Toppling Prisons, Healing Culture – Studying the New Jim Crow

Toppling Prisons, Healing Culture – Studying the New Jim Crow April 23, 2014

“Imagine you are Emma Faye Stewart, a thirty-year-old, single African-American mother of two who was arrested as part of a drug sweep in Hearne, Texas. All but one of the people arrested were African American. You are innocent. After a week in jail, you have no one to care for your two small children and are eager to get home. Your court-appointed attorney urges you to plead guilty to a drug distribution charge, saying the prosecutor has offered probation…You are now branded a drug felon. You are no longer eligible for food stamps; you may be discriminated against in employment; you cannot vote for at least twelve years; and you are about to be evicted from public housing. Once homeless, your children will be taken from you and put in foster care.

A judge eventually dismisses all cases against the defendants who did not plead guilty. At trial, the judge finds that the entire sweep was based on the testimony of a single informant who lied to the prosecution. You, however, are still a drug felon, homeless, and desperate to regain custody of your children.”

— Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

I want to use this space for a monthly meeting. A study group. Each month, I want to discuss a chapter of The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

I want us to invoke the Power To Know.

There is a call to start a movement to help overturn the devastation of the War on Drugs and mass incarceration through the Prison Industrial Complex. But before we start a movement, we have to know what we are up against.

The prison industrial complex and the war on drugs have infiltrated every community in the U.S. They have changed our thinking, and how we build culture. Our assumptions are as unchallenged as the water we drink or the air we breathe. We barely notice they’ve become toxic.

I am a Pagan and a Magic Worker. In my experience, everything in life and magic, every act of honoring the Gods or Goddesses, every encounter with our planet’s moon, or an apple tree has this in common: we are called into relationship. Our religious and spiritual practices ask us to deepen these relationships. To re-connect. To re-member.

Some relationships we try to ignore.

Some relationships are tearing us asunder. Osiris is continuously ripped apart.

Acting from a place of love will put us back together.

But to be in right relationship, and to re-member our communities and ourselves, we have to first see the ways in which we have been torn apart.

Love is necessary, but so is knowledge.

Before we shift a relationship, we have to know its terms and boundaries, its secrets and hopes, its strengths and weaknesses.

Before we gather the ingredients to make magic, we need to know what we are making magic for.

We cannot set an intention toward right action – we cannot effectively invoke the Power to Will – without information, the Power to Know.

Across the United States, churches and other groups are gathering and studying this book. I would like to use this blog as our gathering space, our grove, our temple hall. Let us study together.

There is a demon in our midst. We have conjured it together. It rages out of control in our streets in the increased militarization of our police forces, in Stop and Frisk, in shoot first, ask later. It seeps into our minds and hearts through unchallenged assumptions and misinformation. Through news footage of black drug offenders. Through fear mongering. Through a glorification of violence.

We take back our power from this force. We can learn its ways. We can remind it that we built it and gave it power, and now we have a different job for it to do. We can transform it from a system of oppression toward one of love, equity, and justice.

This will take time. It is a long arc of ritual and magic.

But every relationship starts in a moment. Every relationship changes over time. Let us take this moment, now, to invoke change.

We can learn to conjure healthier things, built from our love and not our fear.



The study group:

To start off our study group, I encourage you to listen to the whole interview with Michelle Alexander on CSpan. Below is a 9 minute excerpt:

David from Fields Books has offered to stock the title for us: order here. 

We will start discussing the Introduction and Chapter One in May. Posts will go up the fourth Wednesday of each month. I encourage you to subscribe to stay part of the conversation. Only comments by those who are reading the text will be accepted, so please try to order a book and read in advance.

Toward Love and Justice!

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