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Fast 4 Freedom.
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“We must be players, not spectators, in the design of the future world. We must be a part of the community of ideas and agents of the development of vision in the process of brining into being the world that we ought to have.” —Asa G. Hilliard III
-by Efren Paredes, Jr.
I didn’t have to work this last day of the Fast for Freedom, Saturday, March 22, 2008. I slept in until 8:30 AM and then I started my day. It was the first day since the fast began that I didn’t have to be at work the following morning by 6:30 AM. I felt good though. I felt energetic, alert and prepared to begin the day.
I spent a lot of time reflecting this morning, thinking about when the fast began last Sunday. I thought about the events that transpired throughout the week and the lessons I learned. I also took the time to pray for everyone who was fasting or joining us in spirit.
I began thinking about resuming my regular daily routine. I would begin working out again and doing other physical activities on Sunday. I avoided rigorous physical activity during the fast. In the beginning I attempted to continue working out, but soon discovered it would likely make me too weak to complete the fast.
After I washed up and organized my room I spoke to a couple prisoners. They stopped by my room and asked me how the fast was going. One of them knew it was the last day of the fast. He jokingly said it seems like I fast every day because there seems to never be a moment that passes when I’m not either typing, reading, writing, working out, talking on the phone, going on visits, going to the law library, or working. He said it seems like I never even have time to eat.
I told him, “It seems like that sometimes! I’m fighting for my life though. I just don’t waste my time foolishly when I could be spending it educating myself and preparing myself for my eventual release. I’m getting out one day. And when I am released I will do so fully prepared for my re-entry to society.”
He further stated that in his 17 years of incarceration he has never known another prisoner more busy than I at all the different prisons where he has been. I didn’t find that part hard to believe. It wasn’t the first time I have been told that.
It is common for me to spend hours each day on my typewriter, between 3:00 PM and 12:00 midnight. I spend every available minute I can at the typewriter, composing letters, writing essays, generating support. I hardly watch television except to listen to the news.
I never watch movies, sitcoms, or other things for entertainment purposes either. I may
occasionally listen to music videos while I’m typing, but I rarely watch them. I can do that when I’m free. Right now my campaign for justice takes precedence over transitory pleasures or comforts in life.
The other prisoner I spoke to, asked me how I was doing physically. He knows I am always strong mentally, physically and spiritually. He just wondered what kind of toll fasting the entire week took on my body.
On this day of hope and new life, we go forward in the belief that truth, justice, and freedom will prevail. The fast was a powerful way to connect in a very real way with Efren and others around the world. It also gave me the opportunity to talk with many people this week about Efren and the injustice of mandatory juvenile sentencing. A special grace was our Wednesday prayer service at St. Peter’s where we spoke with Efren and, led by Julie, united our voices in songs of freedom. Keep your eyes on the prize, Efren, . . . the arc of history may be long but it indeed bends toward justice. We will continue to write, advocate, and pray. Although our fast from food ended last night, I pray that we will never stop fasting from apathy, indifference, and despair. Including one of my favorite poems as a gift of strength and hope. Although written in a different place under different circumstances, the hope is the same.
They have threatened us with Resurrection
There is something here within us
which doesn’t let us sleep, which doesn’t let us rest,
which doesn’t stop the pounding deep inside.
It is the silent, warm weeping of women without their husbands
it is the sad gaze of children fixed there beyond memory . . .
What keeps us from sleeping
is that they have threatened us with resurrection!
Because at each nightfall
though exhausted from the endless inventory
of killings for years,
we continue to love life,
and do not accept their death!
In this marathon of hope
there are always others to relieve us
in bearing the courage necessary . . .
Accompany us then on this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
You will know then how marvelous it is
to live threatened with resurrection!
To live while dying
and to already know oneself resurrected.
The number of people taking part in the Fast has just passed 100! To see the current list click here.
By Efren Paredes, Jr.
Day three of the fast proved to be filled with a number of positive developments. I remain strong and I have continued to stay focused. The daily prayers, meditations, and communing with family and friends have sustained me during this time.
Last night was difficult at times. My leg repeatedly became numb as did my left arm. This woke me up repeatedly until around 2:00 AM when I was finally able to fall asleep. I slept well though and felt rested in the morning. During the times I struggled to sleep I thought about the events that would occur today, Wednesday, March 19, 2008. I knew it was going to be a busy day.
I awoke excited about the prospects of the new day would bring. As I have each morning this week, I opened my eyes to the sound of the alarm on my wristwatch beeping. And, like the previous two days, the alarm went off twice because I didn’t wake up to turn it off the first time.
While I have had difficulty going to sleep on some days, I have been sleeping pretty hard through the night once I have gone to sleep. But I haven’t complained about any of it. I know it’s part of the struggle I committed to participate in, and a small sacrifice I can make as I am joined in spirit by family, our strong committee, and supporters across the globe.
One thing I have never feared is taking a leadership role. Leading by example, and showing everyone that completing the fast can be achieved, is an example of fulfilling that role. I am a strong proponent of the philosophy that leaders lead by their actions and not through speeches or writings.
The vigil last night at St. Peter’s was full of hope, compassion, song, grumbling stomachs, prayer, reflection, laughter and – thanks to Efren’s call-in and a chance to talk with him – a great deal of inspiration. We hope some of you can make it to the “way of the cross” procession through our own crucified city and world this Friday. (Good Friday is the day Christians remember the kangaroo court and cruel legal lynching of Jesus). Meet by noon at St. Peter’s. Also, the Easter vigil service at 8:00 p.m. Saturday, will surely be a moving occasion. Easter is the day when Christian are reminded that even if they didn’t happen to be living in Palestine two thousand years ago they are still walking with Jesus – if they keep their eyes open and learn how to know him when he comes by. Peace.
Mike and Carmen Kelly
We are with you in the sacred flame that we shall light together on Wednesday. Even though we are on the other side of the Turtle Shell, we are moving right along with you. In a slow but determined pace. In solidarity and strength.
For those who commenced our Fast for Efren and Friends yesterday, we say to Efren’s loved ones that we are with you in conscious and deliberate struggle. For
there are people in this world who spend their lives taking freedom for granted, and then there are those who spend a lifetime fighting for freedom. We hold ourselves in the latter category, behind Efren, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Ramsey Muniz, Anthony
Throop, and so many others whose freedom lies in our ability to bring down the walls of oppression by standing united in our resistance.
Thank you all who have answered the call to action. On day two of our fast, let us heed the words that Efren has to share, which can be heard at this link:
Efren called me again last night–thank you Helen for arranging that–and he sounded very excited about the future, of what the coming days will bring.
It reminded me of when I began to see my imprisonment coming to an end. Even though it took ten years to finally see that day (8/24/06) manifest, I felt a sense of gratitude for being alive that I know is what is sustaining Efren at this moment. For as he wrote
in a piece last week, Victory in the struggle is all we know.
This afternoon, Monday March, 17, 2008, when I returned to my housing unit I went to the officer’s desk to pick up my store order. We can place an order for food and beverages once a week from the prisoner store. Mondays are the days my unit receives their store orders. This week I basically only ordered assorted flavored juice drinks because I knew I would be fasting. After I checked my order to verify I received everything I proceeded to my cell.
I opened the door (we have keys to our cells) and to my dismay I discovered a manila envelope on my desk. It was the kind that comes from prison staff. I wasn’t expecting any mail though, and I wasn’t expecting a sealed envelope either.
I opened the envelope to discover inside a Parole Eligibility/Lifer Review Report along with a note affixed to it that reads, “I am completing your Lifer Review. The [Parole] Board plans to see you in the next couple of months. Write on this form. Add info I may have left out. Write home placement and proposed job.” It was signed by my unit case manager.
Parole Eligibility/Life Review Reports are prepared prior to Parole Board reviews prisoners have been scheduled for. I wasn’t scheduled to see the Parole Board until March 2009. Prisoners serving life in prison only receive review by the Parole Board every five years. Next year would be my 20th year of incarceration.
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It was clearly evident this early review is prompted by Parole Board interest. And, it is clear that interest was generated by the commutation request that was submitted on February 28, 2008, to the Parole Board, a culmination of our hard work, and the strong support we have garnered. This is confirmed by a message we received two days ago from a National Public Radio (NPR) reporter.
The reporter indicated that she had contacted the Parole Board to inquire about the status of my commutation request and was informed that the Commutation Board was “gathering documents.” Part of that process would include initiating a Parole Eligibility Report.
While this is a great thing it is only the initial steps in the process. What will occur next is the Parole Board will review my commutation request and my prison file together and then conduct a personal interview with me. After that the Parole Board member who conducts the interview will make a recommendation to the rest of the Parole Board. The rest of the Parole Board as a whole will review everything and then make a recommendation to the Governor’s office.
-Efren Paredes, Jr.
Jackson, Michigan – Cotton Correctional Facility
“But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it’s better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you’re fighting for.” —Paulo Coelho
Day one was a challenge for my first ever juice/water fast. It was different than other fasts I have participated in during my life. I understand the struggle though and I know it means that I am developing strength and enlightenment along the way.
Our cause is noble and a reminder to us of the many things we take for granted, namely our liberties. This is a time to reflect and be grateful for all we have in our lives, and a time to think about the things others have been denied or unlawfully robbed of.
We are united in solidarity across the globe. The strength of our spirit and voice is going to transcend every imaginable boundary and make our plea for justice heard loud and clear.
Nothing can stop the voice of truth. Remember, truth crushed to the earth is truth still, and like a seed, will rise again.
Stay strong and encouraged during the fast. We will succeed!