tv [untitled] August 22, 2011 4:00am-4:30am PDT
the post office, the bus station -- everything has been in the general store. one day, i was standing in line. it was a summer day, and some white kids came in. funny thing about it -- you know their parents' names, but you do not know the children's names because you are not allowed to interact with white children. they came in, and they were laughing, and the older ones started punching me. one of the little boys -- i do not know, somebody was saying something about my hands. he wanted to see my hands. i just raised them up. i was wondering what they wanted to see my hands for. what happened was the white boy placed his hands against my hands, and his mother looked at my mom, and my mom looked at me,
and she gave me a backhand slap. from then on, i knew that i was not supposed to talk to a white child or interact with a white child. that was a very early age. i was maybe around five or six years old. then, my mother explained to me about -- and words stuck in my mind -- "white folks." another occasion happened to me in a five and ten-cent store. i have to tell you this to put it in perspective. it was not just march 2. it was all the bad experiences that i have had as a child at that young age that i should not have had to have gone through. there was a lunch counter.
i still tell everybody i love the smell of that by then 10 -- that five and ten. i looked over and saw these little white kids sitting on coca-cola -- sipping on coca- cola. they were eating double-decker'' sandwiches, and my mother was looking away, and i sneaked over there. i knew she would come over there and buy me one. she came back and grabbed me by the back of my collar and pulled me -- she said, "i told you, that is for white folks." you learn at a very early age. she said, "honey, are you hungry?" i was not hungry, but i saw what those white children had.
those are the little things that stick in your mind as you grow up. and another thing you learn about trying on clothes in the department store. all of that was going on in my mind at a very young age. what really set it off -- i had two teachers -- during february, we did it for the whole month because we figured we had been cheated out of our history of america. only two names were in the encyclopedia, and that was booker t. washington and george washington carver, but she lectured about the contribution of frederick douglass, w.e.b. dubois, and how jackie robinson had broken the baseball barrier.
and we remembered the opera singer who was not allowed to sing in the hall and had to sing in lincoln center. all the discrimination and the local in justices. like, everything was separate and unequal. the school was inadequate. we could not go to the hospitals. they built a house adjacent to the main hospital. the white people were not supposed to be in the same room with an n-person. you know the n-word? i said to myself at the end of the day that i love my country and i'm glad that that day, i took a stand. i saw through the supreme court that the flaws that america had
tried to correct them by removing those horrible signs -- "white" and "colored." i said when i testified at the trial, i went through how we were treated, and the lady dramatize it, so i do not have to go through that, but it is the whole system of separate but unequal. it is understates rights -- is under states' rights. after lincoln had freed us from slavery, they instituted this law, separate but equal, and the state had sanctioned it. but everything there was, even when they had things that were federal, they would put a rope up, and the white people would
present, but their presence is felt. with that, i turned t to bryonn bain. >> i am supposed to perform a piece, but i just feel like i want to talk to you. can i bring the format and do that? is that ok? i am honored and humbled to be aired. i want to acknowledge the presence of my elders, ancestors who made it possible for me to be here today. i am away by -- the more i hear, the more i read, the more i research -- i was not doing anything nearly as courageous at 18 years old. looking back, when i was 15, that was the first year, in 1990, when my brothers and i were invited to perform in the presence in upstate new york for the holiday.
it was not a big political thing. it was a holiday. we were just going to go and sing sing christmas carols, do some rap songs, whether we could do to cheer up the brothers that were locked up. we started to do it over and over again. it was only 10 years later and that we began to see ways to use that in a more pro-active way. we would come out of a nightclub in new york city, my brother, my cousin, and i. we had had some experience with the police harassing us on the streets. this particular night, somebody had gotten into a fight, we were probably the only black folks in a white neighborhood the party that they were at, they were playing salsa, marvin gaye, and we were hanging out after the birthday party. we got caught up in a situation
where the police had been called for shots fired. we happened to be the only black people there, they got us and put us in jail. that was the first day that you mentioned. the long and short of it is, i was in my second year of law school at the time. i am reading all these things about criminal procedure, criminal law. the stuff that is on the books is not what is happening on the streets. don't i have some kind of rights? miranda or something? they just did what they want and it was the first time that somebody had taken my body and had physically done something with me -- except raimondi, a different category. [laughter] they put me and handcuffs and they did all of that.
so i wrote about it. my lawyer, she was also a teacher. she encouraged me to tell my story. the next week, the assignment in class, it was to talk about -- writing about an experience of injustice. i was ready to send this. i did not think anything of it, but she said that people should know about your story. i sent it to somebody. the editor from "the new york times" called me and said that it was a lot of racy for them. but people just kept running in, i got letters in from brothers and death row. we are reading your article. we are glad what you are saying. they will not believe us. you have all of these degrees.
next week, mike wallace calls me for an interview. i was talking to ms. colvin earlier. she said the media has a certain way to take people and put them up and you do not hear about everyone else. as if these are isolated incidents. so they called and his producers were like, we want to interview. we want to interview you on your campus in cambridge. i said, my brothers would like to, too. we have been putting this case for five months. basically, i said we are not going to do it. this is bogus. my porter rican red-haired cousin, he has funny hair. he was there, too. so we came back and they decided to do it with everybody. when that story came out, i started getting harassed.
the police were giving out my social security number, my name. i had 50 cases of identity theft that followed. the next thing you ask to talk about was november 23, 2002. this experience changed my life. we started going to the prisons with a purpose now. we turned into touring artists for the prisons around the country. talking to the folks who were incarcerated, folks in the local community to inform the movement by those most directly affected. we came home for winning an award in grass-roots activism and then the police stop us for a taillight being out in the back of the car. when they run my license, they say i'm going to jail because there were three wards offer my arrest. it was bryonn bain, aka bostick.
i did not know who that was. they have given up my information and i've done myself in jail again for a crime i did not commit. this time i said, hell no, i am suing everybody. the police, the state of new york. the public defender came to me -- this is the craziest part of the situation. the public defender who is there to defend your constitutional rights -- she came in to see me with plastic cause and a surgical mask. i saw her walking around with all the rest of the brothers. i thought maybe she had something that she did not want to give us. [laughter] that is righteous. i respect that. whenever you have to do. then she got me into the interrogation room and she said to me, you say you have education. where did you go to school, high school?
public-school of new york. this does that add up. i skipped two grades before college. where did you go to college? how did you pay for college? you went to grad school? how did you pay for law school? what did that have to do with my case? i was just going with the flow. finally, she said to me, it is my professional obligation to inform you -- not only as an attorney but as a registered nurse acting as a dentist -- you may have a bipolar disorder. she said, it is nothing bad. something -- sometimes people create alternate realities for themselves as a coping mechanism for how to deal with stress. i was like, are you saying i am crazy? she did not believe anything that i said. she said, when it comes to the
judges, do not bring up anything about your education. that was the second day in a three-day experience. i figured, if i had these degrees -- and it was crazy. after my second story, i started getting offers from goldman sachs, merrill lynch. i said, i wanted to do work that was meaningful to me, so ended up working in the prison system at rikers island. i know all of that was in so many ways possible because of the work that you did. i just want to say that i honor you, respect, love everything that you have done, all the roads that you have paid to allow me to do the best things that i have done. [applause] >> 44 years apart these two stories happens.
clearly, life is not the same. so i went to ask you, miss coleman, what has changed since your time? and, bryonn, after that, what has not changed? when you listen to this story 44 years later for what you sat down and fought for, what has changed? >> well, that is a difficult question. i have to say, depending on what part of the country you come from -- when i have visited and montgomery, people ask, what did they get out of the civil rights movement? one thing. the street that i lived on,
instead of calling it east dixie drive, they called it claudia colvin drive. [applause] that is one thing that has changed. and in my memory -- -- montgomery -- [laughter] in montgomery, you had to go through the back entrance. now you can go through the front. and they took down all the signs. my sisters even said, you know, we have that cosmetic change that you see on tv. she said, before you could not go into the department store to try on hats. now you can go into the department store and they have
malls and they have expanded it and everything. so that has changed. and the attitude of white people. when i was growing up, my father did not mind people calling him by his first named. his first name was qp. in the court case, they ask, what does that stand for? it stood for quinnith paul. the white people use to just call him jordy and they would call his son, boy. even the teachers and the faculty members of my school said they never called him buy anything other than his first name. and he was a professor of alabama state.
so i have seen all of that change. it is an attitude change. and as my sister called it, a cosmetic change. they say, dixie had a cosmetic change. they have the same mental attitude haas racists, but they cannot call you girl and gal anymore. to me, they are over-polite. in my experience in the hotel -- ms. colvin, how can i help you? it is a little over-polite, and i get tired of it sometimes. [laughter] now, you remember i live in new
york, the big apple. help me to stay the word -- say the word -- i do not want to sound like sarah palin -- [laughter] what is the word for many races? multi-cultural, yes. they could not care one less if you were white or black. let mayor bloomberg tell you what their value is, the money. in new york, every night, racism raises its ugly head and you have these killings, racial profiling, like we had sean bell.
anyway, we see racial profiling. one of my neighbors said, yes, they are always going to find a psychological reason why the white child is bad, but an african-american or child of color is just a badass. that is true. they do not think you have any value. they think you do not know what life is, you do not have any goals or dreams. you know why i am telling you that? i am basing it on my family. i wanted you all to know that my grandson graduated and will be the first doctor in my family.
[applause] i do not like to put labels on it, but i want to thank all the liberal white people that helped us in the 1950's that helped us get through this struggle and social change and help america get rid of some of -- one of their flaws. just like my sister said, it is a cosmetic change. we still have got to work on it. it is not just a one deal. [applause] >> we have heard about cosmetic change. bryonn bain, i want to ask what has happened since this struggle here and why we are still where we are, beyond the cosmetics.
what has led to this situation that you described in new york city? >> i think racism has evolved and adapted. as the movement grew in strength and folks became more conscious, races and became more institutionally embedded. they found new ways to basically sustained slavery. michelle alexander calling it the new jim crow. between the 1960's and 1970's, the prison population across the country doubled. in the 1970's and 1980's, it tripled. in california, and build no new prisons between the 1960's and 1970's, the height of political action. between the 1970's and 1980's, they build more prisons in
california alone and in the past 100 years. one thing that has happened is the warehousing of black folks in these facilities. if you think about what slavery is, the parallels, it is not just a metaphor when you talk about modern-day slavery. slavery denied black folks the ability to be mobile. you were trapped on one location, in a plantation. it broke up our families. it subjected us to daly wants and violence. anything can happen to you -- an example to you for somebody else. it exploded us for our free labor. all of those things happen in prison today. the u.s. has 5% of the world's population and over 25% of the world's prison population. that is a big part of the equation. i am not waiting for superman, but somebody might be.
if you look at the conditions of our schools, our schools have not been restructured, have been left alone to become the perfect feeder to prison prefatory. public schools are designed -- if you have any spirit, the spirit of a claudette colvin, they do not want to adapt to you. folks always ask, where are our leaders? they are in rikers island, san quentin, some of the greatest minds which had not found a space to tap into their genius. that is a big part of what has happened. not talking about the prison industrial complex as well as the military industrial complex. rikers island has 1400 people --
14,000 people. i worked at a high-school that had a mural on the wall. there was a figure, a man dressed in green, split in two. the front have has a gun, a rifle in his hand, military fatigues. the back half has the prison inmate uniform. on top it says choose your dream. so those are your options. we have seen it hurts our families apart. women are the fastest growing population to be incarcerated. we see women's prisons, men's prisons, teenagers -- they have a baby prison for the babies. they build a prison every year based on third and fourth great test scores in black and latino communities around the country.
that is a fact. i can give me the documentation on that. so when the police are grabbing us up, it is a function of capitalism. white supremacy and capitalism, they have had a very long dance together. the police are filling the prisons because prisons operate like hotels. they do not make as much money, so police are agents of the state. not only where they serving the interests of the white people, they are protecting those who have and keeping the have nots out of their house. ultimately, that is the biggest thing i can put my finger on. it affects education, access to health care, you do not get mental health treatment, drug addiction treatment. that permits through every aspect of black life in this country. >> so when you were sitting
down, challenging, you said you wanted to make a difference. did you ever think it would come to this? >> we have gained a lot of ground, but this generation is regressing. what i feel -- i told you, i am not an expert. my opinion is this. i am using my family as a criteria. it has to begin with the parents. you are not going to get it from sending that child in front of a tv. african american couples are
using all their quality time, their leisure time -- they should be spending with their children -- but they are working two jobs for material things. sneakers, designer jeans. you have to and still in your children the value of education. tell them the story of martin luther king, in new york, malcolm x. some day, some time -- and a lot of black people go to church. those ministers in church, i tell them, do not preach about the hereafter, preach about none now. we are losing too many young minds. do not tell me