“Do your little half. Do no matter you’ll be able to to assist change these circumstances. As a result of we’re shifting right into a crucial interval of historical past, not only for poor and oppressed individuals, Black individuals, however for humanity itself. So it’s good to have interaction. Do no matter little bit you’ll be able to, however it’s good to do one thing.”
—Eddie Conway in 2019, celebrating 5 years of freedom
It’s with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the dying of our good friend, co-worker, and comrade Marshall “Eddie” Conway.
Eddie joined the ancestors on February 13, 2023, surrounded by household and family members. After falling ill nearly a year ago, whereas nonetheless coping with the immeasurable toll practically 44 years of incarceration as a political prisoner took on his physique, Eddie had been hospitalized and combating valiantly to get better. That’s who he’s, who he was, and who he all the time might be: a fighter. After a lifetime of combating, although, the time has come finally for our pricey Eddie to relaxation — and for all of us to hold on his struggle.
Eddie was born on April 23, 1946, in a deeply segregated Baltimore — a metropolis formed by blockbusting, white flight, and the organized disinvestment from Black communities. At 18, he enlisted within the U.S. Military, an expertise that might show to be politically formative for Eddie, throwing into sharp aid the contradictions of a rustic based on slavery, structural racism, and genocidal violence that nonetheless professed to defend “democracy” with bombs, weapons, and countless warfare.
Returning residence to Baltimore, Eddie confronted the pervasive evils of racism head-on. He was working within the medical sector and at Bethlehem Metal when, in 1968, town erupted like so many others following the homicide of Martin Luther King, Jr. — an explosion of rage and ache and wish for motion that introduced Eddie into the orbit of the nascent Black Panther Occasion, through which he grew to become a core member of the newly-established Baltimore chapter.
The Baltimore BPP chapter, with Eddie’s assist and management, constructed robust group ties by efforts like a free breakfast program, a system of strong inside political training, and an more and more widespread native distribution community for the nationwide BPP newspaper — regardless of close to fixed police harassment, and even high-level infiltration of the department. This was the period of COINTELPRO, through which native police forces had been enlisted by the nationwide safety state to crush the profitable systemic problem the Panthers and different related revolutionary teams had been posing to America’s racist, exploitative establishment. It was on the peak of this period that Eddie was framed for the 1970 killing of a Baltimore police officer, convicted, and sentenced to life in jail in 1971, after a closely politicized trial through which Eddie was denied correct authorized illustration.
Even within the darkest of instances, in essentially the most hopeless of locations, Eddie’s dedication to organizing for liberation was unwavering. Inside his first weeks contained in the Maryland penitentiary, he had already emerged as a frontrunner of the incarcerated chapter of the BPP. Regardless of fixed, dehumanizing, and sometimes violent pushback from jail authorities, he would go on to play a lead position in creating organizations just like the United Prisoners Labor Union and the Maryland Penitentiary Intercommunal Survival Collective, organizing with fellow incarcerated individuals to construct collective energy for self-determination and self-defense. Whereas incarcerated, Eddie labored relentlessly to guard and broaden prisoners’ rights to communication and training; as an example, he helped arrange the “To Say Their Own Word” seminar program, developed as a option to cross-pollinate radical thought inside and out of doors the jail. He was additionally instrumental within the founding of Pal of a Pal, a mentorship program designed to assist younger incarcerated males put together for reintegration into their communities upon launch.
Yr after yr, decade after decade, Eddie carried on not solely with the large bravery wanted to contest America’s brutal system of mass incarceration whereas he was himself confined inside it, but additionally with a permanent and maybe shocking dedication to modesty. As he wrote in his autobiography, revealed in 2011:
Organizing is my life’s work, and although I initially balked at changing into a jail organizer, that’s the place most of my work has been achieved. Family and friends inform me that I’ve influenced a whole lot of younger individuals, however I don’t know. I merely see the error of this society’s methods up shut and really feel compelled to do one thing about it; I’ve tried my hardest to keep away from getting caught up within the cult of the character that always develops round political prisoners. I’ve walked the jail yard and seen admiration within the eyes of others, however needed to remind myself, as I straightened my posture, that it’s about one thing greater than me. Prisons are the place the place society dumps those that have turn into out of date, and at current there are maybe no different individuals who have turn into extra dispensable on this nation than African-descended individuals. The minute that we started to face up and maintain this nation accountable for the numerous wrongs achieved to us, the prisons started to swell with black men and women. It’s as if your entire justice system is a beast that consumes black our bodies, and prisons are the stomach.
Eddie’s family members and supporters by no means gave up on him, preserving a decades-long solidarity motion going and agitating persistently for his launch, however it was solely in 2014 — after a 2012 resolution by the Maryland Courtroom of Appeals that invalidated many historic verdicts resulting from defective jury directions — that Eddie was lastly in a position to safe his freedom.
Regardless of the unimaginable toll that 44 years of incarceration had taken on him, Eddie’s organizing didn’t cease when he walked out of jail. He grew to become our beloved colleague at The Actual Information Community, the place he continued his ardour for training and media-making within the service of the struggle in opposition to mass incarceration as Govt Producer and the host of Rattling the Bars, his weekly video program. He additionally performed a key position within the formation of Tubman Home, which, within the wake of the Baltimore Rebellion, seized vacant property and land for group wants in Sandtown-Winchester — the neighborhood the place Baltimore police killed Freddie Grey.
Eddie by no means left the wrestle he had been waging for thus lengthy, whilst his well being declined. We’re endlessly grateful to him for that. And we’re grateful that this unimaginable man, who endured a lot, was additionally capable of finding years of pleasure, love, and solace in his marriage to Dominque Stevenson, a real comrade and freedom fighter who supported him inside and out of doors of the jail partitions.
He might be missed — by everybody right here at The Actual Information, by town that loves him, and by all these around the globe who had been touched by his mild. We’ll miss his voice, his revolutionary readability, and his unbreakable dedication to combating on the facet of the oppressed. We’ll stick with it that struggle, as a result of that’s what Eddie would do. We’re heartbroken that he’s gone, however we’re grateful that we had been fortunate sufficient to know him, and we’re sending all our love and solidarity to his household.
In reminiscence of Eddie Conway,
The Actual Information Community
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