Dec. 11, 2023

Celebration behind bars, etc

From Uhuru Pen by Prince Atum-Ra Uhuru Mutawakkil


Date: 12/3/2023 11:55:34 PM
Subject: Celebration behind bars, etc.

CTA / Durland Alternatives Library
Attn: Caroline
P.O. Box #6556
Ithaca, NY 14851

Salubrious Caroline.

Re: your request for my experiences with Holidays in prison.

1. Let me start by painting the mood for you, it's 4:24 am, I will be getting up normally an half hour from now to pray/read and to get ready for my voluntary job as a food server, I'm listening to the song, "Never Never Land", by Lyfe Jennings.

2. I have formulated a response to your letter days ago, but I now have a bit of time to sit down and put them to expression.

3. Also thank you for reaching out and wanting to learn about "Our" experiences.

4. Well, I've been imprisoned for over 30yrs so things have changed a lot from time to time, and prison to prison. And these are only my experiences and awarenesses/knowledge of things.

5. I came to prison in the 90s and back then, Church groups in the local area of Green Bay would donate X-mas Bags to Greenbay Prison, filled w/ a card, candy and maybe some chocolate.

6. The one thing that is statewide and still going on, from back then and currently, is the "FOUNDATION ARMY'S" toy drive for kids in which we can send toys to our kids if we have them and of young age. I can't recall if they do it for grandchildren. Also, of statewide, but still certain items differ from prison to prison, is the Holiday purchase order program. Each prison allow you to order a limited amount of items that are uniquely different from our normal canteen. For example, this year we were allowed to spend up to $75 buying candy bars, meats and cheeses. (I'll send you a brochure in a separate envelope.)

7. The other Holidays like Thanksgiving, we may get a special meal. But cannot buy anything other than regular canteen. But the special meals may simply be real chicken on bone, a thigh-leg with a nice dessert, or at times just a carton of chocolate milk. A Halloween or and a Xmas decorated Cookie.

With this minor exception. I am a CPS (Certified Peer Specialist) for this prison, and I am Housed on an SMU (Special Management Unit) and my Boss/unit manager, a person who I believe wants to make a big difference in this world, try to do so in Her sphere by doing Holiday hobby projects/hobby decorations as part of a mental health project or meaningful wellness program. In which they come out to a day room and make holiday decorations for what ever one is on the calendar. And we put them up on the walls when we are done. It can feel very grammar school at times, but she has this way about her that make it special and you see it for what she was aiming for. They do blankets and other state projects too, that they can even earn a very small wage. It is only these two units that do this though. In regards to the holiday stuff she mostly stick to what is perceived as traditional; though I'm sure if someone ask her to cover a nontraditional, she would probably do it, as her aim is more mental health than tradition or holiday. So we don't do non-religious or ethnic holidays. Like Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.

8. I am currently trying to get guys to form an Xmas choir, it will be something new. And it started off as a prank idea; as a Muslim, I really don't get into celebrations; but I don't place my beliefs on others.

9. I never really gave much thought to these any more and really never deeply cared. Though, when you call home or reminisce on the old days you get the spirit, as these were times of happiness for me as a kid and young adult.

10. Some prisoners do their "OWN" celebrations off the books. They do, "Hook-Ups". Which is composed of various items we can purchase from canteen.

11. Our items are very, very very limited in comparison to other states. The most basic, "Hook-Up" is rice, beans, cheese and flour tortilla; or rice, cheese & chicken. Or some unique variation. Add fish combos.

12. Some guys know how to be creative and make bootleg prison cheesecake. I have yet to make my best effort. But have made a few for myself in-cell.

13. "Outlaw" hook-up are made w/ stingers or if you work in the kitchen/servery you can make it street food praiseworthy. I occasionally work in our servery, which is a satellite kitchen, with a grill & microwave and you can be very creative with this access to where I make canteen or the food they give us taste like you pulled up to a street truck.

If you are in one of those spots during the holiday, you can individually or you and your orbit can make a truly special meal.

14. I'm certain, but I'm not personally inclined to participate, that in this one and other states, they make bootleg eggnog & the like spirits to celebrate their in-prison holidays.

15. After being down as long as I have, these days are you another day of loneliness. Too much thought to them can be depressing and even dangerous to some, because they bring to the surface all the things we don't have, the absence of family, a girlfriend and the like. Writing this to you may have been the most thought I've given to these in a very long time. Also, I am a student of knowledge and I like to meet new educated people.

16. I would say that New Years' is by far the most popular holiday in prisons. Most stay up late watching the many count down/music shows, playing their radios/tablets.

17. What are you studying in school? Your interest beset a sociology student, which is a field I have dilettanted with.

18. As to what I would like to change about Holidays in prison. Maybe if they allowed you to make special purchases on all these holidays, regardless of your religion, as right now you can only get special holiday stuff if it is your approved religious faith. So a holiday catalog open to anybody.

19. If possible, I would like to read all that you eventually post on your blog.

20. What's your fave holiday and what's the most memorable time? A favorite song or customs or ritual?

A few of mine was getting the turtle chocolate candies at X-Mas, and riding my brand new bike in the snow. And this silent night musical bell that hung from the tree that I use to walk around with. When I was younger, I use to get money from my father, and I would go to Toys “R” Us ever year to get whatever I wanted if my money could afford it. $500 was the limit.

Well, Caroline, I appreciated this opportunity to participate in your page and hope that you are successful in the endeavor and if any time I can further assist you let me know, and I look forward to hearing back from you soon. Take care.

Ras Atum-Ra Uhuru Mutawakkil

Mr. Norman C. Green, Jr

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 189, #228971
Phoenix, MD 22131

Place Address:
P.O. Box 900
Wisconsin, 53901-0900

Sincerely yours

Ras Uhuru.


Replies (1) Replies feed

Andromeda Posted 4 months, 3 weeks ago. ✓ Mailed 3 months, 2 weeks ago   Favorite
Dear Ras Uhuru,

Thank you very much for your message entitled "Celebration behind bars, etc." to Caroline via Between the Bars. This is a brief message to let you know that I have now transcribed it in full. This will allow your text to be seen and indexed by the wider Internet outside of the scanned image. Thank you very much for describing your experiences which I see as incredibly valuable from an ethnography perspective in documenting your prison experience.

I have completed the transcription as per the Between the Bars Transcription Guidelines; that is, I have performed the role of a spell checker but have kept the character of your writing as verbatim as possible. In short, I have interpreted each line which ended with a period (.) as a sentence break and capitalised the next letter, as well as correcting any obvious typographical errors or homophones, but have left your words otherwise exactly as written. I do hope that I have rendered your message as intended and please do let me know if there are any corrections that you would like me to make.

I would like to offer you my very best wishes for the holiday season -- which intersects so many faiths and traditions -- and it has been a pleasure to type this up for you. Above all, thank you for sharing your experience, which is greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,


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