Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bay Area Black Authors at Juvenile Hall

Bay Area Black Authors at Juvenile Hall
Marvin X's Report

I looked around the room at the young males with baby faces , yet they were the worst of the worst, serious criminals, attempted murderer, murderers, robbers, rapists, yet they are babies, expensive babies at that, $200, 000 per inmate per year, four times the cost of

Rev. Brandon Reems, Marvin X, Ptah Allah El,

prepare books for delivery to Juvenile Hall, made
possible by a grant from Post Newspaper Group.

photo Gene Hazzard

Harvard, Yale and Stanford. Do you know Harvard has free scholarships for poor people? Free! Why don't you go to Harvard, I asked them?

Looking at them recalled my days as a juvenile delinquent. I remember the time my brother and I were both at Juvenile Hall in Fresno, California. My brother was on his way to the California Youth Authority. Only my grades kept me from Youth Authority. The Judge said it would cost as much to send me to college as CYA, so he released me to the custody of my mother.

Outside the courtroom I asked Mama why wasn't she crying after seeing her sons locked down, although I was now free. She said I might not be crying on the outside but I'm crying on the inside. And so I told the young men the same thing. I want you young brothers to know that I might not be crying on the outside but I'm crying on the inside as I look at you.

I told them of my visit to New York's Riker's Island Prison for juveniles. Riker's Island is New York's multi-prison complex that housed 16,000 at the time I spoke. I was asked to speak another time at the graduation of the Riker's Island Juvenile Prison Boot Camp. If one graduated from Boot Camp they received a free college education. Perhaps California should do the same. It will be three times cheaper than having them return to juvenile hall and/or prison.

I told them of my writing career, that I had written since childhood, that I never wanted to be anything else, that it takes discipline, let the girls go for a minute or two. Read, read all you can, especially now that you have the time to read.

We are donating books for you to read, conscious books, paid for by the Oakland Post Newspaper Group, $1,500 worth of books. You should write Paul Cobb to thank him. I ended by reading the Fable of the Black Bird, about a caged bird programmed to stay in his cage even with the door open. They sat transfixed at the Fable of Black Bird, knowing full well they were the bird.

Eugene Allen, Academy of da Corner
Reader's Theatre

photo Kamau Amen Ra

Eugene Allen also read Letter from Mississippi by Shaggy Flores that appears in the Journal of Pan African Studies Poetry Issue, about the lynching of Emmit Till.

There was stillness in the room as Eugene read. After all, they were the modern Emmit Tills and they knew it, crucified in the cities by economic strangulation and mental lynching with miseducation, forcing them into criminal behavior to achieve manhood in the promised land.

Charles Blackwell

photo by Gene Hazzard

We when got to the second unit, Mississippi blind poet Charles Blackwell was reading his poetry.

Ptah Allah El, Minister of Poetry
and Education, author of Ghetto
Folktales and Tainted Soul

photo Kamau Amen Ra

Ptah Allah El had already read from his book Ghetto Folktales, including the poem Can You Spare Some Change. Basically, can you change your mind? Ptah told them that he was in jail today along with them, but there was a difference because he could go home at six o'clock and they couldn't. He urged them to use their time to transform their minds. One young man was so inspired he went to his room and returned with his notebook of poetry. He read his poem to group applause.

Charles read his poem about Monk. The young men cracked up when Charlie began to scat, jazz style. It probably reminded them of Hip Hop rap.

The afternoon ended with Rev. Reems calling for the brothers to sign up for a writing contest that we will judge. He told them to write a three page paper on any topic and we will pick the best piece. The winner will receive an award. Several raised their hand to be in the contest.

Rev. Reems led us in prayer and then called forth brothers who needed individual prayers. Several lined up for prayer.

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