WHO TOOK THE WEIGHT? by Norfolk Prison Brothers


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The vitality of these poems, essays, stories and plays from just one prison -- the Norfolk (Mass.) Correctional Institution -- testifies to the vitality of the Black movement in America's prisons, which are rapidly becoming centers of collective political and cultural self-education. These writers are not those rare random talents the media love to parade as proof of the Horatio Alger theory of selfwilled exception; rather their strength is shared and multiplied by the common task of a resurrection in peoplehood. Almost all this writing is influenced, if not directly inspired, by either the Black Nationalist movement or the Black Muslims. A few of the pieces are rhetoric and rote -- catechism or fantasy by men writing themselves through a conversion, but the great majority are earnest, artful, and entertaining, and whether or not the reader agrees with the Brothers' program, he will have to admire its results. Most striking is the writers' ability to view their former environment and lifestyle from a critical new perspective without losing any of the vividness of the old experiences and language: the feel of heroin, the street argot, and ethos of the pimps come across especially well in the plays and short stories of James Lang, Paul William Brown, and Harry Spikes. Then there are several dignified, practical, and perceptive essays on survival in America and her prisons by Juno Bakali Tshombe and Craig Dee Anderson. All these are good, but formidable talent is revealed in the poems, essay and play of Sayif (Bruce C. Geary), whose formal invention and tight, serious wit are inseparable from his revolutionary spirit.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1972
Publisher: Little, Brown