Inspired by Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book, “The New Jim Crow,” this series of radio documentaries explores and gives voice to the continuing struggle for racial justice in the United States, during the era of mass incarceration.
“The New Jim Crow offers a devastating account of a legal system doing its job perfectly well. We have simply replaced one caste system with another one.”
– Forbes Magazine
From Reform to Transform: California’s Prop 47 and the Movement to End Mass Incarceration
From Reform to Transform introduces listeners to passionate racial and social justice advocates in California who crafted, promoted, and saw through to victory a bold state proposition that changed the criminal justice landscape across the United States. In November 2014, California state Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, passed with 60% voter approval, reducing most “nonserious and non-violent” property and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Exploring Prop 47’s impacts nearly a year later, this installment of the Bringing Down the New Jim Crow radio documentary series features a fascinating array of interviews that shed light on the differences and interconnection between policy reform and deep-rooted social transformation.
Some Thoughts On Mercy: An Essay on Race and Redemption, written and read by Ross Gay
In this provocative radio essay, a commonplace encounter with racial profiling opens the door to the vast and painful reality of racism in the United States. A touching and unsettling personal account, Ross Gay’s “Some Thoughts On Mercy” captures the lived experience of a black man on the lookout for humanity and redemption within the confines of our racist society. Testimony emblematic of an era echoing the names of black men, and boys, like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
The Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement: The Struggle for Freedom and Transformation Continues
At the forefront of leadership in the struggle to end the US system of mass incarceration stands the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement (FICPM), a nationwide coalition of formerly incarcerated men and women who are holding forth a radical vision for justice and transformation, and who are putting that vision to work in towns and cities across the nation. This 29-minute radio documentary highlights the voices of nine members of the FICPM steering committee, men and women who have experienced the workings of the US criminal justice system from the inside out, and who have dedicated themselves to the work of building a new and better future, not only for presently and formerly incarcerated people, but for the entire nation.
A New Way of Life and the New Underground Railroad
Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, points to A New Way of Life Re-Entry Program in South Los Angeles as a model for the kind of bold initiative needed to build what she calls a “new underground railroad” — a network of families, faith communities, and organizations dedicated to providing desperately needed support and love to those newly released from prison. This 29-minute radio documentary weaves together the voices of Michelle Alexander, Susan Burton (founder of A New Way of Life), and five residents of this remarkable re-entry program for women, showing the human face of those our society stigmatizes as “criminals” and illustrating the essential role of the emerging “new underground railroad” within the growing movement to dismantle the U.S. system of mass incarceration.
Children of the Same Sorrow: The U.S./Mexico Caravan for Peace Takes On the Drug War
This moving and provocative documentary chronicles the historic journey of the “U.S./Mexico Caravan for Peace,” which from August 12th to September 12th, 2012, crossed the entire United States calling for an end to the war on drugs and bearing witness to the human rights nightmare unfolding in Mexico. Radio documentarian Chris Moore-Backman travelled with the caravan for 5 days, capturing the spirit and message of those on board, and examining the deep connection between the struggle for peace in Mexico and the struggle to end the racist system of mass incarceration in the United States. The show features a dialog between Michelle Alexander (author of “The New Jim Crow”) and Javier Sicilia (renowned Mexican poet and leader of the “Mexican Movement for Peace, with Justice and Dignity”). It also includes heartbreaking testimonies of mothers of victims of Mexico’s horrific drug war violence, and interviews with the U.S. and Mexican activists who launched this historic bi-national effort. A powerful testament to twin justice movements, which points to the crucial need for movement unity across races, and across borders.
On the Other Side of the Myth: A Conversation with Michelle Alexander and Tim Wise
This second installment in the series titled Bringing Down the New Jim Crow features the first ever dialog between legal scholar Michelle Alexander and anti-racism educator Tim Wise. An engaging, provocative interchange touching on the prison-industrial complex, white privilege, Trayvon Martin, and the unceasing quest for racial justice in the United States. Produced by Chris Moore-Backman, with music by Joe Henry.
A Bitter Harvest: California, Marijuana, and the New Jim Crow
This documentary views Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” through the lens of California’s marijuana industry. Marijuana is the single largest agricultural commodity in California and it is the primary vehicle for the war on drugs’ racialized arrest and incarceration system, which has our prisons bursting at the seams nationwide. Great numbers of predominantly white men and women grow, harvest, and process marijuana in California for distribution throughout the United States. Local law enforcement and the communities they represent – communities whose economies are marijuana-dependent – benefit from letting this part of the illegal process go mostly undetected, while the crackdown happens almost exclusively in poor inner-city neighborhoods of color. Through interviews with Michelle Alexander, Stephen Gutwillig (Drug Policy Alliance), and Vincent Harding (renowned veteran of the African-American Freedom Movement), this program cracks open the question of why and how this discrepancy exists, and it explores some of its devastating consequences. It’s a show that grapples head on with the reality of white privilege in the United States.