Friday, November 7, 2014

"Prison is big business" -- Angela Davis, P.3 Artists, and former prisoners say at Xavier University event (video)

On Tuesday this week, renowned activist Angela Davis, along with other panel members, discussed and presented information on slavery and the prison industrial complex. Davis is introduced at the 53:20 time mark. She opens commending the exhibition on Angola at the Ogden Museum.

One of the reasons we should recognize a connection between slavery and the prison industrial complex, says Ms. Davis, is the evidence that racism is driving the prison industrial complex. Louisiana's prison system reflects this trend which is global. Even in Australia, the Aboriginal people make up a disproportionate percentage of the prisoners. Then she discusses the evolution of the prison industrial system in America.

Saying she did not have time to go into detail about the connection between slavery and the prison system, she recommends the book Texas Tough  by Robert Perkinson. According to, the book is "a sweeping history of American imprisonment from the days of slavery to the present, explains how a plantation-based penal system once dismissed as barbaric became a template for the nation."

But why is it that the United States imprisons more people than any other nation? That's a question to ponder after listening to the video.

She quickly touches Ferguson, Katrina, and disaster capitalism as well. Then she focuses on the capitalization of producing surplus bodies by taking away programs that steer people away from prison and the privatizing public programs, such as public education.

Her most important point, she says, abolishing the prison system and the aftermath of slavery. But don't miss the 30-minute question-and-answer period.

The first half of the video focuses on the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola. Located on a former plantation and named for an area in Africa from where about half of the nation's slaves came, Angola appears to be trapped in time. A former Confederate major bought the property and turned the slave quarters into prison cells.

So, it seems as though Louisiana whites in power made a statement early about where it intended to put its black population. That's my thought, not theirs explicitly.

One of the speakers, Henry James, is a man who was freed through DNA evidence and advocacy after being wrongfully convicted of rape. He was sentenced to life in prison and served 30 years before the Innocence Project and others proved his innocence.

Former prisoner Carmen Demourelle also spoke. She's a straight-talker.

Xavier University - Slavery: The Prison Industrial Complex from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

Here is the description straight from the video's information text.
    Slavery, The Prison Industrial Complex, a Panel Discussion with P.3 Artists Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick. Xavier University, Qatar Pharmacy Pavilion, Qatar Auditorium, Room 112A & B (1 Drexel Drive)
    Panelists: Angela Davis, Political Activist, Scholar, Author
    Keith Calhoun, Artist
    Chandra McCormick, Artist
    Carmen Demourelle, Former Prisoner
    Henry James, Exonerated Former Prisoner
    Norris Henderson, Former Prisoner, Public Defender, Political Activist
    Moderator: William P. Quigley, Law Professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University, New Orleans
    This round-table discussion examines the failed systematic machinery of mass imprisonment and the combined efforts under way to abolish it. The discussion includes prominent activists, artists who have documented the Angola Prison for years, and former prisoners—who provide a first-hand viewpoint. The participants come together to both inform the public and discuss strategies for change while reminding us of the crucial, invigorating and ever-present affinity between activism and art.

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