August 2004

Gathered together the evening of August 5 were the most politically conscious brothers in the compound - who fast, study and push themselves physically to honor those who've made significant sacrifices on the road to Black Liberation.  Black August. The event was within hours of my release and I was asked to speak. What words might there be from one who’s done two decades in the gulag by way of Marion and ADX?  Big Black had died days earlier so I began by saying there can be no talk of Black August without we honor and carry forward the sprit of Frank Big Black Smith. The brother epitomized the strength and courage that ran through the Attica rebellion. He survived torture and indignities no one should ever be subjected to.  From the carnage of Attica he emerged with a commitment to bring the light of truth to bear on the fact that Attica was a watershed moment on the road to freedom.  And he emerged with a compassion that led him to fight tirelessly over decades on behalf of the Attica survivors and their families. Black would bring my kids to visit me in prison because he listened to his heart and knew the needs of the downpressed. He should continue to be honored, Black August and beyond.

Brothers asked me what advice I might share with them after 20 years of box car cells, the Marion shuffle, holes in every joint I been in, etc. I know what worked for me, but one size does not fit all. I shared the bedrock of it. You must keep the faith. Have faith in the Creator and the Circle of Life.  Keep faith in your family - however way your family is defined. Keep faith in yourself. Don’t Iet your spirit be devoured by cynicism.  And try to keep your strength and conditioning at a high level. The following morning Mutulu and me broke bread together shortly before I left - leaving him being the most painful part of moving on.

A few hours later I walked out from behind forty foot walls - unshackled for the first time in 20 years. A dozen steps and I was in my sweet woman’s arms. She who had never lost faith in me. Before sunset we were a thousand miles away. At a family reunion several weeks later were gathered the youngest-- great granddaughter (2) to the oldest ­great grandmother (83) - and the released captive - the first time ever we’d all been together in the same place, same time.

An old friend not seen in 30 years said seeing me unexpectedly freed on the evening news was like watching someone rise from the dead.  I prefer to think of it as an affirmation of Life.  A testament that political prisoners can and will be treed. I told Mutulu his day will also come. Keep faith.  Death is part of Iife and we’ve lost good comrades - Zayd, Mtyari, Nuh, Merle.  And we've also seen brothers and sisters released.  Rafael, Lolita, Geronimo, Dhoruba, Alicia, Laura -  all unbroken spirits who kept their essential humanity and passion to break the chains of oppression. Take heart with my release.  There are those who opposed my excarceration and wished me dead in prison but I prevailed.  I came home.  I believe that all our political prisoners are coming home. I believe so because I believe in the righteousness of our cause and that struggle brings results.  Keep hauling up the morning – it’s the best way to live.

Ray Luc Lavasseur