Day 54. Bobby died on day 66. His last journal entry was 17 days after he began the first fatal hunger strike of that year on March 1, 1981.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Summer of 2013 is already burning a permanent mark on the memories of your decedents. The hunger strike that began throughout the California prison system on July 8, 2013 hit home for me like few things can. For starters, Pelican Bay State Prison is located in the heart of Cascadia’s Deep South. I have walked through the ponds and woods of Yontoket, where settlers massacred Indigenous Tolowa as they took refuge at the place where their world began, a place not 5 miles as the Raven flies from where Pelican Bay State Prison now sits. The beauty and power of this place was not lost on me, nor the irony of the location of this particular prison.
Continuing further south from the bioregion that is home to me, you will find another prison, and I find my name on it. What are the odds? Corcoran State Prison is the location where the first hunger striker of 2013 died (as if there might be more, pardon my Irish attitude). Billy “Guero” Sell died on July 22, and of course the CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) ruled the death of a hunger striking prisoner in solitary confinement a “suicide”. But I know from personal experience that 14 days is not long enough to starve to death. The conditions of his death are being investigated.
Next, let’s talk about what the words “HUNGER STRIKE” mean to us Irish. I was born the year after 10 Irish Republican prisoners had died on hunger strike, but this was not the first time Irish people starved to death on their own Island. The 22 well know Irish hunger strikers over the last 100 years should never obscure the fact that millions of Irish people died of starvation for objectively political reasons under British colonial rule. An Gorta Mór, known to the rest of the world as the “potato famine” that gave the title “Black ’47” to the year of my grandfather’s grandfather’s birth in Ros Comáin, is still remembered by our own people as the colonial genocide that it was. So back here in the 21st century, when over 30,000 inmates start a hunger strike throughout Imperial California’s prison system, us Irish can, well, just eat our hearts out.
And it doesn’t stop there. The California prisoners have 5 demands that they want to be met before they will end the “indefinite” hunger strike.
1. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse
2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria
3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement
4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food
5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates
Sound familiar to any of you Paddy’s out there?
I am going to be writing every day from here on out. There is so much I want to say, and so much more I am feeling. I know so many others have been feeling it also. My mind is pregnant and heart is full.
-Cathasaigh Briain Ó Corcráin – The Farewell Bend, Oolichan, Cascadia – Day 54
(Casey Bryan Corcoran – Bend, Oregon, The Republic)
“Tiocfaidh lá eigin nuair a bheidh an fonn saoirse seo le taispeáint ag daoine go léir ne hEireann ansin tchífidh muid éirí na gealaí”
–Roibeárd Gearóid Ó Seachnasaigh