Bringing Down the New Jim Crow – Radio Series

Today on Facebook, Michelle Alexander reminded us about the radio documentary series Bringing Down the New Jim Crow.

I did not realize that it was already out. They had been raising money this summer (Crowdfunded Radioshow to Illuminate the Intersection of Race and Incarceration) and they made their goal. We have some catching up to do, so gather your friends or set up your listening station as you do the dishes (my favorite!) and tune in!

The radio series “explores the intersection of the drug war, mass incarceration, and race in the contemporary U.S.”

There are three episodes out:

  1. A Bitter Harvest: California, Marijuana, and the New Jim Crow
    A Bitter Harvest views Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” through the lens of California’s marijuana industry.
    Marijuana is the single largest agricultural commodity in California and it is the primary vehicle for the war on drugs’ racialized arrest and incarceration system, which has our prisons bursting at the seams nationwide. Great numbers of predominantly white men and women grow, harvest, and process marijuana in California for distribution throughout the United States. Local law enforcement and the communities they represent – communities whose economies are marijuana-dependent – benefit from letting this part of the illegal process go mostly undetected, while the crackdown happens almost exclusively in poor inner-city neighborhoods of color.
    Through interviews with Michelle Alexander, Stephen Gutwillig (Drug Policy Alliance), and Vincent Harding (renowned veteran of the African-American Freedom Movement), this program cracks open the question of why and how this discrepancy exists, and it explores some of its devastating consequences. It’s a show that grapples head on with the reality of white privilege in the United States.
  2. On the Other Side of the Myth: A Conversation with Michelle Alexander and Tim Wise
    This second installment in the series titled Bringing Down the New Jim Crow features the first ever dialog between legal scholar Michelle Alexander and anti-racism educator Tim Wise. An engaging, provocative interchange touching on the prison-industrial complex, white privilege, Trayvon Martin, and the unceasing quest for racial justice in the United States. Produced by Chris Moore-Backman, with music by Joe Henry.
  3. Children of the Same Sorrow: The U.S./Mexico Caravan for Peace Takes on the Drug War
    This moving and provocative documentary chronicles the historic journey of the “U.S./Mexico Caravan for Peace,” which from August 12th to September 12th, 2012, crossed the entire United States calling for an end to the war on drugs and bearing witness to the human rights nightmare unfolding in Mexico. Radio documentarian Chris Moore-Backman travelled with the caravan for 5 days, capturing the spirit and message of those on board, and examining the deep connection between the struggle for peace in Mexico and the struggle to end the racist system of mass incarceration in the United States. The show features a dialog between Michelle Alexander (author of “The New Jim Crow”) and Javier Sicilia (renowned Mexican poet and leader of the “Mexican Movement for Peace, with Justice and Dignity”). It also includes heartbreaking testimonies of mothers of victims of Mexico’s horrific drug war violence, and interviews with the U.S. and Mexican activists who launched this historic bi-national effort. A powerful testament to twin justice movements, which points to the crucial need for movement unity across races, and across borders.

Bustin’ In & Bustin’ Out: Books, Radio Programs, and the Phone Calls

This weekend I volunteered at the Grassroots Radio Conference‘s registration table and attended the panel Bustin’ In, Bustin’ Out: The Key to Prison Justice.

Below are the panelists with links to their affiliated organizations.

Barbara Kessel from UC Books to Prisoners and Reading Reduces Recidivism

Nick Szuberla from Thousand Kites

Steven Renderos from Center for Media Justice and Prison Phone Justice

Bustin’ In, Bustin’ Out: The Key to Prison Justice seemed like a great interest point to my studies and as a follow up to the documentary that I previously wrote about, Music From the Big HouseThis documentary showed one of the men behind bars as a DJ at Angola prison’s radio station. Apparently this is a rare occurrence in the PIC and prisoner-ran radio stations are more popular in Europe.

Since I’m am not all too knowledgeable about radio, I’m going to provide as many resources and projects I’ve learned about during this session.

The common theme in this session was on communication to the outside world whether through books, radio, or the telephone.

Prison Phone Justice is composed of three organizations: MAG-Net, Working Narratives, and Prison Legal News.

I’ll let their campaign describe their issue:

Put into simple terms, up to 60% of the costs of calls from prison has nothing to do with the cost of the phone service provided. So when Mary talks to her husband 40% percent of the cost is for the service and 60% is a kickback to the state government.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The vast majority of states receive kickbacks from phone companies, which result in higher phone rates.
  1. These excessive rates further distance prisoners from their families, who can ill afford high phone bills. While most prisoners are from urban areas, virtually all prisons built in the last 30 years have been built in rural areas far from where most prisoners have family or community ties.
  1. The nation is disadvantaged when prisoners are unable to maintain family ties that will help them succeed post-release. There is a widely-known and researched correlation between prisoners who maintain contact with their families and those who are successful in staying out of prison after they are released.
  1. Most states profit handsomely from prison phone kickbacks, to the tune of over $152 million a year nationwide.

Continue reading the brief of there campaign here.

Nick Szuberla, Thousand Kites, stated that the radio not only can bring voices in, but can also bring voices out. Their radio program created accountability to the rural Kentucky prison that severely isolates people behind bars from urban areas, for example the nearest bus station and airport is three hours away.

You can read more about this program through this article, Don’t Hate the Player: Radio Project Reaches Out to Inmates and Their Families, Breaking the Silence Around America’s Prisons.

Below is an explanation of their radio program:

Thousand Kites also features a radio program, Calls From Home that invites you to:

Join our special radio program that brings the voices of families across the nation to the airwaves as they send greetings directly to their incarcerated loved ones.

Below is an example of their program:

Below is the trailer of a documentary, Up the Ridge,  about the PIC and keeping people behind bars that were used to urban settings in a rural area:

Two additional resources suggested from participates were:

In addition to this panel that I attended, I also was able to attend the Speak Cafe which featured poets with experience ranging from being new to the stage to Hakim Bellamy –  inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, NM (2012-2014), co-creator of the multimedia Hip Hop theater production Urban Verbs: Hip-Hop Conservatory & Theaterand Strategic Communication Director at Media Literacy Project. Visit Hakim’s website at: http://hakimbe.com/. Oh, and what makes Hakim even more awesome? He loves libraries! 🙂

Below is one of his poems, Generation

Photo Credits: Barbara’s pictureNick’s pictureSteven’s picture

Next Weekend! – Bustin’ In & Bustin’ Out Through the Radio

Next weekend is the Grassroots Radio Conference!

Not until today did I see that there is a panel on Bustin’ In, Bustin’ Out: The Key to Prison Justice. And I can’t wait to go!

Below is a synopsis of their panel presentation:

Prisons and jails create legal boundaries between us. And with those legal boundaries come physical, mental and spiritual distance as well. What role does radio play in bridging this divide? How can be begin to be whole again? In this workshop, we will address these questions on both local and national levels. We will look at the unique ways in which radio is being used to shatter these boundaries through the national Prison Phone Justice Campaign, and specifically the Thousands Kites’ Calls from Home program to connect with those on the inside. We will discuss how local advocates are using radio and other media, from books to petitions, to shift the prisoner landscape from the outside in.

The workshop will include interactive ways to get involved with these campaigns and an introduction on how to start your own prison radio program.  The first half of the workshop will focus on the campaign and how it is using radio/media as an organizing tool.  The second half will be a hands on workshop on creating your own prison radio show. Urbana-Champaign’s Books to Prisoners will also be hosting a work session where we will be responding to letters from prisoners and mailing them books.

Ooooo! I’m so excited! I will report back what I learned!