CA : My name is CA Seller I’m interviewing Scott Ebanks who spent 26 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit. Ladies and Gentlemen I want to introduce Scott Ebanks. Can you tell me about yourself?
SE: Hello my name is Scott Paul Anthony Ebanks I’m also a performance artist and poet by the name of Jah Chemistry. I am a New York hard core kid all grown up, one of the original DMS skinhead which are the anti racist faction of the skinhead movement. Uh I…did twenty five years, nine months and twenty three days in prison ,for a crime I didn’t commit. I was incarcerated at the age of nineteen years in 1990 on May 15th of that year.
CA: You were born in Brooklyn. Where abouts was that?
SE: Oh, I was born in Brownsville Brooklyn at Brooklyn Womens Hospital in 1970. The hospital was then condemned and closed down in 1972, and I believe it was turned into an old folk’s home or a hospice or a old people’s or senior’s Most of my life I grew up in Brooklyn and in various parts, you know, Flatbush, you know I lived on Nordstrom Avenue with my mom for many years, lived over in Crown Heights and Franklin, by Carol street between Carol Street and Bedford. Went to high school in uh Southshore High School in Brooklyn, And yeah I’m a Brooklyn baby.
CA: (Laughing) Ah Brooklyn, Crooklyn!
SE: Crooklyn, the Planet.
CA: The Planet…What was Brownsville like in the 1980s?
SE: Brownsville was horrible back then, I mean they always say, “A tree grows in Brooklyn” so I guess there probably was a rose somewhere in Pickett Avenue but it was very violent in the 80’s All the sections of Brooklyn unless you lived around Park Slope or you lived downtown or you know Brooklyn Heights, I mean there was million, two three million dollar Brownstones or if you lived out in the suburbs by King’s Plaza or at the end of Flatbush, you know, there’s mostly , you know, old Jewish families and Irish and Italian, working class people, you know, with a handful, spattering of Carribean families around but all homeowners. Aside from that, Brownsville, East New York, Crown Heights, Bedsty, Red Hook, those places were like war zones in the 80s.
CA: Yeah pretty much..
SE: Coney Island, oh my God.
CA: Pretty much due to crack right?
SE: Oh man, crack was epidemic at that time. Heroin had..it didn’t leave..it just kinda took a back seat to crack, and uh, yeah it was, it was crazy, it was lit man.
CA: Yeah, I lived through it too. How old were you when you hit the streets?
SE: My dad kicked me out of the house in 1985. I was fifteen. You know being a hard core kid and into punk rock music, I gravitated to what I knew, and ended up on the lower east side of Manhattan, where all my punk rock friends lived in an abandoned building on 10th street and Avenue C that’s famously known now as “C Squat” and they’ve gentrified the whole neighborhood now so I believe there’s a high rise there, where you know some uh people have made uh high five or six figure salaries living there now buddy.
CA: Yeah, I visited ..
SE: Yeah it was an abandoned building with eleven punk rock kids so…
CA: I visited the old neighborhood, mostly the East Village, in 2005 to see my father and the entire neighborhood is gentrified. Apartment that I lived in for $250.00 a month ended up being $2500.00 a month now.
SE: Yeah. I mean the economy has changed so much, and you know the gentrification process went in…because you know, we live in a venture capitalist society so landlords probably, they definitely realized that uh people who work in the financial district, and work in all of these uh… people who work the law firms and people that work in all of these corporate businesses, they need housing. But you know they have the jobs to substantiate that so you know, they don’t charge that exhorbitant amount of..of..of..rent ya know?
CA: Sure…what we knew is..
SE: …Real estate and then you factor in all the other things, you know the fashion industry, music industry and everybody else man that cause there’s so much stuff going on in Manhattan you know.
CA: How were you supporting yourself..when you hit the streets?
SE: Ah man, I took to crime. I took to crime, doing uh robberies and I eventually graduate to selling drugs. Uh, I had odd jobs here and there you know I worked for a construction company as a laborer. I wasn’t in a union or anything like that but back then you know given like the time and the economy at the time I was making $8.00 an hour off the books uh doing..hanging drywall and spackling, and taping and painting, and carrying you know whatever the foreman asked me to carry but aside from that man it was just street..street life.
SE: I was doing crime man.
CA: Sure….sure…Crime pays just not as good as it used to.
SE: Crime pays as long as you have a college education and uh a masters degree to go behind ya and you’re working Wall Street.
CA: Am I correct in assuming you are…(cross talk) Am I correct in assuming you are an alumni of C-74 juvenile detention on Rikers Island?
SE: No. I escaped the juvenile thing…kinda in a way, hard core kind of saved me from that at that time…cause uh…we had our own little world. You know as weird as it might sound, being in a large metropolitan area in the most beautiful city on the planet..uh..we were kind of sheltered from the rest of society, in that we were around our people and we sought out our own people..you know we were around punk rockers, skin heads, gothic, uh guys and girls uh you were around, your scene and we didn’t gravitate outside that scene. You know, the heavy metal scene was very much a part of our life too and uh we had skaters, BMX riders, these were the people we came in contact with and we avoided the other people cause we realized that one, they thought of us as freaks and two, you know there was always a clash with us and the regular residents of the urban environment. They all thought we were freaks. But we tried to avoid them so I uh missed some of these things that may have put me in juvenile detention just by being a punk rock kid.
CA: Lucky you. I know you…I know you took your…
SE: I had good teeth too back then.
CA: (Laughs) I know you…you took your case to trial over rejecting a plea bargain.
SE: Yeah I took my case to trial..to jury trial..to blew trial..
CA: You maintained your innocence..
SE: So after twenty-two years oh yeah I went all the way to my parole board.
CA: How were they about that when told them you were innocent because the parole board can be very funny and I don’t mean funny ha ha.
SE: Well the first two times they hit me. I don’t think it was because I was maintaining my innocence. I think that uh..there was other mitigating factors.. I don’t think that was it, they reason why they hit me but they never…they never brought that up like hey you know you were found guilty. Why aren’t you admitting it? You know, they never came forward and said it like that.
CA: Right. I know you were deuced twice. That’s two parole board hits of two years each for a total of four more years after you reached your minimum sentence of twenty five years. What.. Uh was it twenty two years or twenty five years?
SE: Minimum sentence? No twenty two years.
CA: Right. What did the board have to say that stands out in your memory?
SE: Which time? Which board?
CA: Both of them. Is there anything that stood out?
SE: “We feel at this time to release you would subrogate the serious nature of the crime is to undermine the letter of the law.”
CA: (laughs) Ah the letter of the law coming from them.
SE: (laughs) Well, here’s the thing, I just did twenty two years. I did what the judge sentenced me to only to have a tribunal come forward and say that I wasn’t ready yet. Regardless of the fact that I had enough certificates to wallpaper a wall…that I’m a uh…
HIV and AIDs counselor, that I’m a drug and alcohol addiction counselor, that I hadn’t caught an infraction in the jail, the jailhouse a ticket.. a tier two or tier three in twelve, thirteen years. I’ve been, I was good in the jail. I was a clerk for numerous job. Worked in the metal shop. I was a QC of metal shop three in Fishhill Correctional Facility. Worked in Attica in the metal shop. Was keeping my nose clean. Never got a dirty urine the whole twenty some years I was locked up. But regardless of all of this and the fact that I went on numerous visits, had fifty five letters of support for the first parole board, seventy letters of support for the second parole board, numeous job references, they still hit me.
CA: (Laughs sarcastically) You’re institutionalized. We can’t let you out.
SE: Yeah.. Well, they didn’t hit me with that. I think..no I think contrary to that uh..they actually knew that I wasn’t institutionalized…’Oh you know, what a minute, you’re still pretty free thinking. Maybe we need to cook you a little bit more.’
SE: ‘Maybe we need to cook your goose just a little bit more.’
CA: Drive ya crazy. Then show us just how nuts you can be…What is the God Emperor?
SE: The God Emperor?
SE: That’s my…That’s my handle. The God Emperor is my handle. Jah Chemistry the God Emperor.
CA: And that’s your performance name right?
SE: Yeah, that’s my performance name I’m a big fan..I’m a big fan for Frank Hubert’s Dune?
CA: Oh yeah.
SE: And I love the character Paul Muadib, who’s called the God Emperor.
CA: I had forgotten. I hadn’t read Dune in over thirty years. I remember Dune having a lot of….Dune had a lot of Islamic ideas in it. Do you agree?
SE: It has a lot of Islamic ideas in Frank Hubert’s Dune?
SE: Not…Well he mixes all the religions..in the future…you see like you got Zen Buddhism mixed with Islam uh Catholicism and Protestantism are mixed by the Orange Catholic Bible..so you know he kind of mixes things up you know for the future character.
CA: Right. You’ve told me that you are very anti politician and I’ve heard you spit. I think you are a free style lyrical genius. Can you tell me about your inspirations and what musical genres have influenced you?
CA: I’m interested to know who are some of your inspirations for some of your performances.
SE: Ah man I got a bunch of those. like uh I would be remiss not to all of the punk rock people that raised me up, you know, John Joseph from the Cromags..
SE: Uh of course, you know the Bad Brains. You know uh I’d add that influence there. But also Roger Merritt from Agnostic Front. Vinny Stigma, Agnostic Front. Uh you know my brothers, two of my big brothers uh so many different punk rock and hard core bands at least you know, the, the activism part of it you know all the protesters and things like that, you know uh the social consciousness, I mean all the way from Fear to the Circle Jerks to , and there are countless others.. Minor Thread.. there are so many influences that are there…Life Sentence from Chicago…so there’s umpteen amounts… Zack Ziarocca from Rage Against the Machine..uh the guys in in Stuck Mojo, there are so many influences as well as pop influences like, One and Eric Rakeem
CA: Yeah, I heard Little Red Man in what you do.
SE: Red Man?
SE: Well Red Man ..I love Red Man too. Red Man, Red Man’s a bit more eccentric. I mean he can be socially conscious and he is definitely socially conscious and I love him but you know he…most of his style is just wild and it’s you know it’s abrasive and hits you in the face and makes you feel good at the same time so..so (laughing) it’s a little bit different between him and bust bird and you know Ludiaris you know when you hear those guys perform it’s like Wow! (Laughs) It’s like eating your favorite piece of cheese cake but it’s just so much man..Boom! Bash!..
SE:You know..It’s that style of Rap.
CA: That’s funny.
SE: Oh yeah.
CA: What are your thoughts on race relations between prisonsers?
SE: Oh well race relations between prisoners are strange. And the reason I say that…part of it is by their own construct…the other part of it is by the construct of the administration itself in the jail.
CA: Which is why….
SE: Some of these prisons directly segregate the people. And unbeknowst many people who can’t see outside of the box and they are undereducated or uneducated totally and they don’t have the wherewithal that hey if we united together, these people couldn’t do what they want to us you know? That goes right out the window and they end up getting caught up into disliking one another like uh you know the latin dude don’t like the black guy, the black guy don’t like the white guy, the white guy don’t like the latino, or the white guy don’t like the black guy but he’s alright with the latinos, or the latinos don’t like the white guys but they’re alright..there’s all kinds…and the one or two asian guys are stuck in the middle. So uh the guys do a horrible job of realizing man that it’s not a race struggle in prison. This is a class struggle you know, we’re locked up and we’re wards of their jail. It’s a microcosm of the society that we live in.right now.
CA: It is. I agree totally. When I figured that out, it was a bit too late for me, but the microcosm, I mean, I just wrote something this morning about the idea, that, you know, the prison is like a patriarchy and the system is like you know like the Indians used to say…
SE: I know. I read it before we started the interview…
CA: Yeah, the idea of the great white father is still being pushed on people of color.
CA: So you don’t think, you don’t think prisoners have become more aware of their collective power?
SE: Not at all, I think they’ve become less aware because I think the outside society is less aware. You’ve got kids going around going black lives matter, black lives matter but they’re mean to other people who are just like em. How in the fuck can you tell some body black lives matter and then you’re mean to other black people. If black lives matter, you definitely don’t care about mine. Ninety percent of all homicides committed against black people are committed by other black people so how much can black lives actually matter? So outside, the people are kind of twisted..uhhh….they’re not gonna be that well adjusted when they get inside.
CA: It’s just a rite of passage after a while..they grow up in the ghetto and their role models go to jail and violence seems to play the biggest part in the estimation of what makes somebody a man..and then…you know..getting cheese and carrying on like a lunatic until they get locked up enough times and then next thing ya know they’ve got twenty – five to life and they’re sitting there scratching their head at how did this happen to me.
SE:Yep. Exactly. This happens, this happens, all too often.
CA: Do you think the entire system is becoming a big homeless shelter?
SE: Uh, no…it’s just uh…the prison system is actually a jail within inside of a jail. The bigger jail is outside here in society.
SE: That jail …you don’t have women and children in the penitentiary with you but a lot of these guys come out of prison and they’re right back into another prison. You’re going right back to the ghetto you got locked up in, you don’t take care of the woman that you gave a baby, so there’s a child you fathered and you going back into the same socioeconomic jail that you got locked up in.
SE: With no hope for tomorrow, no hope for the future, so you just, you know, going in and out of prison is just like you just on a draft man, picking up your belongings and going from one prison to the next..
CA: What kinds of changes would you make in the corrections system?
SE: Changes you make in the corrections system? You’d have to …before you changed the corrections system, you’d have to change the criminal justice system. You’d have to make it be about the law, you know, and not about uh uh a prosecutor trying to win a case even though there’s so much evidence contrary to this person’s guilt, uh but he has the ability to orate very well and to use his power to convince uh, jurors to find to find this individual guilty when all the evidence points towards not guilty, it should be the job of the prosecutor not to prosecute this thing but instead what happens is when this prosecutor comes out of law school,they have tremendous, uh, tremendous debt. Student laws, they have to go into four years of college and four years of law school, that’s eight years of college and now you got bills to pay. And they say man, I have to win this case cause I gotta pay these damn student loans. I gotta win this case because that’s relevant to my career as an attorney, as a prosecutor, and what happens is the law kinda gets pushed to the side in light of I gotta win the case. The flip side of that will be a defense attorney representing a guy who’s dead to right, dead wrong who you know, this guy raped a nine year old girl blah blah blah and now you have to represent him and try to get him free!
CA: Yeah, it’s pretty weird.
SE: So on both sides, on both sides are on the court, like it’s all whack! This stuff should be about the law as it is, not how you structure it for a favorable outcome. So before you fix the prison system itself you gotta fix the criminal justice system cause it in and of itself is shot.
CA: We know it’s prejudiced…..Black inmates..black defendants are more prone to getting more time than their white counterparts.
SE: Yeah, well our society is set up like that since, since the amendments to the constitution remain, since the civil war, since the emancipation proclamation, all these things subsequent, subsequently came into play. You couldn’t enslave us no more but you made the 13th amendment, where if you’re incarcerated, you’d be returned back to a status of a slave.
CA: Basically. Unless you wanna get a job working at White Castle.
SE: Well, back then you would have just been pulling cotton out of a field.
SE: So we live in a venture capitalist, we live in a venture capitalist society so they turn criminal justice into a business.
CA: Absolutely. Private prisons. Prisons for profit, excuse me.
CA: Can you tell me about the box..uh also known as solitary confinement?
SE: Aw yeah. The box is terrible. Solitary confinement is terrible man. You’re isolated in there 24 hours a day, only one hour of rec in an eight by six cell. You’re on limited contact with the outside world. And it sucks. It’s bad bad.
CA: Yeah I’ve been there. I’m a little strange though, cause I enjoyed getting away from everybody.
SE: Well, I did almost three years box time I did a combined overall, eighteen months straight. Well it really was twelve months straight an four months keep lock and then the rest, little small stints in the box, solitary confinement.
CA: Are you familiar with the loaf? A dietary punishment used in an attempt to control uncooperative prisoners in the box?
SE: Yeah, they normally give it to guys that, that throw stuff on the officers and stuff like that. Yeah. There were guys who were trying to intimidate or bully
CA: What is the loaf?
SE: The loaf is a loaf of bread, it’s a loaf of bread and they give you cabbage and carrots and one loaf of bread, they don’t give you any other food. And it’s a punishment for being belligerent towards the staff members.
CA: Who are provoking corrections officers?
SE: Uh well, it could be various things, it could be, it could be on the person themselves, I mean they could have brought it on themself too.
SE: It could have been, been, you know disruptive and nasty towards the staff members there, or it could be retaliatory, I mean, keep in mind the people who work there also are human. That means they got feelings an emotions just like sometimes they like to jam people up.
CA: RIght. That’s an incredible outlook after as many years as you’ve done, you know, I don’t sense any bitterness in you.
SE: Nah, why would I be bitter?
CA: It’s a long time to do for something you didn’t do.
SE: (long pause) Yeah, but when I look at that and then I look at a nine year old kid with leukemia, how could I complain?
SE: I’ve lived to be forty six years old and I’m happy.
SE: I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.
CA: Yeah you certainly do.
SE: No, so I can’t afford to be bitter.
CA: Can you tell us about Core Craft?
SE: I came home from prison…oh yeah…Core Craft is an industry..it’s an industry, they make, they fabricate items for the state of New York, lockers, bed frames, crank tables, you know, prefab items, chairs, uniforms for the officers, clothes for the inmates, and various other things. Huh hmmm.
CA: And how much an hour were you being paid for that?
SE: Depends on the shop that you were in. Sometimes you start at 16 cents an hour an you go up to 22 cents and uh well you could start at 22 cents to 26 cents and work your way up to 45.
SE: You, naw, if you become like the lead man in one of the shops you could make 65 cents an hour.
CA: Sooo I’m gonna ask a crazy question here but when I was in Attica, there was talk of zip guns coming out of the metal shop. You ever hear of anything like that?
SE: I mean, it’s a metal shop. You could fabricate whatever was made out of metal, you could fabricate it there. It’s not impossible. We had all the power tools that any shop would have.
CA: I recall a refusal to program, a job, or any recommended drug and alcohol and it would result in a misbehavior report with guaranteed consequences . That sounds like duress to me. What do you think?
SE: What do I think if you refuse it?
CA: Yeah. Being punished for refusing a program.
SE: Well if you ..I think you if you were refusing a drug and alcohol program that’s mandated by the state for you to take I think it’s counterproductive for you to do so. I mean if you, in my case, I was locked up for murder. Now, they made me take ASAT and I wasn’t locked up for drugs, I was locked up for murder. In my case, if I’d protested it would have been just, but by the same token would do you stand to lose. You’re gonna get keep lock, you know, you can’t get your trailer visits if you have a wife or you know, family members willing to give you the trailer visits. Uh you’re gonna get loss of packages and loss of privileges bad so you might as well go on and do the shit and get it over with and you might learn something from it.
SE: People are becoming a counselor for that shit.
CA: That’s awesome.
SE: And I never had any drug problem. Yeah!
CA: Ok, felons are forbidden to vote and I say that’s taxation without representation. That is what the Boston Tea party about when a crew of white guys dressed like Native American dropped all the King’s tea in the harbor and then tarred and feathered the town’s tax collector. I think the vote is a right, not and not a privelege. I’d even go so far as to say that prisoners should have the right to vote and then you or I could become mayor of Attica. What do you think?
SE: Well that all gets swept under the bridge when you get locked up because of the 13th amendment says that you lose those privileges.
CA: Do you think that’s right?
SE: Uh, I don’t know. Honestly speaking, I don’t know. I think that..What I think is this: Live your life to the point where you avoid this shit. Don’t put yourself in harms way so that you have to end up experiencing it. That’s what I think . Like, we could harp on all day whether rights are taken away from people but at the end of the day if you’re living right these things aren’t going to befall you. You can do what you need to do in life and avoid these pitfalls before they happen.
CA: Sure. I wanna..
SE: You get what I’m saying?
CA: Yeah, absolutely.
SE: At home, I could get my life, I could get my rights restored vote and all of those types of things but I’m home now, so what am I, what am I doing? Am I doing things that are going to be counter productive to me? No. I’m not. Hey do I want to experience the same thing again? No, of course not. So now, it’s imperative that I do the right things to keep myself out of harm’s way.
CA: You’re keeping your nose clean that’s what we used to call it.
SE: Yeah, keep your nose clean and you know uh I’m still a punk rock kid so you know, I don’t have to be told to stay away from the trends and shit, you know I make, I determine my own world, my own you know. I’m not going to be like one of these people who are walking around looking for Pokeman with their damn cell phone now. (laughs) it’s not happening.
CA: They’re walking off cliffs to find a dead body.
SE: Yeah, you wanna find Pokeman? He lives in the basement of an apartment building on the Lower East Side. Listen to me…(laughs)
CA: It’s crazy.
SE: You know uh I’m not looking for Pokemon.
CA: Listen, I want to thank you for your time Scott.
SE: I’m looking for Pokegirl.
CA: (Laughs) That’s good.
SE: I’m looking for Pokegirl, not Pokeman. Now listen, I love ya Charlie and uh anytime bro.
CA: Well you wanna perform a little bit for us?
SE: OK this poem is entitled Razor Wire: The Dark Lithium
razor wire to confine us
****bites to bind us
scarred by a flawed technocracy
social decline to define us
we have come so far only to stagnate and regress
******* in the name of progress
is this the fatal cost of material success
we sell our souls for nothing and endure a living death
why I ask why we turn our backs on each other to attain a proverbial
piece of the pie
an it all seemed so real
worshiping our computers as we jump and squeal at the images
clouding our minds
wonder why we are so fucking blind to the truth
you want proof?
check those genetically engineered babies
like instant potatoes and gravy
you just add water ******
is this the new world order
plan to build a wall for the mexican border
and razor wire continues to weave its way through the cities
and you would stay locked down
police state committee
just another part of the tactical plan
the mark of the beast lies in a retinal scan
transit on some ******* fiberoptic bullshit
It’s the end of our age
millenium 2000 turns a new page in the chapter of our lives
but none of this comes as a surprise to the
survivalist who survives in a world of rapid decay
crawl under the razor wire and prepare to fight
another day as new recruits in jumpsuits become *******troops
in black boots with orders to keep us in check there’s no respect
from the governments we elect to
so who can we trust?
definitely not the same system that enslaves us
but for those in the know consistent resistance is a must
for the robotic people of the world lying mentally dead in the dust
and there’s no more time for crying
when financial ropes strangle the people and evil men do the knot tying
we respect these word of wisdom as prayers for the dying
as we lose all desire to fight we light candles around the tv
and watch world news tonight to get a first hand glimpse
of the apocalypse we so conveniently helped to create
bloated bellies in starvation with no food on the plate
we cant wait any longer
the dark millenium is approaching us
the beast gets stronger in number and power
where will we be standing on the eve of zero hour
only you can make the call
for the razor wire is still growing to incarcerate us all
free Scot Ebanks Scotty [email protected] Youtube