A Sister in Harlem Speaks on Rikers Island, Genocide against Black People, and the Need to Rise Up

October 20, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us



This is a statement from a woman in Harlem, whose son is jailed at Rikers Island, the huge jail complex in NYC notorious for brutality against and solitary confinement of prisoners.

I go to Rikers to see my son and I am treated like a common criminal, I am talked to in the nastiest way and I am touched, cursed, degraded, when I go in there. And the stories my son tells me about how he is treated. I was on the phone with him and there was a guard—I reported it—she is saying to him, “Get off the fucking phone you maggot.” She is saying this to him while I am on the phone with him. But then he says, “Who are you talking to,” and all I hear is a bunch of commotion and my son don’t call me for three days, because they done put him in the box, because he said something to the guard. This is what they do, they put them there, they antagonize them to give them more charges, so they don’t come home. They throw them in the box [solitary confinement] so when they go before the judge they say, look at these people, they don’t know how to act.

My son is 21 now. How do you put somebody in a little cell for 23 hours a day, and some of these kids have never been away from home before, let alone jail. And to think that they gonna come out and act OK—I’m going to be so angry I won’t. They building all these jails but there’s no houses, giving nobody no jobs, they building them because they know they gonna get them when they are 12, 13 years old. Now you got a criminal record... then you go to Rikers Island. You going to get in trouble there because everybody in there angry. So you are going to get into more trouble there. This is not the answer for these kids...

It is the nastiest, dirtiest place in the entire world. I went there only because my son was there. My son was on the Boat [a barge used as a jail by NYC] and I had him transferred from the Boat. [They] took him to Rikers Island and put him in a house where all the Grant [a housing project in Harlem] kids were at. You put a Manhattanville [another Harlem project] kid in a house where all the Grant kids are, and you think my son is safe? How is my son safe? I just tried to get him transferred over and over again.

In Rikers Island he was in the box three times, for fighting. Couldn’t go to school because he had a fight, he was trying to go to school. He was in Rikers from June 4th 2014 and released this May, in the box three times. All this time waiting to get released. My son had a $70,000 bail. And all they had was three different things he said on Facebook. That’s all they had on my son, but they gave him a $70,000 bail. $70,000 cash and $140,000 bond. Who can afford that? They put Grant and Manhattanville together, this is what they are doing. I mean you are supposed to stop the violence. So how are you doing this?... They threaten them, so a lot of them feel safer in the box. They said the guards would watch them fight and not stop it. They would sit there and watch them. Some of them would intimidate them, or tell them, “I’ll give you another phone call if you do this.” I wasn’t there but these are the stories I heard....

These fucking pigs, they treat the kids worse than they do the adults. I mean it, I think they do. Some of them want to go to school, they don’t allow them to go to school. With the charges you have you can’t go to school. What the hell is that? One kid, he was graduating later in June (they got arrested June 4th.) And the mother begged the judge, to let him out for his graduation and the judge said $50,000 bail... If he was doing something he was still going to school he was graduating, but no they didn’t allow it. Another mother told the judge her son had sickle cell anemia and he actually told her he has a jail cell for her son to die in. He actually said that. Aren’t they supposed to be impartial?

Look they want to keep us down, they know that what they have to do is give us a criminal record. Once you got a criminal record it’s really hard to do a lot. Some people have—but you already Black, you a man, you come out and you get frustrated ‘cause you can’t get a job. Then you have to do something else. It’s a genocide, 20 years from now they not going to have many kids—the kids that can make kids at this age, they all picked up, they all locked up. I don’t understand it. I can’t understand it. I’ve never been prejudiced my entire life, I’ve looked at a person as a person, never as the color of their skin, but I see all the time, the cops come in the projects and call the kids “monkeys.” White cops. Why? I mean why would you call them monkeys? “Look at the monkeys sitting on the bench.” I want them to know somebody is watching.

I don’t like them, there are no good cops because if you see your partner doing something and you don’t speak up, if you see something wrong and you don’t do nothing about it, you are just as guilty. If you see your partner kill a person and they were unarmed and you don’t say nothing, you killed that person too. The judges, the mayor. They all take up for the cops, knowing they are wrong. They never do anything about it. I mean how do you kill a seven-year-old sitting on the couch and then you find he [the cop] didn’t do nothing wrong? You looking at the tape where they choke this man to death and you didn’t find that they did nothing wrong. What else is there to do? If you can look at that then what the fuck can we do? Cause you are looking at the evidence and still... And then they are not going to see [the people in the projects protesting] as a peaceful march. Things like that they don’t see, they are going to turn it around and say like “these outrageous people, they don’t know how to act.” That’s how they gonna see us. They are not going to see that people are tired, and that we cannot take it no more....

On Eric Garner... why are you waiting on an indictment? You don’t need to wait! He said he couldn’t breathe 100 times, they still choked him, the ambulance came, didn’t do shit, because it was a person messing with the cops—some ambulance drivers act like well that’s just a perp, we don’t got to do nothing for him. And you still don’t find nothing to convict. I’m sorry, I’m done... It’s two different laws, for them and for us. Like they say, the 1% and then the 99%... There’s never gonna be justice like this. Things have got to change.

I know this guy who used to be a cop with the 26th precinct, and he told me that when he first started they told him to go out and grab a Black kid, and when you grab two or three of them you gonna find something, grab them up for no reason. He was told that by his sergeant.

People out there say there’s no point, but I say if you think like that, and more people think like that, then hundred more, then nothing is going to get done. It takes one person to think different to make 1,000 think different. Why don’t you be that one person to think different, to say, “You know what, it ain’t working this way, let’s try this other way—let me stand up and say I’m not taking this shit no more. We tried doing nothing and nothing changes, so now let’s try all standing up together and let’s change this shit. Let’s change our thinking to stand together. Let’s change our thinking to say if we all stand together we can change things.”

And people say, “If we do this the cops are gonna come around harass us.” Yes, they gonna harass you but they gonna know that “I’m not gonna just stand still and let you do it. I’m gonna keep on fighting until you stop harassing me.” That’s what has to be done. They can’t make us act like ignorant people now. We standing together now and you can’t get through us. We standing together now, shoulder to shoulder and you all can’t get between us. We done played that game already, we were stupid to that game, but no, we done smartened up. We not dumb anymore, get smarter. You don’t have to like everyone but stand shoulder to shoulder. I told the other families, we need to go to Rikers and tell our kids enough of this bullshit, you are in here and they are going to try and play you, they are treating you like you are animals, and you need to stop this bullshit. We gotta raise all these kids, I fight for all the kids, I don’t care who is being harassed.

Let’s get all our kids and stand shoulder and shoulder and say we are not animals. We are human beings, we are not animals. They have us acting like animals—but we are not animals and we need to stop acting foolish, and fighting because that’s what they want. They do things, I’m telling you, they go in Grant and then they go in Manhattanville and then next thing you see the kids are fighting. I don’t know what they do, but I know they egg it on.

We have had enough, we are not standing for this anymore. We are not repeating this story anymore. We starting a new story now. They have to stand up and let people see them as individuals, as human beings, as children and not as monsters. Then more people will look and say what are they doing, these are kids, these are not animals. But we have to stand up and let them see this, let them see the human side of you. I’m a human being, a young man and a young woman, I have feelings, and I want to be loved, and not treated like this because of the color of my skin.

They have to stand up and do that and say that—and the more young people you get to do that, the more people who don’t know this learn this side of you. They already got the monster side but let’s show them the human side. They don’t put that in the paper. They never put nothing good in the paper. They have the right to walk around and be free, not in jail or incarcerated or be murdered by police officers, I have a right to not have that happen, and a lot of these youth don’t think that they do, they don’t believe that because they been stopped so many times, harassed so many times that they start to believe it themselves. They need to believe in themselves and we need to find out what’s going to make them believe in themselves. They need to think differently. You are no longer gonna be able to do what you want to do to me because I’m going to fight back. I’m not going to just sit here and take whatever you decide to give me, because I am human, I deserve respect. You have to not only say it, you have to believe it and you have to move on it. You got to do something about it. It’s got to be more than words, it’s got to be actions. We been saying it for years and years and years, it’s nothing if we don’t act on it. I have for fight for what I believe in and my rights, and I deserve a lot more. We built this country, on the backs of our ancestors, and I believe we deserve a lot more. My ancestors were slaves but I’m not one.

To families of the stolen lives, I think about it so sad and emotional, I can’t begin to imagine losing a child. My niece was killed a few years ago, she wasn’t my daughter but I raised her. But it cut so deep... I take my hat off to them, I mean whatever I can do, to bring some type of justice to them, I’ll stand with them, and talk about it with them, we got to rally, march whatever we got to do, I’ll do it. I mean if they can do it, then there’s no reason everyone else can’t do that. If they get out there then we got to walk right with them. Right beside them. It’s all our children. Don’t we want a better world for our children, so our kids don’t have to walk down the street thinking I’m going to be criminalized or demoralized because I’m a Black man? Wouldn’t you want to do something for them? I have six grandsons and do not want to see them go through what my sons went through, what my brother went through. I’m standing here because I’m a mother of Black children. I’m going to go out with you all here and talk to these youth so on Saturday [October 24th] this starts.



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