Guest Feature – A Modern Day Slave Plantation Part 3 by Laura Dimon

*Note: This article was not written by The PBS Blog, it is featured as part of the continuation of an ongoing series and is written by Laura Dimon. This is the last part which includes my commentary. Please view our Guest Feature or Article Section for Parts 1 & 2*

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In King’s trials, the juries were all white, with one black person. This past March, Glenn Ford, 64, walked out of Angola a free man after 30 years on death row. He was Louisiana’s longest-serving death row prisoner, yet he’s just another black man who was convicted and sentenced by an all-white jury. King said Angola today still reminds him of a slave plantation, but not as much as it reminds him of a graveyard. “There seems to be an artificial sanitation that is disturbing to me,” he said. The land is “beautiful, whitewashed, looks like a college campus.” But underneath, “The bones are rottin’.”

 
Angola exists in the shadow of slavery, a time when black men did not have rights. In a state with the motto “Union, justice and confidence,” there is certainly a lingering stink of a bygone, ugly era for which “union and justice” is simply not a fitting description. The other two members of the Angola 3 are Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace. There is overwhelming evidence of their innocence and accordingly, state and federal judges have overturned Woodfox’s conviction three times, citing racial discrimination, misconduct by the prosecution and inadequate defense. But Louisiana’s Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell holds the ultimate power, and has contested the rulings, claiming they were based on technicalities.

 

To this day, after 42 years, Woodfox remains in solitary confinement in Angola. He’s thought to be the longest-serving inmate in solitary. In the documentary film, he says, “If a cause is noble enough, you can carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. And I thought my cause, then and no, was noble. So therefore, they would never break me.”
They might bend me a little bit. They might cause me a lot of pain. They may even take my life. But they will never be able to break me.”

 
Wallace was released in October 2013 with advanced liver cancer. King went with Woodfox, who was permitted to leave briefly, to visit their friend and tell him he was out of Angola for good. “We told him,” King said. Wallace couldn’t move or respond. “[But] we saw it in his eyes. … He knew he was getting out.” Wallace took his last breaths a free man, after over 40 years. He died three days later.

 
King continues the fight for Woodfox. So when he is asked about his own release, he responds with this apt adage: “I was free of Angola, but Angola would not be free of me.”

 

Image Credits: AP, Peter Puna, Robert King

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angolaCommentary:

The disturbing reality, is that no so called African American should be surprised by this article. At some point we must realize that under the fine print of America’s democracy you were never intended to be citizens. Your stay here in this country was never received with the certificate of adoption and thus you were never granted the same rights of America’s children, and that is why such institutions such as the Angola Facility still exist in the first place. You have Civil Rights but you have no Human Rights. It is no surprise then, that the mental state of the African American people is worse today than it was during slavery. Even during the Civil Rights Era your state of consciousness was not like it is now; for Freedom Rides denoted an understanding that you were not free here and you understood that. But the worse thing about mental enslavement however is that if the mind thinks itself free it doesn’t really matter what happens to the body. You can continue to mistreat it and it will still not grasp the understanding that it remains confined. You can put it in a hog pen, lock it up inside the inner rooms, isolate it and because the mind has been warped it will still think it possesses some kind of freedom. In The Mis-Education of The Negro Carter G. Woodson said it best, “when you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.

  • Prison institutions determine how many more beds to add to their facility, based on how many black boys can’t read by the 4th grade

 

  • According a recent Brookings Institution report, black men born in 1975 who dropped out of high school had a 70 percent chance of ending up in prison by their mid-thirties. The probability is actually greater for young black men who drop out today.

 

  • The bible prophecy’s of black men being hidden in prison houses and that their heavens will be bronze and their earth iron (Deut. 28:23, Lev. 26:19)

 

  • According to Prof. Michelle Alexander’s analysis of U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are now more black men in prison than were enslaved in 1850.

 

  • The so called African American was never included in the U.S. Constitution; his civil rights were amended or added on, this means they can also be removed

 

  • The 13th Amendment, when it abolished slavery, did so except for convicts. Through the prison system, the vestiges of slavery continue.

 

Addiction

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It surrounds me and takes a hold of my mind
(It has me thinking about it all the time)
Sometimes I have to repent cause the feeling’s so good it has to be a crime
Taking me back and forth from past slavery days to my time
(to support it I think I spent all of my dimes 😦 )
I am addicted to poetry
It sits and wraps it words around my thoughts
It sits somehow waiting to be taught
Somehow attempting to read my mind
Finding itself inside of my dreams, my back is bent over and I’m searching the floor like a fiend
I mean, this poetry stalks me!
It wants to know the secret to the life that I live
And then devour these set-apart words that I spill
Nevertheless I am addicted to it
Searching the corners of this blog, I long for words that can satisfy these fluids
Wrap the pen around my wrist and forget it let’s do it!
I am addicted to poetry!
With it I spend all of my time
Hungry, mouth dry and thirsty (nothing seems to satisfy my stomach but this poetry)
I become another person when it’s in me you see…
May hair is all over my head
My voice tends to rise from the dead
It is no longer shy but loud instead
See,
No one can control this state that I’m in
Defending my knack for poetry till the end
Itching to scratch on this paper and pen
I am determined to tie that knot from—wait, I think my husband may count that as a sin
I am addicted to poetry
I am forever exercising my mind
Looking up and finding the new definitions to words
Excitement rushes through me as I wiggle my toes
Ink fumes reaching the far back of my nose and forcing out words that are untold
I think I better stop before my skin looks old and my body frame is way too thin!
I can’t seem to stop this state that I’m in!
These walking wonderful worlds of many words planning a feast in my head
Allowing me to feast on its beauty instead
Biting my nails I am starting to get paranoid
Because
T-t-t-there s-seems to be a-a void
a thing called writer’s block that is blocking my thoughts
its forcing me to say things that I don’t wanna say
(dragging my feet I am now in PA class)
Surrounded by brothers and sisters who are also addicted to words
Looking around like they see flying birds (they call them metaphors though)
It’s now finally my time to be heard
But I’m looking around I don’t know what t-to say
I haven’t had my s-s-strong d-dose of words all day
And the bloggers are urging me to speak
But instead I’m shaking my leg and chattering my teeth until finally I admit
I AM ADDICTED TO POETRY!

Guest Feature – A Modern Day Slave Plantation by Laura Dimon Part 2

*Note: This article was not written by The PBS Blog, it is featured as part of the continuation of an ongoing series and is written by Laura Dimon. Please view our Guest Feature or Article Section for Part 1*

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In 1972, the prisoners were virtually all black. Merciless guards — all white men, called “freemen” — worked the inmates like slaves. Sugar cane was the main crop, King said. In the documentary film In the Land of the Free, it’s stated that the inmates labored all day every day for a measly $.02 per hour. The abuse didn’t stop there. As NPR reported, “There was a prisoner slave trade and rampant rape; inmates slept with J.C. Penney catalogs tied to their waists for protection.” King was one of three men who formed the famous Angola 3 group, leaders of the Black Panther Party’s Angola chapter. King said they were fighting for equality, but he later realized their efforts had been misaimed: “We were focused on civil rights, but we didn’t have human rights,” he said.

 

Prison Horses

In our most recent conversation, I asked King, “How’s it going?” “It’s … ongoing,” he replied. It’s easy to see why: Little has changed at Angola. It remains a time warp, a living, breathing relic of a shameful past. Of about 6,000 inmates currently in custody, roughly 70% are black and 30% are white. In October 2008, NPR reported, “In the distance on this day, 100 black men toil, bent over in the field, while a single white officer on a horse sits above them, a shotgun in his lap.” The context of this modern day slave plantation is unfortunately appropriate. Nola.com wrote that Louisiana is the world’s “prison capital,” with 1 in 86 residents serving time — nearly double the national average. The racial skew is extreme. One in 14 black men in New Orleans is behind bars; 1 in 7 is either in prison, on parole or on probation. Louisiana is “notorious for racial disparities in its justice systems,” Andrew Cohen wrote in the Atlantic.

 

One highly concerning aspect of Louisiana’s judicial scheme is that, unlike in 48 states, a unanimous jury decision is not required — only 10 jurors have to vote to convict someone, even for a life sentence. Oregon is the only other state with this system, but it doesn’t have the same tremendous racial component. Cohen wrote, “Prosecutors can comply with their constitutional obligations to permit blacks and other minority citizens to serve as jurors but then effectively nullify the votes of those jurors should they vote to acquit.” It is one of “the most obvious and destructive flaws in Louisiana’s broken justice system,” he wrote, arguing, plain and simple: “Louisiana is terribly wrong to defend a law that was born of white supremacy.”

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A Duke University study examined more than 700 non-capital felony criminal cases in Florida and found that, in cases with no blacks in the jury pool, blacks were convicted 81% of the time while whites were convicted 66% of the time. The researchers concluded that “the racial composition of the jury pool has a substantial impact on conviction rates” and that “the application of justice is highly uneven.”

 

Image Credits: AP, Peter Puna, Robert King, Google Images

Learning Disabled: A Manmade Disease

One of the duties I perform almost daily, about 2-3 times a week (it used to be 5), is that I provide tutorial services to children, primarily in the area of literacy—reading, writing, and vocabulary. I have also Home Schooled children for three years prior to my tutorial services, who ranged anywhere from Kindergarten to 6th grade. Needless to say, I rather enjoy teaching children; it involves my two most favorite things: teaching and children (obviously). We even do a Lecture presentation on the Dumbing Down of the Educational System, primarily its relation to black youth. We’ve presented in Kentucky, Chicago (my home town…south side! < in my Chicago voice, if you ain’t from the Chi don’t worry, you won’t get the joke), Baltimore, and Houston to name a few. In my experience, I’ve learned so much about how children learn and some of the valuable methods needed to assist them in this endeavor. I still don’t consider myself an expert, but what I’ve come to research and to understand by way of hands on face to face experience has taught me a lot. And today I would like to speak briefly on learning disabilities because there is simply no such thing.

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Certainly, there are indeed children who have a much more difficult time reading and writing than others. As early as 1867, a German teacher of the deaf founded a school for slow learning children. Accordingly, these children’s memories were too weak to remember letters and due the poor motor coordination of their fingers they had difficulty learning how to write. So the teacher understood he must implement remedial reading methods. This did not mean however, that these children were mentally retarded. The moral of the story is that problems with learning have always been around, the question is, when did the idea of a “neurological dysfunction” called herein Learning Disabled, become the term to which we apply to children who learn at a slower pace than others? And does a Learning Disability actually have anything to do with how they learn in the first place?

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A disease is an illness caused by a virus that has attacked the immune system, and on April 6, 1963, a new disease was implemented in Chicago that had its roots in the south, that would very soon be given to millions of black schoolchildren before ballooning into a worldwide epidemic. It was said to have been hidden deep inside the neurological system according to psychologist. What we didn’t know however, was these were the same psychologist who had been studying the brain and central nervous system in search for man’s soul since the time of Wilhelm Wundt, founder of experimental psychology back in the 18th century. Wundt believed that man didn’t have a soul living inside of him, and as such he was no different than an animal whose actions are almost always reactions. That is, man’s behavior is only determined by his surroundings and can thus be altered by way of stimulus-response; provide the right stimuli, get the right response. In short, he can be programmed like an animal in a laboratory. So, fast forward to the 1960’s when scientist and psychologist began to back the promotion of one of the most deadly diseases now plaguing not just the so called African American community, but communities in general. The United States Government would spend billions of dollars on this new affliction over the next 20 years.

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In 1963,  nine years after the Brown vs. Board of Education verdict of 1954, that stated that racial segregation of children in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (FYI, the decision did not fully desegregate public education in the United States, though galvanizing the Civil Rights Movement), The Learning Disabled Movement began taking root. The beliefs that people were a result of their environment had long since upheld the belief that wealthy children of well-to-do neighborhoods would flourish academically, while poor children of impoverished neighborhoods would not. Of course, we have to keep in mind that this was during the Civil Rights Era and that (even until this day) there are certain code words that are often used to represent a certain group of people so that the declarations remain politically correct, and are not cause for concern. What was meant by this is simply that rich white kids in the suburbs would do better than poor black kids in the ghettos academically. However, in the 1960s, parents of white children saw a drop in their children’s IQ’s and academic success. They saw that their children too, were not performing very well. And since psychologist had long since experimented with the brain and nervous system enough to provide the statistical data to “prove it”, these parents formed The Learning Disabilities Movement, in which there was allegedly a mental disorder associated with their children’s lack of academic success:

“For many of the parents of these children, accustomed as they were to success and acclimated to a pain-free educational scheme, these results seemed fluky. Since they felt themselves entitled to success, failure was an obvious aberration {oddness}. Educators faced a similar problem: They could not blame the low test scores on racism and poverty or even the lack of funding. Students from the most lavishly appointed schools in the nation were failing to make the grade. The impetus for change came from parents first. They could have blamed “systematic social influences on the schools” for the failures, or they could have blamed principals and teachers for ineptly handling neurologically normal children. Or they might have decided that their children were “slow learners, ecologically disabled, or just bored to death by school.” Instead, they gravitated toward the idea that their children suffered from learning disabilities.” – Charles Sykes, Dumbing Down Our Kids, pg. 189-190

There was, of course, no such thing as a learning disability, but the “professionals” sure did clear that up. Put together a hodgepodge of numbers and graphs and people would believe anything. And they did. “Learning Disabilities” appealed to many parents and helped to jump-start the birth of a nation. But this program would soon become something much greater. After Brown vs. Board of Education, this program would become the savior of separate but unequal. This is when we come back to Samuel Kirk, the Chicago Psychologist.

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In that same year, 1963, Kirk created The Learning Disability, except the LD movement had already begun in the south between white parents and the “professionals” who backed them. This Learning Disability he would create however, would flip the script: it would no longer be used as an excuse for prominent white parents; it would become a tool against black children. Now black children (especially black boys), can be separated from white children and it was not against the law. The Gifted program took off around this same time, the 1960s. It was a program to which school children’s IQ’s would be tested to separate those who were highly intelligent from those who were not. The concept of IQ (Intelligence Quotient), which is used in the “diagnosing” of Special Education (a Federal Program), was started by Eugenicist (Eugenics is the belief and practice of improving the genetic quality of the human population by killing off those “less desirable”, such as African Americans, as a form of birth control) from The American Eugenicist Society for the purpose of population extermination. Since students could no longer be judged by the colors of their skin, they were now judged by numbers and test scores. It wasn’t until after the Brown vs. Board of Education Verdict of 1954 that the “Gifted” program even took off because it was another way to keep the “races” separate without breaking the law.

 

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Now ALL children across ethnicity’s are infected with the disease of “Learning Disabled”. They have to walk around with the stigma that they are mentally sick for the rest of their lives although there is nothing to prove it. When you say you want your child tested, what does that mean? The test does not tell you whether or not your child has a learning disability. Tests produce numbers; it is not a diagnoses. It’s your signature on a piece of paper that gives the school psychologist permission to tell you what they think, and to make hypothesis or “Educated Guesses” on whether or not he or she thinks the child is reading disabled.

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What parents need to understand, is that there is no “study” that can determine or prove that someone is something called “Learning Disabled” because there’s no such thing. No physical symptoms, no known neurological deficits, no genetic traits, no consistent clinical descriptions, no diagnostic testing, no techniques of treatment based on actual real, factual evidence outside of medications intentionally designed to slow energized and happy kids down and make them depressed eight year olds…. there is absolutely nothing that proves a child has a mental disorder associated with learning. We’re not talking children who are slow learners and need that extra help,  or children who simply have trouble reading and writing, we’re talking about a medical deformity, a neurological retardation of the child’s ability to understand called Learning Disabled, it does not exist. When the teachers come to you with that question about testing your child, especially your boys, start asking questions and demanding results. And finally,  stop signing every piece of paper children bring home from school.

The Power of Purpose

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“The obstacles you encounter rarely have a coherent purpose of their own. They are just there, inconvenient and troublesome to be sure, but with nothing of substance to sustain them.
You, on the other hand, have the extreme advantage of being able to choose and follow a definite purpose. By so doing, instead of randomly scattering your energy and efforts, you can sharply focus and powerfully concentrate all that energy, all those efforts in a consistent direction.
Soft, gentle raindrops falling over a wide area will always yield to the contours and obstructions of the landscape. Yet when those tiny drops of water are concentrated into a mighty river, they have the power to cut through any obstruction.
In the same way, when your thoughts, feelings and actions are centered around a clear and consistent purpose, nothing can hold you back. The random and disjointed exertions of circumstance are no match for a living and unwavering purpose.
The problems, the frustrations, the challenges and the difficult situations come and go. A steadfast, meaningful purpose will carry you successfully through them all.
Give your life a decided advantage over all the burdensome circumstances you encounter. Live each moment in the service of the highest and most positive purpose you can imagine.”

— Ralph Marston

Mankind is an Arrogant Creation

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Mankind is an arrogant creation.
He walks proudly on both legs,
almost as if the wind carries him
His head is tilted toward the sky that he curses with his lips
But the clouds mock him
And the seas have admitted, he is foolish in his ways
He possess intellect, but his intelligence has seated him on the right side of fools
knowledge, wisdom, and understanding has slipped from his fingers; escaping his memory
He has no parachute to which to catch them, and he does not desire to
He is an arrogant creation, man is
Everything is thankful except him
He does not understand that what elevates the trees,
birds,
and even the wind is their willingness to bow in submission to love
to fill the vessel that is himself with compassion
to walk an orderly path
to wrap oneself outwardly and inwardly around it like a fetus in its mother’s womb
to bleed it’s law
and conform to the shape and the will of love
but he is greater in comparison
man is
And what compares to love?
He cannot count the number of hairs on his head
Measure the depth of the sea
And the width of the wind
Yet, he is greater than love?
Yes
It is clear
deception has robbed him of the truth…
because mankind is an arrogant creation