Hugo Pinell ¡Presente!
“In 1967 when I joined the liberation movement in San Quentin, one of the goals was to build a new man, the way Brother Malcolm X showed we could. We don’t know how long it will take to create that new, beautiful world. It might take generations. But if we continually work at it and try to create the new man in ourselves, we can achieve a personal freedom. I go through different changes to stay human for I will never get used to isolation and deprivation.” —From a statement sent by Hugo Pinell to the California Coalition for Women Prisoners in 2013.
We are saddened by the news of Hugo Pinell’s death Wednesday, August 12, 2015. Hugo Pinell always expressed a strong spirit of resistance. He worked tirelessly as an educator and activist to build racial solidarity inside of California’s prison system.
Incarcerated in 1965, like so many others, Hugo became politicized inside the California prison system.
In addition to exploring his Nicaraguan heritage, Hugo was influenced by civil rights activists and thinkers such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, as well as his comrades inside including George Jackson. His leadership in combating the virulent racism of the prison guards and officials made him a prime target for retribution and Hugo soon found himself confined in the San Quentin Adjustment Center.
While at San Quentin, Hugo and five other politically conscious prisoners were charged with participating in an August 21, 1971 rebellion and alleged escape attempt, which resulted in the assassination of George Jackson by prison guards. Hugo Pinell, Willie Tate, Johnny Larry Spain, David Johnson, Fleeta Drumgo and Luis Talamantez became known as the San Quentin Six. Their subsequent 16-month trial was the longest in the state’s history at the time. The San Quentin Six became a global symbol of unyielding resistance against the prison system and its violent, racist design.
As the California Prisons began to lock people up in long-term isolation and control unit facilities, Hugo was placed inside of the SHU (Secure Housing Unit) in prisons including Tehachapi, Corcoran and Pelican Bay. There, despite being locked in a cell for 23-hours-a-day, he continued to work for racial unity and an end to the torturous conditions and racially and politically motivated placement of people into the SHU. This work included his participation in the California Prison Hunger Strikes as well as supporting the Agreement to End Racial Hostilities in 2011.
At the time of his death, Hugo had been locked behind bars for 50 years, yet his spirit was unbroken.
—Via email from: firstname.lastname@example.org