By Chief Ismat
For the #HammersInYoHood campaign black hammer has also been meeting with local groups.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, u.s.a. – For 120 days straight, jail support volunteers stood across from Mecklenburg County Jail for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Jail support started at the end of May 2020 and formed out of another group, Charlotte Uprising, a “coalition of community members, local and state organizers committed to ensuring the safety of their communities, and advocating for police accountability, transparency, and social and economic equity.”
According to Ash Williams, a local activist with Charlotte Uprising, it was important for jail support volunteers to be outside the jail 24/7 because people could be released from the jail at any time throughout the day.
Whenever someone was released, jail support volunteers would offer clothing, food, cigarettes, and a ride home – even if home was far away in places like Georgia or Florida. They also have a collective of licensed clinical social workers and a variety of practitioners who organize with a group called the Social Justice Emotional Response Collective. So, in addition to clothing, snacks, bus passes, and jail support, they also offer mental health services.
We got the chance to sit with Ash Williams from Charlotte Uprising and ask him more about jail support and his work in the Charlotte community.
Ismat: What challenges are you facing now after the dismantled jail support?
Ash: I can say the election, the cold weather, and white power gangs in our community. People who don’t mean well for our siblings behind bars. And we are, as we are Black trans-led and femme-led we’re really trying … we’re like, really f***ing trying.
Ismat: How will jail support continue in the future?
Ash: We were told things like, ‘you have to be on the sidewalk’ then we were told ‘you can’t be on the sidewalk’. We were told ‘you have to be moving on the sidewalk’. So basically, up to their discretion and it’s all bulls**t.
We will continue to go out there, knowing and not knowing what the risk is because we believe jail support is that important. And we know there are not any other entities that are delivering this kind of care and support. I’m an abortion doula, and I like to think of the work that we’re doing is just trying to make it a little easier for people navigating this particular situation. So for us, that includes trying to figure out creative ways to give jail support and we’re willing to play these games with the city and to take up public space.
Ismat: What are the major challenges your community is facing now?
Ash: Right now, there are Black and Colonized trans women who are unhoused, under-housed, not employed, and underemployed. There’s folks like me who have a little more access than them who are trying to redistribute some sh*t.
And I’m proud to say that Charlotte Uprising does what we can to support the trans girls in the same way that we’re trying to make jail support reinstated and pay people’s bails and everything.
Ismat: How did you become radicalized?
Ash: How, how, how, I don’t know. I am always a Black person … there were these, queer and trans organizers–when I was really starting to say ‘No’ to white power, say ‘No’ to the nonprofit industrial complex, say ‘No’ to the higher education industrial complex–that were critical to my upbringing, to my survival.
Those are the people who fundraised for my rent, but they also helped me realize capitalism is bogus, you know? I appreciate those people and those are the people that I’m still connected to. And that keeps me going today. I owe it all to like Black queer and trans organizers in North Carolina.
I have to give big major props to our folks down South. Cause I feel like we get sh*tted on a lot or we get silenced or we just get invisibilized. And so I really mean to focus the South in our work with Charlotte Uprising. We really mean to claim and name the South as a space that people should follow.
We believe that we’re doing jail support, unlike any other place. Because there’s no other places, politically, demographically, and geographically like ours.
Ismat: If you were to move to Hammer City if you had to pay no rent and if you had full control over your life, what would you do?
Ash: If I move to Hammer City I would try to connect with other Black people there, and I would try to figure out what other Black and Indigenous people were talking about and what projects they were working on. I hope Hammer City would be a child-friendly place because I want to be one of the people that would be helping people navigate childbirth and raising kids.
I would want to do a whole farm too because, I have to say, I love plants. I am someone who likes to take care of the plants after their seedlings, but before they need to go outside specifically.
I would also want to cook for people sometimes I would want to party-plan. I would want to teach dance. I hope that I will get to be a part of something like Hammer City, growing our food where there are children. Just being in a place where people are studying and learning and trying to figure it out together.
Ismat: Do you have a message for people who are suffering and who are angry at the world, but who don’t know what to do or how to change things?
Ash: I would say, find your people, Find your people … I think, yeah, finding your people is just essential.
Jail support was dismantled on Friday morning of September 11. According to deputies, five volunteers were arrested. When I asked Ash about it, he assured me that all, except one, were Black folk.
“Later that day they arrested a public defender who is also a part of jail support, who was waiting on her client outside of the jail at the time trespassing. And then we heard and saw other folks being arrested … at various times.”
We in Black Hammer recognize the amazing work that Charlotte Uprising is doing for the community through grassroots organizing and jail support! We maintain that the only way revolution will be successful is when poor and working-class African and colonized people (people of color) lead the way in fighting for their community.
All poor and working-class colonized people worldwide are facing the same issues, and Black Hammer aims to unite all people and groups who are fighting back against colonialism and all the things it creates like racist cops, poverty, colonial jails, and more.
If you want to help us get free by addressing the problem at its root, and you unite with our four Principles of Unity, we need you to join Black Hammer today.
Only when colonized people are united and organized will we be able to defend against the white power structure and its symptoms, like police, and build a world where nobody lives at the expense of another. At that point, we won’t need jail support because there won’t be any more colonial jails.