The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Michelle Alexander

“Jarvious Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many Black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”    —from The New Jim Crow

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander shows that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting Black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.  There are more African Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas, like Chicago, have been labeled felons for life. These men are part of a growing undercaste — not class, caste — a group of people who are permanently relegated, by law, to an inferior second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits — much as their grandparents and great-grandparents once were during the Jim Crow era.

There is a colorblind explanation for all this: crime rates. But crime rates do not explain the sudden and dramatic mass incarceration of African Americans during the past 30 years. Crime rates have fluctuated over the past few decades — and currently are at historical lows — but imprisonment rates have soared. Quintupled. And the vast majority of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color, even though studies consistently show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. In fact, some studies indicate that white youth are significantly more likely to engage in illegal drug dealing than Black youth.

That is not what you would guess, though, when entering our nation’s prisons and jails, which are overflowing with Black and Brown drug offenders.

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Seeking the Sakhu: Foundational Writings for an African Psychology

Wade W. Nobles, Ph. D.
The pioneers of Black scholarship (including Edward Blyden, Rufus Perry, W. E. B. DuBois, Carter G. Woodson, Arthur Schomburg, J. A. Rogers, John Bruce, Hubert Henry Harrison, John Jackson, Dr. Ben-Jochannan, Chancelor Williams, John Henrik Clark and Asa Hilliard, III) wrote about the positive side of blackness in a society that uses that color as a symbol for evil. They dug deep into the history of Black people, past the hype, to find diamonds of ingenuity buried beneath boulders of racism and found pearls of wisdom from seas of Black antiquity. With an inner compass of truth, they mapped out our pathways through the calcified lies of the stereotype, and illuminated Black elevator shafts of spirit.Prominent social psychologist Wade W. Nobles has dedicated his life to probing, dissecting and analyzing a single question, “What is Black psychology?” Seeking the Sakhu: Foundational Writings for an African Psychology represents Dr. Nobles’ commitment to the reclamation, reformation, and restoration of the African mind. Noble provides solutions for building healthy Black families and for empowering the African self. Seeking the Sakhuis for those searching for answers to the spiritual and psychological challenges that Africans face all over the world.In Seeking the Sakhu: Foundamental Writings for an African Psychology, Dr. Wade Nobles guides us to portals in our low ceiling of reality. It  is the lost-and-found of the African self.

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27.95
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Return to the African Mother Principle of Male and Female Equality

Dr. Oba T’Shaka

In Return to the African Mother Principle, Dr. T’Shaka painstakingly unravels the rhetoric of a question so basic, we seldom consider that the issue is till a question: what is feminine and what is masculine? Dr. T’Shaka sifted through several texts by some of the most revered “authorities,” and found cultural facts had been mistaken for universal truths.

Oba T’Shaka pulls up some weeds in the Garden of Eden to help us pull ourselves together. His research indicated that creativity is our most vital aspect and recommends that we cherish it or loose it. With the rising cases of AIDS, breast and prostate cancers in the Black community, we need to be more clear on the natural function of the sexes now. In scholarly and philosophical language,  Dr. Shaka outlines the creative perspective of sexuality based on African traditions:

“Miles Davis, one of the most creative Black classical (Jazz) musicians in the history of music, is describing the improvisational, creative concentric path that Black singers, musicians, dancers, writers, scientists, and speakers follow, where they sing, blow, dance, write or preach what they know, and then they cut loose and take themselves, and go above themselves to a higher creative place. Miles makes it clear that the creative person doesn’t just seek to get to this place once in a lifetime, by rising above yourself, you are continually seeking to fly higher and higher to new levels of consciousness, creativity and action. You can only do this when you combine the intellectual, masculine known, with the feminine, intuitive unknown. When the synthesis takes place between the known (masculine) and the unknown (feminine) a new music, a new dance, a new literature, a new philosophy, and a new people can come about. Miles tells us that this willingness to go above what we know is where we find true freedom.”

–Oba T’Shaka from Return to the African Mother Principle of Male and Female Equality

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Introduction to Black Studies (4th Edition)

Dr. Maulana Karenga

Introduction to Black Studies is a unique and highly acclaimed introduction to the discipline of Black/Africana Studies, providing students with an essential intellectual basis for a critical understanding and discussion of the history, scope and fundamental concepts, areas and issues which ground and define the discipline.

The text offers an effective organization which outlines and engages the triple mission of Black/Africana Studies: cultural grounding, academic excellence and social responsibility. Part I explains the history, scope and defining concepts and issues of Black Studies; Part II brings into focus and critical discussion current data in fundamental subject areas or fields of Black Studies, i.e., history, religion, sociology, politics, economics, creative production and psychology; Part III explores current critical social issues in Africana Studies as a way to address the disciplinary stress on social responsibility and engagement and to cultivate and enhance critical and ethical thinking about self, society and the world. In addition to new data and analysis, this fourth edition also offers new features designed to further facilitate and enhance student comprehension and learning including:

* Chapter outlines
* Key terms
* New review questions
* Critical thinking questions
* A comprehensive glossary
* In-text boxes
* New section, critical contemporary issues
* Exam packet upon request

“Maulana Karenga’s Introduction To Black Studies is simply the best text available on the subject. The discussion of the development of the field including Afrocentricity, Black Women’s Studies and multiculturalism is absolutely essential reading.”

�Dr. Charles P. Henry, Professor, African American Studies, UC Berkeley and Past President, National Council for Black Studies

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Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through

Iyanla Vanzant

From Peace from Broken Pieces:

“Even though the pieces are broken, God can make something out of nothing. And sometimes we’ve got to have those pieces broken up and broken open so we can see a new way. Out of the brokeness we will grow and birth a new a vision because out of the hard times you have a new perspective of your self. When you get through a real bad situation you be looking at yourself and say yeah!”

“You can have peace from broken pieces, but it means that you have to turn from your limited humanness to the divinity of God that is around you all the time, calling you higher, asking you to stand above the broken pieces, to stand in the wholeness of the God that is within you. It is your choice. You get to choose to be broke down or stand courageously saying I will not fear no matter how the wind is breaking. You can choose to be whole and holy. To grab on to a piece of debris and say I’m going to pluck my way into something bigger and something better.”

“It doesn’t matter that the storm is raging all around me out in the ocean that my Father made. This is my home, my habitation. You can make it from broken pieces, or a broken marriage, or broken salaries, broken relationships. In God’s infinite wisdom and activity, He can change your brain cells, can change your your focus, can change your eyes so that it looks different. It feels different. It is different.”

“When I think about what God has brought me through . . . I have faced some dark days, some confusing times. When I think about the days I whined and complained! When I think about the blessings I never said thank You for! When I think about God’s mercy and grace! . . . When I need God to show up as a strong shoulder to lean on, God shows up that way. I’m so grateful that there is something bigger than me. There’s nothing that can break you down like a good praise, when you realize that you are just one drop in that vast ocean out there.”

“Every day the sun rises in me. It’s called the breath. Its called another opportunity. It’s called another choice. I call on God like I call on a friend. Isn’t God the best friend to have?” –Iyanla Vanzant

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All Things Censored

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal, an award-winning journalist, is America’s best-known political prisoner. Sentenced with execution, Mumia has lived on Death Row since 1982. Ever since he wrote for the Black Panther Party’s national newspaper as a youth, Mumia has reported on the racism and inequity in our society. He soon added radio to his portfolio, eventually recording a series of reports from death row for NPR’s All Things Considered. However, NPR, caving in to political pressure, refused to air the programs. Mumia Abu-Jamal is still fighting for his own freedom from prison, and through his powerful voice, for the freedom of all people from inequity.

The 50 writings by jailed journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal include several recent pieces on censorship, justice, and the meaning of constitutional rights in America. Also included are the banned essays from Mumia’s controversial tenure as on-air columnist for All Things Considered, and those that aired on Democracy Now! over Pacifica Radio.

The editor of All Things Censored is Noelle Hanrahan, an investigative journalist. Since 1992 she has produced the commentaries of Mumia Abu-Jamal. She is a graduate of Stanford University. Currently she is working on the Redwood Summer Justice Project’s civil rights lawsuit resulting from FBI and Oakland Police misconduct surrounding the May 1990 car-bomb assassination attempt against Earth First!, leader Judi Bari.

  The Forward to All Things Considered is best-selling novelist and “champion of humanity”, Alice Walker author of several novels, several collections of short stories and collections of essays, several volumes of poetry, including the most recent Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, and several children’s books. Her books have been translated into more than two dozen languages.

Cloth (with CD)  29.95
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Where the River Meets the Ocean

devorah major

“I also see all art as political, whether by commission or omission. . . The choice of what to focus on is a political act, the choice of what to reveal or conceal is a political act, the choice of what to assert or deny is a political act. The choice of writing for a broad audience, or writing a text that can only be understood with a specialized vocabulary and particular aesthetic training is a political act. The choice of being a formalist and only writing in accepted Euro- specific poetic forms, or writing experimental verse, or writing with a myriad of approaches and styles are all not just artistic choices, but because of their cultural impact, also political acts.

But that does not mean that creating art is, or should be, an act of creating propaganda. It is not about doctrine, or political parties, but about the body politic. By the same token, bringing poetry as performance, as written art, or as writing workshops to people in schools and jails, libraries and half-way houses, homeless shelters and community centers is also a political act. Encouraging people to not only listen and hear, but also to use their own voices to critically examine their selves, their lives, and the world around them, is a political act.”

“what makes a poem revolutionary

does it violently refuse the page

construct a chaos of grammar

that denies metaphor or defeats meter

is it armed and ready for prolonged struggle

is it loud and insistent assaulting your senses

full of gun powder and iron pellets

is it unavailable for canonization

despite an early death as martyr

or does it instead

find guerrilla survival

hidden

underground

exploding in unexpected places

appearing once again     just

when you thought it dead”

published in Where the River Meets Ocean

© 2003

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