructuring of our economy, not superficial changes that can [be] purchased on the cheap.” Work that contributes to the continuation of U.S. Empire’s practice of aggression can’t transform or dramatically restructure the institutions that enslave the majority of humanity.
The horrors of Empire are more easily recognized when on display over there. But the horrors of U.S. Empire are here. Palestine is here. The West Bank and Gaza are here in the U.S. in the barrios, on the reservations, in urban communities, and in rural prisons. We don’t see it, but the War on Drugs and immigrant laws lock away Black and Brown people here. Unarmed young men are shot 20, 30, and 41 times for being Black while they hold a cell phone, or ride a subway, or attend a bachelor’s party. The re-settlement scheme, otherwise known as gentrification, forces people to sleep on park benches and in public library sitting rooms. Systemic unemployment and low wages create conditions of impoverishment for thousands of children here. Racial profiling and militarized borders and neighborhoods subject people to fear and shame. Here in the U.S., millions of people for whom the political and economic domestic policies resemble the foreign policies enforced over there, these conditions are too close for Americans to see.
It’s sad to see Black organizations lacking the will and desire to break free and work on behalf of those abused, tortured, imprisoned, killed by the Empire. It’s hard to see how such organizations can direct a movement that would bring about structural transformations in the U.S. Consequently, we can’t put the spotlight on the kind of work that only strengthens aggressive strategies, except to condemn that work as inhumane.
But we shouldn’t have to see Jamie die before we remember that the U.S. has never played fair with Black Americans. If we recall our ancestors, we’ll remember the meaning of work. Let Malcolm and King be pleased for a change!
Mrs. (Rasco) isn’t getting any younger. “She’s an elderly woman, and Gladys needs to be able to care for her sister,” Lockhart said.
Let’s give Jamie Scott the spotlight and honor her with compassion. Free Jamie and her sister Gladys!
Appeals Court Affirms that Mississippi Death Row Conditions are Unconstitutional http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/appeals-court-affirms-mississippi-death-row-conditions-are-unconstitutional
Civil Rights Lawyers and Mississippi Department of Corrections Agree to Overhaul Violent Supermax Unit http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/civil-rights-lawyers-and-mississippi-department-corrections-agree-overhaul-violent-
Mrs. Evelyn Rasco - firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Lockhart email@example.com or call 843 217 4649
Christopher B. Epps, Commissioner of the Mississippi Dept. of Corrections firstname.lastname@example.org (601) 359-5600
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has been a writer for over thirty years of commentary, resistance criticism and cultural theory, and short stories with a Marxist sensibility to the impact of cultural narrative violence and its antithesis, resistance narratives. With entrenched dedication to justice and equality, she has served as a coordinator of student and community resistance projects that encourage the Black Feminist idea of an equalitarian community and facilitator of student-teacher communities behind the walls of academia for the last twenty years. Dr. Daniels holds a PhD in Modern American Literatures, with a specialty in Cultural Theory (race, gender, class narratives) from Loyola University, Chicago.