The Holiday Blues

The Holiday Blues

by @pixlatedparadox

Christmas in Chicago is a feast for the eyes. The streets are ablaze with whimsical lighting arrangements and festive decor. The faint smell of cinnamon and hot cocoa wafts through the air. The citizens are excited and air is electric.

But that's only half of the story.

Head a bit west of this carefully decorated downtown and you are in a remarkably different scenario. In these parts, the streets bear no holiday charm. I spotted about two or three light up Santas. There are wide boulevards and long stretches of road with the remnants of concentrated industrial development. It basks in impoverishment and violent crime spanning decades. This area is known as Chicago’s Far West Side.


  Photo by  Kent Henderson  on  Unsplash

It was the weekend before Christmas and I was just north of downtown taking a break from my nightly route driving for Lyft. Getting back online I received a request from Target going into the North Lawndale area, one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in the area. (You don’t know where a passenger is going until picking them up.) I dropped off the passenger with no issues, but immediately received another request just blocks away.

People in these neighborhoods use ridesharing services as often as the rest of the city, but not many drivers are willing to risk picking up passengers in the area due to discrimination, fear and/or economics.

As a driver, I’ve heard stories of other drivers getting car-jacked or passengers being aggressive and so declining the ride may have been in my best interest, but I am a curious person and I like to help people when I can. In wanting to stand out, I proceeded to the ride request turning the music down and keeping my eyes peeled.

I pulled up to a laundromat which had a gated parking lot. Three people approached me with six huge bags of clothing. It was a man, a young lady and an older woman. I was ready to drive off at any moment, but they seemed friendly enough. I still stayed in my car, keeping a lookout on my surroundings. I couldn’t keep from feeling like I was in some stakeout. My body was tense.

The man said out loud, but not to anyone in particular, “You know if this was an Uber they would have helped you with your bags.”

I looked in the rear-view mirror to see if he was talking to me. He was, and he was smiling. I made a nervous laugh and he went back into the laundromat. I thought he was going to be joining us, but he didn't.

The two women got into the car and we drove off but not before bickering over who should sit in the front seat (the back seat and trunk was full of bags.) Eventually the older woman decided to sit up front. She said, “Alright, we’re ready” and we drove off.

I’m guessing that the older woman was somewhere around her late 60s to early 70s and she was friendly; immediately telling me about her day which included getting up at six am to get her family to and from their jobs, making food, running various errands and, of course, doing the laundry. As we were driving along the boulevard the woman pointed out that the neighborhood was very much a food swamp with it’s lack of groceries and abundance of gas stations, liquor stores and fast food options. I asked if the liquor stores carried apples and she laughed, “You mean apple flavored liquor? Yeah!”

Arriving at our destination at around 11:30 pm, I pulled over to drop them off. The home was modestly sized and two stories tall, with plenty of space around it on either side. There were no Christmas lights in sight. I decided to help unload the bags, but not before scanning the area around me numerous times. I also made sure to take the key with me when, shoved into my pocket, in case anyone had any ideas about jumping in.

Out of the front door came four or five of their family members, older, younger, even a child; all helping to bring in the bags. The scene caused me to pause, thinking of my own family: my mother my grandmother, aunt, brother, and cousin...

I am first-generation born into this country. My mother is from Panama and my dad is from Mexico. My grandmother came to America with two young girls and through perseverance came to raise a family that now spans from northern California to Las Vegas, and some in New York.

But I grew up in the suburbs in a small town called Livermore, California. My mother remarried to an Air Force mechanic while serving in the Air Force herself. It's because of that I can read and write English, and why I have been privileged to a life removed from near-constant struggle.

I've never been forced to live in a small home with my entire family. To be ready to help each other even at any hour of the day. As an outsider to this city, witnessing this family in front of me, working hard every day, the grandmother pulling out all she can for the young, everyone working while the rest of the city seemed to celebrate in ignorance or neglect was something that I was in complete awe of.

The bags were all out of the car, my job was done, but I was still lost in thought when the older woman looked back at me and instructed me get out and waved her hand away forcefully saying, "Get out of here!" I snapped out of my fog and followed her command.

Starting up the car I drove off, constantly scanning my surroundings. There brightest lights in the neighborhood came from a police car speeding around the corner.

Header photo by Christian DeKnock on Unsplash

Follow: @pixlatedparadox

Recent Pew Research Study: Republicans increasingly say colleges have negative impact on U.S., and more

A recent study by the Pew Research Center has produced some interesting and, arguably, not surprising results on a variety of topics. I suppose it's just been finally quanitified to show that we have scientific data to justify it. One of the most prominent being the effect of colleges/universities on the country:

A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45% last year. By contrast, most Democrats and Democratic leaners (72%) say colleges and universities have a positive effect, which is little changed from recent years.

Furthermore, the study also looks into the perspectives of the media, views of the impact of banks, unions, and other financial institutions; and religion.

Check out the full results of the study and charts at the Pew Research Center.

Beneath Dramatic G20 Clashes, a Deep Demand for a Better World

Tens of thousands descend on Hamburg, challenging policies put forth by Trump-type nationalists and Europe's neoliberals elites

byJessica Corbett, staff writer

For live tweets, pictures, and and interview regarding the July 2017 G20, pleasure check out this article at the Common Dreams site

German police sprayed protestors with water cannons during the 'Welcome to Hell' march on July 6, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty)

With the focus on dramatic images of German riot police using tear gas and high-powered water cannons to disperse G20 protesters in Hamburg on Thursday, the message from those demonstrating in the streets was clear for those willing to listen: a better world is possible.

As world leaders arrived and with as many as 100,000 protesters expected, German officials have been steadily criticized for the intense security measures at the G20 Summit, which officially begins Friday.

Ahead of this week's mass demonstrations, the NoG20 International Coordination said in a statement: "The politics of neoliberalism and war is decided in the heart of our cities, closed off to citizens, protected by a militarized police force and backed up by the suspension of political rights. This shutting-down of democracy has one purpose only: to defend the indefensible. Our demonstrations speak for and of a different world."

In recent days, officials established a 15-square-mile no-protest zone around the airport and convention center, putting distance between world leaders and the thousands of people protesting the summit.

"It is very disturbing to know that some of the worst and most antidemocratic politicians will be coming to my city,"  George Letts, one of many Hamburg residents who have joined protesters who have traveled from across the globe for the demonstrations, told The Guardian. "A lot of people in the city want to show how democracy works as a sign to the Trumps, Erdoğans and Putins of the world. But the hard restrictions by the local politicians and police authorities make it difficult to demonstrate."

The BBC reports "clashes began when police charged a group of anti-capitalist demonstrators at the march attended by thousands carrying banners with slogans such as 'Welcome to hell' and 'Smash G20'. They fired water cannon and pepper spray at masked protesters, who hurled bottles, stones and flares at police."

Police told the Telegraph that violence ensued after protesters donning black face masks refused officers' requests to remove them. "G20: Welcome to Hell" is a slogan claimed by a group of anti-globalization activists—one of several groups that registered to demonstrate in Hamburg this week. Today's "Welcome to Hell" march was officially cancelled amid the clashes with law enforcement, but many remain in the streets. There have been reports of injuries among police forces and protesters, many of whom have attempted to flee demonstration areas following the violent encounters.

Despite today's clashes, more peaceful protests earlier this week highlighted demonstrators' urgent demands that G20 leaders reconsider their favored nationalist and neoliberal policies on war, immigration, environmental policy, and a slate of other issues.

On Wednesday, Hamburg saw a thousand "zombies" covered fully in grey clay, stumbling and crawling down the city's streets. These political zombies have popped up across the city in recent days, culminating in a march against "political apathy" and the "destructive impact of capitalism."

For those who look past the violent videos flashing across televisions screens around the world on Thursday, activists flooding Germany's streets offer complex and provocative challenges to how global superpowers enact policies and press their agendas.

"The world is in chaos. And Trump is a kind of symbol of that. But at the same time, there’s more energy than I’ve seen for a very long time behind the idea that we need to build something else, something very different." 
—Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now

"For anyone with the ambition of constructing a true democratic politics beyond borders, the best ideas aren’t likely to come out of the official G20 Summit but to be found on the streets of Hamburg," Lorenzo Marsili and Giuseppe Caccia wrote for Policy Critique. "Today's crisis of global governance also offers the chance to move beyond a system that never truly worked in the first place."

But as Srecko Horvat wrote for Al-Jazeera this week, as much as public demonstrations are "necessary in order to show the massive dissatisfaction with the current global system…. even if there are 150,000 people in the streets, this massive mobilization won't produce any concrete change." In Horvat's view, the global left must continue to offer positive solutions while also creating "a new Non-Aligned Movement, which would work towards implementing these constructive policies."

Discussing shared ambitions to overall global politics, Nick Dearden, of Global Justice Now, said on Democracy Now! Thursday: 

"We’re talking about how to build an alternative world. The background noise is the noise of activism. And everybody here is extremely thoughtful. We’re having many debates about the kind of world that we actually want to see, as opposed to the G20 world that’s been created, and really a very vibrant mood. Of course people are scared. I mean, people are scared about what’s happening in the world today. The world is in chaos. And Trump is a kind of symbol of that. But at the same time, there’s more energy than I’ve seen for a very long time behind the idea that we need to build something else, something very different."


By the Common Dreams Staff at:



By Lacino Hamilton

As activists fighting for racial equality encounter crises similar to crises activists experienced in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, being aware of those similarities can provide a framework for questioning today’s activism.

That awareness can catalyze desperately needed new approaches when inevitable problems of reaction, cooptation, insufficient knowledge and changing conditions occur. It can also fire the imagination of millions of Americans who, equipped with not just knowledge of existing facts, but also with, as Herbert Marcuse referred to it, knowledge of the “factors behind the facts” – a critical recognition revealing that “the established facts are the work of the historical practice of man” – can begin applying lessons from earlier eras to particular situations in the present by adopting tried and tested analyses and tactics as appropriate.

I’m not trying here to delineate a total program for activists or for their supporters. Rather, I merely want to argue that a once (and possibly still) widespread assumption was (and remains) incorrect. The belief that the removal of artificial racial barriers would or can result in the automatic integration of Blacks into all aspects of American life turned out to be wrong. Sixty-two years after Rosa Parks refused to obey Montgomery segregation laws on city buses, Blacks as a group still have not achieved full equality and cannot rely on the American government (re: law enforcement) for basic human treatment.

Too many Blacks have simply sought to enjoy the fruits of American society, but their quest cannot be satisfied within the framework of existing social, political and economic relations. Blacks find themselves stymied by obstacles of far greater magnitude than legal barriers of racial oppression. The problems are of course conditioned by slavery, Jim Crow, legalized segregation and de facto apartheid. Yet the problems have not vanished upon the formal demise of those identifiably racist institutions. Obstacles that are the result of the total society’s failure to meet not only the needs of Blacks, but that are also the consequence and symptom of the institutionalized failure to meet human needs generally, continue to reproduce severe racial (and racist) disparities. That process in turn helps maintain a system which makes it so human life reproduces itself in maimed and incarcerated (literally and figuratively) forms, living less fully and dying too painfully and frequently as frustrated antagonists of our species-being, to use the Marxian phrase.

What W.E.B. Du Bois called the “American Assumption,” referring to the prevalent idea that “wealth is mainly the result of its owner’s efforts and that any average worker can by thrift become a capitalist” – what we now might refer to as the celebrated “myth of meritocracy” – has likely buoyed that aforementioned assumption I am calling into question.

While the Civil Rights Movement is unfortunately reduced to a storied caricature of a struggle in popular memory, it in point of fact provides historical illustrations of the inherent shortcomings of an activism geared toward equal civil and human rights within an inherently un-civil and dehumanizing edifice.

Beyond the Burning House: Find Meaning in Translation  

The real history of the Civil Rights Movement also offers examples of how to begin transcending such shortcomings.

Not for nothing did Martin Luther King Jr. tell the legendary Harry Belafonte what troubled him was that “for all the steps” made “toward integration,” he had “come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house.”

Those insights were not King’s alone. The Civil Rights Movement did indeed try to transform from a protest movement (a phase Black Lives Matters and others appear to be stuck in) to a political movement. We can discern lessons from those efforts. For example, based on the experiences of those in the thick of organizing against racism several decades ago, it seems evident that eradicating racial oppression ultimately requires struggle against oppression in all its forms. That history helped clarify how and why coalitions among diverse peoples offer the most promising strategies for challenging oppression systematically.

The main direction of social activists today, though, has been to shrink from the dangerous implications of restructuring the American social and economic systems. Instead the focus has been on simpler, more comfortable ways out, like protesting for a video to be released, or for an arrest.

Protest can bring awareness to a problem that is being ignored or minimized. Provide people who are angry and frustrated an outlet to channel their energies and some worthwhile short-term goals can be accomplished. That’s fine. Perhaps even force a resignation every once in a while. That can be good too. But institutional patterns and practices will not change unless protesters go beyond rallying and marching and transcend what usually amounts to empty slogans. Activists cannot be victorious in bringing about racial equality in the absence of a radical change in the consciousness and needs of the people.

An important function of activists – or, that is, pivotal theory and action for those who have defensible and well-developed ideas about a more desirable society and similar ideas and intentions as regards realizing such a society – is to “translate” protest into organized action (i.e., a base for autonomous power that can serve as a catalyst for the attainment of self-determination). That organization should have the chance to develop and to transcend immediate needs and aspirations so as to move toward radical reconstruction of society.

The intensive indoctrination and pervasive nature of social inequality today calls for intensive counter-education and organization. The dismal and in many ways reprehensible present-day conditions entreat us to better understand where we have been in order to know where we are going and, for that matter, where we want and ought to go.

Learning the Pivotal Political Lessons Previously Taught

Bayard Rustin, who was a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr., and a lead organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, understood as well as anyone what this transformative education and action should involve. Rustin was one of the leading tacticians of the Civil Rights Movement. His most significant literary contribution, in my opinion, is a little known article, “FROM PROTEST TO POLITICS: The Future of the Civil Rights Movement,” published in Commentary magazine. In this visionary article Rustin provides a framework for looking at the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1964, and he explicates how that movement was evolving from a protest movement into a full-fledged social movement – an evolution the likes of which many activists are appropriately calling for today.

“In a highly industrialized, 20th-century civilization,” Rustin wrote, “we hit Jim Crow precisely where it was most anachronistic, dispensable, and vulnerable—in hotels, lunch counters, bus terminals, libraries, swimming pools, and the like.” But marches and protest did not “impede the flow of commerce in the broadest sense,” he acknowledged; they did just the opposite.

Direct-action tactics (e.g. sit-ins, freedom rides) helped bring down the legal foundations of white supremacy in America. However, Rustin recognized that in desegregating public accommodations, “Blacks affected institutions which were relatively peripheral both to the American socioeconomic order and to the fundamental conditions of life of Black people.”

The material conditions of Blacks in America did not fundamentally change.

The basic relations of Black subordination has been remarkably resistant to protest and surprisingly resilient in terms of taking on new, partially concealed forms (e.g. the disproportionate caging en masse of people of color in the supposed age of colorblindness). That’s in part because racial oppression cannot be understood in individual terms alone. It’s not just a matter of so-called bad people doing bad things. It is instead a fusion of institutional and systematic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry and social prejudice interacting within a complex web of relationships and structures that shade most aspects of life.

Not long after the first flush of sit-ins, several developments took place that complicated the Civil Rights Movement. One was the shifting focus of the movement in the South, symbolized by the founding of the Alabama based Lowness County Freedom Organization (the original Black Panther Party). The organizing called for building independent Black institutions or power bases. Another was the spread of the movement from the South to the North and West where Black people were engaging in insurrection in hundreds of cities. The third, common to the other two, was the expansion of the movement’s base in Black communities where revolt was always minutes away, reflecting a timing mechanism which no one had set but which could go off at a moment’s notice following some unpredictable set of events.

These shifts started to transform peripheral demands of desegregating public accommodations (reform) into wider expectations for social change (revolution). No longer were Blacks satisfied with integrating lunch counters. They began to seek advances in employment, housing, schooling, the elimination of police powers and so forth. The movement expanded its vision beyond race relations to economic and political relations. Or, in the words of Civil Rights giant Ella Baker, “the struggle is bigger than eating a hamburger at a white counter.” Indeed.


Revolution’s Necessary Requirement: A Structural Critique

Of the many valuable analyses of the Civil Rights Movement, one of the more important was understanding the need to examine issues of white supremacy, domination and exploitation from the perspective of structural (as opposed to solely individual) factors that maintain oppressive economic and social relations.


As an aside, I would advise as Rustin did those who think that self-help is instead the answer to familiarize themselves with the long history of such efforts in the Black community, “and to consider why so many foundered on the shoals of ghetto life." To be clear, don’t disregard the legacy of Black collective self-organization nor the extensive, if often ignored history of cooperative economics produced by people of color in the US and beyond. More recently, many Blacks released from prison, faced with barriers to employment that keep some 60 percent of formerly incarcerated people without wages a year after their release, have after all been recuperating that history by successfully forming worker co-ops and advancing the solidarity economy. But don’t de-emphasize the extensive structural forces which have historically crushed and marginalized such alternative practices, especially when those people creating alternatives mistakenly view their actions as compatible with the continued operation of the same established institutions seeking their marginalization and often demise.


What should be remembered is that an action-focused structural perspective provided those in the Civil Rights Movement a dangerous analysis. It was dangerous because it created the possibility of Blacks and whites uniting on the issue of class exploitation. That is, such an analysis foregrounded the need to expose and critique normative assumptions that conflate democracy with capitalism. It stressed examination of the role of capitalism and its bedrock institutions and ideologies in suppressing the exploration of alternative economic and social arrangements.


This sort of analysis did not escape a large portion of the movement. King, for instance, had grasped it and had started to publicly share this perspective.  

At Dean Francis Sayre’s invitation, King delivered his last Sunday morning sermon, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, on March 31, 1968. As King stood in the pulpit, paused, looked out into the congregation, and began to speak, his words acknowledged the need to move from protest to politics: “There can be no gainsaying of the fact that a great revolution is taking place in the world today.” An observation he followed by stating, “It is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of white Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle—the disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic.”

King and others began asking dangerous questions, like, in whose interests did the prevailing systems of domination and exploitation operate? Asking who benefits and who pays for the prevailing practices helped to expose hierarchal relationships as well as hidden advantages and penalties embedded in a purportedly fair and neutral system. Whites were locking Blacks out of positions that would allow their collective, rather than token, economic and social advancement. Marching and protesting alone was clearly not going to change that.

Hundreds of thousands of people participated in organizing of one kind or another in hundreds of cities throughout America. What began as a protest movement was being challenged to transform itself into a political movement. “Black Power” was the new slogan—an expression of distrust of any “progress” given or conceded by whites, a rejection of paternalism.

King, though still respected, was being replaced by new heroes – like Huey P. Newton and George L. Jackson, for instance – who understood the contours of the political struggle. The people became more and more concerned about problems untouched by Civil Rights laws (e.g., problems coming out of poverty). At issue, after all, was not civil rights, strictly speaking, but social and economic conditions. Or, in the words of Rustin, “the very decade which witnessed the decline of the legal Jim Crow,” also saw “the rise of de facto segregation in our most fundamental socioeconomic institutions.”

Rustin laid bare the situation. More Blacks were unemployed in 1964 than in 1954, and the unemployment gap between Blacks and whites had widened. The median income of Blacks during the same time had dropped. A higher percentage of Black workers were concentrated in jobs vulnerable to automation than was the case ten years previous. More Blacks attended de facto segregated schools in 1964 than in 1954 when the Supreme Court handed down its famous Brown vs Board of Education decision. And behind all that was the continuing growth of racial slums trapping Black in a milieu which, whatever its legal definition, sowed an “unimaginable demoralization.”


Lessons in Internal Problems and External Reaction

But the challenge that faced the Civil Rights Movement, the challenge which involved evolving from a protest movement into a full-fledged social movement, became hung up on two apparently contradictory lines of thought: the call for “intelligent moderation,” and the “strategy of shock.” The first was based on the premise that Blacks’ problems were so enormous and complicated that massive reforms required to eradicate them could not realistically be anticipated. Therefore, Blacks’ just demands were unrealistic and would only antagonize white people. Rustin’s quarrel with that line of thought was that it did not envision radical changes. Moderates “ignore (or perhaps see all too well) the potentialities inherent,” he wrote, in connecting Blacks’ “demands to broader pressures for radical revision of existing policies.” The admonition of moderation, was, for all practical purposes, admonition of the acceptance of the status quo.

Attempts were made to do with Blacks what had been historically done with whites: to lure a small number into the system with economic enticements. Soon there were more Black faces in government and board rooms, in newspaper and television, creating the impression of change, siphoning off into the mainstream a small but significant number of Black leaders. This amounted to a small amount of change and a lot of publicity. The system was working hard by the late 1960s and early 1970s to contain the frightening explosiveness of a growing revolutionary consciousness.

The second line of thought derived from the premise that there were no forces prepared to move toward radical structural changes. From that it was concluded that the only viable strategy was “shock”: Blacks could only change white hearts by traumatizing them with spectacular tales of racial violence and dreams permanently put on hold. But hearts were not relevant to ending Black suffering. Neither racial affinities nor racial hostilities are rooted there. Racial inequality has deeper – institutional – roots which ultimately mold collective sentiments. The struggle for racial equality was and is thus an essentially revolutionary struggle, whether it was or is widely recognized as such or not.

The term revolutionary, as I am using it, as Rustin and other social justice advocates used it before me, refers to the qualitative transformation of fundamental institutions more or less rapidly to the point where the social and economic structures those institutions comprise can no longer be said to be the same. The approach must be long-range and cooperative, and it must entail the understanding and good will of as many whites as Blacks in order to foster a broad and continuing dialogue among the many people who struggle to find more effective ways to challenge racial inequality.

Of course, that kind of revolutionary approach is not always well received by those at the helm of or by those reaping massive rewards from the institutions in question.


The case of Fred Hampton, for example, illustrates the reaction and repression which has historically been unleashed upon emergent social movements and upon their revolutionary protagonists. Hampton, who was chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, was renowned for his skill in facilitating broad-based coalitions of different groups of people. He had an uncanny ability, it seems, to cultivate within people a dangerous sensibility – the belief and feeling that they could individually assert their dignity by working together to transform the conditions that actively deprived them of their personal and collective dignity.


Hampton was just 21 when he was killed in his bed by Chicago police who raided his apartment on December 4, 1969. Evidence later surfaced the Federal Bureau of Investigation had conspired with the Chicago Police Department to assassinate him. He was one of the many targets of COINTELPRO, the covert and largely illegal FBI-driven campaign to surveil, harass and repress social movements of the 50s, 60s and early 70s.


From Is to Ought: People’s Autonomous Power as a Goal and Vehicle for Self-Determination

First, then, it should be clear that with protest or politics one of the crucial goals ought to be to negate the repressive powers of the state. Second, fundamental to abrogating racial inequality is the principle that we must build and employ independent political vehicles that are not bound to nor controlled by either of the two monopoly political parties or established institutions. And third, while the building of autonomous power outside of the realm of the state in the form of independent institutions is primary, civil rights experiences and the summation of the experiences of others in general teaches that ignoring the power of the state is dangerous.

Marching and protest must lead to structural change if people are to redress inequality in America and rid America of the ideology enabling that inequality to persist, if in mutating forms, with frequently widespread support. The law cannot do this. The people must do it for themselves. They must become revolutionaries and refuse to accept the old, traditional roles of protesting for a few superficial concessions that keep in place the structures and systems that make racial inequality possible.

In organizing along these lines marches and protests are more likely to transform into the material base needed to build programs (e.g., critical literacy, media literacy, political theory, political economy, human rights advocacy), and more likely to support and lead to radical reconstruction of society. It is this legacy, the challenge and attempts to transform protest into vehicles of self-determination and into the autonomous political authority of oppressed people, which the struggle for racial equality is grounded in. It is a legacy I encourage today’s activist to study to help guide collective practice in the present and to build a better future.

Lacino Hamilton can be reached for a larger discussion on this and related topics at: Lacino Hamilton #247310, Chippewa Correctional Facility, 4269 West M-80, Kincheloe, MI 49784. He can be reached by email through Lacino, who has been incarcerated since 1994, spent four of his first six years behind bars in solitary confinement. During that time he started to read, think critically and distinguish between expressing a desire to change and demonstrating the ability to achieve it.




By Lacino Hamilton

When one of my cellmates looked over my shoulder and saw the title of this article, he freaked out. “What is a preface?” “Are you really going to kill yourself?” “Don’t do it, you like the strongest person I know!” His concern was making me nervous.

After I calmed him down a bit, I began to explain what I was writing and why. I shared with him that a “preface” is a preliminary statement, usually in a book, penned by the author or editor setting forth the book’s purpose. In this instance, the purpose of my letter was written in “preface” form to the Michigan parole board.

I emphatically assured my cellmate I had no plans to kill myself. Then I detailed for him how detective James Fleming and serial witness Oliver Cowan already had.

I pointed out how “suicide” is not just the intentional taking of one’s own life. It is also the destruction of one’s own interests or prospects, and that’s what makes my letter to the parole board a “suicide letter.”

There is an unwritten, but very well-known Michigan parole board policy, which states that if a prisoner does not accept responsibility for the crime he or she has been convicted of, the parole board will deny parole. It doesn’t matter if the prisoner has served decades, like I have, or if the prisoner has an exemplary prison record. The parole hearing will end the second he or she asserts innocence. And since I will never take responsibility for a crime I’m 100% innocent of, it “kills” my prospect of being granted a parole.

Truth is, if a prisoner admits to committing the crime they were convicted of or not the parole hearing will last no longer than five minutes, most of which will be spent with the interviewer thumbing through the interviewee’s file grunting and sighing. I mean it’s no stretch of the imagination to assume that prior to a parole hearing a decision has already been made to deny or grant parole.

Still, giving the parole board the benefit of the doubt (something it never gives prisoners), let’s assume the parole board can be persuaded to grant parole. Is five minutes enough time to demonstrate that a mistake has happened, and I should be released immediately?

Is five minutes enough time to explain that there was no justifiable reason to arrest me, that there was no physical evidence linking me to the crime? Is five minutes enough time to explain that after being arrested and placed in an isolation cell for five days detectives never asked me one question (a practice so unusual, dozens of law enforcement agents said “it never happens”)? Is five minutes enough time to explain that the entire case hinged on the testimony of a jailhouse witness – a man I did not know from Adam? Not only did the jailhouse witness allege that I stopped him while he was sweeping a floor and just confessed to him. Records prove his timeline of events did not happen. Records prove that this serial witness testified in numerous cases where he alleges to have received unsolicited confessions.

Is five minutes enough time to explain that professional witness Cowan testified I confessed to him three or four days after arrest, even though records prove he was with detective Fleming hours after I was arrested signing a statement? Is it enough time to explain that three witnesses have come forward, one who knows the real perpetrator, one who was present when detective Fleming gave Cowan a pre-written statement to rehearse and say I confessed, and one who admits detective Fleming tried to pressure him to give false testimony?

Is five minutes enough time to ask for the opportunity to show the parole board a recently discovered memorandum from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office admitting that Cowan was part of a small cadre of jailhouse witnesses suspected of fabricating testimony in exchange for illegal favors and deals?

Is five minutes enough time to explain that according to Northwestern Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, 45.9 percent of documented wrongful convictions have been traced to false informant testimony? Making jailhouse informants one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions.

Of course five minutes isn’t enough time to explain one, let alone all of these critical factors.

As July of 2017, I will have been incarcerated 23 years. The parole board seems to want a pound of flesh, to hear me say uncle. The board does not seem concerned with using its power to right an obvious wrong.

I was just informed by facility staff, seconds before writing this letter, that the parole board is not interested in interviewing me. Seeing I was sentenced 52 to 80 years, the parole board does not have to meet with me for another 29 years, when 52 years are up.

I’m still sending this letter to the parole board. Changing this letter will make little difference seeing that any letter where I lie and accept responsibility for a crime I didn’t commit and did not have knowledge of, is, in effect, a suicide letter.



Lacino Hamilton


Lacino Hamilton can be reached for a larger discussion on this and related topics at: Lacino Hamilton #247310, Chippewa Correctional Facility, 4269 West M-80, Kincheloe, MI 49784. He can be reached by email through Lacino, who has been incarcerated since 1994, spent four of his first six years behind bars in solitary confinement. During that time he started to read, think critically and distinguish between expressing a desire to change and demonstrating the ability to achieve it.


Retracing Historical Missteps and Reworking Revolutionary Strategy

Retracing Historical Missteps and Reworking Revolutionary Strategy

An historical misstep of the vanguard – referring simply, in this case, to those most active in and conscious of social struggles – has been to pass off tactics as solutions. Historically, we’ve engaged in actions that may not solve the larger problem. If what is struggled for is accomplished, however, we can sometimes put ourselves in a better position to continue the fight.


The examples are endless.


Should we have fought for access to the voting booth? Stokely Carmichael was asked during an interview why he fought so fiercely for Blacks’ “right” to vote. He had been arrested 38 times fighting for that “right,” but he never once tried to vote himself. Carmichael explained how many members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee did not believe acquiring the franchise would fundamentally change Black people’s lives. However, SNNC members did believe that as long as Blacks were denied access to the vote, they would believe the power to change their lives lied within it.

Fighting for the right to vote had two tactical advantages: 1) Militants wanted to prove they could make white people do something they did not want to do, in order to prove the power of the people; and 2) They knew that once people received the vote it would not change their material conditions and assumed they would be more susceptible to revolutionary (as opposed to reformist) actions.

Atrium Press & Manufacturing Consent

Mainstream media prohibits legitimate room for alternative perspectives and discussions that challenge capitalist status quo and productive dialogue on social justice and societal change. They will try to produce credibility by explicitly repeating slogans to appear as “Your trusted news source” and “fair and balanced.” Yet implicitly they mean “As long as our notions lie within it.”

Their interests are their bottom line. We must never forget that they are corporations and conglomerates who have a legal obligation to their stockholders to chase profits; making more money from entertainment and sensationalism than investigative journalism revealing corruption and oppression from the capitalist status quo. Recent examples of this “Corporate Journalism,” which again strives for profit and ratings rather than investigative and legitimate journalism, have been: The vast amount of free airtime for Trump during the 2016 election and the lack of substantive “debates” (it was all about ratings, amassing max viewers); Not immersing reporters at the front lines, let alone barely allotting any airtime, with Water Protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline protests; Overlooking the importance of Black Lives Matter and systemic racism; and essentially disregarding the disgusting surge of ICE deportations. These are only a few recent examples of what has become the corporate journalistic norm of prioritizing profit over their duty to inform.

Intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, co-wrote Manufacturing Consent in the late eighties. Their brilliant expose blew the whistle on corporate news, and argued that mass media’s primary role was not the creation of an informed public, but the manufacturing of public opinion in support of the status quo and corporate interests.

Watch the excellent graphic summarizing Manufacturing Consent, narrated by Amy Goodman, host of independent news outlet Democracy Now!

In order to strive genuinely towards social justice and liberation, we must turn to, and support, independent news which isn’t under the thumb of corporate interests. Instead, they strive for investigative journalism and giving social justice perspectives a voice in a society which refuses genuine critique in favor of profit.

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