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Birthday Hits / It’s not only brutality

June 13, 2020 am30 11:32 am

Over on Facebook I’ve been interrupting my frustrations and struggles with the pandemic, and my poorly run school system, and the great sense of hope rising out of the revolt in the aftermath of yet another murder of yet another Black man, I’ve been interrupting those rollercoaster emotions once each day, by posting a song. I am choosing, in sequence, the top 20 from when I was born, then the top 20 from my first birthday, etc. I was born in the 60s – most of the music has been pretty good.

But last night I broke my pattern. I should have posted #19 from my second birthday (A Well Respected Man – love it) but instead I wrote:

When I turned two this song had not been thought of.

A few months after my birthday a bar in a small city in New Jersey got robbed and someone got shot, killed. White police arrested two black guys, white witnesses lied, prosecutor knew, and proceeded. All-white jury convicted them on murder 1, and the white judge gave them life sentences.

This was the United States, and framing and jailing black men was unremarkable in any way, except that one of them was a middleweight boxer.

A decade later a campaign for their release helped get them a new trial. This song is from that campaign.

That’s not the end. New Jersey prosecuted them again, convicted them again. It took another decade to get a federal court to step in. And New Jersey considered putting them back on trial again! Except their lying witness and racist case would not have played as easily in the 80s as they had in the 60s.

Rubin Carter and John Artis spent over 20 years in prison.

Our attention, the world’s attention, has been focused of late on protests that arose from cops killing a black man, a script that has been used thousands of times in this country.

But from vagrancy laws to drug laws to mandatory sentences and modern mass-incarceration, the United States has stolen freedom from — I don’t know — hundreds of thousands? of Black men.

Yes, we need to remove funding from the police. We should be replacing them. But we also need to work towards ending mass incarceration, offering real rehabilitation (drug, and other), and abolishing the prison system.

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