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LETTERS OF GRATITUDE:
I AM BECAUSE WE ARE
Leon Benson
With a Foreword by Derek R. Ford

Because of police and judicial misconduct, white supremacy, and the capitalist system overall, Leon Benson spent nearly 25 years incarcerated, 10 of which were spent in solitary confinement—globally recognized as a human rights violation—for a murder he did not commit. Then, on March 9, Benson was liberated from the notorious Pendleton prison in Indiana. Officially exonerated and his conviction overturned, Benson walked through the prison doors to a community that had been fighting for his release for years.

Released exactly one year after his liberation, Letters of Gratitude is centered around nine profound, punctual, and expansive dispatches Benson wrote from behind prison bars when his exoneration seemed increasingly likely and imminent. Each letter overflows with the reality of Ubuntu, an African philosophy based on collectivity rather than isolated individuality—and that guided African liberation struggles from Zimbabwe to Tanzania—that Benson came across during his in-depth studies of wide-ranging topics.

In addition to the nine letters that appear unaltered, included is a 2021 letter Benson wrote to the family of the man he was falsely imprisoned for murdering, a 2023 letter thanking the ongoing list of those who compose the we that is Benson, a preface to introduce the letters, and a foreword by his comrade Derek R. Ford that offers some personal, political, and historical context and suggests one way readers can engage with Benson’s texts: as a set of what Walter Rodney referred to as “groundings.” Each letter or each word, each fiber of each page, each thought of each reader; these are elements of the common unity that, if we organize and realize, will win a world where true freedom and justice prevail.

“The overwhelming majority of prisoners in the U.S. are mostly victims of a class/race war perpetrated by the capitalist owning class through its system of unjust laws. Despite their widespread victimization and demonization, prisoners have long embraced a selfless and thoughtful yearning for redeeming humanity through liberation to demonstrate prison bars can’t hold the spirit. Leon Benson’s Letters of Gratitude is not only an inspiring read but a direct reflection of this embrace.”

—Colin Jenkins, Founder and Chief Editor of the Hampton Institute

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About

8 March 2024, publication date

ISBN 9798869199270

4" by 6" chapbook

78 pages

Soft-texture, matte finish softcover

Black & white print

50lb creme interior paper

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