(Photo by Tieshka Smith)
Mass incarceration is undeniably real, and the facts are laid out in Michelle Alexander‘s 2010 book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
But the book is dense and difficult to digest, drowning out data that should serve as a call to action:
- There are over 2.4 million people imprisoned in the U.S. That’s the most of any country, and has increased over 500 percent since the Nixon administration declared a “war on drugs.”
- Of those 2.4 million, 60 percent are people of color.
- 75 percent of people convicted for drug charges are of color.
- This has resulted in the disenfranchisement of over 2 million people of color — 7.7 percent of black adults, compared to 1.8 percent of non-people of color.
“It’s a guide of factual information for the person who has always felt these things to be true but didn’t have the facts to back it up,” said LaNeshe Miller White, marketing manager at the Painted Bride Art Center. “There’s so many facts in the book to back up the feelings we’ve always had.”
But how do you convey that data in a way that will really stick, rather than just throw a facts sheet in front of someone’s face? That’s what Miller White and a cohort of nine other local artists will be attempting to do at the Painted Bride on April 28 in a continuation of their “Souls of Black Folk” series.
The medium is a talk show format that will enable the multidisciplinary group of artists — playwrights, digital artists, spoken word poets and more — to present their work in one cohesive night.
“It’s important to be able to give this factual information in an artistic way where we can teach people that there are facts behind this,” said Miller White. “This is like a Michael and Kelly kind of talk show.”
Attendees can expect a diverse range of performances that articulate the factual severity of the New Jim Crow.
“It’s not just prison, but traffic stops up to prison and beyond that,” Miller White said. “It’s what happens once you’re released — the things that go on your record even if you were never convicted.”
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