Marilyn Buck (1947-2010) spent over twenty-five years in prison for politically motivated actions against U.S. government policies and in support of the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army. She wrote these poems behind bars, as a way to comprehend the reality of prison and continue her fight as a white woman against injustice, particularly U.S.-generated white supremacy. Paroled in July 2010, she died of cancer twenty days after her release.
When Marilyn Buck died last August 3, she had lived outside prison, on parole, for only twenty days. At age sixty-two, she had spent her last twenty-five years in various maximum security prisons. Before that, she lived years underground, supporting and taking part in actions with the Black Panther Party and later, the Black Liberation Army. Marilyn was a white woman who carried a great deal of pain, most of which came from her unflinching acknowledgement of the centuries of untold inequities suffered by African Americans and other people of color at the hands of “freedom-loving” white America
I sit in the day room/lobby waiting to be released for lunch. I read a novel in which one character, a Pole, comments to another that the Germans consider Poles to be untermenschen, subhuman. I look at the women around me: Latinas arguing among themselves in Spanish; a black woman making signals to someone I don’t see; two white women—one of whom is stringing beads—are murmuring together. Two of these women are here because they are undocumented workers; three are incarcerated for economic offenses; the other is falsely convicted; all of us are caught inside the nightmare of an oppressive state and an expanding empire. Instead of storm trooper boots and brown shirts, those who command wear Tony Lamas cowboy boots, expensive suits, and ties—men who see in the U.S. prison establishment ways to both intensify control of the population and squeeze more profits out of late-stage capitalism