Glossary: The Prison Industrial Complex

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

The Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is a term used to describe various components driving mass incarceration in the United States. It is the preoccupation with punishment rather than prevention and rehabilitation. The development and infrastructure of prisons have become a privatized industry run for the purpose of turning a profit. Under the promise of lowering crimes and protecting the public, state and federal governments issue contracts to private companies, like Corrections Conglomerates of America (CCA) and GEO Group, to manage and staff prisons. These private companies are paid a fixed amount to house prisoners. Their profits are accrued from spending the minimum amount on each prisoner and pocketing the remaining funds. Hence, the objective is to house the maximum numbers of inmates for extended periods of time as inexpensively as possible.


Glossary: Black August

Former Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur. The first woman on the FBI's Most Wanted List. Image Courtesy of

Former Black Panther Party member Assata Shakur. The first woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. Image courtesy of

“August is a month of meaning, of repression and radical resistance, of injustice and divine justice, of repression and righteous rebellion, of individual and collective efforts to free the slaves and break the chains that bind us.” – Mumia Abu-Jamal

Happy Black August! This month, we celebrate the men and women who have performed brave acts of anti-racist resistance that have contributed to the freedoms we have today. Originating within the confines of California state prisons in honor of the San Quentin 6, this month-long celebration and includes community and cultural events, activism, fasting, reflection, and education.  Throughout Black August, organizations such as the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and Critical Resistance also shed light on efforts to free political prisoners and end mass incarceration.

New York’s Brecht Forum is hosting a Black August Film Festival that includes a showing of the global anti-apartheid documentary, “Have You Heard from Johannesburg.” More details about tickets and location can be found on their website.

by Lauren Silver

Unity Among Legends

Yuri & Angela

Mountains that Take Wing is an intimate portrait of two revolutionary lives. The documentary follows activists Angela Davis and Yuri Kochiyama in a series of dialogues which trace their lifelong struggles against racism, oppression and violence. Topics range from the legacies of Japanese internment and Jim Crow segregation to their contemporary efforts to end prisons, poverty and imperialism.


Queen Nanny of the Maroons

Artist Rendering of Nanny of the Maroons, on Jamaica’s Five Hundred Bill, first circulated around 1976 when Jamaica declared her a National Heroine.

Artist Rendering of Queen Nanny of the Maroons, on Jamaica’s Five Hundred Bill, first circulated around 1976 when Jamaica declared her a National Heroine.

As a child, I remember visiting my mother in Jamaica and receiving a $500 Jamaican banknote. I was mesmerized by the elderly woman that exuded strength on the bill. I asked my mother about who she was and learned that Queen Nanny is a national heroine that fiercely fought against British slave owners to free more than 800 enslaved people and helped them relocate to the Maroon communities in the mountains throughout Jamaica. Queen Nanny was an Ashanti woman from Ghana who was captured and brought to Jamaica as a child. She escaped slavery with four men and formed a Maroon community in the Blue Mountains with one of them. These communities led various raids on plantations for weapons and food–often burning the plantations–and freeing the slaves. The geographic location of the Maroon settlements were strategic and deliberate: the rugged hills made it difficult for the British to attack the communities with any success. In 1733, the British government granted Queen Nanny and her community the land where they had settled. The 500 acres of land officially became Nanny Town, located high into the Blue Mountains of Portland. Although it is unclear when or how she died, Queen Nanny’s legacy still lives through Jamaican folklore and storytelling traditions.


Liberation Chic

Angela Davis at a political rally in Raleigh, North Carolina on July 4, 1974. Photo courtesy of Bettmann/CORBIS.

To an earlier generation, Angela Davis, born today in 1944, is largely remembered as the woman at the center of one of the mid-20th century’s most notorious court cases, an experience which led the President at the time Richard Nixon to refer to her as a “dangerous terrorist.”  She was also a lightening-rod for controversy during her days as a professor in California and even ran for president (twice) on the Communist Party ticket.

However, she describes her interaction with members of a later generation in a different way:

…it is both humiliating and humbling to discover that a single generation after the events that constructed me as a public personality, I am remembered as a hairdo.


The Black Power Mixtape

Black is beautiful, but black isn’t power. Knowledge is power.

-Lewis H. Michaux

As a young girl who grew up in the Bronx and attended public school, my US history courses touched on the subject of the Civil Rights Movement in the most basic ways: Martin Luther King, Jr. was good, Malcolm X was bad. As a pillar of our community, I aspired to be like Martin Luther King, changing the world through nonviolent action and community development. Of course, as a black Latina, I was also aware of the Young Lords Party, a Puerto Rican nationalist group with chapters in many US cities – most notably in New York and Chicago. Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about the Black Panther Party because they weren’t brought up in school or in my family.