THE CHAOTIC DEPTHS OF MY SOLITUDE:
THE CHAOTIC DEPTHS OF MY SOLITUDE: January 2009
I have largely felt discouraged from doing a lot of journal writing, like what I use to do for the DRIVE site, because it started to feel like an unfulfilling endeavor. The struggle I wrote about IS my life, not was; but IS. Granted I may not have articulated my struggle in a heart wrenching mannerno, no, I dont need to say it that way. Perhaps the bottom line is I wasnt persuasive enough. I couldnt shake societys conscience enough for them to see these flames of mine that melt flesh right off the bone. Too strong a metaphor? My neck burns right now. Unfulfilling indeed. Why expose the death, the decay, the blood stains, the horror, the dried up tear stains, the mucus, naked abused body, my soul to a people who merely find it entertaining reading as they stare, transfixed at their computer screen, sucking the food off their finger tips, in their cozy homes; safe, secure, maybe. Maybe living. But who knows this? Any part of this?
I almost said Never mind, because its about me anyway but its not just about me; its about us. It has always been about us, only us havent realized this much; with the exception of a few. A small few.
Ha! They just brought me a food loaf to eat for the lunch I turned down because spoiled food was on the tray. Ill explain in a minute.
I guess what Im trying to say is, the overall response of the people (outside these ghastly tomb walls, as well as those banished a prisoner in this wilderness of death) to the DRIVE movement had wounded (see poem with same title) me deeply. Maybe one day I will feel encouraged to expound upon my wounds. Nevertheless the pain made me yank my hand back away from sharing myself, everything I am, away from my journal writing, and I questioned my wound. And it spoke to me. I fought it, it fought me. It cried, I cried, We smiled at each other. Yet all the while, unbeknownst to you, the peeper in my window, my struggle continued. And for the meantime I feel motivated to let you peer into The Chaotic Depths of my Solitude.
Perhaps my actions today was the result of my refusal to accept my chains, a refusal to accept being forced into this preconceived role the system needs me to play, not only out of need for their prisoner (those enchained, whether they are aware of it or not, physically or psychologically; and in this case, Im even speaking of the pursued prisoner-to-be) to perpetuate the ignorance of the system uses to justify keeping their Frankenstein of a system alive and putrid, but alive. But the prisoner is also the mirror that reinforces the systems sense of self, of itself, when it looks into that mirror, at what it has made. Only it doesnt see it this way. They see no other way of looking at life; or death. (Shrugging my shoulders) It really just depends on how complex you believe this philosophical question to be.
I know I have been thrusted into a line to die,Die! They scream with a crack of the whip you have no self! Toby! Die! They cry Your spirit, the humanity of it, I will not tolerate! It may help you remember; help you rebel. Die! They spit, spasming as if trying to cast a hex upon my soul; as if the gurney will arise, bolts flying from the floor as it brings itself to me.
You would think Im merely being creative, but I heard that certain racist organizations and other groups that want us dead lay hands on us everyday. Whatever lay hands is suppose to mean.
I hear that whip
Came from the slice in your skin
Burning bright red
Like crack pipes.
--excerpt from my poem Free Style,
Yeah that whip stings all sorts of epithets upon my Afrikan soil, my flesh, but no matter how hard they try, though I may fall to one Knee, bowing to no one, but the ONE, and maybe my Queen, they will not uproot my soul. They cant make me believe Im guilty; they cant make me believe I deserve to live like this, fighting against a slow psychological and spiritual death, they cant make me believe I have no rights, that I deserve to die. I can never BE 999395. I AM life! I AM life! And life moves; it breathes, even if through chemical agents. And so I refuse passage, upon the property of my Humanity, to any oppressive, suppressive or repressive force. Well I refuse as much as possible because Im hard pressed on every side of my BEing, and its hard to defend yourself against mass misconception, media propaganda, the complicity of the judicial persecution system, Texas Department of Corrections inc., a reaper of death sentence that lurks over me, drooling, these vampirish sensory depriving conditions, the psychological warfare this administration teaches its staff to wield against us daily, the numerous policies they violate daily, the spoiled, inadequate and ill-prepared food, systematic indifference, the reactionary suicide and homicide of fellow prisoners, their complacency, the pain of not being able to show Mama the full extent of the righteous man Ive become, the pain of not being able to touch, smell, taste my Queen.
Should I go on?
Sometimes some of these things snake their way through the aura of divine energy, I cultivate around myself through meditation, Hatha yoga and the liberating affect of struggling. Like right now, I have an intense headache from prolong exposure to chemical agents they doused me with a few hours ago. It was all in my hair; its on my walls, my floor, cell door, its pretty much over everything. And believe me when I say everything.
Hold up, let me tie a sock around my head over my nose.
Today, the floor officer awaked me to my lunch tray: a pork chop, I havent seen in a long time, 2 biscuits, a boiled potato with gravy, green beans and beans. I was a lil happy, to see the pork chop, sick of the ground mystery meat, gristle and bone included, mixed with soggy over boiled noodles. I was just sitting down with my tray when my brother Obie Weathers, whos a few cages down from me hollered to get the officers attention. I was thinking to myself that something almost smelt spoiled. Then I heard weathers say the vegetables were spoiled. I smelled the tray and pulled my head back, almost ready to puke. Either the white beans (which are almost never cooked) or the green beans (which a lot of the times have stems in them) was spoiled. I also hollered at the officer and told him there was spoiled food on my tray, it was probably 11.30am.
We waited and waited and waited. 2pm came around and we still didnt get any relief, we wondered why we were the only two targeted and given spoiled food, or was everybody else accepting it? Youll be surprised at how many times Ive seen dozens of prisoners accept these trays, without one thing to say; almost as if afraid to let another prisoner know they had accepted the lashing.
The food situation has been an ongoing thing for years; and it has gotten worse; worse with the attitude of this administration. Take for example the day after Christmas, Weathers and I received dinner trays with Oh-my-gawd-make-me-wanta-puke spoiled vegetables on it. When we addressed it to the two floor officers passing out the trays, Man, you mean to tell me you couldnt smell these spoiled trays?!!! They both said their sense of smell wasnt working. We requested to speak to the Sgt. Two Sgts came to the pod, Sgt Williams and Sgt Turner. (Coincidently, neither of their noses were working either! Can you believe that Sgt Turner said you mean to tell me after all that good food we fed you yesterday, youre gonna complain? However, Sgt Williams made sure Weathers and I was given a generous compensation for the spoiled meal.
Here again was Weathers and I the only two out of 84 people that received spoiled vegetables, or did everybody else accept the crack of the whip, just being grateful in their sick mental state, not wanting to stir the Massas anger?
The absurd thing is that this food is even making its contaminated way out of the kitchen. Then when the pod officers get the chow cart (which keeps all the trays warm while they use chow carriers to carry the trays to the prisoners) they dont offer us a second line of defense by inspecting the food. What disturbs me is how officers, when I confront them about ill-prepared trays, sometimes say hey I give yall what they give us or Everybody got the same thing
If pod officers knew what we were suppose to get, whats suppose to be on those trays they bring to us from the kitchen, they wouldnt be able to use ignorance as a defense (which is probably why out of all the psychological warfare they teach these officers to use on us, they dont teach them what our trays are supposed to look like) when a prisoner complains about the adequacy of a tray.
Further, it doesnt matter that everybody else accepted their tray or got the same thing. Im not going to accept an ill-prepared tray. And whether everybody got the same thing is irrelevant if the tray is missing some food. Part of the reason why I and a few others refuse to accept being treated like hogs being slopped is to take these lines of defenses away from the officers. Officers are not supposed to subtly encourage prisoners to accept the crack of the whip! Then when Im the only one out of 14 prisoners that gets what we was only suppose to get in the first place, maybe my actions will act as a mirror showing them their true selves; maybe theyll also assert their humanity. Sadly, many react by lashing out at the mirror that reveals their sickness than to lash out at the system that tricked them into accepting being encouraged to accept slop! This is the mind state I refer to as reactionary homicide.
The next day, food from lunch was stuck in clumps underneath my dinner tray. What does this mean, besides that these trays werent cleaned? A tray carrier holds 7 trays that slide in one above the other. The food stuck underneath my tray can easily fall onto the tray directly below it, contaminating it.
Several days later the trays were missing either cornbread or bread. Again Weathers and I were the only ones, at least on our section, to address this issue. In doing so, we were compensated with an extra tray. But this was no Victory, 1) we shouldnt have had to address officers about trays missing food. The kitchen Sgt, Pope should be on top of his job. 2) Everybody wasnt compensated for what their trays were missing. And because we know that some prisoners just dont know what they are supposed to have, we are sure to discuss these matters over the run so everybody on the section can hear it.
One particular prisoner below me that knows rules, policies, and procedure front and back had caught my attention with his silence, I hollered at him, asking him why he accepted an inadequate tray, He said he doesnt eat cornbread or bread. I thought it was a convenient response. So I waited till the next time cornbread was on the tray before calling his name, he ignored me at first, then when he answered I asked him if I could have his cornbread. I really didnt want it, I was just interested in what he would say. Surprisingly he told me hell nah because he was going to eat it. Maybe he was just hungry that day.
The crack of the whip!
I could go on and on all the way into the present, but I think you glimpse, so say the least, the complexity of this situation.
Anyway 2 p.m rolls around and the floor officers were picking up trays. They like to call it slopping trays but I try to enlighten them by saying you slop hogs, not human beings Thats what you do serve hogs slop, lest they feed their hogs corn. Be that as it may, other prisoners would have to say vigilant and persistently address these dehumanising comments if we hope for officers to break the habitual behavior. Im tempted to postulate that part of the reason were having these problems with our food in particular, and with our treatment in general, are because of a perspective that many officers share that leads to such comments.
When the floor officers came to my cage and I told them I was going to hold the tray and occupy the food slot (refusing to allow them to close it) because they already knew what the problem was and I was able to get them to see my spoiled tray in the same light they would see receiving spoiled food from a restaurant, not to mention sympathize with the fact Weathers and I hadnt eaten since breakfast, they didnt react harshly, spewing subtle threats. They understood and was happy to rest while we waited for the Sgt to arrive.
Sgt Ludwig arrived, I immediately accepted the fact that I was going to end up gassed when it was all said and done. How he had even made Sgt in the first place--- well, I was going to make a mindless statement. Him making Sgt. Is not beyond my comprehension. You move up in rank by demonstrating you will patriotically stand to their good old boy system of complicity and play a lil dirty if you have to.
Sgt. Ludwig has no communication skills. It doesnt matter what you have to say or how much logic there is to it, its always hurry up and some kind of indefinite resolution mixed with a direct order and a threat of being subjected to gas (chemical agents). He truly epitomizes the officer that would rather break a prisoner from standing up for himself and smile while doing it, than to resolve the situation in a way that purges the problem from the equation to avoid future problems.
Should I tell you about the one time he told me he wanted to gas me in such a way that the gas runs down your back and down the crack of your ass I was only able to get him to divulge these desires to me by saying with a smile on my face you like to gas people dont you? You wanted to gas me huh? something like that.
I handed Sgt Ludwig the tray to smell, hoping he wouldnt say his nose wasnt working. To my relief he agreed the food was spoiled. The he said hell see about getting Weathers and I some extra food later in the evening at dinner. I asked why we couldnt get another pork chop tray. He said there was none. Once I brought up the officers dining room (ODR) which is the main kitchen he wasnt listening anymore.
All the food that comes to Death Row which is located in 12 building of this unit, has to come from the main kitchen, ODR. This is where the food is cooked and stored.
I told Sgt Ludwig there has to be something left in the refrigerator because Weathers and I was hungry and hadnt eaten since 3 in the morning. Before I could finish he said there was no refrigerator. Which is a lie. Before I couldnt finish saying he could get us some sandwiches (which they keep for those who missed their meal for some reason) Sgt. Ludwig said Im just gonna gas ya! as he walked off with a smile on his face.
I wrapped my head in a sheet. It made me look like a ninja. I covered my eyes with some plastic, and waited, silently hoping some other officer with some sense would arrive.
When Sgt. Ludwig came back with the camera woman, and a face mask with a can of gas in his hands, Cpt Lacox followed behind him. When I politely called Cpt Lacox over, he gave me an indifferent attitude and said what his Sgt says goes, denying me my right to access to my chain of command. Blind complicity.
Sgt Ludwig started giving me 2 direct orders to relinquish the food slot or chemical agents will be utilized I turned my back to the food slot bracing myself. I head him position the canister at head level, I closed my eyes, held my head down some, and focused on my breathing. The Sgt Ludwig blasted the back of my head with a 5 second burst (though its supposed to be 3) of chemical agents. I could hear and feel the gas sizzle through the sheet and in my hair.
I held my position contemplating how far I would allow it to go.
When they called the 5 man riot team, decked out with helmets, elbow pads, knew pads, shin guards, and a point man with a shield, I let the Sgt have the slot back.
Sgt. Ludwig closed my food slot, then said, Offender Blanton, youve been subjected to a use of force. To decontaminate, use copious amounts of water Copious amounts of water? I was in my cage. All I had was a small sink. I had gas all over me, my walls, floor, etc. Decontaminate? Heres what the use of force plan, right off TDCs website, says about decontamination.
Exposure to CS (type of gas used on me)
a)Decontamination of individual:
i.During the initial recovery period, the individual may be quite alarmed because he is unable to breathe normally. He should be encouraged to remain calm and reassured that once recovery starts, it will occur quickly.
ii.Move the affected individual to uncontaminated air (preferably facing into the wind if necessary
iii.Individual should remove contact lenses and be cautioned not to rub his eyes; in cases of severe irritation, the victim should irrigate his eyes with water (i.e. by cupping water and splashing it on the face) or a one percent solution of sodium bicarbonate;
iv.If chemical agent residue is found on any individuals clothing, the clothing must be removed to obtain complete relief;
v.Generally an individual exposed to cs may shower immediately. However if CS dust particles are on the skin, as evidenced by a slight burning or tingling sensation when moist, showered should be delayed for about six (6) hours. When these individuals do shower they should use soap and avoid harsh rubbing of the affected areas.
vi.In cases of gross contamination of the skin, the affected areas (except around the eyes) should be flushed with ethylene glycol or five (5) percent solution of sodium bisulphate, rinsed with water, and a steroid or antihistamine ointment applied.
(b) Decontamination of Area:
i.Ventilate the contaminated area;
ii.Affected surfaces are to be washed with a five (5) percent solution of sodium hydroxide in equal portions of ethanol and water, and then rinsed with clear water..
Theres a reason for all these safety precautions, none of which were followed. These cages are sealed up with plexi-glass over the screens on the door. The circulation is so bad inside these cages that you can see the lint floating in the air throughout the cage. Some days worse than others. Either way I was left in the cage about the size of a walk in closet, with chemical agents all over the walls, door, floor and myself. Even when the nurse came to ask me if I was alright, and I said I couldnt breathe, I was left in this contaminated cage. Left to think about my burning neck. Left to think about my throbbing headache. Left to think twice about being bold enough to assert my human right to decent meals. Left to ponder the crack of the whip.
Obie Weathers also occupied the food slot. He was also subjected to chemical agents in the same way, he was also left in his contaminated cage; left to ponder the crack of the whip. As for how I was compensated for the spoiled meal, I was given a cold food loaf, which is nothing more than sliced pieces of bologna and mixed vegetables cooked into some harsh cornbread. Do I need to say it was cold because it came from the main kitchens refrigerator? Never mind it wasnt fresh, nor consisted of what was on the tray per policy, or that they were using food as a punishment. If any of you feel Obie Weathers and I have been mistreated in any way, please share our story with others and encourage them to make a complaint to the TDCJ ombudsman at:
P.O Box 99
Telephone number (936) 437 8035
Fax number (936) 295 8712
With everything I am
Reg Omari Blanton