Saturday, August 6, 2016

Expression of the Oppression

*note: this blog is an entry from 7-18*

Returning back to class from an unforgettable weekend, I was a bit worn down, but ready to be mind-blown unpacking our new topic of the day, the Death Penalty. I didn’t know much about what was going on with the death penalty in the real world. It wasn’t until John took us to DC towards the beginning of the ILC journey, where I first heard about what was going on by standing in front of the Capitol Building listening to a man share his thoughts about the death penalty in front of a small crowd for about five minutes. It was interesting and eye-opening to how our criminal justice system is working. I was prepared and intrigued to hear about what our guest speakers, Marc Bookman and Dana Cook had to say about this controversial issue.

Death Penalty Protest  *link to death penalty protest in DC*

Mr. Bookman is a lawyer himself. He started us off by breaking down his interpretation of the death penalty to us in an explicit way. The death penalty itself is simply just a legal outgrowth of lynching. When the death penalty was first in establishment, it was used to target black men with accusations of raping white women. Even today, the results of the men on trial still remain the same. What doesn’t help this scenario is the horrible representation that the defense has to support their case through trial and the lack of resources focused on the cases.  Many of the convictions that go through are done with ignoring the presented evidence, with no DNA evidence, or no evidence at all. Most of the lawyers who defend these types of cases have no experience or knowledge in regards to it. They can be trained in an entirely different field and still be eligible for these cases; all they need is to manage six cases win or lose. The way this system was made was only for money saving purposes; why invest time and money into doing it right the first time when cutting back won’t cost a dime? The reality of this mentality is immoral and contradicting. The amount of money that it takes to give a lethal injection to a person costs two to three times more money than it does to keep them alive for life sentencing. The judges or authority figures who push for the death penalty more than life sentencing are only trying to make themselves appear tough on crime for the sake of their jobs and not justice.

Miss Cook is a mitigation specialist. Her job is to find out information or the story of her defending client as well as their mental or psychological state of being. Doing this helps bring a stronger defense to the trial by showing what type of person the defendant is giving the jury and judge some background about them. They also talk to family members and those close to the defendant to uncover this information. A lot of the times, the information found out is not pleasant or something that the defendant would not want people knowing, like sexual abuse. The mitigation specialists are the real help towards the defense. They coordinate with specialists or experts to run tests, give testimony, and evaluations for the defendant along with developing a strong evidence based case for them. These specialists are more trained than most of the lawyers that are given to represent, without them, the defendant would be at an even further disadvantage.

Guerrillero Okulto Performing
Our speakers ended their presentation with a story from Mr. Bookman. He was watching the Lion King with his six-year-old daughter. Scar had killed Mufasa and tried framing Simba so he could claim to become the leader of the pride lands. The only way that this could be settled was a duel between the two off them. Simba knew he wasn’t the one responsible for his father’s death but had to continue with the traditions. Towards the end of the movie, Scar had almost fallen off the edge of the cliff and with one push he could’ve been killed. As Simba moved closer to him, Scar had told him to do it, to push him off. Simba refused proving that he wasn’t a killer like him. Mr. Bookman had asked his daughter before this part had shown asking her what she thinks that Simba should do, push him off, or let him live. His daughter replied saying that he shouldn’t because killing is wrong and that would make Simba no better than Scar. The point of this story was that if a six-year-old can interpret and understand how wrong it is killing someone is as a way of achieving justice, then the death penalty should not be an option. A person’s life is on the line, more care and legitimate resources should be put into better effort for these types of cases.

In the afternoon, we were introduced to a film called “Estilo Hip Hop.” This is film was created by our new guest speaker, Loira Limbal and her team. The setting takes place within multiple countries in South America including Brazil, Cuba, and Chile telling the stories of three different people expressing how they used Hip Hop and Rap as a way of political activism and an outlet for their life struggles. Watching this independent film, it was hard not growing a connection with the characters. Guerrillero Okulto was in the process of fighting for the custody of his two daughters, keeping his job as a landscaper, as well as fighting the brutality going on in Chile. Growing up, his family was always struggling with space to live and financial needs. He turned to music and rap as a way of expressing the problems he and most people are facing including police brutality. Eli Efi similarly used music as political activism to fight the police brutality that the government had been enforcing on the people in Brazil. They were being shot at, run over, beaten, all resulting with the death of the people who were targeted. From Cuba was artist, Magia. She was never into rap and hip hop until she met her husband. Hip Hop was his passion and being a supportive girlfriend, at the time, she developed it as hers. They perform together speaking out about multiple issues, one of their main focuses being women’s rights and respect.

Ms. Loira Limbal
After the movie had ended, Ms. Limbal had answered our questions about the film and the people in it. She told us it took her and her team over ten years to complete Estilo Hip Hop. They had to fly out from New York to Brazil, Chile, and Cuba back and forth to get all of the footage that they needed. Sometimes it would be risky recording because they weren’t allowed to record without a permit and could be arrested, especially in Cuba. Other times it would be because of what they would be recording such as the police and brutality going on which put their lives in jeopardy. These factors also played into action for extending the time it took to finish and release the film.

Reflecting on our society, I was amazed to see how Hip Hop has played a major role in people’s lives from all over the world in expression of their oppression. Listening to the raw rhymes of these talented street artists reminded me much of certain rap artists from back in the 90’s and a few songs and artists today such as Tupac, the N.W.A., the Notorious B.I.G, Kendrick Lamar, etc. They may not be as vulgar as a couple of the artists I compared them to but they all have similar inspirations for doing what they do and making a social change within their own ways. People like these make Rap and Hip Hop even more influential and powerful on society and gives strength to those that are unrepresented and who can relate to the messages being sent. 

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