I am taking a long break from social media, but tonight I want to thank the Heinz Foundation which offered me today a large monetary award (along with several amazing individuals).
I am enormously grateful for this award and look forward to sharing it with organizations and advocates who are committed to courageous and creative work for racial justice. My book, The New Jim Crow, would never have had a national impact if it wasn't for the many, many people who not only read the book, but decided to take action by handing it to others, teaching it in classrooms, organizing study circles, holding forums or town halls, going into prisons, providing support to people returning home, and engaging in protest and direct action - in short, doing something meaningful rather than simply letting the book sit on a shelf. So this award belongs to all of you who not only read the book, but gave it a life of its own. I am creating a fund for the purpose of donating this money and book royalties, and I hope to help support great work that is being done all over the country for many years to come.
But I will also be taking my work in some new directions. This week I officially joined Union Theological Seminary in NYC as a Visiting Professor. I have known for some time that I need to stretch myself, move beyond what I know and out of my comfort zones. As a lawyer, it comes naturally for me to speak only when I've done all my research, know all the facts, and can make my case. Law, policy and advocacy have been my world for more than 20 years, and my singular passion for 10 of those years has been finding ways to awaken people to the racial dimensions of mass incarceration and help them see it for the human rights nightmare that it is.
And yet I now feel compelled to change course. I am walking away from the law. I've resigned my position as a law professor at Ohio State University, and I've decided to teach and study at a seminary. Why?
There is no easy answer to this question, and there are times I worry that I have completely lost my mind. Who am I to teach or study at a seminary? I was not raised in a church. And I have generally found more questions than answers in my own religious or spiritual pursuits. But I also know there is something much greater at stake in justice work than we often acknowledge. Solving the crises we face isn't simply a matter of having the right facts, graphs, policy analyses, or funding. And I no longer believe we can "win" justice simply by filing lawsuits, flexing our political muscles or boosting voter turnout. Yes, we absolutely must do that work, but none of it - not even working for some form of political revolution - will ever be enough on its own. Without a moral or spiritual awakening, we will remain forever trapped in political games fueled by fear, greed and the hunger for power. American history teaches how these games predictably play out within our borders: Time and again, race gets used as the Trump Card, a reliable means of dividing, controlling and misleading the players so a few can win the game.
This is not simply a legal problem, or a political problem, or a policy problem. At its core, America's journey from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration raises profound moral and spiritual questions about who we are, individually and collectively, who we aim to become, and what we are willing to do now.
I have found that these questions are generally not asked or answered in law schools or policy roundtables. So I am going to a place that takes very seriously the moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions of justice work: Union Theological Seminary. Union has a proud history of deep commitment to social justice, and I am happy to call it home for awhile.
Linked below is a speech that I gave at Union more than a year ago. It's a long one - an hour - but I'm sharing it for those who have interest and the time.
Click Here to see and hear the Union Theological Seminary speech!
Mr. Silas Purnell (above), the man who sent 55,000 Black students to college all expenses paid.
Saturday, 11:00 am to 2:00 pm
September 24, 2016
Tuley Park Fieldhouse
90th and King Drive
University of Chicago 3rd Best University in America But Only Has
1% Black Male Enrollment
The University of Chicago was recently announced as the third best university in America in the 2017 Rankings of the U.S. News and World Report. In a country, the United States, with 7% Black Males; in a state, Illinois, with 6% Black Males; in a city, Chicago, that is 35% Black; in a part of Chicago, the south side of Chicago, that is 80% Black; how can the University of Chicago only have one percent of Black males enrolled at their university? This is not acceptable.
The University of Chicago has studied Black violence, Black families, Black youth, Black education, Black economics, Black gangs, Black housing, Black politics and every other aspect of the Black community. The University of Chicago has helped to create policies and programs for Black people, some of them injurious to Black people, but they cannot figure out how to get more than 1% of Black male students on their campus. Are they trying?
The University of Chicago has also become the number one developer in poor, south side Chicago communities which includes land acquisition of and real estate development in those Black communities?
How can the University of Chicago be the third best university in America and they can't even figure out how to get more than 1% of Black males on their campus as students?
Please see listing below of Black males enrolled in the 21 largest Illinois universities and colleges for 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education:
University of Chicago
Loyola University Chicago
University of Ill. Champaign
Illinois Institute of Technology
University of Ill. Chicago
Illinois State University
Northeastern Ill. University
University of Ill. Springfield
Southern Ill. Univ. Edwardsville
Northern Illinois University
Eastern Illinois University
Western Illinois University
Southern Ill. Univ. Carbondale
Governors State University
Chicago State University*
*Chicago State University has one of the smallest student populations of the 21 largest universities in Illinois. Chicago State University is also in danger of closing because of lack of state and alumni support.