Beyond Prisons podcast host Kim Wilson sits down with Amani Sawari of the Right2Vote campaign to talk about her work on a nationwide effort that grew out of the 2018 prison strike demand to extend voting rights for all justice-involved people.

Amani and Kim talk about what it was like for her to teach poetry inside a youth prison and she shares a couple of poems written by her former students.

Amani Sawari is a writer, founder of the site sawarimi.org, coordinator for the Right2Vote Campaign and a 2019 Civil Rights Fellow with the Roddenberry Foundation. She graduated from the University of Washington in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Media Communication Studies and Law, and Economics & Public Policy. Her visionary publications aid in distributing messages and building community among participants in the prison resistance movement on both sides of the wall.

In the aftermath of the Lee County Massacre that occurred in South Carolina’s Department of Corrections, Sawari was selected by Jailhouse Lawyers Speak to be their spokesperson for their 2018 National Prison Strike. Her coordination of over 400 endorsing businesses, groups and organizations led to the successful participation of incarcerated activists in 17 states and 3 regions abroad including, Palestinians held captive in Israeli Prisons, Leipzig Prison in Greece and at Burnside Prison in Nova Scotia, Canada.

In addition to coordinating Right2Vote, Amani is organizing the Statewide campaign to end Truth-in-Sentencing laws and bring back Good Time in Michigan. Today Sawari’s monthly Right2Vote Report is mailed to hundreds of prisoners in 27 states across the country.


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Hosts: Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein

Music: Jared Ware


Amani read the following poems by her former students on the episode:

CHANGING WAYS

No New Year’s resolution for me
No crying decree
No promises, just average changes

Less time screwing around
More time helping my parents in need
Less time skipping school
More time going to school

Not so many fake friends
A few more real friends
Not so many regrets
A few more successes

Less running away from reality
More facing reality
Less dreaming
More accomplishments

Change after all…is good
Change after all
Is all I know

 

Dedicated to my mom

 

DAILY THINGS

I go to bed every night
I see a couple bright lights
I hear a couple sounds
And they sound like gun shots
I smell hot Cheetos
Eating them in my bed
Sleeping in a king size bed
Like rolling hills underneath me
Touching my heart with fear
Thinking that somebody’s gonna come for me
Kick down my door
Come in my house
And hit me
But I hit him back
And had no fear.

 

LIFE OF A YOUNG MEXICAN

Just a young child
Living life wild
Rarely had a father figure
So I just started busting triggers
I was a good boy
Back in elementary
Who woulda thought I’d get to see the penitentiary

Squares at my school never really liked me
I felt misplaced
I just wanted to be happy
I told my mother
Let’s go back to Mexico
She said “sorry mi’jo”
You just got to let it go

I said “Fuck it”
And went to Denny middle school
Everything was different
I started acting like a fool
Met some crazy vatos
back in 7th grade
That was when my life really freaking changed
I started kicking it with all the fucking “criminales”
We would be posted like a herd of “animales”

I started sportin’ that blue
I started reppin’ the “sur”
I use to think it was about hanging and smoking dope
Then I realized that this gang life ain’t no joke
Got beat up a couple times
Sniffed a couple lines
Sold a couple dimes

Beyond Prisons

Beyond Prisons

Beyond Prisons is a podcast on incarceration and prison abolition that elevates people directly impacted by the system. Hosted by Kim Wilson and Brian Sonenstein.