May 12, 2019
This week, we feature an interview with Sean Swain about the JPay system being incorporated into the North Carolina prison system based on his experiences in Ohio, increased tension leading to a riot in mid-April at Piedmont facility and the employment of former Ohio Prison Director Gary Mohr as a consultant to the NC system. Then, documentarian John Rash shares about his latest documentary about an all-black, anti-racist oi punk band from Memphis, TN. This band is called “Negro Terror” and the movie is touring the southeastern U.S. More on that in a moment.
starts at 6:54
In the first portion of this episode, you’ll be hearing from anarchist prisoner Sean Swain, but in a slightly different manner, where Bursts gets to ask a few clarifying question in the time we had available. First off, sorry about the call quality, we’re still working out our recording ability for VA. When we first started talking to Sean all those years back (November 2013 if you want to hear it) it was because of his resistance to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s privatization of services through the company Jpay, about which this cantankerous jailhouse lawyer wrote an article about the f’d up relationship between private service providers and prison-crats. Now, North Carolina DPS is employing Gary C. Mohr, former ODRC head, as a consultant and since the move the NCDPS has instituted a more intense privatization and limitation of prisoners ability to receive money on their commissary via the 3rd party corporation Jpay. In response to the restrictions of materials people need in their day to day and the support they can receive from the outside (such as limitations to who can donate to a prisoner and what info they have to give up to Jpay to send material support) has created a powder keg of austerity and tension in the NC system leading to a riot at Piedmont Correctional in mid April. Sean sees reflection of the impacts that Mohr and JPay had in Ohio and what appears to be happening with the same techno-logic in NC. A recent protest took place in the neighborhood of NC Prison Director Kenneth Lassiter and keep an eye out for more, deepening protest and organizing around this issue in NC.
Of note, the latest episode of Trouble from sub.Media, features Sean talking about mass incarceration and capitalism in the U.S., echoing some of what he says in this week’s episode of our show. Jackie Wang, author of Carceral Capitalism (a really great Materialist approach to looking at racialized mass incarceration in the U.S.), along with Sean, “C” from Hamilton, Sylvie and El Jones talk about the prison industrial complexes in the so-called U.S. & Canada. Really worth a watch.
starts at 22:04
In the interests of a headsup, the next segment includes a couple of white folks using an out of date term that could be considered racist. The word is in the title of a documentary film about a band by the same name, and the name is said in the spirit of helping folks more easily access the material. The band has an all Black lineup and is called Negro Terror. John Rash is a documentarian with the Southern Documentary Project who for most of the hour shares about his recent film, entitled "Negro Terror". The film follows the punk oi band from Memphis by the same name and it's three members, Ricardo Fields, Omar Higgins and Ra'id as they play around Memphis, supporting various music scenes, speaking about their project and communities. Omar, the lead singer and bassist, came up as a SHARP (Skinhead Against Racial Prejudice) between Brooklyn, NY, and Memphis, TN, and brings the skinhead approach to the music. Omar Higgins died, tragically, at the age of 38 a few weeks ago and his funeral makes it into the film. John Rash, along with Ricardo (or Rico) and Ra’id, the remaining bandmates, are now touring with this innovative film and engaging audiences in q&a sessions. After this broadcast, you can still catch the presentation in Durham at North Star Church of the Arts on Sunday, May 12th and at Fleetwoods in Asheville on Monday, May 13th (which is tomorrow as of the first broadcast of this show) for two showings, 6:30 and 8:00pm followed by that aforementioned q&a with Rico, Ra’id and John.
Proceeds from the merch sales on this short tour and from the entrance to showings is contributing to covering Omar's medical and funeral funds that currently are hanging over the family. Donations can be made at supportomar.com.
While this tour is short running, John hopes to show it at various film festivals, so if you’re putting on such a thing or have such influence, consider contacting John and Southern Documentary Project to make that happen. If you can’t see it on this tour, at some point it’ll be available in full for free at southdocs.org. Once they release their final album, Paranoia, there’s a chance the film will be available for free on the CD alongside the audio, so keep an eye out.
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Music in order of appearance:
Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus with Jazzboe Abubaka
Vulgar & Bored with SETH
Negro Terror with Voice of Memphis