Friday, May 24, 2013
Anita Wills on the new police/judicial slavery and the campaign for her son, Kerry Baxter Senior
Anita Wills, an historian and genealogist who lives in San Francisco, has written to me about her three books tracing her forebears in the Washington and Monroe families, some of whom took part in the Revolutionary war. See here, here and here. She is also a mother whose life has been shattered by the prison system: Kerry Baxter Senior, her son, has been framed up for murder by overzealous Oakland cops and sent away for life under the anti-judicial and corrupt "three strikes policy"; her grandson Kerry Baxter Junior, was murdered in Oakland and the police - the same detective (a would be Javert?) - have so far failed to find any suspect for the crime. She wrote in response to the film and forum on the prison-industrial complex at the Merc Wednesday night - see here.
Kerry Jr. would tell her, before going out of the house, that the police would harass him every day.
During the Dorner incident, I heard a black disk jockey for a San Francisco radio show tell the following story about his childhood. "When I would walk alone in my neighborhood," he said, "the policeman would hit me with a billy club every day."
"When I walked with my friends for mutual protection, we were 'a gang' and also harassed."
The crime is walking while black...
Damned if you do and damned if you do.
When I first taught at Metro, the six black students in my class each had horrendous stories about the absence of police protection for blacks or police brutality. One told the story of being 10 and being taken to school by his older brother. His brother had a construction job for which he was wearing orange. The police came up to them as they walked, harassed his brother on the theory he was a gang member (wearing orange was ostensibly a gang sign), threw him up against a building, and arrested him.
A woman spoke of how she and her boyfriend had been beaten by the police, but later of how she hoped to become a cop. That was because when she was a child and her father would come home drunk, she would hide her little brother in the laundry in the dirty clothes, her father would beat her...there was no one to protect her...
Another guy responded: when I was 9, the police came to my house, threw my father on the floor, and kicked him in the head. You can say the police are decent, but you can't prove it by me.
A white guy from rural Wisconsin also talked about being beaten up by the police. Accusations of criminality and drug crimes go far beyond poor blacks, although racism is the central "justification" and pivot - divide and rule - of the whole system.
The more middle class people in the room, including a Japanese-American woman who had spoken eloquently about her grandparents' experience in the Amache concentration camp, had had little idea of the extent of police brutality.
I learned a lot, as I often do, from students...
Anita's story is powerful. It is an American story. It novelly illustrates the story Michelle Alexander tells in The New Jim Crow.
Wednesday night's forum at the Merc showed "The House We Live In," a compelling film about prisons and the mandatory enforcement of stiff sentences for drugs. The filmmakers talked with many people sent away for possessing a tiny amount of crack (crack is cocaine - the same medically - but the sentences for crack are 100 times as much) They talked with a San Francisco judge who hates the injustice of his attempting to free a defendant named Marcelo who had a small amount of crack, but being forced, under federal guidelines, to give him a long sentence.
Reagan and William Jefferson Clinton are featured in the film "being hard on drugs." Clinton called for 3 strikes. If there is a reason for detesting Clinton as a racist (though he was our "first black President," as Toni Morrison called him), this is it. It combines, for evil, with enforcing the UN boycott on Iraq which by UN (Food and Agricultural Organization) statistics killed 4,500 people a month, mostly children, throughout the 1990s.
Even American Presidents who do some decent things are also - as heads of the Empire and seeking to get reelected, they compete with the fear-ridden, irrational, imperial and authoritarian militarists in the so-called Republican Party - often horrific...
Kerry Baxter Senior is serving life sentence for 2nd degree murder because of the three strikes law (he had previously been in trouble with the law when he was 18).
Obama just signed a law reducing the sentence for crack to 18 times as much as cocaine. This is both a real improvement and a feeble wave at justice.
The film focuses on drug crimes. But even though there are some real criminals in the prisons (people who should not be on the street...), the prison-industrial complex is as off on crimes against persons as about victimless crimes...
Under Reagonomics, the US has deindustrialized, shed manufacturing. There are few manufacturing - family sustaining - jobs available to the poorest people, black, latin and white. Particularly blacks and latinos are faced with unemployment, police harassment, and life in the prison complex. According to a Justice Department study, a black male child born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of being involved with the prison system, a chicano child a 1 in 6 chance, and a (mainly poor) white child a 1 in 17 chance.
This is what Marx called the reserve army of the unemployed, a feature of capitalist accumulation, extended in America through racism to large groups of nonwhite people deprived from every entering the work force or having a decent life.
As Michelle Alexander reports in The New Jim Crow, the United States has 2.3 million prisoners, with another 5.1 people on probation (a netherworld). The United States is the biggest police state in the world, holding 25% of the world's prisoners.
CCA - the acronym is not spelled out on its website, merely the phrase "America's leader in partnership [sic] corrections" - has, as the film shows, taken overcome prisons, privatizing them. There is now profit to be made, getting people into prisons and keeping them there.
This practice extinguishes the rule of law.
The Congress in the so-called "War on drugs," has legislated mandatory sentences for drugs. In terms of the Constitution and the rule of law, this, too, is insane. So are the wildly exaggerated crack and meth sentences (meth largely affecting whites).
In the US criminal justice system, sentencing is supposed to be done by judges, in consultation with juries, and separately from the trial itself. The trial is about what is a crime under the law, sentencing about particular, sometimes mitigating circumstances. This division adheres to normal judicial separation, going back to Aristotle, between trial and sentencing.
In contrast, legislatures are supposed to restrict themselves to making the laws.
Mandatory sentencing by Congress is thus inimical to the rule of law as the crack sentencing - 18 times cocaine under Obama - highlights. But we do not have a Supreme Court which operates mainly on behalf of the rule of law.
Wednesday night, Theo Wilson, a Slam poet who works with the Barber Shop Talk collective, invoked Pastor Martin Niemoller: first they came for the Jews, and I did nothing and then they came for the unions and I did nothing...and then they came for me, and there was nobody left to protest.
The conversation was forceful about getting the word out, needing to act against this.
The film drew analogies to Jews in Germany even though the ideology of genocide is not prevalent in the United States. The film ends with a mother crying at the election of Obama who was speaking on tv to the great crowd in Chicago in 2008. She is also wishing to see her son, sent away for life on three strikes...
Here is the first letter from Anita:
I hope that they bring the forum to California in the near future. My youngest son, Kerry Baxter Senior is in prison, serving 66 years under California's Three Strike Law. He was charged with Second Degree Murder in the death of an innocent bystander in Oakland California. He has been incarcerated since 2001 and was convicted by an all white jury in October of 2003. I have copies of his court records and depositions and do not understand why it even went to trial. Kerry was in a bar in East Oakland on March 30, 2001, when he was approached by a young man and several of his friends (can you say Gang?). Kerry was 31 years old and the young men ranged in age from 18-21. The leader of the crew was Jahmani Jones who had a beef with Kerry. I do not know why but Kerry walked outside of the bar and down the street with this group. He tells me that he knew them and had talked to them on occasion.
Jahmani asked Kerry why he was going around saying that he (Jahmani), shot out the big window of his (Kerry's), SUV. That incident happened the previous November and the Window was quickly repaired. They stood there arguing back and forth and then Jahmani pulled out a gun and shot at Kerry missing. Then Kerry shot at Jahmani and hit him in the left foot and both men ran from the area. Jahmani ran North Towards the Bar and Kerry ran South towards Georgia Street. The Bar is on MacArthur Blvd. (which runs east and west), and they stood on Maple (which ran north and south). At the same time as this altercation a Car rode by the bar and shot four time in the direction of the bar. This is according to witness testimony, which did not make it into court. Two witness depositions refer to this car and that they shot in the direction of the bar where the Innocent Bystander was shot.
This is what I discerned from reading the court records and depositions, and for the life of me I cannot understand why Kerry was charged. Kerry was employed as a Journey Level Carpenter and a member of the Carpenter's Union in Alameda County. He had been in trouble previously when he was 18 years old, but now he was employed and a father to his two young sons. Yet, when he went to trial he was accused of being a Drug Dealer and Gang Member. The younger man, Jahmani Jones was turned into Kerry's victim and his past record was not be presented in court. It was in fact Jahmani who was a gang leader and member and who summoned Kerry out of the bar. Yet the Homicide Detective said that Kerry was after Jahmani that night. The DA offered Kerry a plea deal of 40 years, which he refused. The Homicide Investigator said that Kerry's one bullet ricocheted across the street from where they were standing and hit the Innocent Bystander in the Chest. He was standing in front of the bar on Maple and MacArthur and according to the autopsy report was hit in the left Clavicle by a bullet which traveled downward and nicked his heart.
There is a lot more too this story but I have gone on too long already. I am heading a campaign to get my son's story out and get signatures on a petition to send to Attorney General Holder and Kamala Harris (Attorney General of California). The California Appeals Courts stated that Kerry's Federal Rights were violated, but refused to overturn his case. The Ninth Circuit turned down his Habeas Corpus Request. They refused to appoint an attorney to assist him in his appeal and that is what we need. We are also in need of an Investigator to assist in freeing him. The worst part of this saga is that my grandson, Kerry Baxter Junior was shot and killed on January 16, 2011. The same Detective who lied to get Kerry convicted is in charge of my grandson's murder case.
I do not know if they were after my son, or if they are after me! Some of my poltical beliefs and writings are out there...,
Here is the link to the site:
Free Kerry Baxter Senior - Wrongful Conviction here.
I work quite a lot with the committee of parents and friends protesting Joint Enterprise sentencing in England - if you talk on a cell phone with someone who commits a crime in an English city, with no further evidence about what was said or any further action on your part, you have committed the crime and can be given a life sentence...- and would like to send out a post about your son's case. See here, here and a note from Staughton Lynd on complicity here. Also, do you think the trouble is for your writing books on your forebears who were in the Revolution - this seems quite possible to me (in the past and even given bigotry in the present) or are you also outspoken on other issues (I am, too)? I will connect the two up in any case. I will bring his case at the forum tonight. Good luck to Kerry, and please give him all my best wishes. He should know that there are many of us, who have but to hear about his case and want to do something.
All the best,
I also believe that my 19 year old Grandsons murder in 2011 is part of what is going on. The same Detective who lied against my son to have him convicted is the Lead Detective Investigating my grandsons murder. Kerry Junior was lured to a site where two men beat him, chased him down and shot him. He told me before his death that every time he stepped outside of his door the Police harassed him, and they even took his California ID. This took place in Oakland California.
• October 2002 - August 2003 at Constitution Hall in Washington DC; Exhibit features African and Native American Soldiers, and includes documents from Ms. Wills collection on Charles and Ambrose Lewis, her ancestors who were Revolutionary War Soldiers.
George Washington Descendent doesn't Approve of Prison Slavery
As an African American who has traced my ancestors back to Cousin George Washington, I have to voice my distaste for our Prison System.
It is especially poignant to me because my thirty four year old son has been sentenced to a prison term of thirty-three plus years. I have a few comments about the District Attorney, and Judge that sentenced him, but his case is on appeal, and I am not going into it now.
My name is Anita Wills, a mother, writer, lecturer, and Historian.
I am the author of a book titled, Notes And Documents of Free Persons of Color. In the book I use genealogy, and DNA to document my maternal family’s history, here in America, and in Wales. The book spans four hundred years in America, and tells about those who had extraordinary achievements.
The book begins in 1950's Pennsylvania, where my father, George Baxter Senior, is being investigated by the FBI. My father was a linguist, even though he worked in the Steel Mills, and one of the languages he spoke was Russian. That put him under the scrutiny of the FBI, who was suspicious of An African American who spoke Russian.
The book travels back in time, and documents the achievements of my ancestors, who were slaves, and free blacks in Virginia and Maryland.
That is why in the late 1600's Virginia began codifying the church laws, and adding edicts from England. These laws are still a part of Henning’s Statutes At Large, and are housed in the Library of Virginia. Although many of the laws are not practiced, they are understood. I sat in a courthouse and listened as a judge sentenced my son to sixty-six years in prison, and look at him like he was a piece of meat. He will be eligible for parole in thirty three years, when he is sixty seven. If the Courts have their way, I will never touch my son again, or see him walk free. If the courts have their way, I, like my ancestors will watch my son toil as a slave under an antiquated system.
This situation reminds me of one of my ancestors who was taken to court at the age of seven, and sentenced to serve George Washington’s father for thirty years. Her name was Mary Bowden, and she would be the first of three Generations to serve the Washington family. She was sentenced under the laws of Colonial Virginia, which were made by, and for the benefit of white males. What was her crime? She was mulatto, we are not certain who her mother was, but there is speculation that her father was Augustine Washington Senior, the father of George Washington. The only way we will ever prove that is if we do DNA tests.
Just as today, in Colonial Virginia, the laws made no sense, because they avoided penalties for crimes wealthy whites were likely to commit. They were aimed at persons who were poor, and disenfranchised. The harshest laws were saved for African Slaves, who were by design at the bottom of the rung.
If I believed that my son deserved that sentence, or the treatment he is receiving at Susanville, I would not be here. However, as a descendant of slaves, I am concerned about how this system is exploiting prisoners. For each prisoner that is working for nine cents an hour (less than workers in Bangladesh), another person is unemployed. When Corporations benefit from our sons and daughters going to prison, it means that laws are going to be passed to keep these prisons operating. America is the only Industrialized Country that sells Stock in its prisons.
This is exactly why the north and south fought the Civil War, to end slavery. Yet, the media will use the issue of prisons as if they are rehabilitating those who are incarcerated. Most of those who are imprisoned will be getting out, some for good behavior, and others will max out. They will be going back to the same neighborhoods they left, and what will they take back there? If someone is being exploited, and they have a mind to, they will learn to exploit others.
An inmate got a letter to us, and told us to check on Kerry (my son), because they had taken him away. We received the letter this past Monday, and spent two days chasing him down. Kerry had a breakdown, and was in a psyche ward for two weeks, yet no one bothered to tell us. His counselor, some man named Mr. White, slammed the phone down on Kerry’s girlfriend when she asked where Kerry was. I didn't know what had happened to my son for two week and still haven't been able to talk to him. You see they have been caught physically abusing the prisoners, and that won’t wash anymore with the public. Now, they use psychological abuse, like isolating the prisoners, and keeping them caged like animals.
No mother should ever have to endure this worry. My son could have been dead and buried, and I would not have known about it.
In Virginia the, home where George Washington was born, is a National Monument. The birth site, and home of George Washington, is a working plantation. I believe the prisoners from Virginia's State Prisons are now working it. The land is basically the same as it was when my ancestors served indentures there. I believe at least one of Washington’s slaves is the father of my ancestor, Patty Bowden. He is buried in an area that is no more than a ditch, on the outskirts of the Washington Plantation.
How sad that after all of the struggles my family and many more have endured, after all the glory and achievements, this society is still at square one. America is getting away from the Democratic Principles that we are supposed to have extended to all of our citizens. My son is a Carpenter, and was a taxpayer; he was raising his sons, prior to his imprisonment. The prison system now sees him as a Carpenter, who could possibly build the handcrafted office furniture, they sale to fortune 500 Corporations. The prison industrial complex is looking for a few good men. As long as they are young, with strong backs; black, white, brown, they are now equal opportunity exploiters. Don’t worry, if crime goes down, they will tighten laws to make sure that the Jails are kept full. In the PIC, the whites can be used as over seers for the blacks and browns. But every inmate who is put out to work like livestock for 9 cents to 45 cents an hour is a slave, no matter what their race.
The jobs they do are dangerous, hard labor. They are not educational. What is educational about cleaning up horse and cow manure or the garbage dumps?
It is not about victims, and criminals, it is about a system that is broken, and needs fixing. It cannot be fixed by enslaving some people, so that others can benefit from their crimes. Slavery was wrong then, and it is wrong now. Are we going to revisit this in a hundred years, when the descendants of prisoners are suing the State of California, for reparations? That is where we are headed.
We need to end slavery and profit from the labor of human beings then we can focus on better solutions to crime such as education, prevention and accountability of government officials, especially DA's and Lawyers."