Thursday, February 18, 2010


We began this Community Town Hall Meeting with a video. The video was filled with content and speeches from common people to well-known African American's in our history speaking about their views on incarceration.

Quotes varied, but these two left me with a lingering feeling...
* "Incarceration is the new slavery."
* "The clock is stuck on now or never."

Incarceration is a never ending cycle that needs to be broken. It is a job for the patient, the determined, the head-strong, and ambitious one's that will never take no for an answer. Well, it's much easier said than done, and I've learned that through tonight's presention. There were four people on the panel. Each one of them represent a city and organization in California, and they are all fighting for the same thing -- to stop the spread and expansion of prison facilities.

Before the panel spoke, and after the viewing of the video, Juanita Rivera spoke to us, and shared her tears with us, about her experience with incarceration. Her son ended up in jail at the age of 17 and he was sentenced to 18 years for a crime he did not commit, but was an accesory to. He is now 31 years old and still has 4 years to go. When he went into jail, he left behind a daughter, Desiree Lucero, that was one at the time, and she is now a sophomore in high school. She spoke tonight as well. Rivera read parts of the letter from her son; his words moved and touched me in a sensitive part of my heart. I felt the chills roll down my spine and arms when she read it... "Never give up on yourself, even when everyone else does." This opened my eyes to the fact that people who are in jail are still human; they just made a mistake that is a lot more serious than what we make on a daily basis. He was just a child, but he had to take what happened in the end like a man. The fact of the matter is: he never stopped being a kid. So, does justice mean making a mistake and paying your life for it? I'll leave that question up to you to answer.

We then transitioned into the panel discussion and the panel consisted of these four people:
* Zachary Norris, Books Not Bars (Bay Area)
* Debbie Reyes, CA Prison Moratorium Project (Central Valley/Fresno)
* Motecuzoma Sanchez, ESPINO (Central Valley/Stockton)
* Aaliyah Muhammad, All of Us or None (Sacramento)

Norris believes that it's a "racial justice issue". He let us know the facts that matter, the facts that made us listen. Eighty-five percent of African Americans get locked up for drugs, but it's 70 percent of causasian's that use and sell the drugs. But what color do we see more frequently behind bars that consume the space of a jail cell? Black. Not white. He made me realize the harsh reality we live in: the United States may have overcome segregation, but what do we call a "justice system" that puts every color behind bars but white? I'm not saying that there aren't caucasian's in jail, but there are few compared to the number of African Americans. Justice is being served unequally.

Reyes was passionate and tended to talk in a high voice, but we all understood where she was coming from. Because this isn't an issue to put on the backburner, this is our future fellow teens. WE HAVE GOT TO DO SOMETHING. She made me feel like I matter, just as much as anyone else in the room. But that's the sad reality -- we ALL matter, but not everyone takes adantage of their voice.

Sanchez wasn't afraid of the facts, nor was he intimidated by the fact that Stockton is opening up three new prison facilites in Southeast Stockton, making us No.1 in California for the most prison facilities. He is determined to be heard and is wishing for more of the community to get involved, because "if we start making noise, they'll have to listen." He questioned, "what happened to the land of the free and home of the brave?" We as a community need to step up, together.

Muhammad's organization wants to fight discrimination. She compares the system to a train; "There's a very heavy train coming our way and we have to stop it." She knows this is a horrible cycle that needs to be broken, and she wants our help to push that train off OUR tracks. She believes the system is set up by design: once you leave, you're destined to come back. To her, we, as a community, have the power to stop this cycle and build from the bottom up.

Each of them are very inspiring to me. I connected with what each and everyone of them had to say because they relate to how I feel. Maybe that's what our society needs: someone that connects with them, someone that relates to them and their situation. Sanchez said, "It's free to pay attention," so open your eyes and observe what is out there.

At the end of this meeting, one of the panel member's said, "we need to stop fighting each other, and start fighting as a citizen." So help us out and do yourself a favor by voting, attending these meetings, or engaging yourself into what is happening RIGHT now, because WE ARE THE FUTURE.

MARCH 4: At 3:30 people will be gathering at Center and Channel Street to begin a march at 4 p.m. They are asking us to wear black, and we will be marching all the way to Delta college where a candle-lit ceremony will begin.

Educate, not incarcerate.
Did you know that it's cheaper to go to Harvard than it is to get incarcerated? I don't know about you, but I'd rather have a college degree than a record.

No comments:

Post a Comment