December 17th marked two years since the passing of Russell Maroon Shoatz.
He was a founding member of the Black Unity Council, a former member of the Black Panther Party and a soldier in the Black Liberation Army. After twice escaping from prison, and twice being recaptured, Shoatz was held in solitary confinement for more than 22 years. This solitary confinement was controversial — while Shoatz had successfully escaped twice, he actually had an excellent record of behavior within the prison itself. Advocates and Shoatz himself argued that his extended solitary confinement reflected the personal offense taken by prison officials, who were embarrassed both by his ease in escaping, and his sharp critiques of the American prison system.
Shoatz is remembered today as, among other things, a well-respected author. One famous essay, The Dragon and The Hydra, is widely available online. Listeners interested in honoring the anniversary of Shoatz’ passing but unfamiliar with his work may find this essay insightful, short, and accessible, as a history of one important aspect of revolutionary organizing.
This episode we’ll share a previously aired interview with Shoatz, recorded on August 15th 1996, at State Correctional Institution-Greene in Pennsylvania. The interview was originally aired on the Peoples Video Network, and was conducted by Dhoruba Bin Wahad.