The National Institute for Restorative Justice
"Educating for Advocacy"
Thirteent Amendment Sesquicentennial Dialogue
15226 Lakeshore Blvd
Cleveland, Ohio 44110
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“…I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever
"fixed" at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight,
and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound.
To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start,
requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation
to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the
individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today.”

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall
"Except As Punishment For Crime"

"The Thirteenth Amendment
and the Criminalization of
Black America"
Discussion  Guides

Gillian Johns
Associate Professor
Oberlin College

Zachery Williams
Associate Professor
The University of Akron
Second Dialogue
The Criminalization
Of Black America

Friday, January 29, 6 - 10 p.m.
Saturday, January 30, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sunday, January 31, Action Vigil

Lead Discussion Guide

Cedric Merlin Powell
Professor of Law
Louis D. Brandeis School of Law
University of Louisville
January 29 - 31, 2016
April 8 - 10, 2016

Third Dialogue
Citenzenship Rights

Civil Rights Act of 1866
July 8 - 10, 2016

Fourth Dialogue
UnDue Process

The Fourteenth Amendment
Unequal Protection and
Voter Disenfranchisement
The East Cleveland Public Library
Debra Ann November Learning Center
14101 Euclid Avenue
East Cleveland, Ohio 44112
Save The Dates!
Sesquicentennial Dialogue Series
December 18, 2015 - July 10, 2016
December 18, 2015 ~ 6 - 10 PM
Series Opening Dialogue
& Screening of
Click on photos for faculty profiles

On Friday, January 29, 2016 at 5:45 p.m., the
National Institute for Restorative Justice will
continue a dialogue series
that began on
December 18, 2015 at the East Cleveland Public
commemorating the 150th
Observation of the 13th Amendment to The
United States Constitution.  The second
dialogue in the series will begin with a
screening and discussion of
Prison Song, the
drama of an artistically gifted young man’s tragic
spiral from family, to foster care, to prison - by
no initiative fault of his own.  The screening will
followed by dialogue addressing the
discriminatory double standards of the
criminal (in)justice system.  

On Saturday, January 30, 2016, beginning at
9:30 a.m., the dialogue resumes with a
Plenary Session led by Cedric Merlin Powell,
Professor of Law at Louis D. Brandeis School
of Law.
 Professor Powell will also serve as a
primary guide throughout the second dialogue.

The series is free and open to the public.  
Registration is required for the sake of
preparing refreshments and meals.  Detailed
registration information is provided at the
end of this release.
 Please pass this
information on.

Amid the national debate over gun control in the
United States, Brazilian cartoonist
Carlos Latuff
nailed it in his illuminating depiction of the  irony
and idiocy of the double standard of who can and
cannot bear arms in America.

Internationally known for making his stance
against social, economic and militaristic
globalization by way of political cartoon satire,
Latuff’s December drawing of a little boy holding
a toy water gun, next to a flag-bearing, NRA cap
wearing, rugged man holding a semi-automatic
rifle sheds true light on how America determines
who is a “thug” and who is a “patriot,” thus,
who should and should not be trusted with
arms.  He positions those words next to the little
boy and big man, respectively.  He also has
checked boxes by each of them:  “toy gun,
black,” “real gun, white.”  What he did not add
“toy gun, black, dead,” “real gun, white,
… we’re negotiating.”  

We can easily fill in the real names:  Tamir Rice,
who did not get a chance to utter a word before
twelve years of life was snuffed out within
two seconds
of law enforcement’s arrival.    The
other is
Armond Bundy, who told the world that
if government official became combative
would be lost.”
 (Source: Time Magazine, June
4, 2016, “Why the Feds have not ended the
Oregon Malitia Standoff”)  

Shortly following the murder of young Tamir,
network news began to flash images of him
imitating gang signs and stances – a common
media tactic used to “criminalize” the victim.
The gun toting, federal land burning Oregonians,
are presented in daily media briefings as upright
patriotic citizens, simply exercising their
Constitutional rights, which according to the
indigenous Oregonians, did not include the land
on which they took their stand..  

But, the voices of the indigenous Paiute were
quickly muted, when they entered the debate
claiming the land as sacred to their tribe for
thousands of years.  The press patronized them
by running a story or two on their stand, but
chose to hold daily briefings with "The Bundy
Bunch."  The Bundy Bunch – (im)migrants.  
– indigenous people of Oregon for over
thousands of years.  The press’ daily news
briefings – with Bundy.

Unquiet as kept, there are two  systems of justice
in America.  One white, and one for everybody
else.  Jim Crow’s “white only” is alive and well
in US centers of “justice," except for the lock
down side - then it is "colored only."  Just-Us.
The distinction between who goes up the
elevators into the court rooms and chambers on
the east side of Cleveland’s Justice Center, and
who is locked up on the west side behind bars, is

I began this journey educating and advocating for
restorative justice fourteen years ago after
personally witnessing ten, twenty, thirty plus
young black men chained and paraded in orange
outfits through the side door of a Cuyahoga
County court room. The majority charges were
for petty drug deals.  Mostly high school drop-
outs under twenty-one years of age; although
some held GED’s.  All stood silent during the
auctioning of their time, negotiated by court
appointed legal defenders and prosecutors.  
Five years, four, three – sold!

Then, “lo and behold,” in the middle of this
repetitious inquisition, a young white man - hair
dyed black, and dressed in matching gothic black
attire - was summoned not through a side door,
but from the visitor gallery of the room, after
having been accused of stabbing a co-worker at
a Quiznos Sub and Sandwich restaurant.  An
undisputed crime had taken place.  There was a
victim, witnesses and a weapon.  His attorney –
not court appointed – argued the difference
between a stab wound and a laceration.  The
prosecutor was pliant, as – obviously - was the
judge, when she ordered community controlled
sanctions.  The young white assailant walked out
of the court through the same free door from
which he entered.  The parade of chained, black
men continued from the annals of the court’s
chamber.  I was appalled into advocacy, and I’ve
not looked back.

Speaking of hair dyed black.  On June 15, 2013
Ethan Couch stole two cases of beer from
Walmart, and later killed four people and
seriously injured five others while driving
recklessly in a drunken and Valium drugged
stupor.  It is reported that he drove upwards of
70 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour zone,
with a blood alcohol level three times the legal
limit for adults in the state of Texas where the
tragedy unfolded.  Only sixteen years of age and
wealthy, his attorney’s argued that his affluence
rendered him incapable of judging between right
and wrong.  Six months later, he was sentenced
to ten years of probation through the juvenile
court.  Theft, Speeding, DUI, Manslaughter…

Tamir Rice was twelve years old playing with a
toy gun.  No attorney was given the opportunity
to argue whether or not he was capable of
determining right from wrong.  He was shot dead
quicker than you can blink an eye.  Policeman
Timothy Loehman, whose disciplinary record
within the Cleveland force is questionable, and
who was dismissed from a suburban force as
incompetent prior to being hired by Cleveland,
was justified in his shooting because he feared
for his life.  Where have we seen that movie
before?   Officer
Michael Brelo was acquitted
after having jumped on top of the car into a
possible line of fire from the occupants inside –
Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams -
emptied his gun, reloaded and emptied it again
into the “suspects,” under the claim that he was
in "fear of his life."  Justified.
"He was twelve years old!
How you justify that?

Like Couch's murderous counterpart Dylan Roof, who was already on
probation when he walked into
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal
in South Carolina and massacred parishioners in prayer, Ethan was
given a “free get out of jail pass” when he violated terms of probation and
bailed out of the country.

Unlike accused sexual assaulter
Bill Cosby, whose passport was snatched the
minute he was charged this past December for an alleged assault that a
Pennsylvania court heard, dismissed and
sealed in 2005, Couch retained his
rights for passage to flee the country, and was found boozing it up and
partying in Mexico, where he remains to this day, fighting extradition.  

Like Couch wants to be, Cosby
is affluent.  His philanthropic portfolio has
supported and even bailed out industries, institutions, and individuals –
including some who are now crying assault.  I wish that while certain
colleges are reneging on the “rights and privileges appertaining thereto”
granted Cosby with their honorary degrees, they would return the money that
The Bill and Camille Cosby Foundation coughed over to them.  If he is
despicable, so is the money.  Give it back.

Unlike the star of The Cosby Show who contends his innocence,
7th Heaven
Stephen Collins, confessed to molesting a minor in years past, yet, was
not charged on the grounds of the Los Angeles Police Department’s
insufficient evidence to substantiate the claim.  He admitted his transgression
– not to some ‘Joe Blow’ hanging out on a corner down the street, but rather,
in a credible, ABC network, televised interview with Katie Couric.  “I’m a
human being with flaws,” he said, while confessing inappropriate behavior
with a ten year old child.

Meanwhile back on the Playboy ranch…  “play girls” flying all around the
country trying to catch-up and keep up with Cosby back in the Quaalude
party days are now cry foul play, and the Hollywood superstar who elevated
black America’s image to a level of respect and integrity which we had never
known before, is being media-peddled around the world as a dirty old, broke
down man.  Stephen Collins remains unscathed, no million dollar bond, a
passport in hand, and forgiven because he – like Bill - is “a human being with
flaws.” While Cosby is being dragged through the muck and the mire,
and Collins are back on the air.

Shame on you, America.  And shame on you Mr. Cosby, for not keeping your
stuff in check and in your pants, thus bringing this disgrace on yourself, your
wife, your family, friends and fans.  Even so, you’ve been dealt a low down,
dirty, unacceptable double deal.

Toy gun, black, thug, dead.  Real gun, white, patriot… we’re negotiating.

On December 18, 1865, Secretary of State William H. Steward signed into
law the Thirteenth Amendment to The Constitution of the United States of
America, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in the US and its
territories, “except as punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have
been duly convicted…” It was the first of three additions to the Constitution
known as the Reconstruction Amendments.On December 19, 1865 the
criminalization of free black men, women and children began, first under the
auspices of the “Black Codes,” – laws only applied to Black people, limiting
their mobility and civility in the Southern states.  As “free” African Americans
were deemed criminals through the enforcement of the discriminatory codes,
the incarceration began and the free labor continued through new
discriminatory codes such as Jim Crow, Reagan Rockefeller Drug Laws, and
Mandatory Sentencing.

Following suit, on July 9, 1868 the United States adopted the Fourteenth
Amendment granting equal protection and due process of the law, again
including a clause attached to crime which denies the right to vote.  150 years
later, the United States population of prisoners laboring at little or no income
to benefit corporate interest, is nearly equal to the United States enslaved
population at the time of President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Executive Order
of Emancipation.  The estimated number of citizens denied the right to vote as
a consequence of a felony conviction nearly triples the 1862 enslaved
population.  These black bodies are counted in the census for the purpose of
federal funding disbursements to states and counties, and numbers of
legislative seats earned by population.  Yet, they have no say in who fills those
seats, or how those funds are used.  Did someone say taxation without

With the increased privatization of “public education” and corrections facilities
trading on the stock market; the lack of living wage employment opportunities
for black men – especially those with “criminal records,” and the media’s
constant portrayal of black men as dangerous, violent animals who need to be
killed or contained, the likelihood of an American Constitution without a
clause for slavery and involuntary servitude through acts of crime, is grim.

In keeping with our mission of “Educating for Advocacy,” The NIRJ hosts
The Sesquicentennial Dialogue to engage critical and strategic thought around
America’s double standard of justice, and the criminalization of Black people
in general.  It does not begin and end with individuals convicted of unlawful
acts.  It spirals throughout every aspect of Black life in America, from the
condemned to the families and communities they leave behind.  

We began the Dialogue on
December 18, 2015, commemorating the 150th
anniversary of the 13th Amendment
’s signing into law, and continue with
quarterly weekend dialogue and action summits currently scheduled through
July.  Our discussions will be guided by regional scholar activists who are
academically and communally committed to our mission.  It is fitting that this
the Dialogue t
akes place in Ohio, from whence the 13th Amendment was
placed on the Congressional floor in 1863.
 Likewise, it is fitting that the
opening dialogue and screening will take place at
the East Cleveland Public
Library, mere steps away from the 2012 police massacre site of Timothy
Russell and Malissa Williams.  

We look forward to your joining the Dialogue.

~ Mittie Imani Jordan

org/wiki/Thirteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams