Recorded April 22, 2001 on luver.com
David Johnson was one of the San Quentin Six, a group of inmates at San Quentin prison accused of an escape attempt in 1971 that led to a riot on the cell block. Their 16-month trial was called “The Longest Trial” by Time magazine. David was convicted on one count of assault.
Elder Freeman, whose real name is Ronald Freeman, was a Catholic priest in the African Orthodox Church. He was also one of the founding members of the L.A. Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. He was in the leadership of the Southern California chapter of the party, and one of the leaders in the underground part of the Black Panther Party, which came to be known as the Black Liberation Party.
Frank first learned of David and Elder through a political prisoners conference that he had sent his crew to videotape to broadcast on LUVeR.
Elder Freeman passed away October 8, 2014.
Below is an excerpt from the book, Deep Conversations in the Shaman’s Den, Volume 1.
Frank: Revolution has to be cheap.
Linda: The revolution has to be cheap!
David: Yeah, yeah, we don’t have a lot of funds. We’re all poor. (laughter, Frank sounds) We used to have a saying, back in the day: “Revolution is hazardous to your health and you don’t get paid.”
Frank: They got the money, we got the people.
David: The people. That’s true. But we need more hearts and minds.
Frank: How do we get them?
David: Gotta start here. Starts with education. People have to understand there’s another side to the story.
Frank: To what?
Linda: Another side to the story to what?
David: The story that they put out there.
Elder: You know, to get people to get involved and change, sometimes what causes it is the conditions, so that means that the system is setting it up for itself, for its own destruction, by what they’re doing. By them opposing what’s right. For them not treating people humane and not being … well … have no regards for the land, the water, the air … human beings’ medical care, feeding people. When they know they got the technology to resolve a lot of the problems that’s going on in the world, and they take and they use this and they capitalize on it and they only use certain resources, as long as it’s beneficial to a certain segment of people, the people that’s in power. So, it’s like, even when you’re studying Marx and all the different struggles, and even before Marx, when people’s conditions, the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the conditions got to where the people felt it was beyond … the burden was too great for them to bear anymore, they rebelled against it. And that’s what’s happening like now. Even with the thing in Quebec. It’s like, we’ve got to have safeguards on the world as far as … for life to even go on! With the things that they’re planning, they planning for everything to come to an end. So somebody got to say something! And it’s a cause for the young people, the young people! We was young once. (Frank sounds)
David: The burden is on them.
Elder: They have to get involved, they have to take the front, and we have to support them in everything that they do that’s right. If they’re doing the right thing, if it calls for civil disobedience then you got every right to rebel against that and be disobedient to that law or rule.
David: It’s in the constitution! If you want to go by that!
Elder: Right. You got societies where people … what was good a long time ago, they find out that they have to change it because it didn’t fit, it was old, like spitting on the sidewalk when the sidewalks were made out of wood. You had to change the law. So when times change, things have to change. So situations and dealing with like the drug problem that they got in the United States, the way they’re dealing with it, they can’t … they don’t want to for some reason recognize that they is wrong. That approach they took was incorrect and they have to re-change and revitalize it.
Frank: They are making money, so they don’t want the change.
David: It’s true. You know, you used to say one of the things of paramount importance, particularly as a revolutionary, is to safeguard the environment. Because if we don’t safeguard the environment … you see, the environment can exist without us, but we can’t exist without the environment. (Frank sounds) And if we don’t defend the environment as revolutionaries, then there’s going to be no political landscape for us to wage political battles that we have to wage in order to honor human rights, human dignity. I got a thing about laws. And, I was taught this: all laws are not moral laws or just. At one time it was legal to have slaves. That’s morally wrong. No human being has a right to subjugate another human being. And that’s part of what we struggle about today. We don’t have the right to determine our own destiny. We don’t have the right to determine what happens to our community. And every community should have that right. And that’s what we struggle for. The right to determine our own destinies.
Frank: In fact, they are taking our rights away fast.
David: That’s true. That’s true. And people have to understand that. Because a lot of our rights are being legislated away.
Elder: With the prison system, the way … the whole operation, what they’re doing to them with the prisons … how they are building more prisons, they then turn it into … it’s big business. Instead of putting money in the communities where the majority of the prisoners are coming from, and setting up programs in those communities. The Department of Corrections, when you first come in there, when they give you orientation, the first thing they tell you is that we do not rehabilitate. So their whole thing about being rehabilitated, they say, find you a program and don’t cause us much … as little trouble as you can, the less time you do. Other than that, they’re just warehousing, that’s all they do. Rehabilitation is a myth!
David: And that follows what comrade George Jackson said, about prisons being the chief repressive institutions in this society. Rather than address issues, this society would rather build more prisons. Prisons serve to repress revolution, particularly in this society.
Frank: They take would-be revolutionaries out of society.
David: That’s true, that’s true. And that’s one of the battles that we’re engaged in because the prison system in this country … there are people in there who become conscious of why they got in prison. And like one of my mentors, comrade George Jackson said, that now that we’re in these institutions, one of the things that is of chief importance is transforming the criminal mentality to a revolutionary mentality. So, that when we leave these institutions, we can go back into our communities and be an asset rather than a predator. And that’s dangerous (Frank sounds) in terms of how the system looks at it. Because the more chaos and confusion that they can create, the more confused the people will be. And I look at myself as being a revolutionary. And I’ve faced death. Because, like I say, George says, once you say you commit yourself to revolution you become a criminal. Because in this society being a revolutionary is criminal. (Frank sounds) So that’s why they said, we don’t have any political prisoners in this society, because it’s criminal. And that’s accepted throughout the world. This is one of the countries that has an abundance of political prisoners, but by the standards that they have set, they can go to the United Nations and say, we have no political prisoners. Because a revolutionary in their eyes is considered a criminal. As opposed to a humanitarian, someone who’s interested in the well-being of all people in this society.
Frank: And it is not just the prison but the institutions for crips and the schools, etc.
Linda: Well, like with the institutions for crips, Frank has said, a lot of the people in institutions for crips are a lot less disabled than Frank is. (Frank sounds) And yet … like, Frank made a movie about a guy, who he plays, that gets the girl, and when he showed it at the Cerebral Palsy Center, these are kind of like inmates. These are adults that aren’t allowed to go out on dates. Everybody stood up and started cheering! (Frank sounds) And they had a little revolution on their hand. They were saying, they won’t let me date, I don’t care if I get hurt! They say, oh you’re going to get hurt. I don’t care! (Frank sounds) And the teacher got real excited and said, Frank we want you back. And then we get a phone call saying it’s been canceled. The head of the center said they don’t want Frank back, they don’t want him showing any of his movies. You know, they have this whole set-up. Nobody wants to lose their job and get all these people out having a life!
David: Right, right. See ’cause he’s interested in changing the human condition. And they want to keep the human condition … I mean, most of these institutions drug them. Even in prisons! Rather than deal with people’s feelings. They’d rather give them drugs and numb them. They don’t want you to feel. We live in a drug culture. You turn on the TV, pain is an indicator that there’s something wrong. They don’t want you to experience pain. They want us to mask pain, they want us to cover it up.
Frank: Pain is fuel.
David: For change!
Frank: Yes. (Frank sounds) (laughter)
David: But, see, they don’t want us to deal with that. Like I said, we live in a … every pain that you have, if you turn on the television, you can find an ad where they’re going to tell you, you got a pain here, take this pill. You can’t sleep, take this pill! Rather than really what is the source or the cause? Let’s eliminate that. And if you don’t feel your pain, you can’t alleviate the pain.
Frank: Change the society that …
Frank: … caused the pain.
David: We’re working on it! We’re working on it. (laughter)