tv Becoming Ms. Burton CSPAN June 10, 2017 8:00pm-9:15pm EDT
openness is our greatest asset. afterwards airs on booktv every saturday. at 10 p.m. and sunday at 9 p.m. eastern. you can watch all previous afterwards programs on our website booktv.org. good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the baptist church in the city of new york. we're delighted that you can join us tonight. we're looking forward to a very informative and inspiring night. tonight you're joining us for a conversation on women and
incarceration and i'm delighted that the new press who has publishing the book becoming this burden, sent me a note suggesting that we tick a look at the book. now, i will tell you that across a year, i may get from various publishers maybe 20 or 30 new books. asking me to read them and i have to share my opinion or else share my -- share my opinion on a cover or share my opinion with members of our congregation. i can't rad them all but fortunately i read this one and i read it because it had a forward by an author, and an activist and a lawyer named michelle alexander. i was coming out of a program similar to this at the library one evening and one of the panelists was the late vincent harding i knew him from my days
at a student at the college and he saw me, he knows me as calvin he said hey, calvin before you leave, i want to make sure you get a book. and i said what book is that? he said the jim crow and i went and got the bock and i read it like many of us -- i was further enlightened and, of course, became increasingly even more angry. so i thank michelle for being here tonight. i thank suzanne for being here tonight. and also thank you for coming so that you can learn more about women and mass incarceration. this today would be the 92nd anniversary of the birth malcolm x and i think we ought to salute his memory with a round of applause. [applause]
i haded pleasure of meeting suzanne byrd the other day borns in housing projects of 1950 in los angeles. i was immediately infatuated by her. she's -- intoxicating in terms of what she bringses to passion she brings to her cause. and when heard and raised o.c. about how the death of her son into this, i was immediately impressed. you will hear more from her this evening. i've already mentioned michelle alexander civil rights lawyer advocate legal scholar and best selling author. and i should also tell you that -- later after the discussion, the book of becoming will be on sale be downstairs in our bookstore.
where's ms. graham make sure i'm right about this. now down stairs in our bookstore soy encourage you all to go down after it is over and get a copy. you're signing them -- yes ms. byrd will be signing them and i'm sure after you hear this discussion you will want to get a copy. moderator tonight is archer an award-winning author and journalist and first detained recognition when she pinned her 1999 cay debut book the prisoners wife it's a powerful lyrical memoir about a young black woman romance and marriage with a man who was serving a 20 to life sentence in prison. with a hope that they would live as a couple in the outside world she became pregnant with her daughter. a former feature editor for essence magazine, she also wrote something like beautiful.
the continuation of her love with emotional disappointment and a serious bout of depression. in addition, archer is author of two collection of poems and novel daughter. she lives in brooklyn with her daughter lisa, and so to get tonight started, i thank you again for coming, welcome to the baptist church. you're always welcome here especially on sunday morning. we will be happy to see you we have a service at 9 and 11:30 so any time you want to stop by, come on by. but right now -- let's welcome our mod ray for moderator for the evening archer as we get started. >> good evening and let me say that i'm more than a little humbled and overwhelmed to be standing here in this historic place.
and to be in the presence of reverend barts a guiding light for many of us for me and my darkest hour and living in brooklyn couldn't always get up here but hear him on radio and held me close and tights on many sundays it was here that i saw fidel kansas trough speak. >> right. >> here that friend of mine, we come to worship with them and to love them and sometimes just to say good-bye and for holding this mountain so beautifully together for building what he's built throughout harlem please join me in thank you calvin heart. [applause] i've always overwhelmed because i'm in the presence of two women i so deeply love. suzanne and michelle. it is not easy work to put your whole heart on a page. it's not easy to expose yourself in that way, your beliefs, your personal memories.
but these two women have done it in extraordinary ways, this michelle gathering up the stories of our most harmed and pulling it together in one place, taking a position, taking a stance, not when it is as possible popular but a right, and susan excavating so much that we often want to forget the courage to do both is -- is beyond the telling it is breathtaking please join me in welcoming them so they can come to this stage and you can hear from them yours. [applause] let me thank the press whatever you want to call it to have a publisher deeply dedicated to ensuring the ruth of our stories as they have been to ensure that the new jim crow got out there,
that i watched how they work to put that book out there to make sure that everybody read it and everybody saw it was truly incredible and now to see what they've done with becomeing this burden they are dedicated to ensure and get our voices heard, and i want to thank everybody who is here from new press so we can read and hear from women tonight and i want to note that we have c-span in the house you'll note on either side we have two standing mics as some point in this program we're going to open it up to questions from you so ask that you step to that mic and speak clearly into it to make sure we hear your voices as well as see your beautiful face's they are truly beautiful finally as i begin i want to thank my beautiful daughter who is 17 and a comes with her mother to everything. she does she could be out of with her boyfriend tonight and out doing a lot but she's here doing the lord's work doing sacred work, telling the truth and that's -- [applause]
so it is with that, i have all of these questions to start with michelle -- but let me ask that you read from this stunning forward that you offer inside this book the one that so most moved reverend. well, first i want to say thank you to reverend. for -- hosting this event here tonight. and to say how honored i am to be here with suzanne burton who i admire so much and become a real friend to me. over the years, and so when she asked whether i might be interest had had writing the forward or book i was just overjoyed to have the opportunity to share what her work and her life has not only o meant to me prnlly, but the gift
that she has made to the movement, to end mass incarceration and to hundreds of women who os lives have been changed and transformed because she was willing to put them before herself. this is what i wrote in the forward. there once lived a woman with deep brown skin and hair who ushered people to safety she welcomed them to safe homes and offered food, shelter and help reuniting with family and loved ones. she met them wherever they could be found and organized countless others to provide support and aid in various forms so they would not be recaptured and sent back to captivity this courageous soul knew fear and desperation of one seeing pain she felt years ago when she had been abused and shackled and
finally began her own journey to freedom deep the in night she cried out to god, begging for strength, and when she woke she began her work all over again. opening doors,en playing escape routes and hold hands with mothers as they wept for children they hope to see again. a relent advocate for justice this proud woman was abolitionist and freedom fighter and told truth to whoever ever would listen and countless hours training and organizing others derled to grow movement. she served not only as profound inspiration to those who knew her but gait wisconsin to freedom for hundreds whose lives forever changed by heroism. some people know this woman by name harriet tubman i know her susan. >> i'm crying like the first time i read that so i'm going to
take a second hold, for those beautiful words -- and -- thank you for that, michelle, thank you so much. you know, susan, just, you know, i've been thinking, you know, about what they taught us that life has to be liveredrd if and known understood backwards but i wonder if he would share with this audience what you know now to the writing of this book that you didn't understand other than when you first began writing it or when you were first inconsiders -- incarcerated. >> i would like to thank reverend and church for hosting this and thank you archer across town to our bad traffic. [laughter] and michelle you're dear to me.
i can't even begin to tell you what your book did to me and many, many others. and i want to thank the press for -- for taking this book. they don't do memoirs but they did becoming this burden. the new jim crow so i started a new u way of life thinking that -- if women had a place to go everything would be okay. but as i worked, my understanding and analysis grew, you know, there wasn't what was wrong with us. thatit was what was wrong in the society, system, systems that run the world.
and when i got a copy of the new jim crow, i knew what i knew but i couldn't put my finger on it. you know, my mom used to say, i know but i can't put finger on it i knew but i just couldn't maim it and describe it. and the new jim crow put everything that i experienced through the criminal justice system through my community. you know, in plain and distinct order. so you know as a i stayed around, and continued the work my understanding and analysis grew, and with that my commitment and determination grew to change, to change things. not only for myself. but for everybody who crossed my path, and that's -- that's resulted in, many
movement building in systems change. in leadership development, and in building a strong community that stays and sticks and fights together. >> uh-huh. thank you for that. susan let me ask this of both of you buzz you talked your own sorts of narrative art for your learning curve who michelle told before that as well. i'm very aware that we have a much larger conscienceness about ending mass incarceration now it wasn't this bigs when you started critical resistance in 1997 with angela davis. but i wonder -- what it was that was disrupted in our own communities and this is to boat of you that can allow 2.2 million peel to go missing on our lot. was there any sort of false sense of morality that actually descrupghts our freedom with a politic of respectability with
the way of where we need to know as a community and a people. just to both of you? [inaudible conversations] >> well -- you know, i would say that l real genius that it leads those trapped within it and as well as their families to blame themselves most entirely -- for their experience. you know, when i grow up i use experiment with drugs i hung out with people who stole. we jumped into a car that wasn't ours and went joy riding. but i lived in a solidly middle class community where police were not stopping and searching and frisking us. and i committed those krill and misdemeanors off to college and went off to law school, and lived rest of my life never for a minute feeling guilty or
tortured about the fact that i got high when i was in high school or college never feeling this sense of deep unworthiness -- barack obama did all of those things but maybe not the same thing but a lot of them and wengts on to be president of the united states but in so many of our communities, young people screw up and mess up. an they get in trouble like young are people, human beings do because we all make mistakes stumble and fail. and those young people get branded and shamed. and locked in literal cages and dehumanized and when they're released they're stripped of all of their basic civil and human rights making it -- virtually impossible for them to ever find work or get housing or meet their basic needs, and
blame themselves and families will often blame themselves and one with another why can't you just get a job. what's wrong with you? why are you back on ?reets why can't you get it stoght? and the system of mass incarceration turned against each other and reality is people of all colors used and sold drugs that nearly identical rates. for decades -- but it been black and brown demonized and lockedded up and locked out when crime rates rose in our community violent crime rates rose, few people in government stood back and said well what's really going on? how can we help? because raiment was that work had disappeared. jobs have vanished due to global capitalism and factories closed down and moveds overseas so
economic and cities, and we could have helped -- we could have responded with bailout packages and surplus plans and investing in schools but instead a literal war was declared on the poorest and most vulnerable and we round understand blaming and shaming ourselves. and -- i hope that we're moving beyond that and understand that a lot of healing needs to be done. and a lot of organizing and movement building needs to be done, and that's what a new way of life, the organization that susan has founded so thoroughly committed to, healing -- coming together in circles of honesty, providing support to one another, and then getting to work building movement to end system of mass incarceration and restore basic civil and human rights to each and every one of us.
>> magnificent answer. i just have to thank you so much, and susan let me add something to that as we pivoted and begun to talk about a any way of life and organization near and dear to my heart and just thinking, i mean, many of us don't realize because of the sheer number of men in prez that is black women's numbers -- and women's number that have gone up and double the rate of the numbers of man 832%. in the last 25 years -- or so with black women far leading that. that pack and i wonder if you would talk a little bit what about we need to know about the experience of women who are incarcerated that are particular to women who are incarcerated. >> so in the book i talk about my life experience. but it's not just my life
experience. it's the experience of most incarcerated women. i know through conversation -- that the women, you know, have suffered so much prior to incarceration and my thought is, is this the way we treat trauma and childhood abuse is to cage and lock people up and punish them? later on and they -- in their ladder years, in california for 50 years, there was one prison. and when the were on drugs hit our community, california built a biggest women's prison in the world. and i see the women come back from those places --
with this fear in their eyes and hope in their mouth. thinking and talking about what they want to do and how they want to do, but i, i see the fear and i feel the fear rolling off of them as they want to and want to rebuild their lives and get their children back and come back in the community. back in the community safe. >> you know results of theg about this experience inside. i mean, i can remember -- when i would go to visit my husband in prison, raining dead of winter anything but mine, package and babies was like this. when i started visiting him in 1 there were a couple of vans that would come u through my area in brooklyn and pick me up by the time that ended, there were buses --
whole bus company coming to do it and what i never failed to miss is that in the women prison there was never a line. nobody going to visit women and i would volunteer in men and in women prison it was almost no service available. that has been 20 years or so -- >> the lines about lines in the people -- that's going to see the few that do come is -- a mother, a grandmother. a husband to get there to visit to try to keep the tie and the bonged. you know there was rhetoric coming out of the white house about welfare queen and crack momma and so forth, and i think that just penetrated the fabric
of our communities and our society. to say this is the black woman and she shouldn't have done what she did. and we're just going to throw her away baa we're not throw away people. we are not throw away women ppg [applause] we hold potential, power, love, groundedness. you know, the future of our community. you know, and i just want to say we're back. and we're coming strong. [applause] and you're going to repair -- and we're going to lead and we're going to stand side by side. and make our community safe and
whole again. we're going to put the band-aids on our kids knees. and we're going to stand in the gap when those people are coming and say no you can't have this one. and you know we're going to do this by the hundred, by the thousands, by the millions and we're building that now as we speak. so i want to call out a few people in the audience. i see vivian nixon back there in the back from college and community. she's educating all of the women. and i see counsel members over here -- yeah. so i want the counsel members to stand, donna, i don't know how many of y'all are out here but yen mail wept out -- so -- you know. these are the warrior women on the frontline, so you know it
sounds like i'm going to do all of this. we're going to do this and all of you too. i mean, you can't leave here tonight and not think about what are you going to do to take your community back to make it safer. to make it holier and that's what i'll propose -- >> and then -- suzanne are you saying you're bringing new way of life to new york from california or expand? >> so yeah. so yeah in essence yes, and i want to ask to stand because you all have to -- wrap your love and your prayers around tomoya because she's going to start a home safe house for women where women can come to and get that --
support, leadership, guidance that they can come and join and be a part of this movement to. so y'all remember about she's a member here. her daddy is a deacon here. >> all right. her pastor is right over there and y'all wrap your arms around her as she takes on this strug the in fight because it's not easy. [applause] you know to both of you and to ms. sames and my beloved vivian nixon, you know i'm very aware that -- often visible leadership of the movement to end mass incarceration is often meant and yet working has been doing what
i do as women doing the everyday hard lift of the work all of the time not always in front of the mic. sometimes you don't know their name. sometimes you don't even notice their bodies. they're out there. and i see it all of the time. i have a privilege and i wonder if you would talk a little bit about what women need to be supported and doing the work of ending mass incarceration and ensuring community that is safe for all of our families. yowpght to take the first shot of that or -- >> of course i'd like to acknowledge -- any book focus primarily on the experience of black men. in our criminal justice system, and i claimed book particularly in that way because the book was inspired by experience working as a civil rights lawyer
representing victims of racial profile and police brutality and overwhelming majority of the people who were being stopped and frisked and thrown into some street and -- we're black and brown men. yet since publishing the book and even while i was writing it, i very much am aware that there was an untold story about the experiences of women in our prison system. but also the experience of women who were doing time on the outside. who are the ones who are trying to hold together families while loved ones are cycling in and out of prison. who are the places we return home to when they're just released. ...
>> and i know we won't have time here tonight for susan to tell her entire story, but i hope everyone here will really take the time to read the book. because her story of going from drug addiction after an l.a. police officer drove over and killed her 5-year-old son in the street, her story of succumbing
to addiction because no other support was available and cycling in and out of prison for 15 years never being offered help or treatment, not given access to work, not even having access to food stamps because she was a drug offender. no food for you. cycling in and out of prison for 15 years until finally she got access to a private drug treatment program. and after she got clean and got a job, deciding she was going to devote the rest of her life to making sure no other woman would have to go through what she went through. that's who she is. [applause] that's, that's susan's story. and she began by going down to the prison bus with nothing but a, you know, meeting people as they're getting off the bus with a cardboard box and saying come home with me, you know?
just sleep on my floor. you don't have to turn to the streets tonight. and that's how a new way of life began, because she opened her own home to strangers and welcomed them in. and then created five safe homes for women. and so i just hope -- [laughter] that your story doesn't get lost here and that we read your story carefully -- >> yeah. >> -- and learn what's possible when we come together with love to try to save one another. >> yes. give that just a moment. that was so spectacular and beautifully said. thank you so much for saying that about susan's work. this really -- [applause] they weren't all strangers, those were my homegirls. [laughter]
and my homegirls needed a little love too. what was so amazing to me is where i got that treatment, and, you know, santa monica we could walk three blocks to the beach. and, you know, i was so fortunate to be there and get what i got there, but i couldn't understand why we didn't have that in south l.a. too. you know, why in this community for what i went to prison for over and over and over again, you know, they got a court card and community service, you know? and treatment placement. i remember throwing my soul out to the judge and saying, your honor, you know, a policeman killed my son.
and i use the drugs. i said, is there any help for me? and he told me, 18 months in prison. you know, so when i saw and experienced something different, i felt that this something different was not only good for me, it would be good in my community too. so, thus, the story and the journey begins. and, you know, i'm just, you know, really thankful and grateful that i'm able to give and do what i do because there are women just like me who have spent 30 and 40, 47 years is the longest time that someone spent inside and came to a new way of life.
you know? and i'm glad that's not me. so, you know, my, you know, pay it forward is just what i do. and i'm grateful to be able to do it. but as we go about our daily lives, there's probably things that all of us can do that would make a huge difference to someone who just needs a hand up. you know? so i just want to say those were my homegirls. [laughter] that i brought home, yeah. >> just before i turn to the audience and see if there's any questions that people want to ask -- and if there are, i would ask you to line up now, because we don't have a whole lot of time -- tell us about your son. bring him into this space for us, susan. bring your baby here. >> so the day my son left, i
went to pick him up from school, and we walked home, and i went in the house and he went out to play. i was cooking dinner, and he brought in this pink chrysanthemum that was just -- he gave it, he said this is for you, mama. and it was just crawling with ants. [laughter] i took it, and ants were just all over my hand. and he went back out to play. he was rambunctious and very adventurous. i can remember him bringing me an ice cream stick in and saying this is for the fireplace. [laughter] you know? and the car screeched, and it hit him, and the policeman never got out of the car.
you know? that would have been hit and run, manslaughter for me. the police department never said i'm sorry. they never sent a flower or even acknowledged the loss. so today whenever one of our black men are killed, i feel it all over again. and then when the verdict comes back and it says that he's not going to be charged, i feel it all over again. so that was my kk. and he is smiling down on us today and cheering us on and clearing the way, you know? i feel that. so, yeah. >> we say his name, kk -- >> kk. >> thank you so much. >> kk. >> kk. >> yeah. >> so i'm going to stop the line here, because i don't think we'll be able to get any more
questions than this and just ask people to the extent we can, you know how we are, and we're in a church too, so there's that. capsule as much as we can so we can get to as many questions and i can get to the final question i have tonight. >> yes, i'll be very quick. my name is thomas, and i'm a candidate for city council in west harlem. and, ms. alexander, i read in your book where you talk about where black people have gone from exploitation, slavery to marginalization to mass incarceration, and, i mean, jim crow to mass incarceration. my question is where do you see the future for the black male when in new york city 40% of black men have dropped out of high school for the last 30 years? where do you see us in an economy now that is rooted in education, not government jobs and where service jobs can no longer support a family? thank you. >> well, thank you so much for
your your question, and we're living in a time right now where there are going to be fewer and fewer jobs available for people who are considered unskilled, people who either dropped out of high school or don't have a college degree. there was a time when you didn't even necessarily have to finish high school in order to get a good job that could support yourself and a family. you could get a good factory job. you could get a good industrial job and support yourself and family. that's not true anymore. because of global capitalism and de-industrialization, factories have closed down, moved overseas and left entire communities and neighborhoods devastated. and there is no plan to save us. >> yes.
>> the war on drugs and the get-tough movement was a response in many ways to communities that are no longer needed, but are viewed as disposable, you know? during slavery we were needed, whether you're a male or female, you are needed in the fields. during jim crow there was a role for us as well, and if people fled jim crow and came to northern cities, they were able to work in factories and support themselves. and now those jobs are gone, and there is no plan to invest heavily in our inner city schools or in the neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by mass incarceration. and so i fear that even as our prison system may be downsized
somewhat, that we will see technological forms of surveillance and control in our communities. gps monitoring systems slapped on our kids at young ages that never come off. in-home surveillance systems, ways of keeping communities that are seen as no longer necessary to the functioning of the american society under control and in check. but this is not the way the story has to end. >> that's right, that's right. >> and it's up to us. and it can seem overwhelming and deeply depressing, particularly in a time like this with the president like the one we've got. but our communities have faced greater obstacles -- [applause] >> that's right. that's right. >> there was a time when it seemed like it would never end -- [applause] when harriet tubman was planning
her escape route, it seemed crazy to imagine that slavery would come to an end, and it did. and ordinary people who didn't even have the right to vote organized and mobilized and brought the old jim crow to its knees. we can do this. we can rebirth a new america, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy where everyone has a right to work, a right to a quality education, a right to health care. the basic civil and human rights that people take for granted in other nations, we can birth an america -- >> that's right. >> -- right here that honors the voices and the lives of each and every one of us. but it won't happen if we do not commit ourselves thoroughly and with great passion and conviction precisely the way susan burton has demonstrated in her own life. and so i view her as a model, as an example of what is possible. [applause]
>> thomas, if memory serves, you were a student activist at john jay college, and we took over buildings, and we protested. i've got a good memory, honey. i've grown up a little bit, but 25 years didn't take all that away. and we said then if everybody couldn't go to school, nobody was going to go to school. and we i saw then they were taking the exact amount of money out of higher education and putting it into prison building, and we refused to allow that to happen. i haven't turned my back on the work, and apparently neither have you, so we're going to win this battle. >> that's right. [applause] >> and i forgot, vivian. >> first of all, congratulations, susan, on the book. >> yes. >> so it did finally arrive at my office. that's a private joke. >> all right. i'm like, yeah, did you get your book yet? >> i got the book, and i read it in one sitting. and i'm just, like, deeply honored to have known you all these years. and, of course, i'm always
honored to know you, michelle, and asha. i'm going to give a little context for my question. from the johnson-warren crime to the nixon-warren drugs to bill clinton's 1994 crime bill, you know, we have seen our own communities be bamboozled into believing that a war on our own people would benefit our community. >> yes. >> how -- question one is how do we prevent that from happening again. and, two, how do we stop attorney general jeff sessions -- >> that's right. >> -- from taking us back 50 years into the dark ages? thank you. >> [inaudible] [applause] >> you want to jump on that? >> i would like, well, i was going to say, i think one of the things that susan can speak to is the critical importance of formerly incarcerated people and people who have been directly impacted as emerging as leaders
in this moment in time. because it is easy to demonize the criminals when you don't meet them, when you don't know them, when you don't hear from them and come to learn their stories. and anyone who reads susan's story is going to understand why the war on drugs is something that can never, ever be revived on the scale that it was and that we must be end it once and for all in this nation. but i hope susan will speak to the importance of formerly incarcerated people, especially women in this time, at this critical stage in building a national movement not only to end the war on drugs, but to restore basic rights and repair the damage that has been done over the last few decades. >> you know what i can say -- thank you for that, vivian. vivian recently hosted a group of us in arizona, the formerly
incarcerated and convicted people's movement. and we began there to strategize on how we are going to take the forefront of fight to end mass incarceration for women, for men, for children. and, you know, it's -- i mean, we have to be there. we have to be at the forefront. we are not going to be bamboozled, you know? you know, sessions, i heard him, and my thought was, you know, where is the hood? you know? he's got to have one somewhere. but, yeah, that was my -- that was shame my thought, oh, man, where's the hood. [laughter] but, you know, we have to band together and not let him take us back to draconian laws and practices. we've seen that mass
incarceration has failed our states, our country, and we -- the formerly incarcerated people -- is in the front and in the lead of that fight. so it's important that we speak truly in our voice and lead in the ways in which we know will work, and we'll change the society, the atmosphere, the crazy thoughts about who people are. >> i would just add -- [inaudible] >> you know, this movement has got to be built neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community, city by city. you know? jeff sessions can say from the justice department we want to bring back law and order and revive the drug war, but if in our communities we say, no, and we organize to insure that, you
know, drug use and abuse is treated as a public health problem not as a crime, that we actually insure that we create sanctuary safe spaces for people who need help, there's a sanctuary movement that has emerged around immigrants who need safe places. we need to create safe places within our own communities for people who need help with drug treatment, access to basic support services, building places like a new way of life and organize to decriminalize and legalize, you know, drug use and addiction in ways that only harm our communities. but this has to the happen right where we are, wherever we live, city by city, town by town. and there's already enormous momentum at the state level in so many communities, and i think
that rather than adapting a mindset simply of trying to resist what donald trump and his cronies have in mind, we need to continue to build a truly transformational, revolutionary movement neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community to insure that, you know, we end this history and cycle of creating these enormous systems of racial and social control. >> you know, michelle, i just -- that's so right. i just want to mention here that, you know, one of the most shocking things that i found out was that 75-85% of the people who use drugs, any drugs from heroin to cigarettes do not become addicted. most people who use drugs never have a problem. they pay their taxes, raise their kids can all of this. we've put prison in prison -- put people in prison based on their color. there has been a legal system of doing drugs and living your life and doing fine. that was for white people,
right? not for us. that's what most of drug use is. when we often see the chaotic drug use that they show on "48 hours," what they're not showing you is what michelle said that was taken out of our communities, jobs, mothers, fathers swept away. and i'd also like to say that the black power movement was started by a formerly-incarcerated person by the name of malcolm x. can we have the next speaker? >> i'll try to make this brief. it is a privilege, ms. alexander, to be in your presence. i just want to say that -- >> thank you. >> -- and i have a question for you both as well. after i read your book, "the new jim crow," i gasped and i was mobilized. and i realized that it was the most important book that i have ever read in my life. and so the beautiful words that you wrote for sister burton apply to you. you are harriet tubman as well, and i just have to tell you that i thank you so much. [applause]
>> thank you. >> the courage, the love, the passion and the intellect that you have that you bring to such a sensitive issue that is literally destroying our community, you are a blessing. >> yes, she is. yes, she is. >> my question for both of you, and that is where do you draw two very strong ladies, where do you draw your strength and courage from? >> thank you. >> so i lost a son. and in that space in loss, the love was still there. so that love of my son goes out, and that void is filled.
so i've had 300 kks since i lost kk. 300 of the women have been reunited with their children, with their child. so it's the love for life, my community that drives and sustains me. you know? it can't be put out. and it has to to flow. [applause] you know, it just has to flow. so i recognize that's where the passion and the drive, it's unending. >> thank you, susan. >> yes. >> michelle? >> well, you know, i think it's important to admit that this work can be really depressing and discouraging sometimes. you know? i think we just, you know, have
to act knowledge that sometimes it's just not -- acknowledge that sometimes it's just not easy to stay motivated and inspired. but in all honesty, it is people like susan that keep me going. and it was my experiences when i was representing people who were victims of police brutality and racial profiling and i saw what was happening in their communities and how those -- everybody had to just find a way to make a way out of no way and go on. that really filled me with, yeah, i became obsessed. [laughter] with wanting other people to see what i had finally come to see and understand. i should also add that, you know, my dad dropped dead of a heart attack at an early age. he had been in and out of jobs, evicted multiple times, and is, you know, there's a saying that,
you know, if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger. sometimes it just kills you, right? and in our communities, there are so many folks we're just losing because we haven't yet found a way to make a way out of no way. and what i've seen through folks like susan and many people all over this country is that when we come together, we can do the impossible. >> yes, we can. yes, we can. [applause] >> we can make a way. [applause] and so i feel like i owe it to all those freedom fighters who came before us, to all the harriets and the idas and all of those who came before us not to give up and to take time and to rest and rejuvenate, but then get back to work. because literally, the lives of those we love and future generations depend on us not
giving up. >> so i wanted to adjust to that that i do understand that i will not be here forever. and at some, at some point, you know, i'm going to sort of slow down a bit. so it's my responsibility as a leader to build a leadership and train and multiply. so you saw some of that, you know, when folks stood. but, oh, back in l.a. there are women and men that we are going through training, going to demonstrations, and the numbers are being multiplied that we will lead broader and stronger. >> thank you for that, susan. let me just name -- we've got roughly ten minutes or so left,
and so i see a line of three, four, five people, so we'll keep that under advisement. >> my name is alyssa, i am a member of the national council -- >> okay. [inaudible conversations] >> my question -- [laughter] but i just really want to say congratulations on the book. i will read it. but what can i do as a new york state policy advocate to assist you in bringing a new way of life to new york state? because i'm here to do it. >> all right, all right. [applause] >> yeah, okay. [applause] so, you know, at a new way of life we do housing, but we also do policy, advocacy, organizing, we have six attorneys on staff, and it all started in that little house, that little bungalow in watts. so once again, toe peek ca sand. she needs help.
i needed help, people came. it wasn't just all me. community helped and supported me. >> thank you. >> all right. >> i want to thank you very much for sharing your story and advocating for those women and men and families who are incarcerated. i'm an early childhood educator, and 20 years ago i was director of head start programs in westchester and rockland counties. and i don't know how, but bedford hills called me and asked me to come in to the prison to work with the parents of the children, the inmates who had children. because, you know, as you know that bedford hills was the first prison to allow their inmates to keep their children until they were 18 months old. >> that's right.
>> and i didn't know -- i was, like, why me? i mean, i'm an early childhood educator, but i didn't know what to say to them. but when i got through the gates and all of the locks and keys, i saw just, like, my next door neighborhood. >> motherings. >> and it was so, like, wow, this could happen to anyone. this could happen to anyone. and i loved them, they loved me, and i was in a school and, you know, they changed classes. and my class was early childhood education. and they were like, oh, wow. and one of my students was jean harris. >> wow. >> she was sitting right before -- >> let me just -- forgive me. ask you to ask a question. >> okay. >> i'm so sorry. >> the question is do they have those -- i'm not promoting myself, but do they have those programs? because my question is what about the children? what about the children?
you know? they're feeling, like, my mother left me, whatever. are there programs, mommy and me programs? are there things that are going on to help the children and the family stay together? not just visit, but programs? >> you know, there's an annual, annual bus could get on the bus, an annual bus ride mothers' day and fathers' day for people in california, i think. of it's done by catholic charities, and they are talking about taking it nationally. but i think it's our responsibility to begin to remove the shame and educate our young people about, you know, why their parents are away, what mass incarceration looks like, how jim crow evolved out of
slavery and resurfaces today. but then there's the little children that are longing also. i just say we need to bring our people home. >> right. >> and keep 'em home. [applause] >> thank you so much. you know, the biggest predicter of whether or not someone's going to be incarcerated is foster care, so just naming that. when we take away the parents, we continue the cycle quite often. >> yeah. stuck in the foster care. >> hi. my name is mia thornton, i'm a clinical therapist at the bronx d.a.'s office, and i really just wanted to ask how do we insure that in the same ways we focused on african-american male trauma we start intentionally focusing on female trauma? because you talked about in the new jim crow so eloquently policing practices, intentional incarceration. and what we haven't really
delved into was the ways in which black female victimhood, like having dv in your home, it makes you a target for your family to be separated. and often times that's the gateway to black female criminalization. and joblessness, because if a case is founded, your ability to work as a nurse, a teacher, a social worker, things that women are often interested in doing and being are now no longer on the table. and so how do we make both our community and other communities more aware of the ways in which black women are being criminalized and no one notices? >> thank you so much. i just want to -- >> so it sounds like a good story -- >> super, somebody else just got online, so what i want to say is if we're going to do this, people have got to say the question in 30 seconds and move on so we can get everybody's voice in. >> you know, there needs to be a good study around the new york stock nexus. i already know what it is, but
people don't belief it until it's in a good report. but you really have to read the book. you really have to read the book, because i'm there with you. >> [inaudible] poster child is also -- >> yes. kimba smith. >> hello. my name is -- [inaudible] i'm a middle schoolteacher on the upper west side, but i also work for the new york city teaching fellows' program. and i'm going to be director this year. in regards to an organization that employs mostly people of color to teach students of color, what do you want me to tell these white teachers this summer? [laughter] [applause] >> yeah. i think you already know what to say. >> you want a mic to drop it? [laughter]
>> is it my turn? >> yes. >> my name is velma banks -- >> could you step up to the microphone? >> i was -- [inaudible] and they didn't know what to do about our -- [inaudible] and i was at john jay college for ten years. so i have an answer, and that is we have to look at the devastation of our souls and understand we have a culture that can help us get past anything. the other thing i would like to ask is what is your consideration for prayer as a practical solution for earthly pain? >> thank you so much. >> yeah. [applause] >> you know, i prayed on the way over here and not only did i pray -- [laughter] the uber driver prayed the -- prayed for me too. >> we can't, we can't, forgive me.
>> [inaudible] >> -- wanted to make sure i asked that question of you. and this is the article he wrote. >> thank you. >> [inaudible] [applause] >> let me just mention one thing to the young teacher too. there is actually data that -- was reported in "the new york times" just a couple weeks ago that black children do better with black teachers when they see somebody who looks like them. [applause] i would ask if you could repeat that. and before anybody steps before our children, that they have done the work to heal themselves so they can stand strongly before our children -- [applause] >> yes. >> and to familiarize themselves so they are fully culturally anchored before they stand before our children. and there's any number of books that are out there that they could read before they dare take that step. >> hi.
lately there's been a wave of shows that are really popular focusing on the experience of people in prison, orange is the new black, 60 days in. how do you think that it's counterproductive or helpful for the movement and mass incarceration? >> good question. that's our final question too. >> yeah. >> so we amongst the formerly incarcerated population had, you know, a lot of conversation and critique around "orange is the new black." where i landed on it is that it began a conversation in places that i could never get into. and it elevated the conversation around incarceration, mass incarceration and people's experience. with were they exact experiences? no. but coupled with "orange is the new black" and "the new jim
crow," it really began to elevate the conversation around maas incarceration. and that's -- mass incarceration. and that's how i looked at it. i looked at it as a plus because it got into places that i could never get into to talk about mass incarceration. you want to respond to some of that, i'm sure. >> i guess, you know, i admit i have not watched all of "orange is the new black," so i'm not sure i can give a full analysis -- >> it ain't real. >> but -- [laughter] but what i would say is that it's so important for our stories to be told and for them to be told well. and, you know, it's not surprising that out of hollywood we might not get -- >> the real deal. >> -- the best representation. but, you know, i appreciate queen sugar. i don't know if anyone -- >> yeah! [applause] i think queen sugar is an example of our stories being
told very well. and i just hope that if there are people even here tonight or who are listening who have some dream or desire to go into film making or screenwriting that you take that seriously, you know? often when people think about what it means to build a movement, you think about just taking to the streets. but it takes all of us. it takes the artists, it takes the activist, it takes health care workers -- >> lord, yes. >> -- it takes people who will sit down and pray with you. it takes educators and teachers, you know? it takes all of us. and i hope that in the months and years to come we will see a new generation of young people who are writing and filming and telling our stories in a way that truly honor us. and i'm grateful that ava -- [inaudible] is out there making films in a way that -- [applause] >> yes, yes.
[applause] >> i'm going to take the moderator's privilege and just throw this final question out to both of you. so moved was i about what it is that we carry and black women's trauma and how hard this work is. and i wonder if each of you would share maybe one thing you do each day to maintain wholeness, to keep yourselves together. >> i don't know if i take time every day, asha. >> we're going to work on that. >> yeah. i don't know that i take time every day, but every year i go to a place, and i spend ten days in total silence. yeah, i do that every year. but i don't know that i take time every day. yeah.
>> i should but i don't. and, you know, i think that the things that i do on the regular tend to involve -- i have a window that i love that looks out onto some trees, and i will sit in front of that window and meditate or pray. i don't do it every day. and i love to run, and i'll go on long runs, and it's a way of clearing my head. but i do think that your question is such an important one because we live in a state of constant reacttivity. reactivity. reacting to trauma, reacting to the noise of life. and if we're going to be effective, we're going to have to learn how to stop reacting and get still and think about really who we are, where we came
from and what we truly want to do now. and that requires us to get still and prayerful or at least in a space of silence for some time. and i think a practice of trying or aspiring at least to do that every day is a very worthwhile goal. >> i pray almost every day. [laughter] [applause] >> susan burton and michelle alexander. [applause] the books are on sale downstairs in the bookstore. [applause] >> y'all show some love to asha. she did a great job moderating. [applause]
now listen, the books are on sale downstairs, and in case you need more time they will be on sale for the next several sundays. but we want you to go down now while we have susan and michelle here so that you might get an autographed copy. so thank you all for coming, may god bless you, and don't forget we're here every sunday from 9 -- [laughter] and at 3 1:30. -- 11:30. thank you, good night. it's been a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful time. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> we're live this weekend from chicago for the 33rd annual printers row lit fest featuring
former u.s. congressman trey radel, jeffrey stone on sex and the constitution, heather ann thompson and many more. for a complete schedule, visit booktv.org. on "after words" this weekend, new america president and ceo anne-marie slaughter examines the intersection of technology and foreign affairs. she's interviewed by former obama administration chief of staff dennis mcdonough. and former fbi terrorism investigator ali suffan talks about the terrorist groups that have emerged since the death of osama bin laden and suggests ways to deal with them. that's all happening weekend on booktv. 48 hours of nonfiction authors and books every weekend on c-span2. television for series readers. >> but the other bit of contribution that i think the book or i hope the book has is a discussion of the domestic cadaver trade.
and this is a trafficking of dead bodies. i've traced medical school records, anatomy professors that were involved in this traffic, and they wrote letters back and forth to one another looking for the dead bodies of enslaved people or exhuming them from graves. one of the pivotal quotes that i have is a quote from one medical doctor to the other that's saying, you know, tell me how much it costs for a dead stiff n-word, you know, one that you can -- that you can't -- excuse me. do tell me what the cost is of a dead, fine stiff n, he continued, one that'll cut up fat and doesn't smell strong enough to be noticed a mile off. i trace these bodies and i look at the ways in which even after death enslaved people were commodified. so just two final, closing, short like one-sentence quotes that kind of helped me push
through this book, and that is a quote from elizabeth connectly who some of you may know was the enslaved seamstress to martha jefferson. and she says here when she talks about what death was like: at the grave at least we shall be permitted to lay our burdens down that a new world, a world of brightness, may open to us. the light that is denied us here should grow into a flood of end lens beyond the dark, mysterious shadows of death. i thought that was just a powerful way to think about how enslaved people looked at their afterlives. and then -- after lives. and then finally, i shared this when i was here a few weeks ago. a slave named mingo wrote a poem to his wife after they'd been separated, and he says to her, dear wife, they cannot sell the rose of love that in my bosom glows. remember, as your tears my start they cannot sell thy immortal pa