Revolution #246, September 25, 2011

40th Anniversary of Attica—Remembering and Continuing the Struggle

September 9-13, 1971—Attica State Penitentiary in upstate New York: 1,200 prisoners dared to rise up and declare to the world, “We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten and driven as such.” Their heroic actions and the way they conducted themselves showed that people who had been condemned as the “worst of the worst” could rise above the muck and mire, and transform themselves in ways that pointed to the possibility of radical social change. On September 13 New York governor Nelson Rockefeller unleashed the state police who massacred 43 prisoners and guards and brutalized the prisoners who survived the hail of bullets.

This year, people around the country commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Attica Rebellion. A program in Los Angeles included people from the neighborhoods as well as others, from different walks of life and perspectives. On September 9, between 1,000 and 1,200 people gathered at the Riverside Church in Harlem for a program titled, “Attica is All of Us.” We received the following report about a march and rally in Harlem called for by Carl Dix and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network:

On September 13, 2011, a spirited procession of a dozen people went through the streets of Harlem carrying a banner with “Remember the ATTICA Rebellion! Fight Back!” and the BAsics quote 1:13, “No more generations of our youth…”

Chants of “Attica! Attica! Fight back!” pierced the daily routine, and especially older people who remember the Attica Rebellion welcomed the march. They recalled the courage of the prisoners with pride, and remembered the massacre carried out by the system with anger and bitterness. One brother in his 60s said, “It’s real good to see young people talkin’ ‘bout Attica! Attica!”

The commemoration started in a popular Harlem park where a lot of youth were getting out of school. On a “Wall of Outrage,” people wrote comments. One 16-year-old wrote, “I wish the prisoners would have gone further.” Another person wrote, “The system and its dogs are the beasts.” One brother who joined the march and rally, after hearing about it the day before, wrote, “To all the Brothers we’ve lost: You will never be forgotten. But you shall always be remembered!!!” He signed his comment “10 long years in Clinton Correctional Facility.”

The crowd, mainly high school students, watched a young step team do a routine in honor of the Attica Brothers. As feet stomped and hands clapped in complex rhythms, faces young and old lit up. Ekho, a young poet, read one of her poems about the weight of oppression in the lives of Black youth. Carl Dix introduced James “Doc” Benjamin, one of the Attica Brothers who had played an important role in the Attica Rebellion.

On this day we declared that the defiance and courage of the Attica Rebellion must be remembered, learned from, and taken further.

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond