Hi Miss! This Sunday, October 2nd (in the evening, after your visit), I will perform three Bob Marley songs in concert with the reggae band: “No Woman, No Cry”, “I Shot The Sheriff” and “Stir It Up”. I continue to practice, learn and rehearse on the bass guitar in my own band, called “Yazoo”, for 2-4 hours each day.
Tonight in the studio we worked on “Don’t Stop Believing”, “I Can See Clearly Now”, “Purple Haze”, “Hotel California”, and “Panama” by Van Halen. Our song list for our Thanksgiving Day Concert includes those songs and “Stormy Monday”, “The Wind Cries Mary”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Don’t Blink” by Kenny Chesney, “El Paso” by Marty Robbins, “Red House”, “Purple Haze”, “Freddie’s Dead”, “Winds of Change”, “Dust in the Wind”, “Comfortably Numb”, and “Money”. Quite the eclectic song list!
I read voraciously every day, the weather so far has been conducive to it, virtually a 5-month stretch of brilliant blue skies and warm temperatures. The air here is sweet; Mississippi, if not beset by poverty and historical apartheid that makes impossible a genuine rapprochement between the races, would be a nice place to be. I am attracted to its musical heritage, weather, and even the NPR affiliate, the Mississippi Broadcast Network radio with its homey gardening and cultural programs; it is a shame that after my deportation back to Canada (Hallelujah!), I will be barred from ever visiting these United States.
That is, unless I receive a Pardon from the President or Attorney-General of these United States. I am so excited you have had a “Pardon Marc Emery” petition posted on the White House website here (share this link: http://wh.gov/gFJ). Within 36 hours, it had over 2,500 signatories. 5,000 signatures are required within 30 days for it to get an official response from the White House.
I hope, if there is no limit on the number of signatures from Americans, that 25,000 citizens of the 50 states can be delivered on this petition within 30 days, to prove a depth of support for my repatriation to Canada. A pardon also allows me to return to America as a sympathetic human being to gather and share the American Experience in all its manifestations without chains, handcuffs and leg irons.
I hope you can encourage all my friends and supporters to attach the petition to their Twitter, Facebook and websites to see if we can crack the 25,000 mark within 30 days, or perhaps even a better result. Perhaps, if it does become a viable ’cause celebre’, it can get some nominal media attention, as certainly it could be the largest petition urging a pardon for someone in the vast US penal system.
I was pleased that the Sunday, September 25th “Province” newspaper in BC published my letter in regard the Canadian government’s repugnant plans for massive increase in incarceration and prison expansion. The population of the prisons will be 95% drug and cannabis users, and the number from our marijuana community will increase by the thousands over the next few years. Cannabis arrests are at a shocking all time high; in 2010, the number of marijuana related arrests for simple possession alone ballooned to 56,870, a 14% increase from 2009. The photograph and subhead that accompanied the letter (seen at right; click to enlarge), which was signed “Marc Emery, Yazoo City Medium Federal Prison, Mississippi”, was a nice reminder to myself that I still exist in a Canadian political context.
I’m also excited that the Canadian Liberal Party, under the leadership of interim leader Bob Rae, has declared the war on drugs “an absolute, catastrophic failure” (see quotes here), and that the Liberal Party of Canada seems to be adopting a repudiation of prohibition as central to its opposition to Harper Omnibus Crime Bill (see the Liberal Party’s website post “5 Reasons to Oppose the Omnibus Crime Bill”). This is great news. The Liberal party must revitalize itself, and all the science, facts and political momentum buttress their new energy they are applying to this issue.
It is noteworthy that on the federal NDP website, absolutely no opposition to the Omnibus Crime Bill has been articulated. Could the NDP members like Libby Davies have had their opposition to the war on drugs silenced? The NDP is frustrating in its weather-vane-like direction on this issue. Bob Rae cannot retreat from his statement the war on drugs is a complete failure. In one sweeping statement, he has established what the Liberal Party policy is – and it’s deserving of our support. If anyone is looking for a reason to join the Liberal Party of Canada, now they have it, and there could not be a better or more significant reason to do so. Anyone who joins must say, “I am impressed by Bob Rae’s repudiation of the war on drugs and his statement that it is a complete failure, and wish to be a part of the Liberal Party re-birth.”
Of course, the evil Prime Minister Harper and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson promise that this Omnibus Crime Bill called C-10, with its mandatory minimum jail time for as few as six marijuana plants or making a few grams of hashish, “is just the beginning”, and that even more ominous and draconian measures are to come.
That’s why it is essential to our movement that you keep up the charge, my dear wife. You inspire me and you inspire many. Canadian families will suffer greatly, as their loved ones will be going to prison in much greater numbers in the cannabis community, and you must help them in dealing with these sad eventualities and help them cope. Few of them will get five year sentences for cannabis, but thousands upon thousands will get six months, a year, two years or more in prison. Second offenses get years in jail. Selling and producing other drugs have multiple years in jail under the proposed mandatory minimums. The harm and devastation to Canadian families will be extensive. You’ll be needed to lend your compassion and sympathy to them.
The answer, as always, is to get involved in politics. All our people must join or work with a political party and make their voice heard and their participation count – because as we have seen, the prohibitionists are doing that very thing, and getting the results they want.
When I am released in the summer of 2014, you or I will begin campaigning for a nomination in Vancouver Center. Whichever one of us is seen as attractive to the NDP or Liberal Party in Vancouver Center (I don’t believe Liberal MP Hedy Fry will run again), we will contest a nomination. Whether you get a nomination or I do, the voters are getting a twofer either way; you and I are a team, and we’ll go to Ottawa together and work together and represent a vision of change from the diabolical Conservative agenda of pain, punishment and social control.
In Ontario, the Freedom Party that I founded long ago is making a good showing with 57 candidates on the October 6th provincial election ballot. But there is much work to be done there. Next election, they must get a full slate and more money raised to make serious inroads. Hopefully the many (over thirty!) cannabis activists who found welcome with the Freedom Party will continue to be politically active. I was pleased their money bomb raised over $7,000 for the purchase of TV ads during the election campaign.
I’m wearing my thermal undershirt today, the first time I’ve worn it since I bought it at D. Ray James (the private prison in Georgia) in December. I put it on a few times when I was there, but we also had a coat for cold December-January days too; here in Yazoo City they haven’t given that out yet.
Nonetheless, I was comfortable reading outside my excellent biography of Allen Ginsberg by Michael Schumacher, called “Dharma Lion”. I’m at the part, page 250, where Ginsberg’s magnum opus poem “Howl” has been seized by San Francisco police, and the publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti and his City Lights Bookshop are being charged with obscenity and distribution of lewd materials. This trial is one of the big upheavals in San Francisco and American legal history, and “Howl” is vindicated.
While “Howl” is seized, and Ferlinghetti and a City Lights book store clerk are jailed and bailed out by the ACLU, Ginsberg’s edit of William Burrough’s “Naked Lunch” is being completed, with the portend that “Naked Lunch” too will encounter similar controversies shortly afterward. I have read “Howl” many years ago but now I will comprehend it much more, understanding what the ‘Beat generation’ means and what was going on with Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs that underlined how their work came about, and its significance. The first stanza of “Howl” may be one of the most famous opening lines in all of American poetry:
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night”
In that opening you can see into the soul of Charlie Parker, Jim Morrison, Abbie Hoffman, Phil Ochs, and so many other casualties of the brutalities of our age. Fortunately, some of those brutalized did not go mad, and survived intact enough to leave us powerful legacies as a warning about the fragility of our liberties and our sanity.
I have always admired how Allen Ginsberg was present at so many influential moments in history: the founding of the Beat generation literary and poetry movements; the early, more risky protests of the Vietnam War; the King of May event in Prague in 1965; the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park in San Fran in January 1967; the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago; and so many other moments in history that captured the zeitgeist of the times.
Allen Ginsberg led the very earliest marijuana protests in the 1950’s and early 60’s, plus he brought it up in Cuba, Czechoslovakia, and anywhere he traveled where cannabis users were oppressed and imprisoned. He had such a revelatory and liberating experience at a poetry convention at the University of British Columbia in October 1963, involving sex orgies and marijuana; this in turn influenced his Human BE-IN’s that happened in San Francisco in January 1967 and in Vancouver in March of 1967. Ginsberg picketed numerous jails and detention centers in New York and San Francisco where marijuana users were held in the 1950’s and 60’s. He brought marijuana legalization up wherever he went in the world. In India its use was everywhere, so he really liked India. Ginsberg’s life story is fascinating for the cannabis culture. Ginsberg used marijuana from 1947 to his death in 1997 and was perhaps one of its most articulate defenders in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.
I am enjoying the research, structure and thoroughness of Michael Schumacher’s biographies. I have his biography of Eric Clapton here to read afterward, but weeks ago I finished Schumacher’s excellent biography of 60’s folksinger Phil Ochs, called “There but For Fortune”.
I will say that my time in prison has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in the life and works of some of my heroes, such as Martin Luther King Jr. (the outstanding three-volume work by Taylor Branch that took me months to complete at Sea-Tac FDC in Seattle last year), Malcolm X, Bob Marley, Ayn Rand, Clarence Darrow, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and now Allen Ginsberg.
I am busy all the time, reading six or seven magazines each week and the daily NY Times, writing letters, doing three hours of Corrlinks (“email”) daily, practicing and playing bass guitar, working through a backlog of books (and more on the way), and making the best use of my time. I have been in good health for two months now, and I eat as best as can be possible here, and drink only water. I take calcium and Vitamin C and D supplements daily. My morale stays elevated just anticipating and cherishing your visits to me.
I look forward to receiving photographs of all the changes at your store and the hallways leading to the BCMP Lounge. I hear it looks very handsome! So glad to hear change and improvement is going on. I know you are incredibly busy and wish I were home to rub your feet after your long gruelling days of activity. I promise there will be a long, delicious foot rub every night once I am returned to you!
The National Geographic Special “Marijuana Nation” with me in it aired last Saturday, and days before that, the worldwide version of that episode, titled “Inside Marijuana” with even more of me in it (and less DEA coverage, which was more prominent in the US version), aired in numerous countries around the globe, so I am pleased to know the message about my work continues to be on television. The new documentary CITIZEN MARC is in the final stages of editing and should be ready to be submitted to film festivals by next Spring and Summer.
My graduation photo of me in cap and gown came back today, so I will mail that to you immediately so you can make it my Facebook profile photo. As of today, Tuesday, September 27th, I have 1,016 days to my release – that’s 33 months to go. Unless we get that pardon! Something to work towards!
I love my Mrs. Emery!
Your Husband & Admirer,
Write Marc a letter:
MARC EMERY #40252-086
FCI YAZOO CITY – MEDIUM E-1
P.O. BOX 5888
YAZOO CITY, MS