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The 2015 BPC Summit on Saturday, November 14th marked the 10 year anniversary of the event at the Washington State Reformatory (WSR) in Monroe, WA. The day was filled with presentations and constructive dialogue that invoked both tears and laughter at various points throughout the program.

The theme of the summit was “Community Restoration” and around 150 guests were in attendance – 100 from the community. Ever since the BPC developed a partnership with the Teacher Residency Program through the Seattle School District, anywhere between one-third to one-half of the guest are brand new, incoming educators. Long time BPC member, Anthony Wright, who was also the event’s emcee, is a champion for higher education and did well to implant the “when you learn, you don’t return” mantra into the minds of every single person in the room.

Eric Johnson began the program by singing “Lift Every Voice & Sing”. Antonio Wheat, Marc Brown, Jeff Foxx, and Andre Rowe were among the presenters. Speeches from “inside” voices covered the entire spectrum of education. Brandon Pedro spoke to the necessity of working to include incarcerated parents in the lives of their children. Derrick Martin-Armstead shared his sobering experiences of how easily one slips through the cracks of the educational system. And Jarrelle Marshall reminded everyone that teaching is a profession of passion.

Outside speakers were equally as powerful as those from the inside. Steven Dozier – a former lifer who was the sixth Washingtonian to be “struck out” – offered inspiration to anyone finding themselves in an impossible situation and how to overcome and impact the lives of others. Levert, from the Washington Coalition for Parole, made clear just why he has joined the fight. And William Castillo touched us all by speaking plainly about the need to first understand one’s own self in order to effectively move forward in life.

By the end of the day, it’s safe to say that every single person left with a renewed commitment to do their part in helping restore the communities we all come from.

BPC – Monroe

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Solid Ground Blog

In 2012, King County, WA voters passed a levy initiative to fund the construction of a new Children and Family Justice Center. Given the fact that 100% of taxpayer money will be used for the construction of the facility – not for maintaining or creating services – it’s hard to think of this facility as anything other than a reinforcement of the school-to-prison pipeline, a widespread pattern in the US of pushing students, especially those already at a disadvantage, out of school and into our criminal justice system.

In King County, African-American and white youth commit crime at the same rates, yet about 40% of detained youth are African American, and they are twice as likely to be arrested and referred to court as white youth. Incarcerating youth without providing diversion or reintegration programs increases the chances of recidivism, thus continuing the revolving door of our criminal justice system…

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Amazing things can begin to unfold when a seemingly unlikely group of men come together who have like minds and aspirations towards effecting positive change with in our community. We are the Men of the Black Prisoners’ Caucus.

As a follow up to a recent BPC hosted summit relating to “Education & Re-entry”, twenty-two entrusted educators returned to a BPC meeting on April 4th, 2014 to honor their commitment of continuing a conversation revolving around how educators can effectively minister to the minds of Black youth; which in turn would divert them from a path leading them to prisons.

Amongst this we dialogued around various but related topics, such as, the inequities & in equalities within our educational system. Men shared their thoughts and reflections with the educators about the inequities within the curriculum given in our schools. Including, but not limited t, the lack of Black role-models displayed out side of and within the texts. It was also brought to the educators attention how we often times endure differing forms (in likeness and capacity) of discipline then other children received for the same infractions. Which in effect did and still does discourage many from excelling in education.

The membership of the BPC will be excited to continue this dialogue with educators (and other partners) not merely as a platform to air our grievances and problems towards the education system, but more impactfully what solutions and actions that are conducive to growth that we can contribute to the process. Because a precept of ours is that we place a stronger emphasis on solutions rather than problems.

Thank you to every single committed educator who is braving this process out with us. We commend you and will be awaiting our next conversation…

Solidarity

Brandon P.

Black Prisoners Caucus

EPIC

Kimonti Carter, president of the Black Prisoners’ Caucus at Clallum Bay, wrote an open letter to elected officials and Washington state community arguing against the construction of a new jail on 12th and Alder. Carter sees the jail as part of the state’s “Staying Tough on Crime” policies that disproportionately target poor minority populations. He writes:

The supporters of this “new jail” project I am sure would articulate their stance from a race neutral perspective, then go on about how this new jail will better equip [sic] to service troubled youth with more resources and better evidence based programs…. Building a new Jail is more than laying a cement foundation and erecting steel barbed wire fences. It is a mechanism that reinforces a punitive mentality that disproportionately feeds black and brown children into its system, even though research has proven that black and brown children do not commit more crime…

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Through other people we develop personalities that help us establish character, so our relationships with people help us become who we are. We are people who find ourselves spending more, but having less. Buying more, but enjoying less. We have bigger houses, but smaller families. More conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees ,but less sense. More knowledge, but less judgment. We have more medicine, but less wellness. More experts, yet more problems.

We drink and smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get too tired, read too little, watch too much TV and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love to seldom and hate to often.

Through our relationships with people we learn to become caring, and deceitful. We have learned to lie to protect the feelings of our loved ones and we use honesty as a way to make them cry. We do bad things to good people for ignorant reasons and criticize the ones who learned it from us. We connect out of convenience, love out of fear, and judge for no particular reason.

It seems we are exactly what God intended us to be, human.

Kimonti Carter

Like a Flower

My daughters only 6, so she don’t understand how her life was supposed to be. She don’t see how her life is affecting me. She’s only 6 so she don’t know the specifics, but she does know that one day daddy’s gonna come home, hopefully. So every chance I get I hold my daughter close to me. As far as discipline, I’m probably softer than I’m supposed to be, ’cause I learned long ago that my job ain’t to tell her who she’s supposed to be, but to teach her right from wrong and let her grow from the concrete into that rose that she was chose to be. They say a father is always a little girls first love, but what they don’t tell you is that it took having her for me to ever know what love was. There are so many things in this cold world that I’d never want my daughter to see. So it seems idiotic to have spent so much time around women who I’d never want my daughter to be. Now this makes beautiful sense and yet there is terror in being responsible for another person. She is in a sense a story of my own creation. Each year I see a tiny face modeled after mine, evolving like a painter doing self-portraits only to erase the face each morning. She’s a tiny soldier who has always had my back. My best friend is only 6, because in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a monumental act. So in all reality shes huge, bigger than life to me, equipped with my mannerisms, my smile and just enough of my stubbornness to drive her mother crazy. The idea is to aim a camera on one flower from morning until night, day after day, beginning May 8th when the flower began to bloom, and follow it through the cycles…Fall, Winter, Summer and renewed again the month before June, never once letting the camera stop nor veer from its target, right on the flower to catch each subtle change of growth and decline that the eye, moving restlessly from flower to flower or person to person could never detect. What then will I have, who will she be and what will I know of her? Until that day I remain perplexed. My daughter may be only 6, but somehow she is still so complex.

Jerry Thomas

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