“Slavery, Escape, Hope and Freedom” by Fortunato Mendes

After a long hard and hot summer of working in the cotton fields we had finally summoned some courage and decided we would head North and face our fears of leaving all that we knew.  We had managed to save a few vittles from the small portions which were our normal lot and dried some summer berries to carry us along our way. With maximum courage and minimum goods we waited patiently for the full moon to light our way en the first full moon after the harvest.  All of the work of the harvest had tired us to our bones but we had not time to rest and not desire to stay any longer.
Read the rest of this essay (pdf) by clicking here.

“Letter to Fr. Brown” by Tray

Dear Father Brown,

How delightful and pleasant it was to see you last night. It would be my honor and privilege to participate in your class via correspondence… to the extent that it is possible.

I’ve read your Catholic Social Teaching in the Jesuit Tradition. The various remarks from the Noble Peace Prize Laureates were impressive and eye-opening.  I’m consistently amazed by the widespread suffering … end how too few of us try to alleviate it. I suppose, for those of us most inclined to help the multitude of folks suffering throughout the world, we simply don’t know who to help. (So we end up helping no one.) Where do we start? Do we try to feed the starving children in Africa, first? What about the persecuted in the Middle-East? the disenfranchised and marginalized here, at home, in America? Who should I award my limited time and resources?

Don’t let those important questions leave you immobile and inept. Help those closest to you Those whom voices and cry for help is so insistent it melts your heart.

Always remember, and forever be mindful to our Lord and Saviour’s words,What you do to the least among you, you also do unto me …. ” That divine caveat persuades me that I’m serving God when I lend aid to someone less fortunate than myself. Thus, our self-interest is greatly protected when we serve others who need our help.

When I read Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass IncarcerationIn an Era of Colorblindness” I constantly asked myself: “How can a benevolent society, rooted in Christian principles, allow so many of its citizens to endure such degradation?

Do you recall the often-told story about Fiorello LaGuardia? He was a mayor of New York City in early 1940′s.  When LaGuardia was officiating in misdemeanor court in New York City, a man who had stolen bread to feed his family came before him charged as a thief. LaGuardia fined the man $10, then turned to the courtroom and said, “I’m fining everyone in this courtroom 50 cents for living in a city where a man has to steal bread in order to eat …” The criminal defendant left the court with $47.50 in his pocket.

The sapient LaGuardia would likely be disgusted at how this nation has criminalized a huge segment of its citizenry fly disenfranchising them then committing them to the fringe or margins of society through poverty and incarceration.  Michelle Alexander’s work, The New Jim Crow, explains and, in many ways — justifies — black folks’ seemingly insurmountable challenges in America “The New Jim Crow” by far, is the mast informative — and yet, irrelevant — book I’ve ever read. In 1980, when I was twelve years old, the United States Government, the most powerful government the world has ever known, declared then waged a war against me. Wow! That’s why I’ve been in prison my entire life. I’ve always known that something sinful, sinister, and shameful had been done to me and to folks like me. Michelle Alexander simply explained with scholarship and eloquence exactly what had been done to me. (I’m truly grateful to her for that.)

At our nation’s inception, during its inchoation, poor folks were pitted against each other. Wealthy Europeans were [and are] undeniably clever. They have traditionally used wicked means to obtain and maintain Wealth and power. Niccolo Machiavelli, I’m sure, would be impressed with the Faustian deal certain Americans made at the expanse of so many others for ephemeral wealth, power, and privilege.

Michelle Alexander gave us; through her work, a historical account of how than wealthy planters gave poor whites a racial bribe. A caste system was created based almost entirely on race. White Americans were placed higher on the hierarchical scale than blacks. But no economic shift occurred. The rich were to remain rich and the poor were to remain poor. Poor whites, of course, were to be more estimable than blacks. Blacks were relegated to slavery and their poor white counterpart were to supervise them. That’s it! ”Watch the slaves, make sure that they work hard and produce greater wealth for me, the wealthy planters bargained.

Poor whites accepted that deal.  That agreement (bribe) kept them one step above the black slaves in the caste system… and it assured (or ensured) the wealthy planters that poor whites and poor blacks would not unite to demand greater access to the wealth.  (That was a clever deal).

Once slavery died its natural death, ‘cause God ain’t gonna just allow evil to run rampant and unchecked, Jim Crow was created.  Poor whites and poor blacks were pitted against each other in another, upgraded, way.  A prison system was created whereby recently released and objectively impoverished former slaves were carted off to jails and prisons and forced to work for no wages.  After World War II, Jim Crow became abysmally embarrassing to America.  Hence, legal segregation had to end.  Now, we’re in an era of (color-blind) mass incarceration.

Folks who look like me couldn’t be discriminated against – disenfranchised or marginalized — simply because of the color or our skin.  A sophism had to be employed … one like none ever. If America was to become the SuperPower, she must kill with leniency.  For most of us will fail to see the hand that kills with leniency [so careless we are with our souls].  That’s probably what prompted Einstein’s observation: “The world is in granter peril of those who tolerate evil more than by those who actually commit evil.”

Mass incarceration is inherently evil. He live in a nation that has criminalized black. The [pseudo] war on drugs has devastated my community in more harsh ways than slavery and legalized segregation.  More black folks are locked up and locked out of mainstream America than ever before.

When you walk into this prison, Father, and see that 85% to 90% of its inmate population is black, what does that tell you? Something is disastrously wrong — and perhaps, even evil is afoot.

Oh well, at least, I do owe it to Michelle Alexander that I’m less unsettled about my current situation and plight. You know how it is oft said that the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know (?). For me, it has always been that the more I know, the more unsettled I become when I come across things I don’t know about.  Perhaps that’s the vanity that the sagacious Ecclesiastes wrote about.

Saint Augustine, a favorite of yours, I’m willing to bet, concluded, “You Have made us for yourself, O’ Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Absent God in our lives, we’ll pursue all manner of wickedness and evil. Those of us who are pure in heart and knowledgeable as to the prevailing evil that causes so much human suffering and misery must speak up and against the wrongs we see.

“In the end, ” as Martin Luther King Jr.” so eloquently said, “it’s not the words of our enemy that we’ll remember, but the silence of our friends.”… When I go to bed at night – - lonely and feeling the emptiness and pain that are inherent to a prisoner’s life –·I wish it was because of folks’ hatred toward me as opposed to their indifference. For I’m thoroughly convince that the essence of man’s inhumanity to man isn’t hatred. It’s indifference… (I pray that your work, Father Brown, in the classrooms and in your ministry sparks passion and rid some hearts of indifference.)

It’s been two months or more since I read the New Jim Crow, and I don’t have a copy of it on hand. I can’t possibly offer an exegesis on it. Heck I doubt that I could offer an exegesis on it if I had it on hand.  What Michelle Alexander wrote about affects me very personally. I might unfairly excoriate a segment of our population if you invite me to.  And, of course, that’s no way to resolve our societal Gordian knot.

With love and gratitude,

I am

Most sincerely yours,

Tray

“In the Name of God, the Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy” by DAS

Letter to the Blog’s Editor

America’s flawed corrections policy is the root cause for a lot of American ills.  America’s mass incarceration has led to an imbalance in the number of available African American males to females. Science has proven that female sperm swim faster than-male sperm, leading to higher female birth rates. African American females live longer than African American males, due to the propensity of African American males dying to violence. If males both Caucasian, and African American are born at lower rates than their counter parts, and both die at higher rates due to violence (Iraq, and Afghanistan wars for Caucasian males; the two previously listed wars, and street crime for African American males) the women for them to marry are left partner-less at greater and greater numbers. Men generally have fewer morals than their female counter parts. If regular males are now given celebrity male status due to their diminishing numbers, they are allowed to thrust their greater immoral behavior onto their large ranks of female suitors. Women now believe to catch a man they have to be willing to sleep with another woman for the excitement of their man. This of course is not true for all women, but generally it is now more acceptable among women. African American women have to venture into the Caucasian male pool, due to the bleak numbers in the African American male pool. (Note: Some may assume this was the main purpose of mass incarceration.).

Mass incarceration may have been started as systematic racism, but due to the wars in Iraq, and Afghanistan it is giving Caucasian females an experience of African American females. Whether that elicits sympathy from Caucasian females or not is yet to be seen. If mass incarceration is meant to only hurt African Americans it has backfired from its early roots. Prison life is generally a lot more violent than life on the streets. African Americans released from prison bring their learned violence back to African American neighborhoods. As a result African American neighborhoods are a lot harder to grow up in, than typical white suburbia. If a Caucasian male from the suburbs makes a minor mistake and ends up on the wrong side of the law, he has to learn to live in an area exponentially tougher than the suburbs he grew up in. Mass incarceration has thrust him into nightmarish living conditions. His choices are escape (nearly impossible), win an early release (highly unlikely), accept second-class status to be robbed and mistreated (often) or accept being treated like a despised woman for the remainder of his stay (most likely).

Whether you consider homosexuality as a choice or not, the large amount of Caucasian men who became homosexual in prison did not choose. And they would disagree with those that say homosexuals are born that way. The vast majority of them had homosexuality thrust upon them. When they return home, they return home with a different set of sexual morals than when they went to prison. Who knows, prior to prison, the little boy next door might have disgusted them. Now he looks just as good as a beautiful woman. If he entices the boy next door with ice cream money, now mass incarceration has affected the little Caucasian boy next door, and further lowered the available men for Caucasian women by X (the Caucasian guy that came home from prison plus all the little Caucasian boys next door he can entice with ice cream money). Did the boy next door choose homosexuality, or did he choose ice cream money?

Mass incarceration might have been planned to only affect African Americans, but it now affects Caucasian men and women. lr-regardless of how you feel about mass incarceration, homosexuals multiply at vastly lower rates than heterosexuals.

 

“Untitled” by Maurice

During a discussion in class about “The New Jim Crow” a classmate (who is white) brought up the fact that the book made it seem like it was a big conspiracy where everybody met and came up with this new undercaste system to replace Jim Crow. I was sitting there trying to figure out how we could have read the same book and come up with vastly different interpretations of what we read. I think it partly goes to one of the points that she made in the book and that’s perception. I don’t think that she was trying to make the point of a mass conspiracy where everybody got together young and old rich and poor. I think the point that she was trying to make was that the wealth elite who wanted to maintain there position and status quo by exploiting the fears and insecurity of lower class whites. Which in reality has never been a hard thing to do because for most whites they have been taught from birth both directly and indirectly a air of superiority. The seeds have always been planted so it wouldn’t take much watering to make them grow. Who would find it hard to believe with as much of our daily lives are influenced by what we read or see on TV with little or no research for the truth of the matter, that a mass media campaign all for the purpose of winning a election displaying blacks in coded language as drug dealing, crackwhores, and welfare queens could be took for the truth of the thing asserted with out any proof of the validity of it. You have a cop who is working in the inner city who for the most part only experience he has with black people is what he sees in the media and he has been on this constant diet of a image of what black people are, how can his actions not be effected by it. In a perfect world cops, judges, prosecutor, congressman, and presidents would be above reproach but these people are human subject to human fallacies. That’s why a Woodrow Wilson could screen “A Birth of a Nation” (a Klan movie) in the Whitehouse to a standing ovation. That’ s why the Supreme Court can uphold racist state laws, and why cops can fight this war of drugs in all black neighborhoods like we the only ones selling drugs. She quoted in the book a prosecutor was asked why he didn’t press charges on a rural white kid and he said he not a drug dealer he just a good old boy on a farm with a shotgun, but that is exactly what he is, a drug dealer. But except a handgun he has a shotgun, and instead of the inner city he on a farm. It all comes back to perception both conscious, and unconscious. So the people with the power to make and enforce the laws come with a preconceived notion of the people that these laws directly effect. Then a mass conspiracy would never be needed you just have to play on the fears of the people who can directly impact the situation.

“Get Tough on Crime” by Dalphonso Brooks

I was born in 1972, during an era when the civil rights movement was on a decline. Get tough on crime was fed to the American masses during the 1970′s. On the horizon was a hot war, using political climates to change the clothing of white supremacy from tank tops and shorts (showing their true skin color) to full length suits (hiding their true skin color).
I became a teenager in the latter part of the 1980′s, right around the time free basing, crack cocaine and/or read rock was introduced in many black communities across America. Another reason to “Get Tough On Crime.”

I fell victim to selling cocaine in my own neighborhood, most days from out of my own mother’s town house, (this fed my mother’s monstrous views about me for many years to come). Not even realizing that I was bringing harm, destruction and chaos to my family and community. The idea of being a drug dealer appealed to my sense of success, confidence and being a man with street credit. What a wrong perception I had about how a man was supposed to rise to the occasion. I another reason to “Get Tough On Young Black Males.”

I was considered a young black male with no substance, morals or values. So it appeared to me I was wanted dead not alive (that was mentally or physically). Another reason to “Get Tough On Dalphonso Brooks.”

In 1991 I caught my first incarceration of now (3) three. Convicted for selling powder cocaine twice, 1 burglary and 2 robberies, I had become my best customer and worst enemy. Another reason to “Get Tough On Drug Addicts.”

I was released from prison in May of 1998. I wanted to go home and live with my Mother, at her apartment in Edgewood, Maryland, but she was on Section 8. While in the Section 8 program, periodically an investigator or inspector would visit the residences to determine if the land lord where maintaining upkeep and to make sure the tenant were not violating any of the rules. That meant that I would not be able to live with my mother. President Bill Clinton introduced Anti Welfare Legislation to help poor Americans to not take advantage the benefits of Welfare. Most of my family believed I still functioned as an animal (criminal). I had to find temporary housing in Baltimore City. A reason to not “Get Tough On Crime.”

My past aggressions and lack of value for life has caused me to appear unfit to my own family.  Allowing them to not take a chance on helping me move beyond my criminal mentality. We were never in position of middle class status, so it has always been a hard road to security. My plight has caused me to accept that The New Jim Crow does exist and it still makes slaves. A reason not to “Get Tough On America’s Young Black Souls.”

“The Chameleon of Racism” by Shakkit Talib Mujahid

In America, no one seems to honestly want to admit to their feelings about “Race”. There are all kinds of so-called laws passed to suppress and restrict the true thought of it in words and from view. While in the hearts of men, nothing but anger, spite and hatred brews. The question is “Are you pretending that “Race” doesn’t matter to you? It is my belief that as soon as we take off these mental and emotional camouflages and allow ourselves to release all our pinned-up racial, mental and emotional barrages, we will never honestly respect each other as human-beings or respect each others values and dignity.
Right now, we are existing amongst each other like “Emotional Chameleons.” Smiling in each other’s face, shaking each others hands. while in our heart we are blaming each other for everything in our lives that has gone wrong. Wake up people; can’t you see what’s going on? What do I need tor you to hear me. a 20 foot bullhorn? If we as a nation don’t honestly discuss this racial disease and poisonous thorn, we can never be truly mentally, emotionally and spiritually re-born.

I didn’t say it was going to be easy. You may hear something’s that may hurt. And there might be many emotional storms. but like any fever, or like any disease or rough storm, after it reaches its high point, then comes relief and calm.

Let’s be honest, some of you think its wrong to use “The Race Card”, but remember this wouldn’t exist, if someone didn’t decide that another race of people’s respect, dignity and lives should be totally disregarded. The “Race Card” is not meant for the poor black or the poor white. The “Race Card” is meant to be an inconvenience for the poor whites and an ”Ace in the Hole” for the elite white.

It’s not that I want to give you the total blame. we should all feel ashamed! We have allowed ourselves to be played like lames in this “Race Game.” As you read, you will come to see, the viciousness of this ·’Race Game·’ and disease. This nation has treated this “Little Dirty Secret” as something that should be swept under the rug, but everyone in the world but us can see what’s going on. That “The Disease of Racism” is America’s mental, emotional and spiritual “Chameleon.”

We all have been pawns in the games of this “Chameleon”, who uses our fears, weakness and insecurities to make divided and weak instead of strong. Ask yourself, “What did it do to make you feel superior over me?” “Did it make you believe black people deserve to be in slavery? Or did it make you fear me because of the laws you passed gave me justice, freedom and opportunity. Or maybe it made you believe to ensure you own “Safety” that black people must be locked up tight in a penitentiary.

Hey, despite what they tell you about me, I want you to know, I am a Man of Honor, Integrity and Dignity.  I love my family, responsibility and opportunity. I love freedom and Liberty and want to make my dreams a reality. Ask yourself, if you were subject to the same social and racial injustice as me. “Would you believe that America is “The Land and Home of the Brave and Free?”

Take a look around at the condition of our country and communities. This race disease has caused all of us mental emotional spiritual and economic fear and insecurity. It’s time to deal with our “Racial Reality.”

Staff Council Retreat- Morrison Reflection

I tried and tried to find different words but I just kept thinking about the 23rd Psalm.

Lord as MY Shepherd…..He leads ME…He restores MY Soul…He comforts Me…He prepares a table before ME….He anoints MY head and MY cup overflows…He is with ME forever and will follow ME all the days of My life…and He has made a dwelling place for My whole life long…..

…..And He has given ME all of these wonderful sights to see…..green gardens, love and hearts in surprising places; He feeds the sparrow so He will feed ME; He allows ME to see the 200 year old trees of strength, and He gives ME the Grace to feel the breath of the ocean and the warmth of the sand for MY spirits comfort… The Lord IS MY Shepherd…