Robert Seth Hayes pens ‘freedom letter’

Editor’s Note: Robert Seth Hayes is currently incarcerated at the Sullivan Correctional Facility.  The Black Liberation Army (BLA) was an underground, black nationalist militant organization that operated in the United States from 1970 to 1981. Composed largely of former Black Panthers (BPP), the organization’s program was one of “armed struggle” against the oppression and tyranny of the United States Government, and its stated goal was to “take up arms for the liberation and self-determination of black people in the United States.” The BLA carried out a series of bombings, murders, robberies (which participants termed “expropriations”), and prison breaks.

Hayes was born in Harlem, New York in October 1947.  His father, John Franklin Hayes, was the child of sharecroppers and came to New York Cityfrom South Carolina; his mother, Francine Washington Hayes, moved to New York from Pittsburgh.  Both of Mr. Hayes’ parents worked for the U.S. Postal Service, trying to provide a better life for Seth and his four brothers and sisters.  They also instilled in their children the desire to work for the betterment of their community.  Seth writes, “My mother  taught me to visualize family universally, not individually.”  Seth’s father was a World War II veteran and a member of the United Negro Improvement Association, the Black Nationalist organization founded by Marcus Garvey.

Growing up in New York City, first in Harlem, later in the Bronx and Queens, Mr. Hayes saw one Black neighborhood after another suffering from neglect, despair, anger and defeat. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Vietnam.  He saw combat, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.

In the armed forces, Seth underwent a change of consciousness.  After the death of Martin Luther King Junior in 1968, Seth’s troop was ordered to patrol the city streets with fixed bayonets to put down the rebellions resulting from Dr. King’s assassination.  “It was the saddest day of my life,” Seth remembers, “and I could never identify again with the aims of the armed forces or the government.”

Upon returning to the United States from Vietnam, Seth was swept up in the Black Liberation movement and joined the Black Panther Party.  He worked in the free breakfast for children program and began dedicating his life to the betterment of Black people.  His knowledge of the effects of racism on the Black community convinced him that the Black Panthers’ program of community service ad community self-defense was what was needed.  His work, like that of so many others, was disrupted by COINTELPRO.  Fearing further attacks, he went underground, beleiving it a better way to protect the work of the Black Panther Party and the Black movement in general.

Nate Buckley, of the Buffalo Anti-Racism Coalition, circulated this letter this week. 


Greetings one and all. At long last I have the strength to communicate and advise that I am feeling better. During the long journey, I am about to disclose, I suffered many ups and downs before arriving at the present moment. It has been an arduous struggle, but one that was won by both your support and my determination. As stated above, at present I am feeling stronger, more purposeful and capable to persevere opposition to medical staff here, solely because they perform acts of medical neglect, malpractice application, and deliberate indifference, to the sufferings of those under their care. Coupled with that objective, I/We are working on a legal strategy that will hopefully see me free. Or at the lower accomplishment, act as a viable podium from where teachings, actions, strategies, can commence. Here are those factors, that leads us to the present.

Some of you from the past, have written me without receiving responses back from me. In the past, I attempted to reply within days, to every letter I received but for some time now, that has not been the case. As letters increased in volume, I found myself consistently slipping farther and farther away from the strength to be up for the task and conversely suffering from longer periods of weakness and listlessness. I experienced 2 or 3 days out of 7, where I felt confident enough to sit among friends and discuss my difficulties and plans. The remaining days, I spent, sleeping.  Retiring before 8 p.m. for the night while others stopped  by to pay respects and to inquire about my state of health. My blood sugars began ranging for 200, to 300 in the mornings then up to 400 + in the afternoon, only to slam down into the 60’s, 40’s and lower in the evening. During this time, I maintained a steady diet plan and complied with portions, suitable substance, while refusing to deviate from the planned meal plan. Besides my diet I also engaged in exercise plans and partaking of insulin measurements to maintain my well being and sugars.  In spite of all this there was and remained, no let up on ups and downs of sugar balance, or the side effects mentioned along with the depressive mind states. All of this was out of my control and despite my efforts. 

Insulins were substituted for various brands, but nothing worked. It was concluded that a steadier insulin application beyond my present regimen of taking insulin 3 times per day “needed” consideration. It was hit upon that an “insulin pump” would best serve that purpose along with a blood monitoring attachment, which would alert or register sugar levels whenever required. A necessary addition because I tended not to sense or feel lowering or extreme high sugar episodes. By the time I feel hunger in a strong fashion, its already too late and I am slipping into comatose states. Other than that, I only know if my sugars are high or low during the scheduled insulin dosages where my blood sugars are checked. Inquires, questions, demands went unheeded. Hence, the mental states of self-diagnosis, “they are trying to kill me.”

Then your attention manifested. Telephone calls, letter writing campaigns and arduous involvement, turned the tide and results began to manifest. October 12th I was transferred to Coxsackie CF and interviewed by an endocrinologist who advised, “you need an insulin pump.” He further conceded, he would put forth the paper work to start the process immediately. It was only afterwards, that I became suspicious when nothing materialized. No procedure, no comment from the medical staff, no suitable answers of when or what’s occurring, surfaced. I immediately filed a formal complaint to the Superintendent, based on Medical Malpractice, Medical Neglect and Deliberate Indifference, shown me in not proceeding with attention in a life-threatening circumstance. I concluded my argument with the Patient’s Bill of Rights, was not being enforced. Patient was not consulted, updated, involved in, or given information to agree or disagree with current, or future planned procedures. In fact, patient was not informed enough to make any decisions.

The above two actions are meandering through bureaucratic lines, towards the Courts. At the formal hearing for the above grievance, the Nurse Administrator sat in as the civilian spokesperson of the panel. After the hearing, I returned to the clinic for my scheduled 11:15 a.m. (2nd) insulin dosage, where I spied, Nurse Administrator with Nurses holding a staff meeting.  Perhaps advising them to be aware that future inquires of their acts would come forth. “Cover your own asses” by ensuring that the paper work appears, “you’ve answered present calls for medical attention,” because this one is beyond us. This all occurred on December 13th or 14th. And the next day, my insulin changed from Levamir to Lantus and Humulog coverage. That day, I felt a difference and maintain a more alert posture with the Humulog and Lantus insulins. Albeit, the sugars still maintain a high, high, low sugar count like before, but now those numbers are lower than previous numbers and I feel less listless and more alert. 

Now we await the legal process, “seeking a reversal of past parole decision.” Presenting our Article 78 to the courts, we’ll argue that the “blatant racism of the parole board, has been ongoing and without intervention by the courts, would continue.”

Point of Clarity. I went before my first parole board hearing in 1998. As a PP/POW, it was expected by me that deceit and mis-justice was a given. I was not disappointed. I was given a 2-year hit (illegally) under Executive Law 259i explained as, “due to the serious nature (instant offense) of your crime.” I say illegal because Executive Law 259i became law in 1978. Approximately 4 years after I was upstate. It was and remains, illegal to apply said law, according to my research of the law, by making it retroactive (going backwards instead of forward) and including 1974 instead of 1978 and beyond as its suppose to.  Under the law when I went upstate, the law stated, “it is the minimum and not the maximum portion of the sentence the covers the serious nature of the crime.” Hence, when I appeared in 1998 and was instructed that I had a formable conduct record, completed all programs, requirements and had been prosperous in all work details, that I had in fact, delivered the purpose for release having completed the serious nature of my crime. The laws intent certainly covers my issues. The law expresses, “what was the intent of the law? What did it hope to accomplish?” I appeared having no criminal history or acts of criminal intent while incarcerated. I had no Administrative crimes listed. There was nothing documented against me that could define “continued criminal activity.” Hence, I represented a “role model prisoner” and should have been released at my first board appearance. Instead it appears, that Commissioners were aware of the misrepresentation of the law, but gave no concern. Of late, the recent the NY Times featured a 3-part article on Racism and Prison and Blacks Facing Parole, disclosing the ongoing racist attack I have been suffering.  For the most part these struggles for justice that have been taking place behind the walls have been kept out of the public spotlight. Now after much work and struggle the public light is being shown to some extent and it is paramount that our work continues to further this conversation and see this struggle through to the end.

I took this opportunity to report back and give consistent and constructive dialogue on both medical and legal standings and in closing, which to speak on “what can be done” by you future wise, because so many have asked in the past.

I apologize for my past actions of maintaining that “I am fine,” when I was asked, “what do you need?” It’s a way of being from my past. Standing firm, seeking to not be a burden. Wanting but sustaining until I could accomplish it myself. Realizing, that concept does not work, deprives the solution to a problem and deprives others from extending a hand. I apologize for that mistaken approach, and here’s what I ask. 

I have a fund raising social page conducted by my comrade and family, Nate Buckley. Between each other, we try to meet its needs with information and updates as well as casting for funds to continue maintaining my substance and material needs. If you could, would you donate to that? It would help with winter clothing, books and additional materials as they manifest.- Also please continue to stay informed as to what is going on, visit, write and continue to come to my aid in times of need as you have so wonderfully done. Support the many efforts to release all those who are have done their time and continued incarceration is an injustice and all of those who are working in parole justice efforts. 

Finally, in closing, I’d like to report that my oldest son, Abdullah Rahim is in my life along with my grandchildren. Most of you know of my other children, but Abdullah was never mentioned. We lost contact with one another in the early 70’s and me not knowing his where abouts left that matter undisclosed for my feeling fear of an attack may ensue. Instead, I probed and worked to discover him myself. I was successful for a time in 1979 but lost contact due to an untimely transfer away from him. We came together again in 2014. I invite you to share a prayer with me as we welcome him into our hearts, minds, spirits and thoughts. Thank you!





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