Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bringing Black college men and Black Male inmates together(REPOST FROM MYSPACE ACCT)


Bringing Black college men and Black Male inmates together

Hey everyone! I had an idea that i wanted to run across you guys.....i was watching a BET news special called"Black Men::the Truth" that aired yesterday,Fathers Day,2007, and they disputed the statistic widely mentioned that there are more Black men in prison than in college.The original study that was based on was FLAWED. Having graduated from an HBCU(Historically Black College and University)..AND spent years in a state prison, I wondered ...What if we could get 50,000 to 100,000 Black men who graduated from college to reach out TO 50,000-100,000 Black inmates in prison?here is what i mean:

1). Young brothers in prison,many of them,do not have the educational tools to turn away from a life of crime.Many grew up in neighborhoods where they rarely EVER saw educated,well spoken Black men around them consistently.Mentoring on a MASS level could reverse the perception by many inmates that to be "educated" means u wanna act more "white"...or even act "gay"(Yes guys, alot of young men actually think like that!!!!!!!)

2). The program would start off dealing with younger offenders(up to 26) and expand as involvement grows.Many of our young brothers locked up CAN BE SAVED.... i'm telling you because i have been there!It wont come off "preachy" or judgmental, but can be a real, substantive way that these two segments of the Black community can unite and begin to stop the dangerous cycle that leads to so many Black men in prison. Many states have been receptive to this idea(i fished it around a bit b4 bringing it to you all).

3).College brothers would begin to become a real,substantive part of these brothers lives,not just lip service. We want to emphasize that we as Black men are capable of helping each other, and that just because we went to school,make X amount of dollars per yr,etc,that we cant give back to the community we are a part of.
4)Our Black Greek lettered organizations(Alpha,Kappa,Sigma,Omega,etc) would be an instrumental ally in this program...what better community service can you have than to help a young Brother in prison realize that they really can be intelligent,educated,and live a crime free life???

I have the raw outline for what i want this project to accomplish....But I need your help in formulating a specific strategy to bridge these two worlds together. Its time. If we don't help ourselves,Black brothers,no one will help us.Any ideas will be greatly appreciated! Once the Program is complete,i will take it and RUN with it......Holla back!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Open Letter to Dr Rachel Maddow and The Producers of MSNBC regarding Troy Davis!

Hi Rachel!

    My name is Hassan Hartley, and I watched with pain and horror last night at the amazing coverage MSNBC provided on the Troy Davis execution story. Your network provided a variety of angles on the story, which i found enlightening. One area that  I was hoping to get from your network, and your show, was the interesting juxtaposition of two executions occurring on the SAME DAY.

Two men, one white, one admits guilt, one claims innocence...both executed for charges of murder.

The opportunity to discuss the historically bad relationship between black men and the criminal justice system was missed ALTOGETHER. The historical context to provide how vastly different  many blacks viewed the execution of Troy Davis than white liberals. White liberals used this as a perfect example of why the death penalty should be abolished, and that is perfectly understandable as a position. Many of us as African Americans took a somewhat different, and more nuanced view. One that could be best described as "here we go again"...yet ANOTHER black male murdered potentially for a crime he may not have committed. It was a PERFECT opportunity to discuss how the system can still function in a way that is potentially destructive to  the African American collective. Despite having a black District Attorney, and the head of the Parole board also being a black man, yet the system functions EXACTLY the same as it did 50 years ago. 100 years ago. 200 years ago.

It was a perfect opportunity to smash the myth of race NOT being a factor in American life, even if our President is African American himself..

Instead, we heard all night about the death penalty and its inherent flaws. Notice how LITTLE outrage occurred by anyone over the white man executed for murdering James Byrd in a crime he admitted to, as an avowed white supremacist...placing these two cases side by side, to show the nuances of race in the criminal justice in the 21st century, would have provided a CLASSIC opportunity to show how SYSTEMIC racism and biases against people of color is, and the myth that placing more blacks in key positions in an inherently racist SYSTEM, will not change the system ITSELF.

The notion that the system benefits those with MONEY more than those without, is absolutely correct.

However, the fact that the average net worth and asset base of an African American is generally 20 times( i have read reports  as high as 50 times) LOWER than their average white counterparts, shows us that race and economics often overlap and intersect in the same ways they always have.

The system has the virus of racial bias in its very DNA, and must be fixed altogether.

As Dr Boyce Watkins eloquently put it, "Black men are more likely to be stopped by police, more likely to be arrested when we commit the same crimes as whites, more likely to be sent to prison and end up receiving longer sentences for the same crimes. "....

I hope that tonight, you talk about this angle, and not just pretend that race had no impact on perceptions of this case itself...

We have over 10,000 black elected officials in the United States, including an African American President of the United States.

Yet the criminal justice system is worse on black men than ever before. the condition of blacks is at its worst in DECADES.

The only point this case proves, is that the system is STILL an enemy of the black community, no matter how many blacks are selected to "execute" its agenda.

Monday, September 5, 2011

When The Lights Go Out: The TRUTH About Prison Sexuality SECOND EXCERPT!

 ....Peter, a Jamaican  inmate  also at LeavenWorth Correctional,  is an outspoken Christian, but also has a prison "wife" named  “Gi-Gi”. Peter and Gi-Gi have been involved for nearly two years at the point of  my interview with him, and he was interesting, to say the least.

“ I struggle with it every day, but I know God loves me, and can forgive me my sins”, says Peter, also 23 years old. “ “But my baby(Gi-gi) is one of the best things to ever happen to me. A lot of people think that I’m a hypocrite for  having a homosexual wife, but we love each other, and God loves us too. She doesn’t just satisfy  the needs of my body. She comforts me, as a woman is supposed to comfort a man. The Bible says that just as Christ is the head of the church, Man is the head of woman. She is my help meet while I’m here in prison, and God is working on me. Gigi makes me a better man in here”

Gi-gi, an effeminate gay Black male, is more cynical about Peters religious nature. “Chile, I love him to death, but Peter is confused boots, honey” she says. “He always be trying to get me to go to the church services 5 days a week with him. That service aint nothing but a bunch of closet queens that’s are scared that God is going to strike them down for sucking  dick and  sticking their  dick up a man’s ass. I don’t have time for all that” she says emphatically. Gigi is not a particularly religious  person, although she defines herself as “spiritual”. Although she and Peter argue incessantly about the role of religion in their relationship, she does readily admit that she loves him deeply, and that their sex life is very fulfilling. “The thing I like most about when Peter comes from church service,  is that he always wants to get freaky with me. Praise God! Amen!!!!” she muses humorously and sarcastically, although Peter does not laugh.  From my interview with Peter, I got the sense that, although he definitely has a deep love for both his faith and his relationship, he feels severely conflicted by having a foot in both worlds at the same time. Most of his Christian brothers are compassionate  and understanding with him in prison, as they have many of their own struggles with being devoutly religious, and engaging in romantic and sexual contact with  other inmates. However, they work with each other to get themselves to a place of peace in their  own lives.

Peter’s conflict is more the norm than abnormal in the penitentiary. His  Christian faith has indeed had a profound impact on his life, but it has also been  a source of religious arguments with him and his Jamaican parents. “They  call me faggot because my wife is a homosexual” he says.  Born in Kingston, and raised in the Bronx, New York, Peter faces cultural animosity over the entire notion of  same-sex interaction. Although he plans to become a Bishop or Pastor one day upon his release, he isn’t altogether certain how that leaves his relationship with Gi-Gi. “Time will tell”, he says, “but I love her dearly”.

Akbar, my boyfriend while at Deep Meadows, faced a different religious battle.  He is Muslim, and was born and raised in the Sunni Orthodox Islamic faith under the leadership of the late Imam W. Deen Muhammad.  Devout and committed in his Salat(prayer), Akbar is far more attracted to women than men, , but found himself drawn to me because we shared much in common, especially our religion. Our bond  was also emotional. A few years younger than me, he was extremely assertive without being pushy. “Allah knows best what is in our hearts” he says.  Being both Muslim, and bisexual, while being black and in prison is a set of realities colliding that most people  in prison have a different and difficult time dealing with. “The group of people I had the biggest problems with while incarcerated have been the queens. They tend to roll their eyes, call me  names, all because when I choose a man,  because I don’t like feminine guys”, Akbar says.

The friction that is developed by the mixture of personal religious choices and sexual behavior and orientation should not come as a surprise to anyone. Religion has often  been the source of the world’s most violent and deadly conflicts.  In the black community, religion, especially Christianity, and to a lesser extent, Islam, have been the dominant spiritual ideologies that shape African American collective thought as it relates to everything else in the world.

Not everyone in prison can understand the contradiction between religious piety and  “alternate” sexual orientations. “ The book of Leviticus, chapter 18, verse 22, states clearly that a man laying down with a man  is an abomination. This mess needs to stop. They are defiling the Word of God in every sense of the word”, says Jeremiah, a black male heterosexual inmate, age 46,  serving a life sentence for murder in Lunenburg Correctional in Virginia. My interview with Jeremiah was most interesting. I had been searching for a contrary opinion on the “religious issue” in prison, and Jeremiah was the perfect candidate for this position. Incarcerated since age 24, he has literally spent nearly half of his entire life behind bars. He became ordained as a Minister several years ago in prison, and now preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all inmates and officers who listen. When I mentioned to him that perhaps the Book of Leviticus would not be a proper reference to justify his distaste of  homosexuality, he became indignant in his response. Here is how the conversation went:

“May I ask you a few questions off the subject, Jeremiah?” I said. “Sure”, he replied.

“Do you eat pork, and shrimp?” I quizzed, with an innocent tone.

“Yes I do, brother. I’m not one of these Muslims running around here praying to some idol god Allah,” he replied, with a hearty laughter, unaware of what my response would be, or that he just insulted another religion with his flip comment.

To this day, I cannot believe that Jeremiah could not see what I was about to say coming, and how easily he fell into the trap that I set for him with his own scriptural references.

“Well are you aware that that SAME book of Leviticus that you quoted to condemn homosexuality, also condemns eating pork in chapter 11:7,8? And are you also aware that the eating of shellfish is also condemned in the book of Leviticus as a sin? And as I see that you have your prison uniform on, are you also aware that the synthetic fabrics that they are made of are also condemned in the book of Leviticus?” I rattled off, noticing the arrogant, pious smirk vanish from his middle aged face. “It just seems ironic that Leviticus was the basis of your argument against homosexuality, and yet you are a walking violation of at least three other condemned ‘sins’ from the SAME chapter of the SAME book of the Bible?”

At this point, I KNEW that I had  nailed him. He got visibly angry, and began rushing to quote the book of Romans as further proof of God’s disdain for homosexuality. My response was clear.

“Sir, you didn’t answer my question about Leviticus. Could you please go back to that instead of changing the subject??? It seems that if you are a Minister, than you should be able to answer  those questions about the inconsistency in your argument fairly easily. Now, back to Leviticus….”

“--Now you wait a minute , motherfucker! You are not going to  steal my joy! You are of the Devil! I rebuke thee in the name of Jesus!” shouted Jeremiah. At this point, I noticed the anger and rage in Jeremiah’s face. My first reaction was pure laughter, which did NOT help the situation at all. This man could not answer a simple fact based question about the very book that he used to condemn gays? It was clear that my questions were ones that he could not answer.

I knew that BEFORE I even raised them, ill admit to that. Sue me.

After attempting to calm Pastor Jeremiah down, the Correctional Officer had now walked back over a second time to ascertain the situation, I assured him that all was fine, and that it was merely a spirited discussion on religion and sexuality. Jeremiah was not accustomed to debating the consistency of the Bible, as was clear by his flying off the handle by my questions.  I then pivoted to a topic more germane to the reason for the interview itself, and that was his ability to cope with not being able to legally have sex for the rest of his life due to a life sentence....

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