The 2022 Slam Poetry contest was the culmination of a writing class taught by Pat VanderMeer at W.E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, AL. This is the video of all the men who performed their poetry. Slam poetry is performance poetry and usually in a contest setting. Each poet had three minutes to perform their poetry.
Understanding and remembering this history is not nearly enough. JCMP believes that our work will not be complete until we begin to reform issues of racial injustice that exist in our community today. To do so, we’re working closely with students at Donaldson Correctional Facility and expanding their access to education. Additionally, we’re creating a working group to understand what reforms JCMP should advocate for.
Though a monument is inherently fixed, we have to understand that this history and its connections to the present are not. We’re currently building a volunteer committee to understand what issues that activists in Jefferson County are working on that JCMP could be the most helpful with. Some ideas we’re thinking about:
Ending Cash Bail
Cash bail unfairly burdens and discriminates against the poor, increases one’s likelihood of ending up back in jail, and harms one’s financial and social stability. If an individual post bail (usually just a few hundred dollars) he or she must either spend the days until trial in jail or pay a bondsman exorbitant rates to post bail. Studies have repeatedly shown that other forms of court date appearance insurance are just as successful as bail. Successful reforms of this kind have occured in New Jersey, New York, California, Atlanta, and other states and cities across the US.
Restorative Justice in Schools
Across America, millions of schoolchildren are being pushed out of the classroom and often into courtrooms and jail cells by disciplinary practices that punish them severely for minor misbehavior, creating what is known as the school to prison pipeline. Black children in Alabama are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended, expelled or arrested. Restorative justice empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own and in small groups. It brings students together in peer-mediated small groups to talk, ask questions, and air their grievances. Conflicts are resolved among peers not through the criminal justice system.
Ban the Box Legislation
Led by Greater Birmingham Ministries, Ban the Box is a campaign to remove from job applications the box to indicate past criminal convictions. Banning the box protects Alabamians with convictions who have paid their debt to society from being discriminated against while seeking employment, reduces the disproportionate impact on people of color, and decreases chances of recidivism. In 2017, a Ban the Box bill passed Alabama’s Senate, yet failed to pass the House before the end of the session