Riverside Anarchist Birthday Brigade (In Defiance-RABBID)

The Internationalist Prison Books Collective (IPBC) puts together a
poster every month with information about political prisoners (PPs) and
prisoners of war (POWs) incarcerated in the United States, along with
their addresses whose birthdays are that month.
In April last year I was able to participate in a PP’s birthday party at
the Dry River Radical Resource Center, an Infoshop located in the Dunbar
Spring neighborhood of Tucson, Arizona where we made cards for all the
prisoners on the IPBC poster, snacked, took pictures to send along and
smashed a piñata. It was a great deal of fun!
Without a doubt, I think the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is one of
the flashpoints of class struggle and internal colonialism in the States,
and that sending birthday cards to PPs and POWS is the least people who
can should be doing.
After leaving Tucson to work on a farm in Iowa I made a point of
continuing to write PPs and POWs using the IPBC poster as both a resource
for current contact information and for news on the contemporary struggle
against the PIC. My correspondence with prisoners has been both very
informative and inspiring!
This year, using the Political Prisoner Birthday Party model I picked up
in Tucson, I helped start the Riverside Anarchist Birthday Brigade (In
Defiance-RABBID) at the Blood Orange Infoshop in Riverside, California.
On the first Saturdays of January and February we converged at the
Infoshop to make cards, write letters and talk politics.  The first party
was hastily thrown together as I had just arrived in town, but the second
one had a theme where we all wore red and black, decked out the space,
had plenty of snacks and took pictures to send along with the cards.
We also had plenty of relevant reading materials courtesy of South
Chicago Anarchist Black Cross (S Chi ABC) who donated ‘zines to help us
get started.  Now we’re discussing fundraisers to pay for materials and
send money to prisoners, as well as doing on going support work for
specific prisoners.
Find the IPBC poster at prisonbooks.infoPrisonactivist.org and
zinelibrary.info are two other great resources for writing to PPs and
POWs. If you haven’t written prisoners before, you may want to check out
the great article, Tips On Writing To A Prisoner at
prisonerlife.com/tips.cfm.  Here’s the very basics:
•    You have to put a prisoner’s number on the first line so your letter
gets to them.
•    Include a return address on you letter, but if you don’t know the
prisoner it may be best to use a PO Box or other neutral address.
•    Guards may read your letter.  Avoid discussing sensitive topics or
details of a court case if a prisoner is awaiting trial / sentencing.
•    Don’t make promises you can’t keep:  being is prison is isolating and
getting let down can be devastating.  If you’re not looking for a romantic
relationship, be clear about your intentions right from the start.
•    Prisoners are no better or worse than anyone else. Some are flawed so
exercise the same caution you would writing to anyone else you don’t know.
•     Be careful about accepting collect calls from prison — they are
absurdly expensive.

This version for Slingshot! #110  http://slingshot.tao.ca/displaybi.php?0110006

April 2011 Political Prisoners Birthday Party at the Dry River Radical Resource Center, photo by Eric R.

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