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2013 Bob Sheldon Award Honors Organizers in NC Prisons

credit: Certain Days

This year, we choose to honor the bravery and resilience of people engaged in struggle against some of the most crushing odds in our society – the violence and captivity of the state. This year, we honor the many bold organizers inside the prisons of North Carolina.

Bob Sheldon founded Internationalist Books in 1981, and ran the shop for ten years, until his death in 1991. More than 20 years after his death, Bob’s memory endures through the friends, family and community that knew him, the work he did, and the project he began that has continued for decades to inspire political action in North Carolina and bring people together.

In a culture that degrades us and pushes us to see ourselves as isolated, our desires for revolutionary change as futile and limited by our own smallness, Bob’s example shows us that living a life of conviction creates something that can outlast our own times. Remembering Bob inspires us to understand how our acts of bravery and defiance and the spaces – like Internationalist Books – that we make and defend have a power that is bigger than each of us individually, a power to unmake the world we endure and to create the world we want. Bob said, in 1983, that “the world situation demands
sweeping changes and we must do our part to meet that challenge. We support the unity and liberation of oppressed peoples worldwide, and are working toward the day when all oppression and inequality will be removed from the face of the earth.” We award the Bob Sheldon Award each year to recognize and celebrate individuals and groups whose work is done in this spirit.

This year, we choose to honor the bravery and resilience of people engaged in struggle against some of the most crushing odds in our society – the violence and captivity of the state. This year, we honor the many bold organizers inside the prisons of North Carolina.

These organizers have organized hunger strikes, protested working conditions, sued guards and facilities, called out the abusive behavior of their guards, and organized together and with supporters on the outside.

We are choosing to honor all of these organizers as a group with the Bob Sheldon Award. We do this to celebrate collective action, and to make sure that we recognize all of these brave organizers, even if we do not know their names, or we can not safely name them publicly for fear of retaliation within the prisons. We would like to honor by name those people who we can, publicly and as we reach out to people over the next weeks to share the news of this award. One of those men, Jamey Wilkins, was involved in the hunger strikes this summer in Central Prison in Raleigh, and has a long history of resistance in prison – including a new year’s riot at Polk Youth Facility, and a successful suit against guards that changed policies within the NC prison system. We would like also to specifically honor the Strong 8, the organizers of hunger strikes in three facilities this summer, the prisoners in Sampson CI who brought suit and circulated public letters in November, and the prisoners who have written from Central Prison this fall and winter who are incarcerated on Unit 1, housed in segregation and facing beatings and abuses for their political activities.

Unlike in past years, where we honor individuals who can join us for an event to celebrate this award, this year we are honoring people who can’t be with us on the outside. For this reason, we would like to encourage the community to celebrate the recipients of this year’s Bob Sheldon Award by writing letters,
supporting and publicizing prison rebels and their struggles, and working with groups who connect organizers on the inside to support and solidarity on the outside, like our own Internationalist Prison Books Project, the organizers of the Amplify Voices Inside project with the Durham jail, North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, and all of our friends, family and comrades resisting inside the prisons, and on the outside resisting prisons and the world that creates them.

Internationalist Books will be publicizing and celebrating the recipients of this year’s Bob Sheldon Award through personal letters, celebratory cards for organizers at this month’s Political Prisoner Letter Writing Night (March 13th), and the creation of a pamphlet about Bob Sheldon’s life and legacy and the celebration of NC prison organizing for the Prison Books Collective to include in the packages sent within the NC prison system. We will also be sharing this news with the wider community through publicity. Help us spread the word of this year’s Bob Sheldon Award and the struggles of organizers in the NC prisons!