Next week, it will be 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. gave the “I Have a Dream” speech. He railed then against “the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination,” contending that the African-American was “an exile in his own land.” Yet he could not have imagined that Jim Crow would soon be replaced with another oppressive system: mass incarceration. As Attorney General Eric Holder said last week, the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its prisoners — the highest rate on earth. A total of 65 million Americans now have a criminal record. And though this system has affected all racial groups, people of color have borne the brunt, accounting for about 60 percent of those behind bars. Inner-city communities have been ravaged as children have grown up with parents in prison and people with convictions have been unable to get jobs. There’s a new underclass, and it has a racial tinge.
But the story doesn’t have to end there. Our Turn to Dream is a short film that Beyond Bars has produced to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King’s speech and reveal the movement being born to fight mass incarceration. Our new film profiles Kenneth Glasgow, a pastor in Alabama who’s helping to build this movement by providing services to the formerly incarcerated and advocating for just and humane public policies. We also interview author Michelle Alexander, whose book The New Jim Crow has probably done more than any single thing to get a national conversation going on this issue. In releasing this piece, we’ve partnered with some of the best civil rights groups in America, including the NAACP, PICO, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, and many others. These groups know that the way to honor King is not just to celebrate what he did, but to use our collective memory of him as a source of hope for the battle we must fight today.
See the film here: