Even in Solitary Confinement Kevin "Rashid" Johnson is Educating, Organizing, and Mobilizing Favorite 



Jun 1 1993



Kevin “Rashid” Johnson is a revolutionary, writer, social activist and founding member and Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, and member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. At 18 years old, in 1990, he was convicted of murder, which he has consistently challenged on the grounds of misidentification. Throughout his political work, he has produced countless works of art and writings focusing on a range of social justice, empowerment, and the ongoing fight against capitalist imperialism. One of Johnson’s focuses has been reporting on the barbaric conditions in U.S. prisons. He emphasizes the hypocrisies of American politicians who condemn human rights violations of other countries, while the conditions of U.S. prisons, in particular, are equally insidious.

After organizing and waging war against “Pumpkin”, an officer at Greensville prison, he was transferred and placed in solitary confinement. In 2010, he released “Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin “Rashid” Johnson. Some of his art is available on his website and can be accessed without cost. Eight years later, Johnson was transferred to Sussex state prison in Waverly, Virginia, placed in a death row cell, although not sentenced to the death penalty.

Prison Radio, the Real Cost of Prisons, his website (rashidmod.com) have reached a broad audience and shed light on the conditions inside U.S. prisons. In response to his art, prison officials have retaliated, “Since prison officials top the list of power holders conditioned to absolute impunity, prisons function by design to not just keep captives but also to keep the public out” (Johnson). Kevin “Rashid” Johnson explains the separation between life outside the prison and life outside plays into the fascist conditions inside that have become normalized. Therefore, he recognized strength and support lies in public awareness and involvement.

The activist, artist, and organizer stresses the importance of art and cultural work in twenty-first-century political movements by working to take control of mediums that promote cultural values. Through this tactic, activists and organizers like himself can promote a mass culture that engenders and cultivates “people over property” values such as unity, diversity, tolerance, community, love, mutual support, and environmental sustainability. To educate the masses, Johnson uses words and art to reach both irrational and emotional levels in the mind. This tactic is employed to balance the dialectical and conscious-raising while reaching a wider audience despite his limited physical conditions and materials. Johnson believes art is a mechanism to make knowledge accessible regardless of status, race, gender, nationality, or location. He says, “Success will come with the overthrow and end of all forms of oppression and exploitation of people by other people,” underscoring the need for mass awakening and mobilization.

His art and writings have been featured in The Guardian, The Intercept, PBS, and MotherJones, to name a few.

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