Paul Redd | Reading about Your History and Your Culture

By Paul Redd

The four main representatives of the Short Corridor Collective at Pelican Bay State Prison read the Bobby Sands book about the prison hunger strikes in Ireland, and that’s where people got the idea that we needed to start a hunger strike. I read a lot of books in prison. I read Mao Tse-Tung. I read the autobiographical novel, Manchild in the Promised Land, by Claude Brown. These are some of the most formative. I read Huey Newton’s Revolution Suicide. You know, I read thousands of books over the years. 

But what really helps change a person is when you read about your history and your culture. That’s what gives you a sense of self pride. You see people who went through those struggles, who died doing those struggles. And you are proud of that, and you start to feel like, “Hey man, we need to change these conditions here in prison.”

One of the most important quotes that I like by George Jackson is when he says, “Settle your quarrels, come together.” You know, we echoed that during the hunger strike. That was, in fact, part of ending the hostility—part of the hostility agreement that we signed. Share with people, settle your quarrels, come together, put your differences aside, because if you allow the administration to play us against each other, we are never going to accomplish anything.

That’s what helped create 30,000 prisoners who supported us during that hunger strike.