Fourteen years ago Michael “Esé Spook” Armendariz and his best friend were involved in a fight outside of a bar in Los Lunas that involved several intoxicated, off-duty law enforcement officers. In the violent scuffle Armendariz's friend—who was out celebrating his recent engagement—nearly lost his life and another—a Valencia County deputy sheriff—did. The details remain obscure, in part due to the fact that a significant amount of evidence that would have freed Armendariz was allegedly tampered with or destroyed. Armendariz was sentenced to 43 years in prison for first degree murder and third-degree aggravated battery. He's already served fourteen, two of which were done in solitary confinement.
“The whole prison industrial complex is so messed up, and that's our main focus,” said Diana Crowson, who, with many others, spearheads the efforts of the FreeSpook Movement—an organization that is working not just to secure a fair trial for Armendariz, but to provide support to other prisoners and to cast a critical eye on the prevailing criminal justice system. “Supporting Michael gives a face to the crime that the government is committing against its own people … it's an injustice,” Crowson went on. Armendariz is one victim of a wider form of oppression—one that is linked to systemic racism and a punitive, shortsighted view of crime and punishment. For years the FreeSpook Movement has been doing work that addresses the inequity of the system and supporting vital legal aid for Armendariz. One such manifestation of this work will take place on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 2-6pm at Endorphin Power Company (509 Cardenas SE).
The upcoming benefit will showcase the work of Armendariz himself (some of which will be up for auction),who is a lifelong poet, rapper and artist. A whole host of others are also offering up their talents. Musicians in the lineup include Asliani, Running WithArrows, Government Cheese and Jimi B. from Street Beat. Poets will lend their words, too, including Manuel and Sarita Gonzalez, Monica Salazar and Robert Wilson. Tamales and frito pie will be for sale and live art will be created over the course of the afternoon.
“Everyone is welcome in our movement,” Crowson explained—whatever your talent, there's room for you to participate, even if that just means attending the FreeSpook Benefit. “It will be a lot of fun,” she said—but more than that, it means something to show up. A bid on one of Armendariz's pencil drawings or paintings, a few dollars spent on tamales, a cash donation or committing to help organize future events in solidarity with Armendariz and others has a resounding impact that challenges the grim status quo. Your contribution of time, money and support will further Armendariz's habeas corpus push for freedom.
In a statement written for the FreeSpook Movement's website (freespook.com), Armendariz said, “I suspect the FreeSpook Movement is about more than me walking out of prison. Whatever may happen, this is about bringing out the truth.” And that truth is “that there is a very real oppression that poor people (especially minorities) encounter on a regular basis … that includes being unfairly targeted and harassed, police brutality, bias within the courts, continuation of that bias within prison and the media's role in the exploitation of society's fear and prejudice.” Art has always been a useful medium to strike against the oppressive—support Armendariz and other prisoners by showing up for a day of art and solidarity.