On a sunny, Sunday afternoon (9-20- 20) in MLK Park, in front of what is now known as the statue of The Universal Black Man, PRP2 hosted a spoken word event to remember the Attica State Prison Uprising of 1971. The advertised theme, “Attikkka is the Knee on Our Neck … and I Can’t Breathe,” attracted a small group of people, fully masked and energized to be a part of PRP2’s annual tribute to the courageous prisoners who stood tall and spoke out against the abuse and brutality that were the distinguishing features of Attica State Prison in 1971.
PRP2 has recognized the importance of the rebellion that took place in September of 1971 with an annual community event for the last 15 years. Films have been screened, guest speakers have been invited to have their say, and panel discussions have been organized. One year a small group staged a rally and march from Buffalo to Attica. We have vowed to always remember and to never forget the importance of what took place from September 9 – 13, 1971. We remember the bravery of the prisoners who demanded no more than to be treated as human beings. And we saw a racist government’s response, when Governor Rockefeller called the State Troopers who murdered both prison guards and prisoners. The leader of the Troopers later described it as a “turkey shoot,” as a whole division of State Troopers, posted on top of the prison walls, looked down into the prison yard where naked prisoners and guards were, unaware that the order had been given to randomly shoot into the yard.
This group of 20 people remembered the most horrendous American prison uprising of the 20″‘ century. Karima Amin, Executive Director of PRP2 opened the program with a welcome and a brief Libation (African-centered ceremony) that resulted in the calling of prisoners’ names: Frank ‘Big Black’ Smith, L. D. Barkley, Willie West, Jomo Davis, and Herbert X. Blyden, men who were part of the leadership that organized the rebellion. We also acknowledged those with names unknown who were a part of this historic event. Our vocalist, Elle Vie, led the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and, later in the program, she sang a beautiful rendition of “Everything Must Change.” Our guest poets, Taharka Odinga