Have you seen the recent film The House I Live In? If you care at all about poor children of color in this country, you should see it. It’s by award-winning documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Danny Glover is one of the producers, and John Legend has been promoting the film as well.
In the film, Jarecki shares a comprehensive and heart-wrenching look at how the war on drugs has fueled the prison population in America. The higher sentences for non-violent crimes involving crack cocaine, which is used more frequently in minority and poorer communities, than for powder cocaine, used by the more affluent, has not only increased the prison population, it has torn apart families and neighborhoods, fueled the increase of prisons as a business industry, and flooded the “poverty to prison pipeline.” But it hasn’t made a dent in stemming drug usage.
Some of the information shared in the film:
- The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prison population.
- Today, more people in the United States are incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses than were incarcerated for all crimes in 1970.
- One in eight state employees today works for a corrections agency.
- About 14 percent of drug users in the United States are African American, but 56 percent of those incarcerated for drug crimes are African American.
Scott Mendelson of the Huffington Post comments in a January 15, 2013 article: “The House I Live In …. is an effortlessly angry rallying cry against a social policy that has done little more than criminalize an entire generation while destroying poor communities nationwide.” Here’s the link to the official movie website, where you can order it if you like: http://www.thehouseilivein.org/
I saw the film at Shiloh Baptist Church of Washington DC on Martin Luther King’s Day weekend. I was positively impressed with the great crowd of people who waited in long lines to attend the sold-out event. I have to admit that many of them were probably there because they wanted to see John Legend and Danny Glover. That impressed me, too, because when people with clout like they have step up to make a statement, things begin to get done.
But what impressed me most, besides the film itself, was the African American church involvement, because that’s also what’s needed–average people who care enough to put the time and effort into trying to undo this egregious wrong. The event at Shiloh was sponsored by their Young Adult and Youth Ministry. There were other prominent pastors, congressmen and organizations there as well.
If we can just get enough people to raise their voices on this issue, we can make it go away. The united prophetic voice of the Church can make that happen. I believe that when people of faith come together to make a difference, they truly can.
The imprisonment of young people of color in the United States is a big problem, folks. It is evil, and the Church must stand against it. We need to attack it any way that we can. I hope to hear your thoughts on how people of faith can come together to make a difference on this issue.