To move toward a reconciled America, we have to do the work ourselves. Reconciliation is an ongoing and collective process. We must roll up our sleeves and do the messy, challenging, but hopeful work of creating transformed relationships and structures leading us into new futures.
In the summer of 2014, a team of exceptional young men worked with artists Esteban del Valle and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez to research, design, and fabricate a mural in Brownsville, Brooklyn exposing how the United States judicial system has failed young men of color and their communities.
During the course of the project, the youth reflected on how mass incarceration has impacted their lives, their families, and their neighborhoods, with special attention paid to Brownsville where 1 in 12 residents between the ages of 16 and 24 are incarcerated.
"...when we talk about a world without prisons, a world without police violence, a world where everyone has food, clothing, shelter, quality education, a world free of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, heterosexism – we are talking about a world that doesn’t currently exist.
But being able to envision these worlds equips us with tools to begin making these dreams reality."
In Washington, D.C.'s public schools, African-American students are almost six times as likely to be suspended or expelled as their white classmates. Students with disabilities are also disciplined at higher rates than their peers.
But a group of local students is hoping to use their artwork to change that.
Students participating in a program with the nonprofit group Critical Exposure contend that disciplinary practices in the District's public schools contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline, which pushes minority and vulnerable students out of school and into the penal system.
This site began in the summer of 2007 as a personal attempt at transparency. Having never found a way to be comfortable in my own skin, I allowed the masks I developed as a child to take control. The results were not pretty: I lied to everyone, all of the time, for years. After arriving on Death Row, I began to put the pieces together for this site. Exposing my personal diary in the most open forum ever designed by human beings seemed like the most un-Thomas thing I could imagine, an attempt, I hoped, at re-forging myself, at putting back together all of the pieces. I never had any expectation that anyone would ever stumble across my tiny plot of digital backwater; it was merely the principle that someone might which comprised the core of the challenge. For well over a year I was writing to an audience of precisely no one, and I was fine with that.
Somehow, inexplicably, Minutes Before Six (MB6) began to gain a few readers. True, a significant portion of this early audience only showed up to take pot shots at me. Behind the haters and the trolls, however, were others: decent, genuine people who felt conflicted over the death penalty and the rise of the prison-industrial machine. I didn’t have all of the answers for the questions asked by this group, but l knew that if we met in the center for meaningful dialogue, we would collectively figure some of them out.
On Sunday, John Oliver's main story was a look at the racism and corruption inherent in the American prison system, and our national apathy toward it. And if you think that sounds terribly unfunny, you're right ... Oliver doesn't find it funny either.
The dreaded squat-and-cough: You have to do it every time you enter the jail. In a room with about 40 other people, you strip naked, lift up your breasts, open your vagina, squat down and cough on command. If nothing falls out, you get up and put on your jail uniform as fast as you can. After the ordeal, they give each person an orange juice and a microwaved burrito. It’s the closest thing you get to compassion in jail.
The tactic has gotten very little public attention, but it is for many black residents the mark of policing problems in the nation’s capital: militaristic, seemingly arbitrary, and reeking of racial disparity.
Re-entry mediation is available pre-release in Maryland prisons. Re-entry mediation decreases recidivism. But to participate in re-entry mediation, family members have to get to the prison. For some, it's a trip they can't afford.
The San Francisco Giants clinched their spot in the MLB playoffs this week. At San Quentin State Prison in California, another Giants team has already played their championship game. George Lavender travels to San Quentin to tell the story.