Beyond the Dream: Michelle Alexander and Ruby Sales – Livestream Tonight at 7p Eastern

On April 4, 1967, against the advice of advisors, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr delivered his famous Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence at The Riverside Church.  Co-written by Dr. Vincent Harding, the speech set out a moral agenda for America to address issues of racial injustice, poverty, and peace.

On April 4, 2017, at 7p Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow) and civil rights leader Ruby Sales will speak at a special event commemorating the speech.

You can livestream this event via https://livestream.com/trcnyc and http://www.trcnyc.org/worship/webcast.

Below are a few articles that might be helpful context:

My extended interview with Vincent Harding, who wrote the original draft of Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam speech: https://sojo.net/sojoshare/Mjh8MTU1MjgxfDE0OTEyNjE0NzB8MTc=

Long Train Running: An interview with civil rights activist Ruby Sales by Rose Marie Berger
https://sojo.net/sojoshare/Mjh8MTg5NDE2fDE0OTEyNjE2MTZ8MjA=

Led Down the Path of Protest and Dissent by Rose Marie Berger

‘I Was a Prisoner and You Visited Me’: Summer Camp Behind Bars

In May 2010, I was honored to serve as resident humanities scholar for an inmate writing program initiated by Hope House DC. I spent a week at two prisons in Maryland facilitating writing workshops on Ernest Gaines’ classic A Lesson Before Dying.

The writing program was all part of a year-long preparation for summer camp behind bars – where the men finally get to spend a week with their kids. For many it’s the only time all year they get to see each other.

Below is great article on Hope House‘s summer camp at the North Branch maximum security prison. Also check out the news video.

CUMBERLAND, MD – A group of kids spent the week at a summer camp behind bars at the North Branch Correctional Institution. They get to spend precious time with their dads, who are inmates.

11-year-old Shawn Harris’s dad is his hero. That’s what he drew in the mural they made together.

“We’re superheros, standing on top of buildings, looking for crime,” explains Shawn.

Kids doing arts and crafts, telling jokes and singing songs. These kids are making typical summer memories with their dads, but this camp isn’t typical, because all of the dads are serving time behind bars.

“It helps me out a lot because I worry about him a lot,” says his dad, Juvon Harris. “A lot of things I want to tell him and show him and teach him.”

It’s a one-week camp organized by the nonprofit Hope House. They bring kids from across the state to visit their parents behind bars. Shawn lives in Baltimore and this is the one time he sees his dad each year.

“He’s grown a lot in size and maturity,” says his father. “Last year he was here, we had to have a big talk. So he stepped up his game in school.”

“I think it’s tough a lot of times at the end of the week,” says North Branch case manager Gary Sindy. “But I think it can only be beneficial and hopefully it works for the future.”

Support Hope House.

Read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander to learn about the effect mass incarceration has upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, Alexander reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration.

Michelle Alexander: Are You ‘Beyond Race’?

alexander_michelleWhile Stephen “I-Don’t-See-Race” Colbert pointedly jokes about being “colorblind,” Michelle Alexander asks – What in the world do we think we’re doing dragging ugly “Jim Crow” into the Obama Era?

Alexander is the former director of the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU in Northern California. She also clerked for Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court. Now she holds a joint appointment with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

She’s  just released her first book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010). It’s a blockbuster! Read an excerpt from her post on Tom’s Dispatch below:

Obama’s mere presence in the Oval Office is offered as proof that “the land of the free” has finally made good on its promise of equality. There’s an implicit yet undeniable message embedded in his appearance on the world stage: this is what freedom looks like; this is what democracy can do for you. If you are poor, marginalized, or relegated to an inferior caste, there is hope for you. Trust us. Trust our rules, laws, customs, and wars. You, too, can get to the promised land.

Perhaps greater lies have been told in the past century, but they can be counted on one hand. Racial caste is alive and well in America.

Most people don’t like it when I say this. It makes them angry. In the “era of colorblindness” there’s a nearly fanatical desire to cling to the myth that we as a nation have “moved beyond” race. Here are a few facts that run counter to that triumphant racial narrative:

*There are more African Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

*As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

* A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.

*If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80%.) These men are part of a growing undercaste — not class, caste — permanently relegated, by law, to a second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, much as their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era. …

When we pull back the curtain and take a look at what our “colorblind” society creates without affirmative action, we see a familiar social, political, and economic structure — the structure of racial caste.  The entrance into this new caste system can be found at the prison gate.

This is not Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.  This is not the promised land.  The cyclical rebirth of caste in America is a recurring racial nightmare.

You can read her whole article here. Alexander’s incriminating claim reminds me of this haunting poem by Carl Wendell Himes Jr. written about Martin Luther King. We have so far to go to reach the Beloved Community.

Now That He Is Safely Dead
by Carl Wendell Himes Jr.

Now that he is safely dead,
Let us Praise him.
Now that he is safely dead,
Let us Praise him.
Build monuments to his glory.
Sing Hosannas to his name.

Dead men make such convenient Heroes.
They cannot rise to challenge the images
We would fashion from their Lives.
It is easier to build monuments
Than to make a better world.

So now that he is safely dead,
We, with eased consciences, will
Teach our children that he was a great man,
Knowing that the cause for which he
Lived is still a cause
And the dream for which he died
Is still a dream.

“Now That He Is Safely Dead,” by Carl Wendell Hines Jr. in “Beyond Amnesia: Martin Luther King and the Future of America,” by Vincent G. Harding, Journal of American History, 74 (September 1987, p. 468).