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Mass Incarceration and Racial Justice: Black and Brown Lives Do Matter

Discuss a Poem

Throughout the year, university and community members are invited to share reflections on selected works of art, literature, journalism, and scholarship related to the theme of Mass Incarceration and Racial Justice.  Please identify yourself and please remember to be civil and courteous as we jointly consider these challenging and sensitive issues.


Please share your thoughts about Jericho Brown’s poem, "Hustle"  (from The New Testament. Copyright © 2014):


Each of the 8 couplets ends with the phrase "in prison", a phrase introduced at the close of the very first line; yet the poem keeps on expanding and spiraling out of the confining space of the cell itself, into film (the movie Love Jones), literature (the Alice Walker novel), the un-imprisoned reader, and the very nature of writing, as well as the house in which the author grew up (and from which he escaped). In one sense, we hear an echo perhaps of W.E.B. DuBois' famous celebration of the liberating power of literature in The Soul of Black Folks, "I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls."  Yet, Brown doesn't seem to be positing literature simply as an escape from subjection; rather, the writing process opens up a hall of mirrors redefining the very nature of home, prison, and spaces in between.

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