Africans and African Americans in the US Criminal Justice System
On November 30, 2011, The West African Research Association joined with the Center for Church and Prison to host a lecture and panel discussion on mass incarceration in the US and its effects on African populations residing in here, with a focus on immigrant detention. Reverend George Walters-Sleyon, founding director of the Center for Church and Prison and himself a native of Liberia, delivered the lecture, which focused on the rapidly increasing rates of incarceration in general and detention of immigrants in particular and the impact this has on individuals and their communities of origin. It is not unusual for immigrants to ‘disappear’ into the system for years at a time—often for minor infractions. With no way of contacting their families at home and caught up in a system that allows them no rights, these people are effectively lost to their home communities.
The lecture was followed by a panel discussion. Panel members included Leslie Walker, Esq., Executive Director of Prisoners Legal Services; Trina Jackson of the Network of Immigrant and African Americans in Solidarity, and Anne Medinus, Executive Director of the African Community Health Initiative. Panelists spoke about the various ways in which detention of immigrants is affecting African communities in the area. Trina Jackson talked about building solidarity between African and African American communities in the face of being targeted by law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Anne Medinus spoke about the devastating impact detention and deportation has on health and well-being, citing a number of recent examples from her own work in the Boston area. Leslie Walker talked about her experience working in the system and urged us all to contact our representatives and urge them to counter the expansion of a system which is counterproductive, causes undue suffering, and which is extremely costly to taxpayers. Presentations were followed by questions and discussion with the speaker and panel members.
The event was co-sponsored by the Boston Theological Institute, and the Boston University African Studies Center, African American Studies Program, African Students Organization, UMOJA, and the Black Law Students Association.
Conference on Polygamy, Polygyny, and Polyamory:
Ethical and Legal Perspectives on Plural Marriage
In November, WARA co-sponsored an international conference, Ethical and Legal Perspectives on Plural Marriage, organized by the Hadassah Brandeis Institute on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law. The practice of plural marriage poses ethical and legal challenges for the liberal state. Internal minorities demand the toleration of polygamous practices. (More information about the conference here)