Testament spent half of the G20 weekend behind bars, so the hip-hop artist knows first-hand the power a simple letter can have.
Testament headlined the Rap for Freedom at the University of Toronto Graduate Students Union on Oct. 15. The G20 Toronto Community Mobilization Network hosted a Radical Information Fair and Letter Writing to Political Prisoners session prior to the event. It was held to solicit donations for the G20 Legal Defence Fund.
Rapper Testament also sold alternative literature at the fair to help raise money for his legal aid.
He was detained on June 27, the Sunday morning of the G20 weekend.
“If you’ve ever been in jail, it’s really nice to get letters, especially from people who understand why you’re in jail and support you for the decisions that you made,” Testament said. “Just to break the isolation is a key way of lifting people’s spirits.”
Participants at Friday’s event had the opportunity to write letters to political prisoners, both in jail and under house arrest. Since police and prison guards read these letters, writers must be careful not to include anything that could further incriminate the detainee.
Jackie Hong, 17, attended the letter writing session. She says letter writing is a way to show support and solidarity to prisoners, such as Alex Hundert.
“I have the envelope sitting at home, ready,” Hong said. “It’s just a reminder to everyone who’s behind bars that we haven’t forgotten and we’re with you all the way and say strong… We’re not free until we’re all free.”
Hundert was charged on three counts of conspiracy relating to G20 violence. He was released on bail, with several conditions, including being prohibited from participating in demonstrations.
Hong attended a forum “Strengthening our Resolve” at Ryerson University last month, which featured Hundert as a panelist. He was arrested for breach of bail conditions after speaking on the panel.
Many of the organizers and attendees were legally advised not to speak to media, some because of restrictions on their bail and others for fear of further prosecution.
Testament has travelled across Canada, rapping about environmental issues and capitalism. This was his first show in Toronto since the G20.
“I’ve received letters, but not while I was in detention. I couldn’t even make a phone call for the three days I was in,” Testament said. “It was probably a lot better than most people’s experiences in jail, because we were with good people and we kept out spirits high and we invented ways of having fun.”