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Black and Brown: Violence and Peacemaking among African-Americans and Latinos in Compton, California—the Hub City

Nate Williams
(Writing from DVI, Tracy State Prison, California)

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Editor’s Note

I am currently involved in teaching a course “Transcommunal Cooperation in Multicultural settings” for a group of men—Latino, African-American, Native American, and White—who are incarcerated at Deuel Vocational Institution or DVI (also known as “Tracy State Prison”) in California. We developed this course as a response to the positive initiative of this coalition of men who are working across ethnic lines. Their cooperation amongst themselves is a living transcommunal model of constructive engagement that provides a positive counterweight to ethnic tensions, competition, and conflict in the prisons and the wider society. The course is also facilitated by the work of the community organization Barrios Unidos (United Neighborhoods) which has been bringing constructive cultural programs to Tracy for years. Barrios Unidos has a long record of bringing Latino, African American, and other communities together in the search for an end to violence in our neighborhoods and for positive social-economic strategies to revitalize our communities. The essay below was sent to me by Mr. Nate Williams, who is incarcerated at Tracy, is a student in the class, and is one of the key creators of this educational coalition initiative along with Mr. Ernest M. Barela, Mr. Michael F. deVries and many others.

-John Brown Childs 1 May 2008

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From Deep Within the Belly of the Beast…

What is it with the Hub City today?
Why do we hate and kill each other at a rate that’s disproportionately higher than that of other people? Sure, we’ve heard the excuses before that we’re “prone to crime, violent by nature, poor and oppressed”—but what are the real causes?

Here we are, countless articles and news reports later, and our precious communities are still in a state of distress. It seems that the problem of black vs. brown crime doesn’t seem to be improving, but rather is steadily getting worse by the day. But what is really going on?

It is apparent to the observant eye that more than not we’re acting in the way that we’re expected to act. That is, we are fulfilling a role in society that is decided and encouraged by people other that us—African Americans and Latinos. All we need to do is to look at television or listen to the radio to experience the sobering statistics or the self-hating mess of *!#$&*! that now passes as black/brown “entertainment” on the evidently racist major networks to confirm this fact. Thuggishness and gangsterism, misogyny, brutality, and ignorance are now virtually synonymous with black/brown life in the eyes of many, both inside and outside of our communities, as a result of both our actions and of the way in which corporate America sanctions and glorifies negative images and behavior.

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