It is the most lucrative business known to this world. Billions of dollars are invested each year to expand and secure its reach. Millions of people are directly and indirectly affected by its immediate as well as its residual effects. The business I am speaking of is the American prison-industrial complex. According to CNBC.com, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and if you are not living under a rock then you have taken note of the accelerated affects that this system has on the Black and Brown community as a whole.
I was invited to preview the newly released documentary, “Elementary Genocide: from Primary to Penitentiary”, directed by the award winning film-maker Rahiem Shabazz of Rasha Entertainment in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Shabazz was inspired to create this film by his own life experiences. After getting caught up in the street life, he made a choice to turn his life around for the positive. “I was always good in school; it was when I got to high school that I began to hang out. I never graduated from ninth grade. Everything I was doing was wrong. I was in the streets, selling drugs, doing robberies and stick-up kids,” Mr. Shabazz told Hurt2Healing. While incarcerated, he chose to further his education and received his GED.
Subsequentially, he was accepted into a college program. After which, Mr. Shabazz developed his film and journalism skills. His impeccable resilience enabled him to soar above it all, including his past, never looking back. Unfortunately, today most prisons have ceased to offer college degrees, including doctorate degrees, due to the outside complaints that prisoners are receiving free education. However, this free education was an essential aspect of the prison reform program.
“Elementary Genocide: from Primary to Penitentiary”, delves deeply into the socially engineered mechanism by White supremacists whose ultimate goal is to capture and utterly destroy the minds and productivity of the Black male by interfering with his educational, economical and social development funneling him into the revolving door of the criminal justice system rendering him to be a slave for the remainder of his life. As one of the featured speakers in this film stated, “Prison does not reform the inmates… they are a new means of slave trade on a plantation”.
The documentary features a wide variety of experts such as Umar Abdullah-Johnson, Dr. Boyce Watkins, Tracey D. Syphax, Supreme Understanding, Killer Mike, Dr. Torrance Stephens, Edwards M. Garnes Jr. Okorie Johnson and Sistah Iminah that offer profound insight as it relates to religion, education, music/entertainment and unemployment as factors that correlate with this disturbing crime of mass imprisonment of the Black male. The key point of this film is that it explains as well as proves that prisons are not built by the current or even past crime trends, but that prisons are constructed by the study, prediction and influence of social engineers who target children as young as preschool.
“States look at the reading level of black boys at the conclusion of elementary school, which is normally 4th or 5th grade to determine and to predict how many prison cells they’ll need in the next decade. Statistically, if a black boy cannot read by the time he finishes the 5th grade there is a 75% chance he will be a criminal by the age of 25. Thus, the relationship between mis-education and criminology”, stated Dr. Umar Abdullah-Johnson who is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and Political Scientist.
The film explored decades of interference by the United States government against the Black community and its brilliant Black leaders that were aggressive in standing up for the advancement of their people and the destruction of oppressive environments created by White supremacy. “In reference to COINTELPRO, in the time of Malcolm and Martin, there was a fear in White America of a time when Blacks realize the power that they have especially if we arm ourselves and educate ourselves”, said Dr. Boyce Watkins who is a renowned author, economist, political analyst, and social commentator.
This film outlines the meticulous plot of White America and their hand in the ever growing Black population behind bars and how the public school education system is the pipeline to prison. The ability to read and obtain a functional vernacular is directly related to whether you will be a contributing member of society or a menace to society and a cash cow within the prison system.
“There was a study done that 75-80% of those incarcerated are all at different levels of illiteracy. If you’re illiterate by 3rd grade it’s likely you’ll end up in prison. So do you mean to tell me that those who are building prisons or when to build a prison didn’t look at the research”, asks Supreme Understanding, a well-known author of many publications such as Rap, Race and Revolution: Solutions for Our Struggle aimed to help inner-city communities.
A very important question came up as I watched the film and listened to those offering analysis. How does this relate to the enormous high school and middle school dropout rate? The answer came shortly thereafter. 80% of dropouts end up in prison. That is very alarming, yet the public school system is mimicking the prison system in that it is not designed to properly educate or form critical and independent thinkers just as the prisons are not in the business of reforming the inmates to be contributing members of society after paying their debt.
Another important perspective was given by way of Hip Hop artist Killer Mike as it relates to the role of the churches and faith based initiatives stepping in to take back control of the communities that their congregation belong to. “I don’t understand how we have mega churches in cities like Atlanta, and on the same street of the mega church drugs are still being sold. Because if you can gather 25,000 people on a Sunday in a church you should be able to put 25,000 people on Old National Highway and say, ‘We’re not going to sell drugs’. Churches are not in the community actively cleaning up the community, actively politicking on behalf of young Black men who are catching non-violent drug offenses and ruining their life. If they’re not in prison reform and getting faith based ministries to expose the horrors going on, if churches aren’t doing that then churches are bull-sh*t”, said Killer Mike.
This is a very interesting point he makes and it is valid in questioning these religious institutions on what their ultimate goal and mission is if it’s not saving souls.
This film is brilliantly presented; giving a full range of examination, facts and hard core evidence that connects the dots in a way that is simple yet provocative in critical analysis. It is a film that will cause a paradigm shift in a person’s way of viewing public school education as well as the blatant scheme made to sabotage the advancement of a people who have had the odds placed against them from the very beginning of their so-called freedom from chattel slavery.
This film not only presents the problem that plagues the Black community, but it offers real and tangible solutions that can be implemented immediately. It inspires a level of accountability on behalf of the viewer as it should each time we witness this form of injustice.
There is so much to this film and I am very impressed that Mr. Shabazz and those he interviewed were able to cover an expansive amount of topics within an hour.
I encourage everyone reading this to get a copy of “Elementary Genocide: from Primary to Penitentiary” and support the work and efforts of our brother Rahiem Shabazz and others who are exposing the hand of White supremacy and the exploitation of the Black and Brown community.
I would like to close with the words of Dr. Boyce Watkins, “For African Americans to have freedom, to truly be free, we’ve got to embrace ownership and other forms of educational economic empowerment, because when you walk away from education and you walk away from economic responsibility you are walking right back into the hands of slavery, and that’s something that we don’t want to do”.
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