Some friends have put together a zine collecting the public statements made in memory of Tom Manning since he passed away on July 30th. I wanted to offer it to people to join in spirit with all those who gathered for Tom’s memorial in Boston.
Tom was a comrade, an elder and a teacher for generations on both sides of the walls. Many of us will always continue to carry Tom’s spirit in our hearts and our work. We thought that having these beautiful statements collected in a zine would be one way to honor Tom and to help our many different projects and spaces keep Tom present with us. We also wanted to collect the statements to uplift and support the political prisoners who wrote about Tom and heed their words about our struggles as we mourn a movement elder.
Statement on passing of Tom Manning
By Ray Luc Levasseur
Tom Manning’s death on July 30 has me in the grip of an emotional riptide. I feel like part of me died with him.
Tom was imprisoned at USP-Hazelton, WV at the time of his death. The ostensible cause of death, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, was a heart attack.
I received Tom‘s last letter on July 15. He wrote that he was in dire circumstances, his medical needs treated with deliberate indifference, delays in receiving necessary medication, his body weak from lack of oxygen. Supporters scrambled to get a lawyer in to see him, but death arrived first.
Tom battled the Bureau of Prisons criminal negligence of his medical needs for the past 10 years, beginning when he almost died from an untreated knee infection while at USP-Coleman, FL. As a result of that infection, most of his knee was surgically removed and he was wheelchair bound for the rest of his days.
But he was not through fighting.
When he arrived at FMC-Butner, NC for further medical treatment he was kept in solitary confinement under abysmal conditions for 3 years. Much-needed knee and shoulder surgeries were repeatedly delayed until pressure from Tom‘s supporters forced the BOP to act. But the surgeries came too late, and combined with the lack of necessary rehab insured that Tom remained in a wheelchair.
Tom always had the warrior spirit, right to his last breath. Many more like him, and the ruling class would tremble. The ache in my heart over his passing will be forever.
In remembrance, I offer words I wrote in 2014 for Tom‘s book “For Love and Liberty,” a collection of his paintings:
“When Tom Manning and I first met 40 years ago, we were 27 years old and veterans of mule jobs, the Viet Nam war, and fighting our way through American prisons. We also harbored an intense hatred of oppression and a burning desire to organize resistance.
As members of a community action group called SCAR, we worked its ‘survival programs’ including a community bail fund, prison visitation program, and a radical bookstore. The Red Star North bookstore drew the venom of police – surveillance, harassment, raid and assault.
Tom and I disappeared underground in the midst of this and COINTELPRO revelations. We remained underground for near 10 years, much of it on the FBI’s ten most wanted list. We were tagged as ‘terrorist’ and ‘extremely dangerous’ because as ‘members of a revolutionary group’ we used explosives against targets of empire: predators of apartheid South Africa, Puerto Rico’s colonialism, and the slaughter in Central America.
We considered our work anti-terrorist. It was a time, you see, when activists were killed, imprisoned, tortured and exiled. ‘Winter in America’ as Gil Scott-Heron put it, and raging hell in El Salvador. It was a time when the U.S. sub-contracted its terrorism and if you were on the wrong end of it – you died.
Sometimes when we met underground I noticed Tom sketched on scraps of paper. I was impressed with how well he drew. I said to him – man, you got talent, why not do landscapes, portraits, big pictures! His response – no time for that, for our priority was taking down this wretched system that disrespects and destroys life.
The government’s mandate is that Tom die in prison, as our comrade Richard Williams did in 2005 after a long period of medical neglect and solitary confinement.
Tom has risen beyond the gulag’s attempt to strip his humanity. You can feel the dignity and spirit of resistance in his paintings. He is one of those carrying heavy burdens, be they the ‘sans-culottes’ of the world, a Haitian health care provider, or a victim of police bullets.
Political prisoners do not exist in a vacuum. They emerge from political and social conflicts. The ruling class and media attempt to criminalize, demonize and marginalize these prisoners, because recognition of political prisoners is de facto admission that serious conflicts exist and remain unresolved.
In 2006 an exhibit of Tom Manning’s paintings – ‘Can’t Jail the Spirit’ – opened at the University of Southern Maine. Police organizations throughout the Northeast conducted an intense ‘shut it down’ campaign. The police were particularly disturbed with the characterization of Tom as a ‘political prisoner’ and his painting of Assata Shakur on display. When the police got to the university’s corporate funders, the USM president capitulated and the exhibit was ordered shut down. The exhibit’s supporters then carried Tom‘s paintings through the city streets and rallied at Congress Square.
‘There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard,’ reads Psalm 19:3 and the gravestone of Black freedom fighters Jonathan and George Jackson. Voice, through its many forms, articulates vision. Call it subversive art, liberating art, art that challenges the one-dimensional. Tom‘s art is a voice among the dispossessed that transcends concrete and razor wire with an affirmation of life.
The paintings of Tom Manning and American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier; the creative work of Puerto Rican Independista Oscar Lopez Rivera; the poetry of anti-imperialist Marilyn Buck, which lives on; and the Earth defender poems of Marius Mason; the spoken word of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Mutulu Shakur. They are the voices of our political prisoners, principled and honorable men and women who communicate from isolation and suffering.
We must not let their voices be suppressed. They need to be heard and celebrated by freedom loving people everywhere.”
I extend deep gratitude to all those who provided some measure of support and solidarity to Tom during his 34 years in prison.
With Tom‘s passing, Jaan Laaman remains the sole United Freedom Front prisoner. It’s time to bring Jaan home.
FREE ALL OUR POLITICAL PRISONERS
Ray Luc Levasseur
August 1, 2019
Tom Manning – Words of Remembrance
Tom Manning, Soldier of the struggle
“Tom Manning, Soldier of the Struggle, Comrade, Friend, Brother, Artist, Human, Mighty tree in the forest who has fallen. The sound reverberates through everyone who aspires to positive practice in service to the struggle he shared.
I knew Tom more through his exemplary practice across decades and his comrades’ experience of him then by having had the opportunity to hang out and roll out some practice with him. Except one time: a twelve and a half hour bus ride from the Federal Transit Center at Oklahoma City to the U. S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas.
We sat next to each other during the entire trip. Notwithstanding the agents of repression, the chains, and the bars separating us from freedom just a window away, we freed ourselves by making revolution all the way. He was farther along in his understanding of what that meant in theory and practice and showed himself to be all of the above in elucidating that praxis.
I will not forget that trip. Some of Tom Manning will always ride with me as I try to make progress in the struggle. He will help paint the most equitable social reality in which all people will have the greatest possible freedom to develop their full human potential that is our destination.
Tom Manning Presente!
The future holds promise!
FCC Victorville FCI-1
9 August 2019
The future holds promise!
A Revolutionary’s Farewell: Rest in Power, Tom Manning
By Oso Blanco
Brothers and Sisters of the Struggles:
I’m sad to learn I’ve lost a great and true Warrior Brother, Tom Manning, who left this earth only very recently.
He is free now. Dealing with our loss is not getting easier. The only positive way I can deal with the loss of our great comrade is to think of his transition in those terms. Tom is free now, and it is always better to be free.
I did three-and-a-half years with Tom in USP Leavenworth, where he and Leonard Peltier taught me to paint with oils and schooled me on how I’d be treated horribly strictly due to my politically motivated actions that landed me in prison. Tom taught me what to expect from this imperialist empire. I truly loved this Brother Tom Manning, and also his brother Bob Manning who is still with us in New Mexico. Bob always helps me, and stays in touch with me and my mother, Melody.
We must stop wasting time, for these warriors laid the revolutionary foundation that the struggle lives upon today. These people must not be left to rot in the hell holes of this empire. All of you need to get your people out, and be for real, and put you comfort-zone toys away so you can put in the real work it takes to the help men and women who have been locked up by the monsters of death and destruction running this empire. Get your asses in fucking gear.
I say this to all in the struggle—every activist, every warrior, every anarchist: be for Super Real and Powerful like Tom Manning and his co-defendants and start getting your actions rocking and rolling. Waste no more time.
Oso Blanco* #07909-051
Post Office Box 3900
Adelanto, CA 92301
*Address envelope to Byron Chubbuck
PP Kojo Bomani Sababu speaks of Tom Manning and Black August-!ASHA!
From the Certain Days collective
The Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar mourns the loss of political prisoner Tom Manning, a longtime supporter and inspiration to us.
Tom’s contributions to Certain Days go right back to the first calendar in 2002 when we printed his portrait of Steven Biko. Tom’s art beautifully conveyed the internationalism and solidarity that animated both his own politics and those of the calendar project.
His portraits of iconic figures such as Assata Shakur and Yuri Kochiyami paid homage to their leadership, while his paintings of the ordinary people in communities in Haiti, Chiapas and Cambodia highlighted their day-to-day struggles. Tom was extremely generous over the years and took the time to share his art with us even at moments when his health presumably made it quite taxing for him to be involved. He was warm, and funny, and we always looked forward to opening a letter from him.
His work has appeared consistently in Certain Days over the last two decades (gracing the cover twice — a feat unmatched by any other artist). We’re honoured to have learned so much from our work with Tom, and saddened and angry to lose him too soon due to ongoing medical neglect while he was imprisoned.
Rest in Power, Tom!
See some of Tom’s inspiring artwork here.
From Kazi Toure
I met Tom Manning at a time when people were scrambling, running low on paper, having to pull another caper… it was late summer, just after the Amandla Concert, for the liberation movements in Southern Africa. 40 years ago, July 1979, we were sleeping in sleeping bags, in safe houses from New Haven to Germanstown, PA. Disciplined, tight, and dependable. Tomas William Manning, Comrade, Friend, soldier, Revolutionary Soldier. He went to war for the Crown, came back Robin Hood, for the people. Shared and taught me a lot on surviving life underground. They say many are called, few are chosen; this one wasn’t called or chosen. He stood up, raised hand, said I’ll be your huckleberry I’ll take the weight, put it on me … like the little engine that could … with Comrades that overstood, Dialectics, or dhm … what happens in Nam, So. Boston/So. Afrika, Palestine, or Attica … doesn’t stay in or originate in Nam… Tommy overstood how everything’s connected, how what goes down in D.C. comes up on Standing Rock … like the raven and Noah, going forth to prepare the land for the next generation. Tom stood with the people of the world. His paintings expressed it more poignantly than words. He was a 21st century John Brown, and the enemy treated him as such. I cry because we were not strong enough to free him before they killed him. We in the UFF all come from working-class backgrounds. I am honored to have known, loved and fought alongside the Brother as well as our other Comrade Richard Williams who passed in 2005. I salute you Comrade, and will try to live in your example. RIP.
From Sundiata Acoli
Tom was a true Brother, Comrade and
Friend; upright and totally
dedicated to the struggle of
oppressed people, his family
and comrades’ strong thru the
end and never complained
much tho the enemy was
severely and viciously
punishing him and he had every
right to cry out in pain.
It appears often times he was being particularly
punished for struggling in solidarity with
Blacks and other people of color or
oppressed – and for having the
audacity to proclaim his actions as
such. Tom was the epitome of what
it meant to be a revolutionary.
May he rest in Peace.
In Memory of Comrade Thomas Manning
The National Jericho Movement sends its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of our beloved Comrade, Thomas Manning. Thomas was an Anti-Imperialist Freedom Fighter who was captured in 1985 and had been imprisoned for over 30 years. Jericho joins in saluting our revolutionary brother and vows to uphold the torch that he carried against racism and genocidal capitalism. In death, as in life, we are encouraged and emboldened by Thomas’ passing to continue to fight for the release of all Political Prisoners and for the building of a society free, human and just for all people. Comrade Thomas’ life was not in vain and his spirit will live on in all of us!
– National Jericho Movement
From Dr. Mutulu Shakur
To the Manning family,
Tom Manning was a man that I meet, while we both were fighting for our freedom. Although the media tries to portray peoples character by an event, irrespective of the circumstances. The government frames a narrative of freedom fighters, and human rights activist to discourage empathy, sympathy, and understanding of the goals.
Meeting and fighting on the legal battlefield and inside the bowels of prison of extreme restrictions and imprisonment, it takes a special person to not only endeavor to maintain a sturdy resistant to scream for your freedom, dot the I’s and cross the T’s, to devolve a skill set of law a tool for your freedom, no matter what you might think of the law. While maintaining your humanity, sharing a cup of coffee, a piece of bread, a minute or two or more to hear the next persons plight, in the hopes that you can assist. Pick up a paint brush and paint a portrait for a dear friend, or supporter. That’s only some of what I experienced in Tom Manning’s company of his principles behavior and character.
The word company is betrayed for we spend many, many years apart nourishing the time we had together. Arguing on which way forward, and rooting each other on. Every tidbit of information on how we were fairing was transmitted through the many many prisoners who were intertwined between our lives within the many prison in the Federal Prison system. That’s how I learned how dramatic his health challenges were. Every message was a replacement of a limb, the hip, the shoulder, the leg, to the point I stopped counting, and stopped asking.
I honor this man, because we had many conversation about his intent, and his hope for the future for all people. His audacity after leaving the US Navy, was to share whatever he could to help others. He convinced me in our conversations, and I would like to join you all in saying Good Bye, knowing he clearly has many more lives to live.
Rest In Peace Tommy, cause I’m sure your going to get going again. Love to all who loved you … For more than one reason you are our bionic Brother,
From Barbara Curzi
Since I heard that my dear Friend, Thomas William Manning, had died in prison, after 34 years of being locked away, along with a very deep grief, I felt a surge of righteous anger. Tommy, who I also call my Brother, my Comrade, my Co-defendant, my Homie (we grew up less than a mile apart without even knowing each other) was someone I always expected would be around a lot longer. Despite the harsh reality, I often fantasized that someday he would be free again. I realize that my anger stemmed from the extreme absurdity that a person, who dedicated his life to the well-being of others and never did anything for personal gain or profit, was made to spend more than half of his life in prison, while greedy, hateful and corrupt people are running our World!
Most of the struggling masses of People who Tommy dedicated his life to defending, will never even know he existed. Or maybe they will hear a twisted story about him in the words of those who painted him as a criminal and bears small resemblance to the Truth about Tommy. This is part of why I now feel an essential responsibility to share the story of Tom’s life. How he transformed himself from an angry, racist teen, into a solid, brave Freedom Fighter, living a life in solidarity with the most oppressed, is a hopeful example of humanity at its best. Even though that path brought him into the worst of situations, He never gave up hope for a world where everyone’s innate rights would be recognized and respected.
Through difficult life experiences, bless his beautiful heart, Tommy was able to raise his consciousness to such a high level, that he devoted his every breath to the honorable effort of ending the use of people as pawns for profit. Looking at his amazing art work, one can see his deep dedication to honoring those who also take up the struggle to end exploitation, as well as those who are suffering as a result of it. His beautiful art also exemplifies his spirit of fortitude and resilience that sprang from his deep love for humanity. That Love was like a river that kept him flowing along, even against huge waves that repeatedly knocked him over. Over the years, he wrote me a few letters and he never once complained… They were always uplifting and inspiring messages full of Love and caring. Despite the dire repercussions, Tommy held a constant hope that we could in some small or large fashion, truly help to make this world a better place for our children and our grandchildren and for coming generations.
For standing up against warmongers and profiteers, and for the courage to remain firm in his convictions no matter what was thrown at Him, Tommy paid the ultimate price… Honestly, he paid with his Life for the crimes of others .. in more ways than one!! For that, and for all he was in this World, Tom Manning should always be kept alive in our hearts and our minds.
We can honor his devoted, loving spirit by doing all we can to bring about a truly better world. When I picture Tommy, all I see, and will never forget, is his tender smile with that magical twinkle in his beautiful eyes …
Long Live the Loving Spirit of our Beloved Tommy Manning!
Pat Rowbottom (formerly Levasseur)
Thinking about Tom Manning in the days since his passing and looking closely at his art and the mark he has left on this earth I began to think of the person I first met when he came into the SCAR center in Portland, Maine to join the organization. Tom had already begun his transformation from a childhood and young adulthood marred by violence, racism, prison and military duty. Once Tom engaged with the work of SCAR and the political discussions and work of the organization he further transformed and spoke about the dramatic changes in his thinking, especially racism, brought about by his involvement in political work. Tom was honest unlike many others – short and to the point. Being aware of course is not always translated into how we live our lives and, as we all do, Tom continued to struggle with his demons but when I look at his at and the expression communicated through it I see someone we really need out here, an example more people should have seen. I see someone his family really needed to know better and longer. He just should have been out here with us.
From Leonard Peltier
Greeting relatives, friends, loved ones, and supporters of Tom Manning. I want to say a few words regarding the passing of Tom Manning. I could say condolences and all that to you, but I want you to know that Tom Manning was a good friend of mine. I don’t know first hand of all the particulars of his past life that he came to be in this prison. Some of these he came to share with me, but I can tell you from experience, this man was a kind and thoughtful person who cared greatly for the freedoms of all mankind and felt like we all should take responsibility for protecting those freedoms.
The Tom Manning I knew, as I mentioned before, was a man of character renown and an artist that I could relate to on just about every level. His artwork reached out and spoke to your heart and brought you the faces of those who resisted oppression and reminded you of the humanity that has been persecuted and locked away in prisons because of their dissension against the corporate controlled governments of the world who only look at mankind and nature as a resource for gaining wealth. I will forever remember Tom Manning, the man I knew and loved as a brother and with deep regret I mourn his passing. My heart is with all of you who have these feelings. I really don’t know what else to say other than anyone who knew Tom Manning, the man, will need some level of condolences.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and Tom Manning!
Mitakuye Oyasin (All My Relations)