America’s Cradle To Prison Pipeline

by Young Che on October 19, 2008

A couple of days ago I attended the opening day of America’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline, Louisiana Summit. The event took place at the University of New Orleans and was sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund. I hadn’t expected to be in attendance until one of my close friends/clients, Sedrick Muhammad, the President and founder of Models For Success, asked me at the last moment if I could come by in order to give him some honest feedback on his presentation. He was in great form as usual as he displayed an uncanny ability to connect with young people. It was an eye opening experience from the moment I stepped into the conference. I walked in on a panel of high school students engaged in lively discussion with a cadre of school administrators, child activists, lawyers and others who are involved in the struggle to ensure that children trapped in a system that doesn’t care enough to make sure that they succeed in life actually get access to the resources they so desperately need.

It was very interesting to see that the kids were very aware that their situation could be fixed if the people with the resources to fix it had the desire to fix it. The young people displayed intelligence and wisdom by recognizing some of the problems they face as well as the causes and effects of their plight. However, most surprising were the solutions which they offered to the adults in attendance. Some of the solutions required financial resources through the government and/or corporate sponsors, but many of the solutions did not require much money at all.

It’s good to know organizations such as the Children’s Defense Fund exist and are doing a great job to bring to light the failings of school systems which seem bent on delivering our youth to the prison system rather than developing them for better service and advancement of our society as a whole. It was noted several times that in order for today’s prison industrial complex to continue to thrive and deliver outstanding ROI for its investors and stockholders it needs bodies to fuel this ever expanding industry. One of the panelists also pointed out that in some states the same companies which are running these private prison systems for profit are being tapped to run schools. This will undoubtedly minimize the learning curve for these youngsters to becoming productive modern day slaves which is what today’s prisoners represent.

One of the panelists likened the fight to ensure our young people receive any chance of avoiding this eventual outcome as a war. She opined that the corporate interests, most notably the prison industry benefit directly from urban school systems which are failing our youth and in some cases have given up on them. The youth on the panel accurately described the efforts to provide them with quality education and practical life tools lacked sincerity and showed that they are not valued in this society. Real solutions to many of the obstacles have been offered by numerous organizations, community activists and concerned parents over the years. The problem is implementation. Today’s educational system is outdated and in most urban areas it represents a model broken beyond repair. If we are truly concerned about today’s youth we have to get involved and help organizations which have proven that they are committed to helping to solve the problems our youth face.

The day’s meeting was wrapped up by motivational speaker and youth advocate Dr. Calvin Mackie, of Channel Zero, offering compelling words of inspiration. Dr. Mackie pointed out some of the basic steps which have to be taken in order to supplement the movement to fix or replace a system that doesn’t work. He asserted that the people responsible for educating the youth have to want to do it because the youngsters can smell a fake from a mile away. He also noted that we have to go into the communities and schools and do the hard work of developing their will to want more out of life than is being offered them. He also pointed out that we have to repair their self-esteem which has been damaged by a culture which has distorted their image to the world and most of the time their life experiences has led most of them to believe that their lives aren’t worth living.

Urban youth are a thing forgotten by most of society and even though they have the potential for greatness they require an investment in order to realize that potential. Poverty grips numerous communities all over this country and most of the children represent the casualties of a war against people of color in particular. The grim reality is that adequate resources will not be redirected to this defeated segment of our population any time soon. If we do not commit ourselves to improving the condition of our communities then the transformation that needs to take place will not happen. I would like to challenge you to take another look at the poverty that grips the citizens right here in America and do something to help better this condition.

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