Prisons and jails are the 21st century plantations for black people in the United States, say the organizers of Mass Imprisonment and the Black Community; A National Crisis – forum set for Aug. 10.
Sponsored by the Memphis Black Autonomy Federation (MBAF), the forum will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Java Complex, 1423 Elvis Presley Blvd.
Although African Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for nearly half of the total 2.3 million prisoners in America, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice. The disproportion can be directly tied to the high level of black unemployment, says JoNina Ervin, the acting chair of the MBAF.
"Because of the high black unemployment rate in America, most crimes committed by black people are economic crimes – crimes to get money," Ervin says. "If black people could get jobs, they wouldn't be going to prison in such great numbers. Prisons and jails have become the main holding ground for chronically unemployed black people."
The war on drugs is another key reason for the mass imprisonment of blacks, says Ervin. "Most black people who are convicted on drug charges are not big-time drug dealers, but they often get long sentences."
Poor and low-income black people, black prisoners and their families must work together to demand full employment and an end to the war on drugs, Ervin says.
The forum is free.