Men on the Move spotlights justice for ‘mistreated’ inmates

Courtesy of MOTM

Devin Henry, Contributor

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Men on The Move hosted an event, Letters to Kalief, to honor the life of Kalief Browder on Feb. 22, 2019.

Joseph Montgomery, secretary of MOTM, facilitated the event. He highlighted the fact African Americans are five times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts, according to the National Association for the Advancement Colored People.

Browder was 16 years old when he was wrongfully accused for stealing a backpack. He then was jailed at the infamous Rikers Island and suffered from severe mental illness.

While awaiting trial, he was beaten by inmates and officers and sustained psychological damage. He remained in jail for three years and spent almost two years in solitary confinement, awaiting a trial that never came.

In 2013, Browder was released from Rikers from lack of evidence. On June 6, 2015 Browder committed suicide by hanging himself at 22 years old.

The following year, Browder’s mother passed away. She suffered from Browder’s decision to kill himself and blamed the prison system for ruining her son’s mind.

 

The program featured the short film, Letters to Kalief and was developed by SJ. This short film was made from the perspective of a person who would not have the opportunity to meet Browder. SJ is one of the main actresses within the film.

During the program, spoken word was performed by SJ, Juice and John Wood. Their performances highlighted the injustices of African-Americans and prison system reform. Names including Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner were mentioned as the speakers spoke about racial discrimination.

“The prison system is not meant for black people. If people with influence do not speak on issues there is not change,” said Mickey Factz, a speaker at the event.

Many of the speakers and participants believe a platform and strong following discussing controversial topics will create urgency to make change.

In terms of prison system reform, there have been few celebrities to discuss solutions and advocate for prisoners. Jay-Z produced The Kalief Browder Story on Netflix and has brought attention to the issue. Other celebrities including Meek Mill, John Legend, Kim Kardashian West and Alicia Keys have also spoken on violence and the need for prison system reform.

Nijee Brown, a sophomore Information Technology student attended the event and left feeling inspired to tackle racial inequality.

“It is all about being active in the community. What you say can bring change in the community,” said Brown.

Many people did not know the story of Kalief Browder before attending the program and left ready to tackle prison system reform.

“In order to change the system, we need to do more than just march” Factz stated.

The program was very informative and really touched many audience members from the spoken word and short film that was shown.

Victor Solomon a N.C.A&T student also sung “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong to remind participants what life could be like if racial equality was prevalent.

The Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you would like to be treated” was expounded upon. The speakers provided this a reminder to do for others just because it needs to service them in things that need to be done.

The program raised awareness of the treatment and injustice that is prominent prisons.

As a result of the claims of unfair treatment to prisoners, plans to completely shut down Rikers Island in the year of 2027 have been made, according to amnewyork.