*image credit, James P. Anderson (San Quentin, death row)
This is a letter to America from Tauheed Sadat, a member of 9971.
9971 is an abolitionist study group in the @studyabolition network at SCI Smithfield. It provides a space open to everyone in the prison population. We meet monthly and it is the largest of the study groups here. Our studies include Black feminist thought, Black radical thought, queer/trans liberation, indigenous struggles, disability justice, capitalism and the history of social justice movements.
Allow me to introduce myself because I’m not the monster you imagine and depict me to be. Despite not growing up around positive role models, I have become a man of strong character. And despite your many attempts to diminish me, I shine brightly — even from behind these walls. Just as Maya Angelou said: “Still, I rise.”
I have outmaneuvered the death you prepared for me and my community. From inside this coffin you made for me, I have learned how to love myself and others. The grave you dug for me has provided the rich soil from which sends of hope and liberation are now sprouting. You locked me down and I found freedom. Your call for law and order that has lead to the occupation of my neighborhood and the premature death of my loved ones. But I am not defeated. Still, I rise.
I am strong, tenacious and determined. I am loving, caring and compassionate. Despite the oppressions I endure, my spirit shines brightly. I am wholly human — not the 3/5 you measured. The injustice that characterizes so much of what you are and do, cannot kill my spirit.
You may have thought you know me. Your images and stories of who I am are lies. I cannot be found in rap sheets and docket sheets. I can not be found on television shows designed to trick the public into thinking they know what goes on behind these walls. I am the truth you’ve been running from. I am the fact that demolishes all fiction. I am the reality you fear. I am America, too.