Singing at Work Wednesday: Take This Hammer

“Take this hammer / carry it to the captain / tell him I’m a-gone. / If he ask you / was I runnin / tell him I’s a-flyin’. / I don’t want no / bread and ‘lasses / It hurts my pride. / If he ask you / was I laughin / tell him I’s a-cryin.”

Ya sha, dey still do call tings to de “captains” at Angola. This is the next to last week of classes here. I feel slightly imprisoned in certain forms of drudgery but the analogy is not entirely fair; rather than make it, then, I am saluting all the students with parents and other loved ones in jail.

I would like to say that the current warden did not reform Angola. The work he claims as his own was accomplished by others and he does not represent progress but backlash.


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Filed under Banes, Movement

5 responses to “Singing at Work Wednesday: Take This Hammer

  1. You know those brutal pictures make me feel that the mass media have done this. They have glamorized prison life. The prisons have gone Hollywood, and everyone has a role to play as prisoner, gang member, guard, victim: But it’s horrid.
    Prison life is not like that in Hawaii, at least not where I worked.

  2. What security level of prison / what class of inmates? What part of the requisite prison?

    Also: State or Federal?

  3. P.S. I took the reference to California out and there went the brutal pictures — decided the post needed to be two posts and I should not use it to also talk about my resentment of people who, while replicating all sorts of white behavior criticize me for living in the Old Dominion because it is white.
    About which more at some other time. The South is Black, people, is what I have to say to all the old Anglo Californian complaints made to me about how white it allegedly is.

  4. Prof. Z: Ignore criticism. I do! And laugh off the remarks of ignorant and hostile people.
    Anyway: This was a minimum security prison in an out of the way place on the Big Island of Hawaii. The prisoners were 50-75% sex offenders. Most of them were Polynesian, part-Polynesian, or “local,” meaning from everywhere, ancestrally speaking.
    The culture was different. Even very rough men were deferential to older people and educated people, for instance. They were not disruptive.
    With few exceptions, the ones who gave me a hard time on occasion were the white prisoners. Other prisoners would apologize to me for their rude behavior. I did have problems with one very sophisticated Black Muslim from Berkeley who felt that I had no place running the class and that he should be doing it. But of course politicizing a basic math class is a stretch, even in prison.
    There is a lot to say here. Above all, this was not a glamorous place. No strutting guards. Only one lockdown iso cell. The guys wore jeans, t-shirts and jackets. Very little drama. And when there was drama, everyone hated it. Average prisoners and staff avoided confrontation whenever possible.
    This is history, because the prison has been closed down and all those prisoners distributed to big zoo prison in Honolulu or to for-profit prisons built especially for Hawaiian prisoners in Arizona! Disgusting. But typical of this place, where covering up the bad stuff is a way of life.

  5. That actually sounds a lot like the minimum security state places here & even some parts of Angola now on a good day.

    OMG, that’s right, there’s that private prison in Arizona for Hawaiians — so irrational.

    Criticism and the remarks of ignorant and hostile people, you’re right, I’m trying, and also trying to take seriously your comment about being so hard on myself. I used to not understand when people told me I put a lot of pressure on myself or that I should allow myself to do what I want, because I was not aware of the constraints I had internalized.

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