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Community Coalition Meets With GA Corrections Officials, Visits First Prison. What Would Dr. King Say or Do?
Eight days after the start of Georgia’s historic prisoner’s strike, in which thousands of inmates in at least six prisons refused to leave their cells, demanding wages for work, education and self-improvement programs, medical care, better access to their families and more, representatives of the communities the inmates came from met in downtown Atlanta with state corrections officials. The community delegation, calling itself the Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners Rights, was headed by Ed Dubose of the NAACP of Georgia’s state conference, and included representatives from the US Human Rights Organization, the Nation of Islam, the Green Party of Georgia, The Ordinary Peoples Society, and attorneys from the ACLU of Georgia, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and elsewhere, along with state representative Roberta Abdul-Salaam…
In about three weeks we’ll all be celebrating the January 15 anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birth. Many have remarked on the great distance between the actual life and work of Dr. King and the empty plaster saint of nonviolence that some have turned him into. The truth is that the living Marin Luther King was a fearless opponent of injustice, a man unafraid of endorsing unpopular causes, so long as these causes were just. If Dr. King were alive today he would wrap his arms around the cause of Georgia’s and this nation’s prisoners. Work without wages is indeed close to slavery. Even if the 13th Amendment permits “involuntary servitude” of those convicted of crimes Dr. King might rightly observe, that this was passed almost a century and a half ago, and that many things “legal” are neither moral nor advisable.
The U.S. has four and half percent of the world’s population and nearly twenty five percent of its prisoners…
Any holiday celebration, any dinner, parade, or commemoration of Dr. King’s life and work that does not embrace the cause of Georgia’s and the nation’s prisoners, that does not critically examine the facts America’s current policy of mass incarceration is an empty one, a hollow mockery of the man King was and the movement he stood for. More than twenty thousand in Atlanta march in observance of Dr. King’s life and work every year. The shiny new sanctuary of Ebeneezer Baptist Church is always filled with dignitaries on that day. Let’s see how many signs there are outside the church supporting the prisoners on King’s day in Atlanta and around the country. And let’s see if the dignitaries inside Ebeneezer can even bring themselves to mention the people behind the walls, the locked down and and the left out, who are truly Dr. King’s people. And ours.
Related story at IPR: