In 1994 the RFC initiated its Prison Visit Program to enable the children and grandchildren of political prisoners to visit their incarcerated parents and grandparents. But it was under-capitalized, and we had to siphon funds from our regular granting to sustain it.
In the last issue of our newsletter I announced that the Attica Fund Prison Visit Program was in financial trouble and needed a $10,000 infusion. Two weeks ago I reported here that in response to my appeal a generous donor had stepped forward and offered to match dollar for dollar all contributions earmarked for the Attica Fund up to a total of $5,000.
After more than a decade there is finally some hope for the Cuban 5 - Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González who have been imprisoned since 1998. They were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage. Four were sentenced to life and one to 75 years. The 5 were agents of the Cuban government, but were not committing espionage against the United States. Instead, they were monitoring Cuban exiles in South Florida who were plotting terrorism against Cuba.
I was struck by a column I read in the Sept. 23 issue of The Nation. In it, Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, discusses her dissatisfaction with the narrowness of her focus on mass incarceration. In reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington she finds powerful inspiration in the fact that in the aftermath of that historic event, “Dr. King ignored all those who told him to stay in his lane, just stick to talking about civil rights.” Dr.
In my first blog as executive director of the RFC I reflected on Michelle Alexander’s commitment to “getting out of [her] lane” and broadening her focus from mass incarceration to the systems (racism, classism, militarization, etc.) that support and sustain the growth of the prison industrial complex.
Just about a year ago, we were starting our Family Gathering. Board members and staff shuttled attendees from the airport to the venue, others stocked up on snacks for late night conversations, and peer leaders (former beneficiaries in their mid to late 20s who had attended previous Gatherings) welcomed kids and teens to their groups and helped parents settle in. The 2014 Family Gathering was a fun, fabulous event that served an important purpose: building community among targeted activist parents and their school-age kids.