Lynne speaking at Oscar Lopez River political prisoner forum

May 21st, 2015

May 21, 2015 at 6:30pm

147 West 24th Street, 2nd floor

Manhattan

Updated information on Lynne’s panels at Left Forum

May 18th, 2015

Lynne at the Left Forum 2015

Lynne will be on 2 panels.  Information below.

“We are our own liberators! When we free our political prisoners, we free ourselves”

SATURDAY MAY 30 at 12:00pm – 01:50pm in Room L2.84

Chaired by Ralph and Lynne, featuring numerous former prisoners and supporters and those engaged today in this struggle.

When people fear their govt, there is tyranny. When the govt fears the people there is liberty.” Jalil Muntaqim states,“ …our humanity is challenged by the historical dynamic of racism and capitalism …the police are used as tools of the capitalist class to protect financial interest over human interest…(P)olice violence represents the interests of the State…the BPP was confronted with the full force of state violence, destroying a movement…The death of a movement for liberation serves to keep in place…state violence.” Resistance to this constant oppression was framed by Malcolm X & MLK. Pol. prisoners represent the theoretical & political position OF the world. We owe our human rights to pol. prisoners. LYNNE STEWART says,” … the “law” is what “they” want it to be at any given time. Witness the Dred Scott decision, the Japanese internment cases of WWII, and the Scottsboro and other legal lynching cases. In 2014, stemming from the series (ongoing since 1619) of unprosecuted crimes against the African American population, we confront the lawlessness, now inherent, of an ancient legal institution, the Grand Jury. The thread that links the attempts to legitimize mass extermination of the Muslim struggle for freedom to the 400 years of systematic extermination of the original inhabitants of this continent, to the systematic terrorism perpetrated against people of color in this country is racism fueled by capitalism…”

“Public Schools VS. Charter Schools – The Legacy of the NYC Community Control Struggle: The True Debate Must Be Education VS. Mis-education”

SATURDAY MAY 30 at 5:10pm – 07:00pm Room -1.81

Chairs/Facilitators: Ralph Poynter & Lynne Stewart—New Abolitionist

MovementSpeakers/Co-Facilitators: Anthony Gronowicz—Green Party, Pastor Sherri Jackson-Black—Brownsville Matters, Betty Davis—New Abolitionist Movement, Howie Hawkins—Green Party

Everyday children, especially Black & Brown, do not achieve in education is an educational loss…they fall further behind every child in the world. When the struggle for community control of schools was defeated, the struggle for true education, for children of color continued. Almost 50 years later, public schools write off these students. The system of Charter Schools controlled by corporations with only profits as a goal, rule. Children of color fall behind every day & all schools are responsible. However, the recent Charter School movement not only endangers the struggle to maintain democracy, it threatens the entire institutional history of public education. We must consider the struggle in society and in the schools to overcome authoritarianism and reach toward humanism. The New Abolitionist Movement insists our educational system be democratic.We have been distracted by debates of non-issues, the most prevalent being testing vs non testing. The true debate is education vs mis-education. The New Abolitionist Movement maintains that mis-education equals ethnic cleansing & the new slavery. To do nothing to change this is an immoral political position. The charter school movement endangers the struggle for democracy & threatens the entire institutional history of the public school system. Freire states, “…Problem posing education, as a humanist & liberating praxis, posits as fundamental that (humans) subjected to domination must fight for their emancipation.

Ralph and others reading at Book Launch Party (NYC)

April 30th, 2015

Sunday, May 3, 3:00pm
May Day Celebration & Book Launch Party for
TALKING BACK: Voices of Color

Come be a part of launching this dynamic new anthology featuring voices of youth, feminists, political prisoners, immigrants and history-makers. Edited and with an introduction by poet Nellie Wong.

Readers will include:
Yolanda Alaniz – on tour from Los Angeles
Ralph Poynter
James Wright
Emily Woo Yamasaki

Light refreshments will be served.

Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria
2113 Amsterdam Ave., NYC
At corner of 165th St.
Subways: C to 163rd St.; A, C or #1 to 168th St.

Sponsor:Comrades of Color Caucus of Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party

For more info, call 212-222-0633 or email nycfsp@gmail.com.

Lynne at the Left Forum 2015

April 27th, 2015

Lynne at the Left Forum 2015

Lynne will be on 3 panels.  Time and Place will be announced in the coming weeks .  The first of the panels are “Public Schools v Charter Schools,” chaired by Ralph, with Lynne,. Betty Davis Reverend Shane Jackson and Howie Hawkins (Green Party). The second is “Achieving Justice for the Wrongfully Incarcerated” chaired by Dave Bliven (IOC) and with Sharone Salaam and Yusef Salaam, and Raymond Santana (all from the Central Park Jogger case). The third is titled “We are our own liberators! When we free our political prisoners, we free ourselves” chaired by Ralph and with LS and numerous former prisoners and supporters and those engaged today in this struggle. A description of this panel is below:

When people fear their govt, there is tyranny. When the govt fears the people there is liberty.” Jalil Muntaqim states,“ …our humanity is challenged by the historical dynamic of racism and capitalism …the police are used as tools of the capitalist class to protect financial interest over human interest…(P)olice violence represents the interests of the State…the BPP was confronted with the full force of state violence, destroying a movement…The death of a movement for liberation serves to keep in place…state violence.” Resistance to this constant oppression was framed by Malcolm X & MLK. Pol. prisoners represent the theoretical & political position OF the world. We owe our human rights to pol. prisoners. LYNNE STEWART says,” … the “law” is what “they” want it to be at any given time. Witness the Dred Scott decision, the Japanese internment cases of WWII, and the Scottsboro and other legal lynching cases. In 2014, stemming from the series (ongoing since 1619) of unprosecuted crimes against the African American population, we confront the lawlessness, now inherent, of an ancient legal institution, the Grand Jury. The thread that links the attempts to legitimize mass extermination of the Muslim struggle for freedom to the 400 years of systematic extermination of the original inhabitants of this continent, to the systematic terrorism perpetrated against people of color in this country is racism fueled by capitalism…”

Interview with Lynne in Guernica Magazine

April 16th, 2015

In Defense Of

Direct link to article: https://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/in-defense-of/

Jean Stevens interviews Lynne Stewart
April 15, 2015

The “people’s lawyer” on her most controversial criminal defense cases—including the one that sent her to prison.

https://www.guernicamag.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Lynne-Stewart_500.jpg
Courtesy of Lynne Stewart.

During America’s civil rights and women’s liberation movements of the 1960s and ’70s, hundreds of activists who challenged state repression and surveillance faced arrests and criminal convictions. Many such activists sought legal defense from “movement lawyers,” those who understood and sympathized with their social justice aims.

By the late 1970s, Lynne Stewart emerged as one of the movement’s leading defense attorneys, fiercely representing members of the political left—most notably, leaders of the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground. And in 1993, Stewart represented defendant Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian Muslim cleric, in one of the nation’s first terrorism cases. That role ultimately resulted in her own conviction, disbarment, and incarceration, which lasted from 2009 to 2013.

Stewart, now seventy-five, was born to a white working-class family in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens. She began on a path of challenging the status quo while working in the ’60s as a school librarian in Harlem, where she discovered a movement for greater access to education led by parents, teachers, and organizers in the neighborhood. There, she also met her future husband, Ralph Poynter, who became her lifelong champion.

In the ’70s, Stewart discovered her true calling—law. After studying at Rutgers School of Law, she advertised her services as a legal advocate, and, she says, “took anything that came across my doorstep.” However, she felt most compelled by defense work, especially the defense of those facing incarceration for struggling against “institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism, and sexism,” as she told the New York Times in 1995. A self-described “people’s lawyer,” she not only took on the cases of high-profile clients facing political prosecution, but also low-income clients without access to a proper defense, as well as unpopular, controversial defendants, like Sammy Gravano of the Gambino crime family. Regardless of how provocative the case, as Stewart contended in a recent interview with Chris Hedges, progressive attorneys should “fight like hell” to defend their clients against increasingly powerful state repression.

In the aftermath of September 11th, about ten years after she represented Abdel Rahman, former US attorney general John Ashcroft charged Stewart with aiding terrorism. The case hinged on her relaying documents on her client’s behalf, allegedly conveying messages from him to his supporters. The American Criminal Law Review wrote that Stewart’s guiding principle was to defend those whose actions could be considered anti-imperialist: “While these views were considered radical when she expressed them in the ’90s, as seen through the lens of 9/11, they were judged by many as bordering on the seditious.” While preparing for court in her home one evening in 2002, she was arrested. Two years later, she was arraigned, convicted, and sentenced to twenty-eight months in prison. During these proceedings, Stewart was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer and spent three years out on bail for medical treatment. Despite her ill health, in 2009, prosecutors appealed her sentence. She was re-sentenced to ten years in federal prison.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, The National Lawyers Guild, and other activists and social justice organizations considered Stewart a political prisoner. Her most avid supporters—led by her husband, Poynter—organized a campaign calling for Stewart’s compassionate release and assembled a zealous legal defense team. They sought review from the Supreme Court and, in 2013, argued in federal district court that her sentence be reduced and concluded given her previous time served. Several months later, on New Year’s Eve, Stewart was released on the grounds that her terminal condition and short life expectancy warranted a shorter sentence. Newly free, she alighted at LaGuardia Airport, where an enormous crowd of family, friends, and journalists greeted her. When asked what she felt in that moment by Democracy Now host Amy Goodman, Stewart replied, “Beyond joy.”

I spoke with Stewart and her husband—who occasionally added context and color to our interview—over coffee at their home in Brooklyn, where she is currently resting, seeking treatment for her ongoing illness, and sharing her lessons and life experiences with the next generation of people’s lawyers.

Jean Stevens for Guernica

Guernica: How did your upbringing lead you to a life of activism?

Lynne Stewart: It’s very simple. I grew up in white, working-class Bellerose, Queens. There were no black people to be seen—Bellerose is still pretty white. I went to an all-white school, had all-white friends, all-white everything. Through chances of fate, a marriage that went on the rocks, a baby, in 1962, I found myself in [Harlem].

I got a job as a children’s librarian at PS 175 in Harlem, and that changed everything. That was an epiphany. I didn’t know Harlem existed. I didn’t know there was such a place, because I grew up in white Queens, where five miles is 100 miles. So I went to the school and, being a smart cookie—as they called us in those days—I had a million questions. How did this place exist? How come I didn’t know about it? Why are people living like this? Do they want to live like this? To show you how singular I was, I said to the principal, “Well, I was a Spanish minor in college, so that might be useful to me.” He looked at me and said, “We don’t have anyone who speaks Spanish at this school. This is an all-Negro school.”

Why wasn’t I told about this? How could I have been the valedictorian, the smartest, and never known Harlem existed? As a result, I began a lifelong learning experience, because I could not accept what the party line was with education—that these people want to live like this, these people don’t have ambition, they don’t want to work. You know, all the usual bullshit. I met Ralph there probably within the first month. We were both there in September of ’62.

Guernica: How did you meet?

Ralph Poynter: I was teaching at another school at 8th Avenue and 141st Street and they asked me to go to a troubled school if I didn’t mind.

Lynne Stewart: That was, and still is, a typical Board of Education ploy—put the strong, masculine figure in a school with tough kids and you have a certain control. It’s very demeaning to the kids and very demeaning to the tough, black guy, but that’s how they worked it. So he came to PS 175, and the principal decided to interview him in the library. And the rest is history! [laughs]

Guernica: You worked at the school through the ’60s, through Vietnam and the civil rights movement. What were those years like, and how were you involved in activism there?

Lynne Stewart: I stayed at PS 175 through an early and very telling political action around community control of schools, which was to become my main focus for the rest of the ’60s—along with the Vietnam War and other things. It was to reclaim schools for the community, and to have the community have a first say in the schools. Of course, the leadership of that was Ralph. He went out, he was in the streets, Ralph was organizing in Harlem—the people, the parents. You name it, he was out there. I was not exactly the girl in the office, but I was still learning. It was a very, very highly fraught battle. It ended up that we did not win, and I ended up teaching on the Lower East Side, close to where we were living. Then I ended up organizing on the Lower East Side till the spring of ’71. Read the rest of this entry »

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