Foremost, thank you, thank you, thank you everyone who has come together to honor a warrior who has impacted the lives of many: Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell. I want to send a shout out to FACTS, Fair Chance Project, Youth Justice Coalition, and all those who put time and effort into making this event possible, including those who may not be overtly recognized today.
I was planning and hoping to make it out there to join everyone in this historic, necessary event. Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow me to be there, at least not in person. But I feel compelled to share a few words about how Yogi has impacted me personally, and a close homie from my barrio.
I heard about Yogi, while incarcerated in Old Folsom sometime in 2002, after I met Comrade George Jackson through his book, “Blood in My Eye”. I was eager to know more about Comrade George, so I sought as much literature and info on him, and others like him. Eventually I found out about The Soledad Brothers and the San Quentin 6.
Since my release in 2003, I have been blessed to connect with many sung and unsung warriors, including Sundiata Tate, Bato Talamantez , and David Johnson (3 of the San Quentin 6), who have taken the time and patience to share with me personal stories about Yogi. I also recently reconnected with one of my homies that also got a chance to meet Yogi through other people inside. He was eventually deported back to his native Nicaragua (Yogi’s birthplace), upon his release in 2009 from the Soledad State Gulag. Nonetheless, he keeps Yogi on his sleeve, and wants to continue championing his freedom.
I have written Yogi, and although his captors have tried to make it impossible for Yogi to feel the love that remains outside of his cage, I have managed to communicate once with him. He has a profoundly compassionate mind and soul. To put this in perspective, I offered to take his mother to visit him when I first wrote him, and in his response, while he appreciated the offer, he shared that he did not want to “inconvenience my family”. Now we all know that there is nothing that inconveniences us more than seeing him and many other warriors locked up for decades and decades, some close to half century.
The contradiction with his captivity is that our own government, for the sake of preserving capitalism by sheer brute force and control, can forgive nations such as Vietnam, Japan, and Afghanistan, all who have shown “aggression” or more accurately self-defense against our nation’s imperialistic behavior, but it cannot forgive one of its own who fundamentally believes in an alternative America. His crime is his uncompromising belief in a better world, absent of all the cannibalistic forces that make it difficult for most people worldwide to live with honor and dignity.
Yogi needs to come home, and we need to roll our sleeves up, and work towards bringing him home. If you are an attorney and have been touched by Yogi’s story, reach out to other attorneys to help create a robust defense committee for Yogi.
If you are as student and have been impacted by Yogi’s story, please reach out to student orgs on campus and have them set up a college day of awareness for Yogi and other political prisoners. Whoever you are, please find a way to honor our captive brother, warrior, uncle, and fellow human being. Thank you for allowing me the time and space to express myself. Free Hugo “Yogi Bear” Pinell and All political Prisoners! Free ‘em All!
Manuel la Fontaine, proud member of All of Us or None