Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow” – 2013 George E. Kent Lecture
Priorities are out of whack in Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is so broke the city is closing 23 public schools, never mind that it has the cash to build a $400 million prison.
Construction on the penitentiary said to be “the second-most expensive state project ever” began just days after the Pennsylvania School Reform Commission voted down a plan to close only four of the 27 schools scheduled to die. Facing a $304 million debt, the Commission instead approved a measly $2.4 billion budget that would shut down 23 public schools, wiping out roughly 10% of the city’s total.
But it’s not like Pennsylvania does not have the money to fill the debt. Rather, PA’s GOP-controlled Houseof Representatives recently passed a tax break for corporations that will cost the state an estimated $600 million to $800 million annually.
Plus, $400 million is being shoveled into this:
The penitentiary, which is technically two facilities, will supplement at least two existing jails, the Western Penitentiary at Pittsburgh and Fayette County Jail. Pittsburgh’s Western Penitentiary was built in 2003 with the original intention of replacing Fayette County Jail, but the prison has struggled with lawsuits claiming widespread physical and sexual abuse of prisoners.
Scheduled to be completed in 2015, the new prison’s cell blocks and classroom will be capable of housing almost 5,000 inmates. Officials said there will be buildings for female inmates, the mentally ill and a death row population.
The youths of color dispoportionately affected by school closings can just hang out there.
Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne
We, as men, owe it to our fellow man and to our children to stand firm and stand out for those things that we are entitled to. I count it a blessing from God that I am able to withstand ridicule and abuse because I am willing to take a stand for my fellow man though many show no appreciation for the work that we are trying to do in their behalf. But let it not be said in the final analysis when history will only record those glorious moments. And when your grandchildren will invariably ask: “Granddaddy, what role did you play in helping to make us free men and free women? Did you actively participate in the struggle or was your support only a moral one?” Certainly each person here, and man in particular, should be in a position to say, “I was active in the struggle for all phases for your unrestricted privileges as an American citizen.”
Medgar Wiley Evers
February 28, 1960
Men’s Day Message
Fremont AME Church
On Sunday, June 9, 2013, faith leaders all over the world are requested to remember Medgar Evers and celebrate his legacy by sharing a message of “Unity and Faith”. We invite everyone to participate in this ‘Movement of the Spirit’ to perpetuate the legacy of justice, faith, courage and service begun by Medgar Wiley Evers.
Please widely distribute the attached Bulletin Insert in your church and other churches in your community. The Insert is a bi-fold program that includes the Call to Commemorate, a brief biography of Medgar Evers and the powerful Litany of Gratitude and Thanksgiving to be read in churches all over the world during services on Sunday, June 9, 2013.
It has been fifty years since Medgar Wiley Evers, the great servant-leader, civil rights warrior, World War II Veteran and American hero was murdered by an assassins’ bullet right after Midnight on June 12, 1963. Medgar was in his driveway carport, his beautiful wife Myrlie heard him drive up and get out of the car and their children heard the shot to the back that knocked their husband and father down on his own property. Less than one hour later, this strong, courageous, yet humble servant of God and God’s people passed away.
Medgar Wiley Evers was also a loving father. On Father’s Day his life and work could be remembered to inspire fathers today to stand up as men of faith and fight for justice.
Some Scriptures to consider for Sunday and suggested messages, include:
Numbers 13:25-30 “We Shall Overcome!”
Joshua 1:1-9 “Be Strong and Courageous”
Luke 22:24-27 “The Servant-Leader”
Ephesians 6:1-10 “Stand Against Evil”
Nashville – This June 13-14, two dozen religious leaders will gather at the historic American Baptist College to examine the disproportionate impact of the war on drugs on poor and black communities. The U.S incarcerates more people than any other country in the world – both per capita and in the total number of people behind bars. With less than 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has almost 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. This alarming rate of incarceration has had a deleterious effect on poor and black communities. While African American comprise only 13 percent of the US population and 13 of drug users, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug law violations and 59 percent of those convicted of drug law violation. This unchecked and immoral assault on vulnerable and marginalized communities is cause for serious critique from within the religious community.
Civil rights and religious leaders attending this meeting include Dr. Iva Carruthers (General Secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference) Dr. Forrest Harris (President, American Baptist College), San Francisco civil rights icon Dr. Amos Brown, and DPA Board Member Reverend Edwin C. Sanders, II (Senior Servant, Metropolitan Interdenominational Church, Nashville).
This call to action is a historic step in developing a moral, just and compassionate policies that reduce the role of criminalization in drug policy. The call is urgent – approximately 2.7 million children are growing up in American homes where one or more parents are incarcerated. One in nine black children has a parent behind bars. Two-thirds of these parents are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, primarily drug law violations.
The urgency of the issue cannot be ignored – today, more than 1 in 100 American adults is behind bars. In 1980, the total U.S prison and jails population was about 500,000 – today, it is more than 2.2 million.
A conviction for a drug law violation can result in the loss of employment, property, public housing, food stamp eligibility, financial aid for college, and the right to vote – even after serving time behind bars. The collective social and economic cost of criminalizing millions of mostly poor and black and brown Americans is sapping the lifeblood out of already socially neglected and economically neglected communities.
As communities dig deeper into the hole of despair, the church is being asked to serve as a sanctuary for those who are considered the “least of these among us.” It’s time for a new vision and direction. Many other countries are looking at alternatives to the criminalization of people who use drugs – they are showing their commitment to love and compassion rather than fear and punishment by allocating resources aimed at strengthening the health and socio-economic safety net in their respective countries.
So, in the name of justice, love and compassion, religious leaders will develop and action plan that calls on policymakers to:
- Repeal laws that criminalize drug possession and replace them with policies that expand access to effective health approaches to drug use, including evidence-based drug treatment.
- Eliminate policies that result in racially disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates.
- End policies that unjustly exclude people with a record of arrest or conviction from key rights and opportunities.
Statement from Drug Policy Alliance Board Member Reverend Edwin C. Sanders, II, Senior Servant, Metropolitan Interdenominational Church, Nashville:
“It is especially significant that we are holding this conference, “A View from the Pulpit: Faith Leaders and Drug Decriminalization,” at American Baptist College in light of the major role that some of its most distinguished alumni played in bringing an end to the era of legal segregation in the South. Congressman John Lewis, Dr. Bernard Lafayette and Reverend C.T. Vivian are but a few of those whose vision and sacrifice helped to shape many of the most significant social justice advancements of our time. Social Justice Ministry continues to be a focal point for the teaching-learning experience of this institution and its commitment to spiritual transformation.”
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Drug Policy Alliance
Contact: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384
Tommy McDonald 510-338-8827