Friday, January 16, 2015

American Horror Story: Asylum
Allah & Azreal

In May of 1965 after being arrested with several other men for unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct at a rally in front of the Hotel Theresa in Mecca [Harlem, NY], Allah [the Father] was arraigned in criminal court before Judge Francis X. O'Brien and held on a $9,500 bond. Four months later he was shipped off to the Psychiatric Unit at Bellevue Hospital. Allah would remain there until a final psychiatric report submitted to Judge O'Brien stated that "he did not understand the charges against him" thus remanding him to the NYS Department of Mental Hygiene for indefinite confinement. At the age of 37, Allah was confined in these institutions, Bellevue and Matteawan State Hosptial, for two years. Matteawan was a limbo for sadists; a living nightmare used to house people considered too dangerous for civilian institutions yet too ill for prison. It was during Allah's stay in Mattewan that he met and befriended a young 17 year old Caucasian transfer from Elmira State Penitentary named John Kennedy. Because Allah didn't represent a religious group he didn't have the constitutional protection of religious freedom in a court of law. There were always others who considered themselves a diety, yet because they claimed it within a religious context, they were afforded religious protection under the law. Allah was not afforded that protection and some Five Percenters are still being catagorized as 'criminally insane' and denied the right to practice our culture in correctional facilities around the country. Allah also wasn't politically affiliated, a member of any organizations or representing any institutions. Therefore, he didn't have their support, publically or privately. He stood alone, and as he came to learn, the 17 year old Caucasian boy he met in Matteawan stood out, and alone, in his own way too.
Allah and Azreal
Born on September 28th, 1948, 17 year old John Kennedy was Allah's first Caucasian student. As the first Caucasian Five Percenter, John adopted the name 'Azreal' becoming a prototypical model of how Caucasians were educated and entrusted to function within the context of our growing national body. As a civilized man who was empowered with the knowledge of his people, and ours, Azreal grew to educate people on how to survive and avoid the snares of this devilish society, especially mental health institutions. He had a lot to tell because he had been through hell. An institutional hell that he knew so well that Allah symbolically gave him the keys to it.

I knew Azreal personally and one of the things he always talked about is how he suffered in various facilities, especially Matteawan, because of his name. Some of us took that for granted and never looked further into what Azreal may have been striving to communicate. "Yes the President's name was John F. Kennedy and Azreal's birth name was John Kennedy" some of us thought, believing that Azreal was just proud to have an honorable name that many of our people looked at honorably. Well what politics and policies did President John F. Kennedy represent that the guards at Matteawan felt the need to persecute Azreal, AKA John Kennedy, for? Why the transference?
President John F. Kennedy
Doing further research I learned that John F. Kennedy spent his entire political career, as a Senator and as the President, striving to reform the mental health system. It personally hit close to home; his elder sister Rosemary was 23 when she had a lobotomy [brain surgery] that incapacitated her and eventually led to her death. In 1955, then Senator Kennedy sponsored the Mental Health Study Act to begin reevaluating the practices/procedures employed in mental health institutions around the country. As the President of the United States in 1963, President Kennedy authorized the Joint Commission on Mental Health to investigate mentally ill related problems and sponsored the Community Mental Health Centers Act to reform the entire mental health system. This final Act, was one month before his assassination. Following his death, in 1968 John F. Kennedy's sister Eunice Kennedy Striver, partially inspired by their sister Rosemary, started the Special Olympics.
Matteawan State Hospital
I mentioned an American Horror Story in regards to the mental health system because that's exactly what these institutions were, and Matteawan was considered the worst. Along with medical care that was below hospital standards, the institution's practices were barbaric; performing lobotomies and using shock/water therapy, hypnosis, sleep deprivation, starvation and other Spanish Inquisition-like procedures on people as young as their early teens. It's also worth noting that lobotomies were not carried out by professional surgeons nor were they performed in surgical laboratories. They were done in un-sanitized environments with poor lighting, poor staffing and crude instruments. This is not even mentioning the knuckle-therapy, sexual and verbal abuse people had to deal with or died dealing with while confined in these institutions where prison guards were also trained. It wasn't until the 1960's with the political pressure of President Kennedy, and during the time Allah and Azreal were in Matteawan, did the mental health system begin popularizing the use of psychotropic drugs for psychiatric treatment. However, this did not spell relief for these inhabitants of hell; the drug experimentation, overdoses and Thorazine straight jacket's made it that much easier to carry out the knuckle-therapy, sexual and verbal abuse. 

No I am not saying or implying that Allah and Azreal were sexually abused. Because of the nature of the environment, both of them were verbally abused and Azreal talked extensively about the physical abuse he suffered. Allah, Azreal and others witnessed many of these things and lived to tell about it. Many who survived this hell still carry a mental diagnosis along with physical scars. All of them suffered some degree of PTS [Post Traumatic Stress], including Allah. Allah was confined there for two of the five years he and his companions organized the Five Percenters; that's 40% of the time he was here among us. Have you ever asked yourself why there's not much conversation about that time, or have you even considered how he was psychologically affected? As Five Percenters, some of us romanticize the idea that the Father showed and proved who he was and just walked out of Matteawan unaffected. Just researching the state of the mental health system in this country at the time Judge O'Brien deliberately remanded him to it would show you this idea is unrealistic. The state of this country's mental health industry was so horrific that John F. Kennedy, as a Senator and as the President, made its reformation a key talking point of his entire political career. One of his final talking points prior to his assassination. Given this history, it is my perspective that Azreal was more than a prototypical model of a Caucasian Five Percenter. He symbolized, in the name of John Kennedy, the reformation of the devil's mental health institution. With President Kennedy's Community Mental Health Centers Act he sought to de-institutionalize mental hospitals with community mental health services. This translated into the closing of long stay mental health institutions because of its reduced population, staff losing jobs and companies aligned with these institutions losing contracts [money]. President Kennedy was messing with a lot of people's money, which over time cut 90% of the beds at state mental institutions. Staff at Matteawan were forced to change and find a new hustle. They didn't like that, nor did they like Azreal's honorable name that represented that change. And because many couldn't reach President John F. Kennedy the President to show their dissatisfaction with these changes, they persecuted the John Kennedy they could reach. Azreal mentioned his honorable name, President Kennedy, the mental health industry and his experience in Matteawan often. He also talked a lot about Allah's compassion and insight to not only recognize what we was going through, but to educate him on how to become better. These correlations help us better understand the context of our plight as a Nation of Gods and Earths [Five Percenters].

After standing trial, Allah was eventually released from Matteawan in April of 1967. Some time after that Azreal was also released and came to Mecca to find him. Because of the national political pressure to change the psychiatric landscape of state mental institutions and the mental health industry as a whole, they, and others being held unreasonably, were able to go home. It wasn't because Allah debated a board of psychiatrists about the science of everything in life and they were so mezmerized by his wisdom that they just had to let him go. Nor did Azreal burst out of Matteawan like Chief in One Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest. Allah, like Azreal and others, didn't demonstrate the kind of maladaptive behavior, dependency or learned helplessness institutional staff documented to justify keeping them there. This was the climate of America during this time and slavery by another name; a 'citizen-to-asylum pipeline' that shuffled people into a system they often didn't survive.

In closing, keep in mind that nothing happens in a vacuum. Everything is not as explicit as we may like for it to be. Some things are implied, if we listen, and give us deeper insight and a better appreciation for what others may not say. Azreal and Allah found themselves caught up in a kind of system that many of us could only imagine. They, like many others, didn't walk out unscathed and there were things they saw and experienced that they probably took to their graves. So behind some of the things Azreal said, what Allah instructed some of us to do, and how they coped, is a story. A story that gives context to AWM.

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