In the opening chapter Emery, Gold, and Braselmann (2008) there is a powerful quote from Henry David Thoreau

. He comments, “The law will never make men free. It is men who have got to make the law free.” As a sentiment there has rarely been a truer observation expressed. Understanding the context of how the law has been used to abuse and violate the rights of Blacks in this country is instrumental in contextualizing the examples of racism in this country. In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Louisiana law mandating separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites on intrastate railroads was constitutional. However, the caveat was that at the time there were no Black-owned railroads to ensure that Blacks were receiving adequate service. Furthermore, there were no Black judges, politicians, or policemen, to enforce the equal part of the rule of the law. Yet, segregation as a policy and social practice was maintained so that whites in this country were able to continue in a position of privilege, and all of the aforementioned occupations as a collective whole made sure that the separate was enforced. While I was growing up, college was depicted as an unrealistic privilege, or a place that was for individuals with the exact opposite cultural upbringing that described my life. Most of the adults I knew went straight to work from high school, or simply never did much at all. To me, they appeared to be fairly successful; at least in the sense that they were not living on the street. My belief in this sentiment stemmed from the fact that there were members of my community that called concrete crevices and deserted entrances to liquor stores home, usually do to substance abuse. The resulting consequence was that I adopted an attitude that reflected the negative light in which I viewed my surroundings and myself. My life experience, or perhaps my life with a lack of

experiences, had created an anxiety or concern in which I never seemed able to fulfill my own limitless potential. Instead, I seemed to only hold a steadfast belief in a negative stereotype about myself, my peers, and the subcultural values that were often used to define my environment and immediate social group as deficit. The intriguing fact of the matter was that perhaps my observation of my environment being obtusely insufficient was accurate. Even more pointedly, the notion that I felt no interest in the remedial stages of my education was directly linked to a longstanding history of Blacks not being given equal access to education in the United States. In 1930, the NAACP commissioned a study of the state of civil rights that were granted to Blacks in America. Exemplifying the idea of separate but not equal, were the way schools were segregated in this country. Black children and White children went to separate schools, yet the overall quality of education offered to whites was considerably better in terms of textbooks, facilities, and an academic curriculum that demonstrated that all things scholarly and ingenious were White. Charles Houston and Thurgood Marshall began addressing the issue of segregation with graduate schools with the understanding that it would be easier to prove the fallacy of the policy at the graduate level while simultaneously setting precedence for legal grounds. They were successful and the end result was that on May 17, 1954 Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas banned segregation in public schools (Emery, Gold, & Braselmann, 2008). The point is that laws are never created in a vacuum, and this is clearly an example of a law being changed to address a social ill. In the same vane, today students assigned to public schools are designated to their district school. In neighborhoods that are considered in need or socio/economically challenged, the schools in these areas demonstrate the same

needs. Black people populate most low-income neighborhoods in this country, and there is a further substantiated correlation between socioeconomic statuses and standardized testing scores. The significance is that standardized testing is used to determine a student’s viability of continuing education past the high school level, and low scores alienate individuals from the possibility of higher education. Because Black children are disproportionately poorer than whites they receive a remedial education in comparison, and are systematically weeded out of higher education. This form of institutional racism directly connects to my personal experience, and explains my disillusionment of pursuing a collegiate career. A continued part of my life experience, is that I am a member of the formerly incarcerated community. Thus, my immediate mistrust of the law and its corresponding bureaucracy. For this reason, I wanted to organize an event connected to an organization that works to address a social ill perpetuated by the system of law enforcement. I chose to do an event with Project Rebound. Project Rebound, as a service-providing entity, is a special admission program at SFSU, housed under Associated Students Inc., deals exclusively with formerly incarcerated students, both current and prospective. Assisting both men and women who wish to enter SFSU, Project Rebound provides an academic and social network, that allows its students to redefine and “rehabilitate” themselves, with education as the primary vehicle. The “Spread Off” was an event where formerly incarcerated individuals, some of whom currently attend SFSU prepared “traditional” prison foods that consisted of junk food items- potato chips, ramen noodles, beef jerky, pork rinds, kool aid, etc. The

combination of these and other items to make more traditional types of dishes such as sweet and sour pork are tangible examples of making something innately undesirable into something edible and more akin to home style cuisine. The purpose was to demonstrate that even in a set of circumstances as purposefully degrading as imprisonment there are traceable strands of humanity. There are traceable strands of humanity because prisons are filled with the mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, and children of the rest of the living world. Part of dispelling any variety of stereotypical myths is illustrating that generalizing any group of people based of the inaccurate perceptions of individuals is wrong. Watching fellow students and current faculty members taste the various dishes and ultimately decide on a winner was unique and refreshing as an experience. The most astounding aspect of the event was that even after a winner had been declared, and all of the dishes had been sampled, the judges and audience members finished the rest of the food. The highest compliment that could have been paid to the men and women who have grown accustomed to being looked at as less than. My intent was to give a face to an issue that is ultimately regarded as uncomfortable. I wanted the guest and participants to realize that there are probably more factors unifying them as people than there are separating them as formerly incarcerated and upstanding citizens. The event was less about social justice and more

accurately described as a reckoning; the reconciliation of conflicting ideologies. All people make mistakes, and the sequence of events that eventually lead to making a mistake can never be undone. However, to force an individual to be defined by that mistake and ultimately be treated as less than for a lifetime is the biggest crime of all. The organizing of the event was a challenge in and of itself. Part of my plan was to promote coalition building amongst other ASI entities and to foster personal relationships and community building in the school as a whole. I went to the varying other programs housed within ASI and they all vocalized their intent to attend in the event as active participants and contribute to the success of the event. Several organizations have tied the issues of their own served populations to that of Project Rebound’s and stated that they would integrate themselves into the event and engage in an initiated and possibly ongoing conversation about how each of our student groups could benefit from continued collaboration. The general consensus was that we were all trying to correct some social injustice that had been created by a system that is inherently racist, sexist, elitist, etc. I had counted on the integration of these other points of view to add to the richness of the event. Because I attributed the success of the event to a projected diversity among its participants, the event, although successful, was hindered because these individuals were unable or unwilling to fulfill their commitments to attend.

In dealing with this disappointment, I learned in the end that there were contradictions in the way that varying programs and individuals wanted to evoke social change not unlike the differing perspectives between civil rights’ organizations like SNCC and SCLC. These two organizations, fighting for the same cause, had conflicting perspectives. The culmination of these differences was evidenced in the incident nicknamed “Turnaround Tuesday.” During the Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965, SNCC and other groups faced physical persecution at the hands of embittered white southern racists, crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge out of Selma. “Bloody Sunday,” as it is also known, gave rise for SNCC to call for support from Dr. King’s SCLC only two days after the violence against SNCC. The following Tuesday, instead of facing the enemy head on and facing the consequences boldly endured by SNCC members, Dr. King, in an effort to protect his people, chose to “turnaround” and turn his back on the possible infliction of harm on other human beings. The concluding result was that we were able to cultivate new relationships and re-establish existing ones with the individuals and specific organizations that were in attendance. Understanding that it is not always about the quantity of people that are willing to attend an event is essential. Sharing a common bind with a few individuals that hold in their hearts the same passion for change is all you need to create a movement.

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