Sol Collective held a screening of “13th” and Paul Willis, the facilitator of the event, talked about what he hoped would come from the knowledge. Time will tell if what he hopes for come true.
This coming Wednesday, March 8th, from 6 pm to 9 pm, Sacramento activists are going to have a screening of Ava DuVernay’s “13th”, a documentary about the history and current criminalization of the black community. It will be at Sol Collective on 2574 21st street in Sacramento.
The community is coming together to do a screening and discussion of the documentary 13th. Pizza, spicy popcorn, and drinks will be available. If you want to know more about the event and time, look here for the Facebook event page.
“All of a sudden, a scythe went through our black communities,” Pat Nolan of Prison Fellowship said in 13th. “Literally cutting off men from their families. Literally huge chunks just disappearing into our prisons, and for a really long time.”
Criminalization of African Americans began once they got their freedom, and was amplified by the film The Birth of a Nation. African Americans were lynched and murdered by mobs between reconstruction and World War II.
“The demographic geography was shaped by that area,” Bryan Stevens of Found, Equal Justice Initiative said in the documentary 13th. “We have African Americans in Los Angeles, Oakland, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Boston, New York, and very few people appreciate that the African Americans in those communities did not go there as immigrants looking for economic opportunities, they went there as refugees from terror.”
Once mob lynching became unacceptable, African Americans civil rights activists were portrayed as criminals for breaking segregation laws. The civil rights act and voting right act finally turned things around for African Americans.
Around the time the civil rights movement was gaining popularity, crime rates were beginning to rise in this country. The baby boom generation was reaching adulthood by this time, however, politicians were quick to put the blame on the African Americans. Nixon started to crack down hard on drugs and crime, calling it the War on Crime.
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon white house after that had two enemies: the anti-war left, and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black…” John Ehrlichman, Nixon adviser said. “But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities… we could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
This set the future for America, cracking down on crime and drugs. The Three Strikes You’re Out Law also increased the sentence for people who were incarcerated. With these harsher and longer sentences for people, one would imagine that all races would be incarcerated more, however, 1 in 17 white males have a likelihood of being imprisoned within their lifetime. 1 in 17 is a lot less likely of being incarcerated than the statistic for the black community, which is 1 in 3 being imprisoned within their lifetime.
Watch 13th on the 8th of March to get more details about criminalization of the black community.
Last month, a poll published by PBS showed that race relations in the U.S. are at a low point in recent history. This poll highlights the fact that although the civil rights movement of the 60’s occurred over 50 years ago, America still has a long way to go until most people can perceive equality to be a real thing.
The poll asked the same questions to both Caucasians and African Americans on their perception of equality. One striking result was that both races agreed upon the fact that they believe race relations to be worse today than they were a year ago. Although both races agreed on this, their agreeable answers stopped there.
Most African-Americans feel that they do not have the same job opportunities or are receiving equal justice compared to their white counterparts. They also feel that the “Black Lives Matter” campaign is a real social movement while 59% of Caucasians surveyed felt as if it was simply a slogan and a bit of a distraction towards achieving equality.
Over time, it has been believed by many that the United States has achieved racial equality. This is in part due to the fact that many points in Dr. Martin Luther King’s historical “I Have a Dream Speech”, have been achieved. Notable examples include the U.S. having an interracial school system, disbanding segregation in public establishments, and legislation supporting interracial marriages and relationships. Despite these achievements and milestones, most African Americans still feel that they have yet to obtain the equality they seek.
“I feel like this country is hilariously good at pretending it’s an equal opportunity place,” said Sacramento resident Sean Woods when asked if he believed he had equal justice. “But anyone with eyes can see that’s not the case.”
“Absolutely not,” Woods stated when questioned if he felt blacks received equal job opportunities. “It’s by no means impossible to be successful, but the best opportunities are tilted in a white persons favor.”
In Sacramento the Building Healthy Communities initiative is working to take steps in achieving equality. One of their methods is the Boys and Men of Color Initiative and President Obama’s My Brothers Keeper event. These programs hope to bring leaders and young people together to talk about ways to reach these goals.
Recently a three minute video was published highlighting the social issues of the African-American community. The video argues that it has been decided it is easier to incarcerate a certain population and how the justice system tends to use jail as a solution to underlying societal problems such as mental health issues. The video summarizes the article “Enduring Myth of Black Criminality” by The Atlantic, which is the beginning of a planned series discussing the African-American community and struggles they face. Its authors, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jackie Lay, are able to present their points in a brief yet powerful manor.
Locally, The Sacramento Building Healthy Communities initiative, funded by the California Endowment, is working to address these issues on many fronts. One of their methods is the Boys and Men of Color Initiative and President Obama’s upcoming My Brothers Keeper event . These programs hope to bring leaders and young people together to talk about these issues and possible solutions.
“The court system and its enforcers aren’t doing what the system’s designed to do,” said Mason Williams, local teen, when asked if he agreed with the video. “It’s doing what it wants to do and that’s why people are saying it’s corrupted.”
For the estimated 40,000 young black men in the Sacramento county, the efforts by the Endowment and it’s partner organizations offer hope for the future.