Karen Johnson 10″ x 8.50″ unlimited copies
Walter Dean Myers
Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. A Harlem drugstore owner was shot and killed in his store, and the word is that Steve served as the lookout.
Guilty or innocent, Steve becomes a pawn in the hands of “the system,” cluttered with cynical authority figures and unscrupulous inmates, who will turn in anyone to shorten their own sentences. For the first time, Steve is forced to think about who he is as he faces prison, where he may spend all the tomorrows of his life.
As a way of coping with the horrific events that entangle him, Steve, an amateur filmmaker, decides to transcribe his trial into a script, just like in the movies. He writes it all down, scene by scene, the story of how his whole life was turned around in an instant. But despite his efforts, reality is blurred and his vision obscured until he can no longer tell who he is or what is the truth. This compelling novel is Walter Dean Myers’s writing at its best.
2000 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, 2000 Michael L. Printz Award, 1999 National Book Award Finalist, 01 Heartland Award for Excellence in YA Lit Finalist, 00-01 Tayshas High School Reading List, and 00-01 Black-Eyed Susan Award Masterlist
2000 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA), Hornbook Fanfare 2000, Michael L. Printz Award 2000, 2000 Coretta Scott King Award Author Honor Book, 2000 Quick Picks for Young Adults (Recomm. Books for Reluctant Young Readers), and 2000 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA)
“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.