Less Than 100 Years from a Desegregated America

by Andrew Suspense


Do I believe it is possible to overcome hundreds of years of slave trade mentality in America in our lifetime?

Obviously, NO!!! Whilst being objective! The Slave Trade mentality took a few cruel ideas that turned in 100’s of years and generations to first build, then to maintain such harsh judgements, treatment, and to reclassify a people because of the color of their skin – that is not unprecedented. But the systematic way that it grew and kept strong is unprecedented, largely because it still exists today! However, most laws as they are written to date are on the one hand antiqued… they were written to White America because when the laws were put on the books, America was still segregated and basic color segregation kept crimes and criminals to pockets of areas which also largely speaking crimes weren’t committed as freely and as prevalent as they are now! The systematic, and subliminal indoctrination of racism that maintained for hundreds of years, won’t be eradicated in a few decades when racism has now evolved and isn’t expressed as openly and as commonly as it once was. We aren’t even 100 years removed from a desegregated America!!!

As far as crimes being addressed — The most severely and most commonly committed crime in Virginia is robbery! Which is the one crime that has the highest conviction rate of any crime. It’s also committed mostly by minorities, and it is sentenced more harshly than any other!!! Here is a hard fact and I DON’T make mention of it as a way to demean or to mean that one crime is better or worse than the other, but the fact that it holds true is worth speaking on! If a guy raped a woman at knife or gun point, he will get less time than if he took a purse or wallet from the same woman at knife or gunpoint. So her being victimized on the severity scale her purse holds more value than her body/womanhood!!!
And the repeat offenders who victimize women are said that they are sick and need help!!! But the guy who took her money or watch is a hardened criminal who needs to be taken out of society for decades, with no help or rehabilitation. No educational opportunities to have a chance at a job or having skill sets to help ensure ones chances at being a productive citizen! And there could be 100 robberies and all 100 of them are committed 100% different, but no matter the crime Virginia doesn’t allow judges to sentence each according to each set of facts! Not to mention the representation that all too often falls below an adequate level!

“The prison system can be used/utilized by creating things like,” Convicted Leadership Academy’s!!! ” Prison is devoid of so many USEFUL things, whist spilling over in abundance with ignorance and stagnation!
But when we convicted felons step up and grab some of our at risk youth, then we, in that failure to act ,are responsible for forfeited futures! Our painful experiences need to be fuel or boost we need to get up and over our self created walls of doubt, and be the courage to step into a better me. WE have to talk to, we have to guide, we have to beg our youths, we have to yell at and out to OUR youths. Prisoners can talk to those who are seemingly headed to. We are the instruments and vehicles for rehabilitation for OUR youths!

It would be something like the girls and boys club but strictly with convicted felons mainly those currently serving.
Mass incarceration isn’t necessarily racially motivated, simply because America was still segregated which would have had tremendous impacts on volumes of crimes and geographically, so the penal statutes weren’t cratered to minorities even though it seems as if it was and is!? Oddly enough. But enough about what isn’t, or what we don’t have. Let’s just be the change and get it done, by getting it or any other idea going!

Andrew Suspense
Lawrenceville Correctional Center

Re-Slaving America (Make America Great Again!?)

It’s a horrible sign that the country of America might actually be going backwards– towards the wrong direction… was this what was meant by the 2016 dog whistle calls to ” Make America Great Again”…?

Five states, here in America, are putting a rather interesting bill on their ballots this midterm election season… Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Oregon, and Vermont are all trying to reintroduce “forced labor” back into the American penal system. This situation makes this month’s Brilliance writing prompt somewhat prophetic…

“Am I incarcerated for profit?” (Brilliance writing prompt for October 2022) detailed the very gruesome history of the many insidious ways the powers of this country have exploited the American justice system and configured it into a racist pitfall (a “black hole”). All of this, in an effort to re-enslave black people, subjugate American minorities, and further the seemingly impenetrable grip racism has on this country…

Maybe the powers are going to decided to use the cover of a poor post-covid economy to bolster the need for slavery in prisons? They’ve already put forth the footwork for the past four years and successfully weaponized a fringe base of poor, white people, armed and even ready to storm the capital — maybe in hopes of taking the country “back” to “make it great again?” It is easy to accept the state of the economy as broken or unfit by those privileged but in poverty. But to those who have aligned such privilege with financial success and are now in want more, pointing them in the directions of the prison system as a means for their salvation is a welcomed fix.

Maybe the minimal headway made on social justice reforms leaves most with an unmerited sense of self satisfaction? So much that they aren’t even the least dissuaded to publicly disregard the mental wellness of Black Americans by resurrecting their most critical of traumas.

I hate that the connotation of capitalism can be justifiably understood to mean: at times we sacrifice long term mental anguish in hopes of short term monetary gains. and in a democracy like ours, this expense tends to always fall on the minority.

Why is forced labor in prisons an issue of race?

Well regardless of what our leaders are touting as true social justice reforms, the dramatic disparities in incarceration rates are still very well alive and thriving. the emphasis on racial justice, these past two years, has barely put a scratch on the issue of unfair treatment between minorities and the penal system. Black Americans still greatly outpace white ones in America’s prison population. And as described in the latest Brilliance prompt, the current state we are foregoing in this country concerning Black Americans and prison was deliberate in its design.

Given the recent events taking place within the Alabama prison system– where the incarcerated there are demonstrating a work stoppage in protest of inhumane living conditions and unfair treatment by the Alabama justice system, the fact that Alabama is amongst the states considering forced labor is nothing other than a symbol of its stern unwillingness to consider to the pleas of its prisoners. A bold statement that power is in no need of a heart nor soul. It only needs lives to stand over…

My hopes are that these aversive proposals to enslave prisoners do not go further than just racist propaganda, designed to motivate alt-right fringe voters to the polls.

If this horrible, racist. vision does manage to make it to fruition, my hope then is that the human soul that will forever fight for equality and justice, beats loudly throughout all the hearts of the oppressed and imprisoned, and that of all of their allies, and stands in opposition of such travesty…

Continue to fight for righteousness, because it is not freely given. We are all the children of freedom and it is our birthright to be free…

Love, peace, and power,

Q. Patterson

The Justice System’s Antiquated

The fact that the United States still operates under post civil war era criminal justice standards is plain wrong! Governments need frameworks to establish beginnings. Not saying the way of our founder’s frameworks were the right path to take, but frameworks are needed to build period. Once the initial building is over certain things need to change (amended) or be removed to better society or just to be morally sound. Again, in this essay’s case, the justice system’s correctional approach is antiquaaaaaaaaaadaaaaaaaaaaated in our modern society, which many people have fought and died so hard to change.

One of the essay questions that i personally would like to elaborate on is question #3: How can the prison system be use to better our community?

Well, my personal opinion is that I feel the number of correctional facilities should be reduced and the closed facilities should be remodeled into immigrant/disaster relief facilities where people in need have shelter, clean water, laundry, dinning areas and grounds for medical attention. The federal government could easily funnel some of it’s money used to incarcerate the population to aide others in more immediate need. While at the same time, create jobs for the economy that current inmates could be employed that would better the economy by being paid more, therefore, taxed more. This was one of the ides I had on this year’s fall essay. Thank you for the time that you took to read this and I hope that it may take root.

Shout out to the crew behind Brilliancebehindbars.com.
Keep up the work!

J. Reinard, LVCC

Am I Imprisoned for Profit?

Editor’s Note: Quadaire has been on a long lockdown for the past few weeks, and spent some time researching the deep roots of mass incarceration. He wanted to share the facts he learned and engage the incarcerated population in Virginia.

Since its conception, America has benefit from free labor and the industry of slavery. Slavery has long been abolished, but the clause of ‘supporting it in cases of punishment for a crime’ has been continuously exploited by corporations and politicians. This has lead to the modern day social crisis of mass incarceration and the lucrative enterprise of the prion industrial complex.

Post-civil war, disgruntled Southern lawmakers sought to evade the parameters laid out by the Reconstruction Amendments (Amendments XIII, XIV, and XV). They used the exception marked out in the 13th amendment that legalized slavery in case of punishment for a crime as the basis for achieving their goal. Incarcerating former slaves disqualified their newfound citizenship, nullified their voting rights, and returned them to chains and involuntary servitude. These Southern lawmakers legislated numerous laws and policies such as “Race Codes,” “Black Codes” and many more targeting former slaves for incarceration. White Southerners effectively weaponized the law to enlist America’s Criminal Justice System as a device to perpetuate slavery under other names.

One of these reimagined forms of slavery mirrored a pre-civil war program used in Louisiana, known as “convict leasing.” Incarcerated prisoners were leased to private companies and plantations as laborers. Ironically, these programs were often many more times dangerous than slavery conditions prior. Private companies held no direct investments when it came to their leased laborers. Unlike former slave owners who stood to lose money if the slaves were to get horribly sick or die, private companies with leased convicts were less dissuaded to put them in very unsafe and hostile environments. Convicts were more harshly abused, and in many cases, company task masters would drive them to their deaths. Since the convict leasing program was facilitated through contracts between the prison and the employer, when a laborer died, the prison would simply replace them to meet their contractural obligations and business resumed as usual.

Convict leasing took numerous lives before it was outlawed. Eventually, the program was replaced by ‘correctional enterprises’ — state-owned companies that used prisoner’s forced labor. Correctional enterprises used prisoner labor to manufacture a number of products ranging from eye glasses, shoes, and state license plates. Correctional enterprises are still widely used today. While they gross multi-million dollars a year, their workers, incarcerated peoples, average to earn about $1 per day to take care of themselves and in many cases, their families.

The prison industrial complex has thus evolved. Today, the highest grossing business fueled by the incarceration of Americans is that of the private prison sector. Private prison corporations gross multi-billion dollars a year. The business arrangement set between these corporations who provide incarceration services to the governmental agencies that employ them is a simple one: Incarcerated service providers supply bed space to state and federal agencies and must meet a quote of occupants in order to satisfy their contracted obligations. The most sinister part of this dynamic is the corporations that provide private prisons are publicly traded on the stock market. Thus, anyone and everyone, even law enforcement officers can profit from an increase in the incarceration rate.

One more interesting concept to identify in the scheme of prison for profit is a little more subtle than others. In 1994, 10 years after the first installation of a private prison, the Clinton Administration enacted the Crime Act. This piece of legislation awarded incentives to the states who get more severe on crime. The Crime Act inadvertently encouraged systemic racism with monetary gain and further the profit-for-prison dynamic.

In a perfect world, we can see the logic in society profiting from anti-social acts such as crime. But in America, our racist past infects our criminal justice system to its core. Post-Civil War and Jim Crow politicians have taken advantage of that notion from the onset of the Emancipation Proclamation. Segregationist politicians worked hard to frame the tactics of the civil rights movement as ‘crime running rapid in the streets’ and spawned “tough-on-crime” politics that still serve as the breeding ground for dog whistle politics today. (as defined in Rethinking Incarceration, as racial legislation ensconced within coded rhetoric about the common good)

Never forget that the American justice system is built on principles of the slave trade, monetary gain at the cost of human lives. Everything from the low cost, low quality food being served in prison mess halls, the highly marked up nearly expired food products being pushed through commissary, excessive price tags on essentially free services such as emails, all combined with state-sponsored monetary incentives for persecuting felony charges, keeping an ample incarceration rate, and cutting corners on a bare essentials are all aimed at profiting of human lives…

All of this takes place under the guise of sound economical principles, public safety, and justice for victims, but just as slavery was regarded as a noble conquest in the eyes of many Americans, profiting from the misfortune of already poor, disparaged people is nothing more than vile, life-costing capitalism.

Quadaire Patterson

Thought Starter Questions for the Incarcerated:

Write your own essay, poem, or submit art relative to this topic. Do not forget to include your name and any contact information for any readers who may be able to offer you some assistance.

  1. Do you believe it is possible to overcome hundreds of years of slave trade mentality in America and your lifetime?
  2. Crime must be addressed in order to have a functional and productive society. How can society better use the prison system to work for those incarcerated and the general public?
  3. How can the prison system be used to serve communities?
  4. Do you believe that mass incarceration is racially motivated due to the past? Why or why not?
  5. Do you believe America can survive without the use of slavery in one form or another?

Undiscovered Talent

On of the biggest difficulties that I come across on a daily basis has to be the undiscovered talent and skills individuals have, and us ‘inmates’ are the only ones that tend to see them. With very limited access to the outside environment, many of the talents and beautiful skills that these incarcerated individuals have go undiscovered for years (and sometimes even lifetimes) without ever being discovered by normal society. This is one of the things that tends to rub me in the wrong way.

Freedom of expression in our free world (country) should be and unalienable right? Am I wrong? And without the proper platforms for these types of expressions to reach the free world, turns into a form of oppression in my personal opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few ways that we can contact the outside , but we have to pay for it in order to do these things. From buying postage stamps, J-Pay stamps, and collect and debit calls. J-Pay & GTL Phone services offer very few things for individuals whole are not fortunate enough to have financial support on the outside. This not only inhibits people from reaching out to the people who could spread the word of their particular gifts and talents, but this is also morally crushing as well.

The state offers employment, but the waiting list for a job opportunity can be very lengthy. Additionally, over the years the educational opportunities have become fewer and fewer.
In conclusion, another terrible thing is that this bill that was rescinded after many people across Virginia were promised closer release dates. My time is very short so I have to end this as briefly as possible because of the time limit on the kiosk. But these are some of the things that aren’t right from my perspective. We need more people to notice the true Brilliance Behind Bars!!

J. Reinard #1523818
Lawrenceville Correctional Center

Shaveek’s Opinion on Second Look Qualifications

From my knowledge of the second look legislation and the requirements to petition, it serves a great opportunity for those of us who have already determined use in our incarceration as a means of better ourselves.

Even more than that, I believe that it’s an even better opportunity for those of us who have lost all hope of regaining our freedom and acceptance into society. Regardless of the prison system being identified as a place of “correction,” there are very few chances of lasting rehabilitation and in most cases, these chances are only given to the “privileged.” By the time we may have a chance at rehabilitation, it’s usually towards the end of our sentence where it only serves as another responsibility that we must juggle along with the task of building an entire new life.

Personally, I believe that nothing is impossible and success depends on a person’s willingness to act in any given situation. All of the regulations that come with petitioning for a second look are useful in some aspects, but for those who have committed a crime at the age of 26 or older, it only serves as an unnecessary obstacle, as your age when you committed your crime is irrelevant to who you are today. They should only require 10 years as well.

As far as staying charge-free goes, I definitely believe that “keeping your nose clean” is a discipline that will only make an individual more productive. There are some situations where we may be unfairly treated in order to sabotage our chances at a successful homecoming, but any system that cannot protect the ones it is supposed to govern will fall of its own accord. The temporary setbacks would be nothing compared to ultimate elevation of the individual. Unfortunately, I don’t currently meet the qualifications of being charge free for 5 years, but through my disciplinary infractions, I’ve become more disciplined in my own actions which have both kept me out of trouble and made me productive in other areas. Second look legislation is a great opportunity for all of us, even if we can’t see it.

My name is Shaveek Pittman, and I am currently incarcerated at Lawrenceville Correctional Center, and my projected release date is in 2026. Change is right around the corner!

Shaveek Pittman

An Earned ‘Second Look’

Right now, as an incarcerated person in Virginia, I do not have a lot of options when it comes to obtaining any form of relief from a lengthy prison sentence – and it’s definitely not based on my own willingness to rehabilitate. For years and years, incarcerated people are housed with little to motivate them into productive and meaningful rehabilitation. We are asked to merely sit quietly and wait until the time is served and there is little emphasis on correcting behaviors. We are asked to maintain employment for a majority of our time, stay charge-free, and it is not until the final years of our sentence, that we are instructed or able to take re-entry programs and the like. Still, there are many of us in here that need that extra bit of motivation, reason, and cause to push us. There are many of us who have taken measures to earn the opportunity for a second look.

This year in Virginia, there is a bill on the table to implement a policy called ‘second look.’ This would allow for the incarcerated population to petition the convicting court for possible resentencing based on who they are today.

Knowing there’s over 30,000 people in the Virginia Department of Corrections’ custody, a petitioner must meet requirements before they can submit. A person who was 25 years of age or younger at time of conviction is required to serve at least 10 years of their sentence, while those over the age of 25 must at least 15 years. The structuring of the age requirement is based on scientific findings concerning full brain development and aging out of crime.

The second, and more controversial element of this bill, is about maintaining a near perfect record for your past 5 years of incarceration. It states in the bill that an incarcerated individual cannot have been found guilty of any major institutional infractions (100 series, e.g. assaulting an officer), and only one minor infraction (200 series, e.g. unauthorized area) within 5 years prior to petitioning. You must also be at GCA (good behavior) level 1 at the time of application. This is the cause of some criminal justice advocates’ concerns. They believe that the behavioral requirements are too strict, unreasonable, and even near impossible to achieve by most prisoners.

My personal thought on the matter is that it is a little shameful for advocates on the outside to assume, that given the opportunity, we, on the inside, could not possibly maintain a charge free status for 5 years – EVEN IF OUR FREEDOM DEPENDED ON IT.

Many of the arguments provided by advocates suggest that corrupt correctional officers and staff will take ample opportunity to excessively charge prisoners, solely to ruin their chance at petitioning. Though their arguments cannot completely be disregarded, I find it rather negligent to attribute that much weight to supervision only. I have experienced COs and staff members who do not always have the best intentions and fall short of standards that should be expected of professionals in charge of human lives. But to the contrary, these individuals are far and few in between. They are probably as common as the overly obnoxious boss, supervisor, co-worker, etc. that you may experience on the outside. Plus, there are many avenues currently in place to address grievances of prisoners who deal with potentially corrupt staff members and officers.

I, myself, understand how hard it is to maintain a perfect behavioral record in prison. Early in my incarceration, I managed to receive numerous charges. Most of which, were not minor infractions. But I also understand that a “second look” law did not exist for me then. There was not much to help focus and motivate a better pattern of behavior. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way. After seeing my life heading in an unwanted direction, I had to take charge of my own rehabilitation.

When I first entered the prison system, I didn’t have a high school diploma. Not only have I acquired my GED, I’ve also been working hard to fulfill my college-level education goals. Currently, I’m taking print-based correspondence courses at Ohio University. I’m working to obtain an associate degree in social sciences. I have been mentoring young men for over 10 years, helping them find their own spiritual journeys, tutoring various subjects, and motivating them to seek higher education. For years, I brainstormed this very platform to help showcase the brilliance of people incarcerated and was given an opportunity to bring Brilliance Behind Bars to fruition, going strong for 2 years.

People grow, people change, and people can be rehabilitated, even when the odds are against them, and rules seem petty. I see this bill as an opportunity to push people in the right direction, make for more public safety in and out of the prison walls, and bring us some hope for a brighter future.

Quadaire Patterson has been in prison in Virginia for over 13 years – since 2008. He was 20 years old, caught up with the wrong people at the wrong time and ended up with an extreme 20-year sentence for robbery/use of a firearm; when he didn’t take anything or have a weapon.

Introducing Caged Cranes

The crane is born to fly… Caged, some cranes peck at themselves until they are bare. Some of them conform to their entrapments, others, they continue to fly…

The description above is not only about the tall wading class of birds known for their grace and elegance. It is also a survey of the many men I have seen held to the confines of the Virginia State Correctional System.

For over a decade, I have been one of those men… bound and surrounded. I have been sentenced to murkily strut the grounds of state correctional facilities speckled across Virginia – quite simply, as a crane caged and barred from its birthright. However, I’ve always been accompanied by the practice of prayer and meditation: my means to fly…

Furthering my spirituality by body, a friend and I came into possession of a few books on the art of Tai Chi and Chi Kung a year ago. We took to the practices in the books, got more into general health and wellness, and had an idea to help make a difference beyond the walls, Caged Cranes.

Caged Cranes is a concept that seeks to unite at-risk youth with the spiritual practices of Tai Chi and Chi Kung as a means for greater personal growth and spiritual development. It is based off of the idea that the opening of spiritual awareness is an opening to a greater outlook on life and an increased chance to see better options in less than opportune circumstances.

Fortunately, I found spiritual desire in my own journey, but I know I would have benefited from this type of programming in my teenage years. In the past 13 years of my incarceration, spiritual development has been a key pillar in my overall growth. 2008 is when I received a 20-year sentence for a mistake I made as a wayward young man, after the loss of my grandmother, Sharon Lynn Dixon. She was my rock and a vehement believer in God. She was an evangelist at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Virginia. For as long as I had known her, she was bound to a wheelchair, where she had been ever since she was shot in the back by a possessive ex-husband. As tragic as her situation was, my grandmother never let it stop her from taking to the streets every Saturday, going door-to-door to share the joy and strength she received from her belief in God. From a wheelchair, she still managed to stand as tall as anyone in the room. Her voice was always filled with vigor and passion, spirit and truth. Her hope was never sealed to the limits of her chair, it buzzed around the air she carried, and it flew as high as the heavens she envisioned.

I’ve held the spirit of my grandmother close every step of the way through my incarceration. Through her spirit, I have found my own connection and relationship to God and spirituality. A relationship that has kept me on a path of great personal growth and spiritual development. Growing up, we didn’t have much, but what my grandmother gave me has proven itself a priceless and irreplaceable treasure. A message I wish to share with others who find themselves caged: imprisoned by circumstance. No matter the obstacle or situation, we are all cranes with a birthright to soar.

I am imprisoned, but by body only. My mind continues to soar above and beyond the prison walls. I never gave up on my desire to seek higher education and help others. When I first entered the prison system, I didn’t have a high school diploma. Not only have I acquired my GED, I’ve also been blessed with an opportunity to fulfill my college-level education goals. Currently, I’m taking correspondence courses at Ohio University. As of right now, I’m seeking to obtain an associate degree in social sciences. For years, I brainstormed this very platform to help showcase the brilliance of people incarcerated and was given an opportunity to bring Brilliance Behind Bars to fruition, going strong for nearly 2 years.

My successes in the darkest of places only prove that progress is possible for those who may have experienced difficult childhoods or economic drawbacks.

I truly believe that the troubled youths of today can benefit from the practice of Tai Chi, and we can work with them to identify the spiritual beacons of their own lives. My hope is that this would result in an increase in youth achievement and lower incarceration rates for young vulnerable black men and boys – helping them find a higher purpose within themselves to achieve their goals.

I plan to implement this and other programming to give back to the community when I am released.

Q. Patterson, Founder of Brilliance Behind Bars

Editors Note: To learn more about Q, take a look at his origin story here.

CRT: Second Class Citizens

I greet everyone in the Moorish greeting of Islam! My name is Antoinne Pitt #1157338, housed at Lawrenceville Correctional Center.

The topic of critical race theory should be closely examined in order to over stand the perpetuation of mental slavery. The 13th amendment abolished physical servitude unless punishable for a crime. Minority elites established a highly racist system known as apartheid meaning apartness in which minorities and people of the olive hue were denied political rights. In the days of civilization, the olive hue people were divided amongst classes based on those who were considered to be evolved or civilized based upon religious beliefs, education and economic status and the attainment of this status ensured access to more granted privileges and protection under the legal system per U.S. constitution. Those who were considered uncivilized were those who would not surrender to their religious customs, and beliefs and were classified as 3/5ths of a person. Our olive skin complexion makes us of the same class but economic status and social status creates division within the classes. This social construct of race is a destructive nature that is manipulated by the divide and rule policies of authoritarian regimes.

Our legal system is derived from Civil or Roman law and the belief that men and women are not endowed with the capacity of self governing. All law and authority is therefore derived externally from statuses devised and imposed by rulers whether a pope, king, monarch or government. This system was developed from philosophy and Roman property law in which creation is divided and human beings are treated as chattel and the possessions of others are devoid of inherent liberties. We are thus in every sense enslaved and cut off from the world given freely in common to all. This slave system ranks and categorizes people, and grants restricted freedoms that are defined and limited through statutes issued by the rulers, the ones that institute the laws, in which prison is a institution used to warehouse property, property being the one’s that broke the laws in which the rulers instituted. This is why the prison system is disproportionately black. A system was designed and put in place for people of the olive hue to get caught in it’s entanglement. Law protecets racism because it is said that ignorance is no excuse for the law and black is a state of ignorance. Until we understand law and it’s origin, we will continue to over populate the penal system. What we see today is the result of a so called black race being treated as second class citizens. As long as we are viewed as such, the law will never be for us, but against us, and the United States constitution is the law of the land. Peace.

My conditional pardon was recently denied but the fight for freedom hasn’t and will not stop. Sign my online petition Seeking Justice For Antoinne Pitt and go to www.infinitypublicationsllc.net to see a sypnosis of my curriculum “Thinking With A Purpose,” which is a curriculum created to reduce the rate of recidivism and prevent criminal thinking and influences. Also you can contact my publisher Winter Giovanni the founder of Infinity Publications to learn more about my curriculum C.O.A.T (Countering Overdoses and Addiction Treatment) a curriculum created to prevent and reduce the rate of opioid overdoses. I came in love and leave in peace.

PROTECT THE BLACK VOTE

by Lord Serious

The Black vote in America is constantly under attack. For this country to proclaim itself as the greatest democracy in the world – while at the same time it systematically devises new schemes and policies to dilute and undermine the Black vote – is not only hypocritical, it is also criminal. Since being kidnapped and brought to these shores, our people have had our Black skin criminalized and have been forced to live in chains and shackles by our White enslavers. These White overseers have consistently used the institution of slavery to dehumanize us and to justify their undemocratic suppression of the Black vote!

I remember the first time I registered to vote. It was in the summer time and I had just stopped at the neighborhood community center when I was approached by someone who asked me if I was registered to vote. I was not registered and I really hadn’t given much thought to it until that moment. I was 18 and I would be turning 19 after the upcoming November election. So as I filled out the form, I grew excited about having the opportunity to vote. I didn’t know anything about the candidates or their policies and truthfully, I didn’t care. My mother had told me we were democrats and so I was planning to vote for every democrat who name appeared on the ballot. This was in the year 2005.

As time passed, the election had totally slipped my mind. So when the first Tuesday of November arrived and I seen the line of people waiting to cast their ballots outside of the community center, I suddenly remembered that this was my chance to vote. So I parked my car and I got in line. The experience was new and exciting. There were people electioneering telling us which candidate we should vote for and why their policies would benefit us more than what their competitor had to offer. But they were only allowed to go a certain distance with us before we left them behind as the line progressed closer to the entrance. This wasn’t a presidential election so I didn’t have to wait for hours, I made it inside within maybe 30 minutes. And then, I finally reached the person who looks like they’re the gatekeeper. This person was sitting at a table right in front of the doors that led to the gym area where the voting machines where stationed and they had a list of names. When they asked for my name I proudly told them, “James Rickey Boughton, Jr.” and I gave them my address. But when they asked for my ID I stuck my hands in my pants pockets and I could not locate my ID anywhere! The gatekeeper then asked if I had my social security card with me? But I did not and when I could not produce any form of identification, I was turned away.

I was disappointed and frustrated by the whole ordeal. I had totally forgotten all about the election and the only reason I did stop was because I saw the people standing in line and the signs in front of the community center. But, had I left home with the intentions of going to vote I would have taken the proper identification with me. But I had other business to attend to, so I didn’t have time to go back home to retrieve my ID and then spend another 30 minutes waiting in that long line.

My next experience with voting was just as disappointing as the first. This time, I was detained in the city jail awaiting trial for the charges that eventually sent me to prison for the sentence I’m currently serving today. The 2008 Presidential election was projected to be the most historic election in modern history, and inmates in the jail who had never been convicted of a felony, technically still retained their right to vote. So we were informed by employees of the Sheriff’s department that we could vote in the upcoming election. This was exciting news and I couldn’t wait to vote for Obama and help elect a Black man to the highest seat in office. I asked Captains, Lieutenants and Sergeants about when I could I register and I was eventually provided some documents to sign. But no one ever provided me with an absentee ballot or a mail in ballot. And on the day of the election, I asked members of the Sheriff’s department when would I be able to vote and they claimed that the organization who was responsible for organizing the entire thing never provided the jail with the ballots for its inmates. So once again, I found my efforts to exercise my right to vote thwarted by red tape.

Today, we see states like Georgia passing new laws to target and discourage Black’s from participating in the voting process. And I can speak from experience that restrictive ID laws do discourage people and interfere with their right to cast their ballot. Furthermore, mass incarceration (our generation’s version of modern day slavery) has been used to deny many Blacks access to the ballot box. As I’ve shown you from my own personal experience, I had been denied bond, therefore, I was being detained in the city jail before I had even been to trial. I had never been convicted of any felony prior to the 2008 election, and I had every right to exercise my right vote. But due to what I believe was voter suppression being committed by the Sheriff’s department, I was denied access to the ballot. So if laws are being passed that will make these kinds of undemocratic practices illegal, then I think they are very necessary to protect the Black vote.

Lord Serious is an author, a blogger, and a podcaster. You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook at Lord Serious Speaks and you can learn more about him by visiting his website www.LordSeriousSpeaks.com.