By Njoli Brown
“For every century there is a crisis in our democracy, the response to which defines how future generations view those who were alive at the time. In the 18th century it was the transatlantic slave trade, in the 19th century it was slavery, in the 20th century it was Jim Crow. Today it is mass incarceration.”
I know that most of us have entered into this work of social justice because we have a general concern for the welfare of our youths and for our society as a whole. We work to design relevant programming that provides skills that are translatable in real world situations. In order to better understand better those situations it’s important on our part to develop an understanding of the historical dynamics at play. For, as positive a message as we desire to bring into educational institutions, we have to remember that the specter of prison still looms large in the minds of our parents as a track which statistically competes with the likelihood of college for our students. How do we combat this? How do we engage in the conversation? One of the first things we can do is to well acquaint ourselves with the issues so that we can provide empathy and mindful, intentional and action based programming.
Look for community meetings, lectures and literature to enlighten you on, not only the current happenings in your communities, but the legacies within which these communities have evolved. The Schomburg offers a tremendously educational range of events, the Unitarian Universalist Association website is on my reading list this month. Make winter the time to check out an exhibition or round up your squad to engage in some coffee and real talk or to redefine your role in the justice structure, investigating ways to empower your own level of engagement with Restorative Justice Initiative.
Let’s get you started…
Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, speaking at University of Chicago.
Khalil Gibran Muhammad, author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, speaking at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Question. Resolve to be an advocate of progress. Engage and act.