MAPS is excited to publish the newsletter: THE OPENING STATEMENT, largely composed of critical articles written by those currently imprisoned. Lacino Hamilton opens the first issue with an introduction to the goals and the framework of the publication (see below).
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The Opening Statement For THE OPENING STATEMENT
by Lacino Hamilton
We, the many of us from the inside and outside, black, white and red and yellow, of various political leanings, or not, as members of organizations and as individuals, recognize the need for reorientation and reorganization after concluding that the strategic and tactical shortcomings and defeats of the prison movement over the past several decades were the result of insufficient information/knowledge, and only secondarily by the repression of the movement to control people who are actually or potentially disruptive to the social order. For this reason, the generation of a new, sustained, conscious-building phase and movement must begin with the sharing of experiences, ideas, analyses, theory, opinions; and systematic attention to the internal forces that are the basis of change and development.
At this point the primary vehicle for sharing information/knowledge for building critical consciousness, educating that consciousness, and providing it with ideology and program for action is the printed word:
For the individual reading a newspaper or periodical is not only being exposed to a collection of facts and attitudes, he or she is undergoing a collective experience… part of a community of fellow readers who share the same experience… in this respect, a newspaper or periodical is an organizing device, one which shapes the collective consciousness of all its readers. It further creates a community among that readership, who are simultaneously exposed to the same experience its pages provide. So a newspaper or periodical functions as a continuous political process, one which organizes, propagates views and defines new directions, new problems and new solutions for its community of readers. A given publication must not only find a particular chord of interest among its readership to give it an audience in the first place, it should also create new levels of consciousness based upon is first entry into the reading community’s collective mind. Very often, whether a publication’s circulation expands, stays fixed or dies depends on its ability to understand correctly the consciousness of its readership, to respond to that consciousness and shape it further, and to anticipate the direction of the community’s consciousness as social, economic and political conditions change. Furthermore, a newspaper or periodical itself becomes an instrument of that change.
(From Robert Chrisman, “Forward,” Voices of a Black Nation: Political Journalism in the Harlem Renaissance, as. Theodore G. Vincent, Remparts Press, 1973, pgs 15-16.)
THE OPENING STATEMENT provides a framework to foster a broad and continuing dialogue among prisoners, their family and friends, abolitionists, social justice activists and all interested parties in order to find more effective ways to challenge the practice of caging people for part or all of their lives, and to promote social justice through education and dialogue.
The goal of THE OPENING STATEMENT is to assist in developing the critical analytical tools necessary to understand the system of imprisonment, our socialization to it, and to develop a sense of agency and capacity to interrupt imprisonment patterns. THE OPENING STATEMENT realizes that developing the critical and analytical tools necessary to begin the process of abolishing imprisonment is no simple feat. For this reason, we need resources so that we can understand how it operates at individual, cultural, and institutional levels, historically and in the present.
To that end, THE OPENING STATEMENT facilitates dialogue to help those on the inside and those on the outside make sense of and, hopefully, act more effectively against the pervasive idea, woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness, that imprisonment is natural and necessary – when it is not.
THE OPENING STATEMENT is the first step in making the connection between awareness and action, i.e., acquire a language to critically understand the tensions, contradictions, fears, doubts, hopes, and “deferred dreams” that are part and parcel of living in confinement. The first step is placing the experiences of prisoners in a larger socio-economic political framework. We must have a correct understanding of our social position before we can move to higher, more secure and effective, stages of action. The first step, but not the last.