Former political prisoner, prison abolitionist to highlight fundraiser
By Molly Johnson | IDS
Feb. 19, 2009
Boxcar Books and Community Center Inc. will be host to a fundraiser
at 7 p.m. Saturday for recently released political prisoner Ali
The event will feature two speakers, live acoustic music and
complimentary appetizers and desserts.
Abdullah will present his prison writings and discuss his experiences
of the past 20 years.
Released from prison this past August, Abdullah spent the last 19
years in Michigan prisons, convicted for his involvement in trying to
shut down a major Detroit drug dealer.
After becoming fed up with the Detroit police department's lack of
intervention, Abdullah and other community members decided to get
involved. Numerous neighborhood crimes were associated with the local
drug dealer, and Abdullah said the youth and elderly were afraid to
leave their homes.
The driving force that led Abdullah to take action was the sexual
molestation of an 11-year-old girl that occurred to clear what the
girl's mother owed for drugs.
Abdullah was later charged with assault and attempt to rob while
armed but said he believes he was arrested because of his political
beliefs and his possible associations with groups such as the Black
Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army and the Progressive Labor Party.
"I was imprisoned for my beliefs," Abdullah said, "the belief that we
have a right to determine our own destiny, have food, have health
care and have our children safe."
Because of his experiences behind bars, Abdullah now considers
himself a prison abolitionist.
"Life in prison was horrible, depressing, vicious and the officers
did not care about any of us," Abdullah said. "It doesn't do anything
but harden a person; it does not help."
Bryce Martin, a member of Decarcerate Monroe County, said Abdullah's
story drove him and other Decarcerate Monroe County members to
organize the event.
"Ever since we found out Ali was coming to town, we wanted to do
whatever support work we could for him," Martin said. "His story is
Also speaking at the fundraiser will be prison abolitionist,
community organizer and writer Anthony Rayson. Rayson is a resident
of Chicagoland and runs the Anarchist Black Cross Network and a zine
distro, a type of magazine, associated with the group. Rayson said in
a statement that he works closely with many prisoners, like Abdullah,
to publish their art and writing in his zines.
"I wanted to work with the most brilliant minds," Rayson said. "The
more I learned, and the further I looked into it, I saw that the most
brilliant minds were coming out of prisons."
The event is free, but those who attend are encouraged to make a
donation to help Abdullah overcome his hardships including medical
conditions that have resulted from his extended imprisonment.
Abdullah's writings, along with Rayson's zines and other forms of
prisoner artwork, will be available at the event.
"People should be incredibly impressed by the artistic ability that
is pouring out of the prisons," Rayson said. "This fundraiser will
sell art, offer free zines and provide an instant education on a
genuine, underground media world."
Boxcar Books highlights political prisoner
By Christopher Smith | IDS
Feb. 22, 2009
In an effort to assist in the transition process of recently released
Michigan political prisoner Ali Khalid Abdullah, Boxcar Books had a
During the fundraiser, Abdullah chronicled his personal struggles and
read his writings to a packed room.
"I was incarcerated for protecting my community from an oppressive
drug dealer," Abdullah said. "It was my responsibility, since the
police wouldn't do it, to stop this man from terrorizing my community
and the people in it."
Abdullah was arrested, charged with assault with attempt to rob while
armed, and incarcerated for 20 years because of his efforts to shut
down Detroit businesses owned by a local drug dealer.
"I experienced terrible treatment while incarcerated due to my
affiliation with the Black Panther Party and other political groups,"
Abdullah said. "I was moved to over 40 different prisons, was stabbed
then denied medical treatment and was denied parole on every
occasion, even though I had petitions from around the world vouching
for my release."
Even while incarcerated, Abdullah continued to denounce prison
conditions and fight for the rights of fellow political prisoners
through zines small, self-published magazines and the formation
of the Political Prisoners of War Coalition.
Anthony Rayson published Abdullah's work through his company
Anarchist Black Cross' zine distro, and he introduced Abdullah during
"Anthony Rayson was instrumental in the spread of my cause," Abdullah
said. "He put his heart, his feet and his money where his talk was.
He understands that we all must take action, regardless of race,
gender, ethnicity or class."
"The work of people like Abdullah has to be heard," Rayson said. "A
lot of these guys have beautiful things to write and are so
articulate, and it's our job to make sure they are heard."
The Decarcerate Monroe County organization was responsible for
bringing Abdullah to Bloomington and coordinating the fundraiser.
"We thought it was important to help Abdullah in every way we can,"
said Bryce Martin, a member of Decarcerate Monroe County. "Although
we can't help all the medical problems that Abdullah has as a result
of being imprisoned, we thought it was important to do what we could
by holding this fundraiser and offering him a place to stay."
Many individuals present at the fundraiser expressed their
appreciation for Abdullah and his message.
"I would describe Abdullah and his teachings as an intense burning
flame of undiscriminating black passion," said Moorishio De la Cruz,
an independent research specialist present at the fundraiser.
Other individuals present said they appreciated the ability to place
a voice and face with the zines Abdullah authored.
"It's so important that real narratives are heard by people," Martin
said. "This is the type of thing that can really inspire change."