Community News


Originally published in the Winter/Spring 2023 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 71, printed March 22. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter/Spring 2023 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For other issues dating back to 2012, see the Full Issues page.

In the summer of 1968, prisoners at Richmond’s Spring Street Penitentiary went on strike, demanding an end to racial segregation and that they be paid a dollar a day for their labor making the state’s license plates. Significantly, the white prisoners supported both demands. The strikers elected as their leader Leroy Mason, who had already filed a lawsuit against the segregation policy. In retaliation, he and other strike leaders were placed in solitary, on a diet of bread and water. The rest of the prisoners stayed on strike through the summer, despite beng beaten and teargassed in their cells. Black and white community supporters quickly formed a coalition that kept up a 24/7 picketline outside the prison. Mason’s lawsuit was successful, as was another he was a plaintiff in, Landman vs. Royster, which accused the prison administration of imposing cruel and unusual punishments.

Leroy Mason, presente!

Simin Royanian, of Burke, Va., a lifelong fighter for peace, racial justice and women’s equality, passed on March 4. She was 77. Simin was born of Kurdish parents in Iran, where she was active in the revolutionary socialist movement against the Shah. After moving to the United States at the age of 21 to attend graduate school she became involved in the antiwar movement and many antiracist struggles. After earning her doctorate in economics from the University of Maryland, she went to work for the Public Works Department of the City of Fairfax, where she became a shop steward and vice president of AFSCME Local 1924, which represented city workers. Simin was the founder of Women for Peace in Iran; a founding member of the D.C. Iraq Coalition; board member of the Pacifica radio station WPFW; member of the D.C. Labor Committee for Peace and Justice; member of the Northeast Feminist Scholars; and was a good friend to the Virginia Defenders.

Simin Royanian, presente!

Categories: Community News

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