For Immediate Release
Press Statement for the “The Abuse of State Power” Summit.
The Coalition of Supporters for the April 28, 2012 Conference
Dynacon Event Center (2100 East Wendover Ave. Greensboro, NC)
10 AM – 4PM
It has come to our collective attention that there is an alarming issue plaguing our state and nation. The abuse of state power affects us all, and the State of North Carolina, to use state NAACP President Dr. William Barber’s analysis, is in a state of emergency. It is a deep corruption that is layered with injustice and systematically deteriorates communities. This devastating pattern of behavior and abuse of state power often surfaces within the ranks of police departments, legislators, and federal agents. However, the views of these officials are often supported or not clearly understood by the public it serves. We need to directly engage these officials that continue to uphold racially motivated targeting practices within our communities. We must further engage the public so that they can clearly see the mockery of justice that is happening across this state in their name.
For this reason, we invite the public to a day-long summit and discussion entitled; Our Responsibility to Oppose The Abuse of State Power: Moving Together Towards a More Humane Society. The summit will take place at the Dynacon Event Center at 2100 East Wendover Avenue, in Greensboro, NC, on Saturday, April 28, 2012, from 10 AM to 4 PM. The conference is free and open to the public. Lunch will be served.
When one hears the name Trayvon Martin it is easy to locate Sanford, Florida. It is our firm belief that the most direct action that we can take to support justice in his case, is to locate injustice in Greensboro, NC. The reason there is an indictment in the Martin case is because people rose up in a mass protest across the country. The justice system and the Sanford Police Department would have never moved to make an arrest unless there was a collective and creative voice of a nation of people demanding justice. But, we must connect the dots of the Martin case, the Troy Davis Case, the countless abuses towards women and children and every other victim of the abuse of state power to our local situation.
We come to you today to dispel the myth that people of color are ignorant. We’ve come to dispel the myth that all young people only care about Facebook. We’ve come to dispel the myth that George Zimmerman’s arrest is the end of our fight.
Today, we need all people of power to be aware that we recognized the gerrymandering of NC district lines. Be aware that we, as young voters, will be at the local and state polls in droves. Be aware that we know how you promoted Amendment One to blind the public to the fact that it affects more heterosexuals and their children than homosexuals in the state. Be afraid because we are no longer giving you the power.
To young people, vote, because it does make a difference. Vote, because otherwise the state controls your voice. Vote, because the civil rights movement has passed, but the Civil Rights Revolution is just beginning.
We live in a divisive world, even more divisive than we thought possible. With great social movements of the past, we thought that we would find ourselves in a more harmonic world. But we find division on many issues concerning the well being of all people has created a move towards indifference to the plight of all citizens. Legislation is being offered and passed that does more harm than good to the lives of many citizens. The middle-class appears to be suffering as jobs are becoming fewer because of the closing of businesses and the outsourcing of jobs to the other countries. More and more people are joining the ranks of the poor and we see the move by some lawmakers to cut programs that help people who find themselves in need. We see people in positions of authority seeking to cut budgets at the expense of the people who are in need of support.
These are many of the conversations that need to be addressed in this weekend’s summit. When the people become complacent and apathetic, there is a danger that the rights of all people will be threatened. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is each and everyone’s responsibility to vote and be mindful of legislation that does harm to others. We must be aware of policies that are being presented that will limit the voting rights of citizens and infringe on the rights of others, for the danger is that one day, your rights might be limited as well. So we apply the ethical principle of “first do no harm” to all our actions. We should seek “to do good” as we address the plight of all people.
If we do not protect the rights of others, our individual rights are at risk as well. The abuse of power, be it state or individual, is a threat to the well being of all people. A just and humane society occurs when people seek to protect not only their rights but the rights of others.
Right around the corner is the historic Woolworth’s lunch counter, where in 1960 a new generation of youth challenged the old Jim Crow legal system. But, just three blocks away, in a few weeks a 1032-bed jail will open. It will be filled with people from our community, who are still being demonized, criminalized, and tossed aside, mainly young African Americans; the largest number being young males. What’s happening in Guilford County is going on all over the US, which now has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world, with over 2.4 million people locked up—over eight times the number incarcerated 40 years ago. In the two generations since the Civil Rights Movement, the Black population in the US has doubled, but the number of Black people in jails and prisons has increased tenfold. From 90,000 to 900,000, today, one in every eight Black men in their twenties is in prison or jail on any given day and right now there are more Black people in prison than were enslaved in 1860. Here in Guilford County, Black people comprise 32% of the population, but are 69% of the county jail’s inmates. The national trend is to lock up more Black and Latino people.
One could ask the question, what about crime? Looking at drug related offenses which comprise the largest number of inmates in Guilford County, while African Americans and whites use drugs at the same rate in their respective populations, it turns out that Blacks are over arrested, over prosecuted and over sentenced compared to whites. Bottom line is that if you are African American, you will be sentenced at a 74% higher rate than a white drug offender.
One of the goals of this weekend's conference will be to highlight this national trend and to talk about it in terms of The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s new book, which is proving to be the State's answer to what to do with an entire generation of the nation's youth who come from poor - and mainly Black and Latino communities. It is the economic system's answer because there are fewer and fewer opportunities for those on the bottom. And being locked away, under the supervision of the State is the future for too many of our youth. Some of us even call this a slow genocide and we want to discuss how to stop it before it turns into a fast genocide. The conference will also discuss how the situation in the school system has everything to do with where many youth end up. Recently the sheriff of Guilford County floated the idea that yet another jail may be needed in the future. This is the State's policy and mindset. This is no future for our youth. This situation must change.
We are a diverse collection of people, voices and faces that have worked to make this conference dynamic, effective and community led. We intend to draw deep relationships with each other here in Greensboro and to move in a coordinated effort to address the very real consequences of the abuse of state power. The topics our conference will cover are, School to Prison pipeline; mass incarcerations and the abuse of state power in the U.S. and how can we create a more humane & just society. Flint Taylor, a Chicago rights attorney, will deliver a keynote talk to deepen our knowledge and share his experience with the abuse of state power in Chicago. Time is of the essence and the need is continuously urgent. Yet with a steady march, efficient planning and connections of our hearts and minds, we can join with others across this nation that have chosen to stand for justice, to live for mercy, and to build solidarity amongst people of different backgrounds, races, and religions. We can then join with other communities by saying that “a new world is possible” and now necessary. This conference will encourage an intergenerational plan and apprise our communities of the need for each other in this struggle.
For More Information Contact:
Attorney Lewis Pitts- 336-275-0840
Joseph Frierson- 336-230-0001
Wesley Morris- 336-230-0001
The Coalition of Supporters for the April 28, 2012 The Abuse of State Power summit Holds Press Conference
For Immediate Release