North Carolina: Stop Mass Incarceration Network and Artists4Justice at High School Assembly

March 26, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network and Artists4Justice were recently invited to a city high school in North Carolina to present a special program that 400 students attended (about one quarter of the school). The school is majority Black with over 40 nationalities represented in the student population. Colorful SMIN banners hung from the stage: "No More Generations Sent to Prison"; "Black Lives Matter"; "Stop Police Terror" and "No More Stolen Lives" listing many names of local people who have died at the hands of law enforcement.

Learn more and get involved HERE.

Four presentations were given.

A student's mother (SMIN organizer) led off the program talking about her youth and involvement in drugs and then being incarcerated. She talked about the difficulty in maintaining a life and learning a skill to support her family and then told students about how she was severely beaten by local sheriffs in the jailhouse two years ago. She had been picked up on a "failure to appear" for an old traffic violation that had already been dismissed. She sustained injuries, including PTSD and is now on disability. She has sued the jailers. It has taken her two years to finally get a copy of a video of the incident. She warned that the "justice" system "doesn't have any sympathy for you, especially if you are a person of color." She now is an organizer to stop police from doing this to others.

An artist shared a song call "Still here" and a poem named "Phoenix Song." She said, "Both these pieces came to me at a difficult point in my life. I shared these pieces because it's about encouraging the youth that they can and will overcome the obstacles in their lives. We will overcome the ills of this corrupt system!"

Then a revolutionary spoke briefly about how and why the police killings and mass incarceration are built into this capitalist-imperialist system and necessary for the powers that be to rule and keep control. There was no "fixing" this system. We needed revolution. Highlighting some of the statistics on the SMIN leaflet, the revolutionary said the Call for April 14th was the time to act with others across the country.  

Some of the banners had already been signed by hundreds and people were encouraged to come up and sign too.

Then there were two very big moments as the assembly drew to a close:

A revolutionary poet delivered a jarring performance of "I am not that Corpse" (premier performance of this was at a SMIN meeting). When the poem graphically described the strangulation of Eric Garner, students and teachers jumped out of their seats. Tears came to many eyes, including the vice principal. The poem says, "I'm still alive—how can I not rise!!"

As the program ended, the SMIN "mom" asked, "Please raise your hand if you have a loved one: father, mother, brother, sister, cousin, uncle or aunt locked up in prison." Some hands went right up and others started looking around at each other and very quickly about 80 percent of the students had their hands up!!  These are high school kids!!

If you had any doubts about why April 14th is important or any doubts that there are millions out there whose lives are affected by this monster of a system, this was one of those "moments" that drives home the importance of what we are doing.

At this NC high school, plans are underway to make "school as usual" very unusual and a day to remember on April 14th. 

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