Sunday, September 1, 2013

Michelle Alexander and Parable of Woman in the Box

The only way to end mass incarceration is with the general amnesty, brought about by mass protests that demand the release of the millions of prisoners who suffer drug addition as well as mental illness, plus most of them had no or poor legal representation at their trials. Alas, there are very few rich men in prison! The bankers guilty of money laundering billions of dollars in drug money merely paid a fine, equal to a week's money laundering  of Mexican drug money. 

Image the little brother doing ten years for a few rocks of cocaine! There is no justice in the justice system. Long live the California prison strikers who refuse to eat. Love live Comrade George Jackson.

We love you, Michelle Alexander and Angela Davis, Women out the box of Americana!
--Marvin X, Editor, Black Bird Press News & Review


For the past several years, I have spent virtually all my working hours writing about or speaking about the immorality, cruelty, racism, and insanity of our nation’s latest caste system: mass incarceration. On this Facebook page I have written and posted about little else. But as I pause today to reflect on the meaning and significance of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington , I realize that my focus has been too narrow.

Five years after the March, Dr. King was speaking out against the Vietnam War, condemning America ’s militarism and imperialism – famously stating that our nation was the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” He saw the connections between the wars we wage abroad, and the utter indifference we have for poor people, and people of color at home. He saw the necessity of openly critiquing an economic system that will fund war and will reward greed, hand over fist, but will not pay workers a living wage. Five years after the March on Washington , Dr. King was ignoring all those who told him to just stay in his lane, just stick to talking about civil rights.

Yet here I am decades later, staying in my lane. I have not been speaking publicly about the relationship between drones abroad and the War on Drugs at home. I have not been talking about the connections between the corrupt capitalism that bails out Wall Street bankers, moves jobs overseas, and forecloses on homes with zeal, all while private prisons yield high returns and expand operations into a new market: caging immigrants. I have not been connecting the dots between the NSA spying on millions of Americans, the labeling of mosques as “terrorist organizations,” and the spy programs of the 1960s and 70s – specifically the FBI and COINTELPRO programs that placed civil rights advocates under constant surveillance, infiltrated civil rights organizations, and assassinated racial justice leaders.

I have been staying in my lane. But no more. In my view, the most important lesson we can learn from Dr. King is not what he said at the March on Washington , but what he said and did after. In the years that followed, he did not play politics to see what crumbs a fundamentally corrupt system might toss to the beggars of justice. Instead he connected the dots and committed himself to building a movement that would shake the foundations of our economic and social order, so that the dream he preached in 1963 might one day be a reality for all. He said that nothing less than “a radical restructuring of society” could possibly ensure justice and dignity for all. He was right.

I am still committed to building a movement to end mass incarceration, but I will not do it with blinders on. If all we do is end mass incarceration, this movement will not have gone nearly far enough. A new system of racial and social control will be born again, all because we did not do what King demanded we do: connect the dots between poverty, racism, militarism and materialism. I’m getting out of my lane. I hope you’re already out of yours.

reprinted from

Parable of the Woman in the Box

There was a woman who lived inside a box. Her whole life had been spent inside the little box, squeezed in from all sides. She never went outside the box. People brought her food to eat but she ate it inside the four walls of the box.

She was cramped to the point of being crippled because she could never stand up inside the box. Not only her body but her brain and spirit were crippled from living inside the box.
Her thinking was confined to what she could imagine inside the box, and that was very little, no big grand thoughts, only micro imaginings.

Even her God was a little god, one that fit into the box. She could not envision her God outside and that her God ruled the whole world, not just her little world inside the box.

Now and then she would beat on the walls of her box in a vain attempt to break them down and escape. But whenever she did, someone would come by and whisper to her to be quiet, she was making noise and disturbing other people.

She would comply with their request, trying to be nice, since she really was a nice person, she just didn't know how to escape the box. And she had to be nice to the person who brought her food because they might not return if she got angry and loud, started screaming, hollering and foaming at the mouth.

Inside the box, she lived the life of a stunted woman, her mental growth stunted as well. She could not imagine the finer things of life, or how she might expand her spiritual development. She did not know how she might be able to fend for herself, make her own money for food and other things she needed, even if she stayed inside the box, but she really wanted to get out.
Somehow she gathered the energy to have a thought that went beyond the box, energy that would stop her from being a stunted woman, unable to stand tall and rise from her conditon inside the box.

She began to figure a way out, a way to free herself, mind, body and soul. She had to do some hard thinking but she was determinded to liberate herself. She saw nails in the walls and began to tinker with them, push them a little with her fingernails, then wiggled around and backed into one wall, then the other.

After a time, she could see a little break between the walls. She came up with a name for the nails that kept her down. One nail she called ignorance. She knocked and knocked until it loosened. Then she beat and pressured another nail in the box she called passivity. When she put counter pressure on that nail the box started shaking.

She tinkered with another nail she called lack of desire and will. Then she started talking to the walls, telling them to open up she was coming out. She even told her little God to give her a hand. Her little God gave her a hand.

Some people came by and seeing the walls shaking, tried to pound on the nails, but the woman commanded the nails to stop in their tracks and they did as she commanded. She continued her resistance until the walls of the box gave in and was able to gradually stand and eventually began to do a little dance.
--Marvin X

From Marvin X's The Wisdom of Plato Negro, parables/fables, Black Bird Press, 2012, Black Bird Press, Berkeley.
Marvin X is known variously as El Muhajir, Plato Negro, Rumi, Jeremiah. His outdoor classroom is at 14th and Broadway, downtown Oakland. Ishmael Reed says, "If you want to learn about motivation and inspiration, don't spend all that money going to workshops and seminars, just go stand at 14th and Broadway and watch Marvin X work. He's Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland!"

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