(Photo: Ida B. Wells)
We Stand in wisdom and with courage as the moral consciousness of a Nation
In 1896, Ida B. Wells, the African American crusader for justice and defender of democracy, said these words, “One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.” Her proclamation was a rallying cry for the nation to stand up against lynching and the right of Black men and women to live and move freely with white vigilante groups desecrating and torturing our bodies. 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. Thousands of ordinary Black people joined with thousands of people of all races to stand with courage to fight for the rights and liberties that are inherent in the Constitution. On the other hand, other people worked relentlessly to move the nation backwards by building an America where only one race and their freedom and bodies mattered. Truth be told, people of color have always lived under the weight of a lockdown society that use laws, torture, and incarceration to attempt to hold us in our places. Like Ida Wells Barnett, we did not back down despite economic, political and social reprisals.
We stand on this history today. We stand before you as Gray-Haired Witnesses asking freedom-loving people of all colors who believe in the dream of Ida B. Wells, of a just, safe and open America for all peoples regardless of our different social locations to break the veil of silence and stand strong in a renewed spirit of moral consciousness for this country. 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. The jagged tears in the social and cultural infrastructure of Black and poor communities and families are unconscionable and unacceptable to us. We come ready to repair them. 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.
Who We Are
We come from a long line of women who refused to bend under the lash of chattel slavery from the time we were first dragged upon these shores until the 21st century slavery of today's prison industrial complex! We witnessed a people living under severe oppression, and with limited resources create the capacity to win without ever discharging the first shot. We were present and part of the crossover from Jim Crow laws into a better place and with some protection. Out of that experience, and of that wisdom, we cannot remain silent and insist on pressing forward for ourselves and our people. Our history and the whispers of ancestral pleadings will not allow us to not meet our obligations to raise up our voices calling for justice and restoration of our people. We are the elder women, the daughters of the American slave system, Jim Crow oppression and the American Freedom Movement. We are gray-haired witnesses who have struggled from time immemorial within the Black community. We who are three strikes removed from the center of the power structure of this country. Our lives have prepared us to come to this place, at this time.
Over the last 20 years, the women’s population in US prisons has more than tripled. They are our Sisters. 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 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. Since 80% of women in prison are Black women, all forms of media promote the idea that Black women are worse than other women. Most women are in prison as a result of drug selling, addiction, domestic violence and criminal acts mostly related to men. 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.
We want to raise the political consciousness of the nation while standing as the moral soul of the nation. We assume this posture because we are ‘bridgers’ and remnants. Many of us lived through segregation and worked to dismantle it through various movements for human dignity, equal rights and justice. We now see a coalition of corporate, cultural and political wars fully embracing a White supremacist culture of domination and terrorism. They use their power and resources to lock down-out and up people of color, especially Black people. They seek to weaken our defenses and power to resist by attacking the strongholds that carried us through enslavement, segregation, and Northern oppression. As part of this campaign they slander and dehumanize the entire Black community in the media and other public spaces.
This is perfectly illustrated by 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. Witnesses testified that they were coerced and threatened to lie on the Scott Sisters and their unbelievable convictions rest entirely on a combination of contradictory, coerced, and potentially perjured testimony by the victims and two other people charged with the crime who were offered lighter sentences for their cooperation. Even if the Scott Sisters were guilty of this crime, the sentence is absolutely unheard of and draconian, at best, and is cruel and unusual punishment without a doubt!
We call on our Sisters, our Brothers to join with us to demand what is right, to require that our government and people of goodwill climb aboard our open train to democracy. 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. .
We declare that we will act, do what we must, what is required to protect our community, our families and our children from systemic harm which results in their destruction. We will not be pressed down. We will witness from our rich history, in wisdom and with courage.
Immediate and Urgent Plan of Action
Sadly, there is truly a sense of urgency as in January, 2010, both of Jamie Scott's kidneys shut down and during her nightmarish roller-coaster ride of attempting to get competent and effective medical care has suffered so much maltreatment that she has quickly declined to stage 5 (end stage) kidney disease. Jamie Scott has now effectively been sentenced to death.
We must address this specific issue with urgency. It is now a matter of life or death for Jamie Scott. We cannot allow her to further endure inadequate and incompetent medical care which assures her death.
GRAY-HAIRED WITNESSES FAST FOR JUSTICE STRIKE –
JUNE 21, 2010
WE WILL BE FASTING FOR JUSTICE AT THE DEPT. OF JUSTICE IN WASHINGTON, DC DURING JUNETEENTH TO DEMAND FREEDOM FOR JAMIE AND GLADYS SCOTT!
We are demanding an Inspection and Observation Team be allowed into the Pearl, MS prison where Jamie Scott is being held. More information to come.
SHAKEERAH ABDUL AL-SABUUR, Paralegal
FATIRAH AZIZ, ICFFMAJ, African American Freedom & Reconstruction League, Quba Institute
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
JAMIA SHEPHERD, Founder/President of S.O.P.E. - Support Our People's Efforts
Please contact us at: 1-866-968-1188, Ext. 2
Please visit: http://freethescottsisters.blogspot.com/search/label/Case%20Summary for complete information on the horrific case of the Mississippi Scott Sisters and Jamie Scott's fight for life.
3/26/10 SCOTT SISTERS PRESS CONFERENCE/RALLY, MORE AT http://www.freethescottsisters.blogspot.com