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Tony Lewis Jr Hot 97 Interview Response on Mass Incarceration

To whom this may concern,

My name is Eric Pridgen. I write in response to an interview on Mass Incarceration with Tony Lewis Jr. Below are my thoughts on such a critical discussion. Please consider.

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I recently viewed an interview on HOT 97’s platform, Ebro in The Morning, where Tony Lewis Jr. talked about his most recent book, Slugg: A Boy’s Life In the Age of Mass Incarceration. Tony Lewis Jr, son of Tony Lewis, spoke about the collateral effect that mass incarceration has on communities across the United States, specifically targeting children of color. Lewis Jr went on to speak about how mass incarceration is deeper than its logical meaning, which is the increase of prisoners over the past 40 to 50 years. And, he stressed how negatively impactful mass incarceration been on the descendants of those who may have made a mistake in the early development of their lives.

I can disagree, conditionally. Imagine if everyone in the world were not affected by their childhood upbringing? More specifically, imagine if every human being can go back and re-write their childhood? Would this change the evolution of the human? As a young African American man who is a product of a parent (father) who was incarcerated for 40% of my life to date, I argue: As a community, we must perform a deeper analysis on mass incarceration and its substantial collateral damage.

To start, we must begin to stray away from the external modalities placed on us that we aspire to become such as Modern Hip Hop culture and its relation to the “American Dream.” In the interview, Tony Lewis Jr. spoke on how his father was close friends with one of District of Columbia most famous narcotic distributors, Rayful Edmond. He also stressed how many people such as his father did not have any role models and how many went to bed hungry. Subsequently, this resulted in many looking for a way to earn income and tend to their hunger. However, what about when one’s stomach became full and their brother or sister were hungry? Tony Lewis Jr also articulated on how his dad played a big role in the drug organization led by Rayful Edmond. He also spoke on how he believes his dad should be forgiven, or considered for some chance of life outside of prison albeit he sold tons of drugs to the “community.” However, Tony seemed to not speak on a potential college saving fund or start-up resources for him or the respective family that his dad behind. The list of positive and progressive actions was nonexistent during Lewis Jr’s interview, specifically relating to what Tony Lewis could have left for his family.

The American Dream and its relation to modern depictions of a get rich quick scheme is one that has confused my community and me. We are all misled about what defines success and leadership. More specifically, as African-American millennials and particularly males, we have no idea of what it means to be a Black Leader. Or, is it that we do not care nor value the Black lawyer, doctor, city councilmen, firefighter, mathematician, dog trainer/groomer, teacher, programmer and the list goes on. I think those who are in position of influence within the poor and well-established communities need to first examine what is needed for not only people of color, but human existence to advance modern society. This will include objects deeper than the texts, it will consist of critical conversation among issues that will only promote positive thinking and reinforcement. Let’s challenge our history and create a new one.
Eric Pridgen
African American Scholar
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