Alabama’s prisons were overcrowded and prisoners were routinely denied basic items such as clean drinking water and eating utensils, while being subjected to violence and extended periods of solitary confinement. To call attention to their demands for improved conditions, prisoners organized as Inmates for Action (IFA), and engaged in work stoppages and strikes in Alabama’s Atmore and Holman prisons. IFA also led classes for prisoners on subjects such as Revolutionary Theory and Black History. In response to prisoner activism, prison guards tortured and murdered IFA leaders Chagina (George Dobbins), Yukeena (Tommy Dotson) and Frank X. Moore. Furthermore, guards continued to deny access to necessities, and attempted to repress continued organizing among the prisoners. Outside of prison, the Committee for Prisoner Support in Birmingham (CPSB) and the Atmore-Holman Defense Committee planned demonstrations, assisted with legal strategy in support of IFA and campaigned for accountability for the murders.
The IFA was founded in the Alabama prison slave system at the Atmore State Prison (now Fountain Correctional Facility) in the late 1960s/early 1970s. The politics of the IFA were the politics of the times: a little socialism, black nationalism/revolutionary nationalism/cultural nationalism, and anti-capitalism and anti-racism. The IFA was mainly composed of black prisoners, but I know at least one white prisoner was a member of the IFA. The IFA was a formation of the times, a time when young black people had become disillusioned with the Civil Rights Movement. This was the generation that birthed Black Liberation and saw the politics of the Civil Rights Movement as bankrupt of any ideas to liberate black people from the white supremacist, racist, capitalist political power structure. Revolution was in the air and seemed possible.
Following the footsteps of the Black Liberation Movement organizations on the streets, the IFA established political, cultural, and general education classes to educate the prisoner population. Many prisoners at that time in the South couldn’t read and write, and the white supremacist power structure wanted to keep it that way. This was also a time when there were no black prison guards, wardens, or commissioners, not that it means anything because today the black prison guards, wardens, commissioners are just as brutal and fucked up as their white counterparts were then.
The IFA intervened in an attempt to change this backwards and predatory culture into a culture of unity and revolution. In fact, the IFA was instrumental in stopping the practice of prisoners keeping count of how many prisoners were in the prison for the guards. They openly challenged the rape culture. In 1971, the IFA staged a successful workstrike at Atmore and Holman prisons in protest of the beating and murder of prisoners on the workfarm. That was unheard of at the time in Alabama prisons. The IFA was so successful in educating prisoners as to who their true enemy was, that when they transferred Mafundi to Holman and placed him in the all-white dorm in the hopes of the white prisoners killing him, the white prisoners joined Mafundi in rioting.
In 1974, IFA members took prison guards hostage at knifepoint in the Atmore prison lockup unit and declared the action “a revolution.” After subduing the two guards they proceeded to open all the cell doors of IFA members who were in the lockup at the time. Most of them were there for “inciting a riot” or “assault against a guard.” They then began to exact “revolutionary justice” on all those prisoners who had been working with the white racist prison guards selling water and ice to other prisoners in the stifling hot lockup cells.
In the aftermath of this “revolution” by IFA members, one white guard lay dead, another seriously wounded, and a number of prisoners were seriously injured by IFA members. The warden and prison guards stormed the lockup unit with shotguns and rifles ablazing, wounding some of the prisoners. Johnny Imani Harris received the death penalty for the murder of the guard, Lincoln Kambui Heard received a life sentence and Oscar Johnson received thirty years. Others also received sentences for taking part in the “revolution.” Johnny Imani Harris eventually had his death sentence overturned and was released from prison.
The IFA didn’t limit their activities and organizing to the prisons. Richard Mafundi Lake and other ex-cons who were IFA members took their organization and activities to the streets of Birmingham and other smaller cities on Alabama. In Birmingham, where they were most active, they monitored the police with scanners and intervened when the police attempted to make arrests. Many shootouts between IFA and police occurred. They held community meetings to organize against police brutality and racism on the part of city officials.
They didn’t forget their brothers left in the prisons. They organized family transportation to the prisons, they aided escapes from Atmore, Holman and some road kamps. They created the Atmore/Holman Brothers support committee to support those still in the prisons facing new charges for assault and murder on prison guards. They IFA had a motto – “Kill one of our, we kill two of yours.” And they lived by that. Many IFA members were killed inside and outside the prisons. George Dobbins, Tommy Dotson, Charles Beasley, Frank X. Moore is just a few of the IFA members murdered by the state inside and outside the prisons.
- The state saw the IFA as too powerful and influential in the prisons and gaining respectability in the streets and started shipping many of them to the federal system. Anthony Paradise, Lincoln Heard, Youngblood, Fleetwood, Mustang, and others were sent to Marion, Lewisburg, Leavenworth, Atlanta federal prisons.
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the At more -Holman Brothers racist repression DEATH LIST , • On March 4, '1974 a trustee at Holman Maximum Security Prison came across a handwritten list of names of inmates of the Alabama prison system. Almost all of the 23 prisoners named were members of the IF A. The list made it clear that the prison officials wanted the named prisoners killed and would take no action against any prison guards who participated in such a process. . At the head of the list was George ! ; (Chagina) Dobbins, the Chairman of the IFA, who had been murdered by Alabama officials in the aftermath of the January, 1974 rebellion at Atmore Prison Farm. Among the other names on the list were Tommy (Yukeena) Dotson and Willie Joe Menefee. Dotson was able to obtain the list and smuggle it out of Holman Prison. There was an urgency- ; as he presented the list; “I might be next,” he said. And he was. On March 13, Dotson was beaten to death by five guards at Holman Prison. Three days later the Mobile Register reported that Willie Joe Menefee had been stabbed to . death at Atmore Prison. When the existenceTof the death list got- coverage in the Mobile Register, Commissioner L.B. Sullivan’s response to questions . about it was “no comment.” But there must be a comment, especially since 7 of the 9 Atmore-Holman Brothers facing trial are on that list. The Alabama prison officials are working their way down the “death list” systematically eliminating every prisoner who will speak out against the barbaric conditions of. the Alabama prison system. The frameup cases of the Atmore-Holman Brothers, nine Black men who have spoken out in just such a manner, is another brutal act in the implementation of the death list. THIS IS A PEOPLE’S CASE— IT NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT The state plans to put the brothers, who are the victims of violence and , inhuman conditions inside the prisons, ; on trial as the villains. If the state wins, _ the wardens and guards will know that • " •' . .• . r" . ■ . 'i ■ " they can keep on working their way down the death list and no one will ever prosecute them. They will also know that they can safely use death as a method of discipline against any prisoners who buck the brutal system that exists, who support programs like the IFA’s for basic human rights. If. these methods of maintaining order at any price are allowed to succeed inside the prisons, then they will be used outside too. This is why the Atmore^ Holman brothers defense— like other cases such as Attica— is not for them . alone, not even for prisoners alone, v ; ; Their defense is for the people also. PEOPLE MOVE TO DEFEND THE IFA ; People throughout Alabama, tiie South and the country have responded to the call by the brothers for support. Prisoners’ relatives have organized : into support groups called Families for : l Action in both Mobile and Birmingham. Former prisoners and IFA members have been instrumental in organizing defense efforts on behalf of the. brothers on the inside. And others: workers, students, teachers, welfare rights, tenant rights, and union activists have organized defense committees to support the IFA’s demands and fight to free the Atmore- ' Holman Brothers. Also a legal committee has been organized, bringing together lawyers from all over the South to represent the Brothers. In addition, offensive legal ^action is being planned against pnsoh : ana state oinciais tor repression and . violence against IF A members. The supporters of the Atmore- Holman brothers are "now working to mobilize national support for the case and. to bring people to the trials in Brewton in February. WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP 1) Money is desperately needed to help the families of the Atmore- Holman brothers, most of whom are from Birmingham, to get to Atmore regularly, since only they and the lawyers can see the Brothers. In addition there are dozens of important . daily expenses, court costs, and rental buses to get people to the trials. This is a people’s trial and only the presence of the people will force any justice into the courtroom. 2) It is crucial to show that the Brothers have broad and national support. You or your group can help by sponsoring the Defense Committeeand publicizing the case arid by distributing the newsletter and buttons. 3) You can also write to L.B. Sullivan, Commissioner of the i Alabama Board of Corrections, 101 South Union Street, Montgomery, Alabama, and Gov. George Wallace, State Capitol, Montgomery, Alabama - . - ■- , • Dotson savagely mutilated. - l ** Pic ture taken oj . Tomm y, Dotson jrtive^- ^ protest ^ trials and false charges. 4) Finally, send some letters to the Brothers. They are locked in isolation : cells where it’s hard for them to hear the voice of the people in their support. - The mailing address for Anthony Paradise, Johnny Harris, Lincoln; Heard, Grover McCorvey, and Charles: V; Beasley is Rt. 2 Box 38 Atmore, Alabama 36502. For Edward ‘Ellis, Jessie James Clanzy, and Oscar Johnson, write Rt. 5, Box 125, Montgomery, Alabama 36109. For Frank X.- Moore, write Escambia County Jail, Brewton. Alabama. TRIAL IN BREWTON ON Louisville