June, 2016 Program
by Karima Amin
This is our anniversary month. Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. held its first monthly meeting in June of 2005. We screened the film “Angola,” about the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary. Our guest speakers were three local ministers who thanked me for my willingness to undertake the task of educating the community about the evils of the prison industrial complex. There were 15 attendees who encouraged me to “keep on keepin’ on,” though my knowledge was very limited. PRP2 has covered many more topics than I ever imagined in 2005. I have met more prisoner justice advocates than I ever imagined and we have stood up for more prisoners and prison families than I ever thought possible. The work has been gratifying as we have garnered some successes, and as we have acknowledged some disappointments that have threatened to derail our efforts.
Not everyone supports or appreciates what we do. Simply saying “prisoners are people,” shouldn’t invite naysayers but it does. Acknowledging a prisoner’s humanity is something that is completely foreign to some people until the criminal justice system accuses a beloved family member of wrongdoing. Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. stands ready to enlighten, support (if we can), and advocate for the reforms that would improve a system that puts profits before people.
Without taking a look at the programs that have been delivered since last June, certain guest speakers and topics immediately come to mind. Mr. John Boyd, who was at Attica in 1971, helped us to commemorate the Attica Rebellion last September. Mr. George K. Arthur (former City Council President), Bishop Dwight Brown, Ms. Donna Lewis, and Mr. Sha-teek Howse shared their personal stories about growing up and living in Buffalo’s East Side where crime generative factors, such as poverty, under-employment, and mis-education, have contributed to the level of crime that is part and parcel of East Side living for many residents. Mr. Howse shared excerpts from his recently published book, What Did I say? It’s Something Like Poetry, a collection of personal stories and poems, delineating his thoughts and feelings, prior to, during, and following incarceration. Mental Health, Restorative Justice, and Solitary Confinement, all received our attention during the last year. Mr. John Walker talked about his ongoing fight to clear his name after a wrongful conviction in the 1970s. Our Program Director BaBa Eng was featured in a documentary film about Recidivism produced by David Godwin, a Canisius College student. While we mourn the fact that Robert “Seth” Hayes was recently denied parole for the 10th time, we celebrate the recent release of Gerrod Bennett who will be returning to our community after 20 years behind bars.
At our next meeting, we will look back, look forward, and celebrate life. Join us on Monday, June 27, from 7:00 to 9:00pm at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo.
For more information contact Karima Amin, email@example.com or BaBa Eng, firstname.lastname@example.org.