(Part One)

By Candace Johnson

When Anna asked me if I wanted to write an article on P Supremo and his new project for the AFA blog, I responded with the first two things that came to mind.  My first thought was “Yeah, totally!” and my second thought was “um… who’s P Supremo?”  After a couple hours of lively conversation over spaghetti and meatballs I found out, WAY more than I had bargained for, about P Supremo and what he’s up to tonight at Hollow Earth Radio.

I didn’t know much about P going into our first meeting, except that he hasn’t had very many breaks come his way throughout his life, and that he is getting ready to start a new show at Hollow Earth Radio; the platform being a combination of Rap and Hip Hop music and discussions that relate to a variety of community issues.  Pretty vague, huh?  After hearing him speak with great passion about his first hand experiences with incarceration, overcoming the struggles that come with getting re-established in society after incarceration, and his (appropriately named) show The Yard as a platform to engage the community in related discussion, I am here to tell you that P Supremo is most definitely NOT vague!

P Supremo has plenty of practice when it comes to navigating the U.S. justice system.  After being housed in both federal and state correctional facilities starting at the tender age of 12, and seeing with his own eyes what life on the inside really means, P Supremo is in an incredibly unique position to help get us started talking about how our communities will accommodate the anticipated influx of ex-convicts, but also how we can prevent the private prison industry from making bucket loads of money off of ALL OF US.  P is ready and willing to tell you that whether you’ve been to jail or not, or know someone who’s been incarcerated, you are just as much affected by this issue as any current or former convict.

While stuffing my face with meatballs and housing an enormous bowl of broccoli with my left hand, and gripping an ice cold PBR with my right hand (in order to nurse the severe burn it suffered when I heroically used it to grip the 400 degree stainless steel handle of the pan the delicious meatballs ere baked in as it fell off the stove-top, therefore preventing a vegetarian dinner from being served), the energy in the room was no less than exciting while I listened to P tell us about his plans to use The Yard as a way to open up an ongoing discussion that will address how our community will be affected by and respond to the expected dramatic increase in the early release of prisoners from state and federal institutions over the next several years, as well as the relationship between for-profit incarceration, and the resulting endless cycle of violence, crime, and drug addiction that afflicts at-risk and overwhelming minority youth in our neighborhoods.

As many states across the country, including Washington, continue to combat severe fiscal problems, public funding for a plethora of state programs and social services continue to get cut out of their budgets, and that includes our prison system, and its prisoners.  Thanks to private companies such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group (formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation) using shrewd lobbying tactics, lavish campaign contributions, and successful efforts to control information, states are increasingly in favor of privatizing their prisons and other correctional facilities as part of a solution to their budgetary woes, rather than focusing on cutting costs by reducing the number of people behind bars.

In addition to the false promise of stifling state budgetary issues, for-profit prison companies play a major role in the ongoing suppression of the adults and youth in our communities who are most vulnerable to societal disparagement.  The combined populations of convicted offenders and immigrants equal big money for private prison companies like CCA and The GEO Group, and so it is their goal to keep their hand in the proverbial olympic size pool of under privileged people in America.  In other words, it is the private prison industry’s mission to put people in our community in jail, and keep them there.  As proponents for the so-called “tough on crime” laws (such as mandatory minimums, truth in sentencing, and three strikes laws, just to name a few) that curtail probation and parole eligibility, and prevent judges from exercising discretion based on individual circumstances of the crime and a defendant’s individual characteristics, for-profit prison companies do a fantastic job at securing their future profits.  And, just to give you an idea at how good of a job companies like CCA and The GEO Group are doing when it comes to profiting off of the incarcerated, the ACLU sites in its 2011 report titled “Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration” that annual revenues for just these two companies alone has expanded to nearly $3 billion as of 2010, while CCA’s President and the CEO of the The GEO Group earned a combined $6.7 million in executive compensation during 2010.  You can puke now… its okay, I completely understand

So what about the music?  Well, thank goodness for the music, otherwise we’d all be completely depressed, right?!  P Supremo is the perfect person to tie the Rap music of the 1990’s and beyond to the discussions surrounding the serious community issues that come with incarceration, life after incarceration, and the kaleidoscope of related topics.  It was refreshing to hear P speak to the fact that our youth is very much influenced by the stories heard in most of the Rap and Hip Hop music we enjoy, more specifically the stuff that was recorded during the 1990s.  While many people are quick to believe that the sole purpose of Rap and Hip Hop music is to perpetuate gang culture and violence (and therefore do not regard it as a valid form of art), P Supremo understands that it is in fact a valid form of art, and that to silence the Rap and Hip Hop music of the 1990s would be essentially killing of an entire culture that is far more deep than just some silly Rap music.  The messages we hear in these songs often serve as biographical accounts of actual events from the perspective of individuals who, like P Supremo, actually experienced them and how they affect the people in their communities.  It would seem foolish to not use these songs, and P Supremo’s new show The Yard, as tools to help us engage and teach our youth about an entire era of music, art, and culture that is so deeply rooted in all of our lives, whether we realize it or not.  Come on down to The Yard, presented by Central Sounds and hosted by P Supremo at Hollow Earth Radio, tomorrow night starting at 9:00pm.  Always free, always all ages!

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