I am pleased to announce the publication of DIE JIM CROW THE EP BOOK on June 30, 2016. The book, currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com, provides purchasers access to six songs (the EP), which is a sampling of a larger project (the LP), due for release in 2018. You can read more about DIE JIM CROW THE EP BOOK here. On June 30th, the book will be available on other online outlets.
The book is part of the Die Jim Crow project led by artist and activist Fury Young who has spent the last few years engaged in a number of art projects that promote discussion about prison reform. Die Jim Crow is a concept album about racism in the U.S. prison system. The album is written and performed by formerly and currently incarcerated African American songwriters and singers from across the country to educate the public about the criminal justice system and its effect on the African American community.
It is only recently that politicians and the public have begun to participate in meaningful conversations about prison reform and the criminal justice system. Since the official beginning of the War on Drugs in 1982, the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses in the U.S. skyrocketed from 41,000 in 1980 to nearly half a million in 2014. And if that wasn’t enough, we started sending people to prison for much longer terms. The set piece to this equation is that sentencing policies became rife with implicit racial bias and socioeconomic inequity that has contributed to racial disparities at every level of the criminal justice system, with African Americans six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men. While mass incarceration has had some impact on crime, its impact is one of diminishing returns that has eroded African American families and their communities, which has been largely counterproductive and extremely costly. Although the real issues afflicting the communities from which the incarcerated are drawn are in disproportionate numbers, the public has remained wholly ignorant and therefore relieved of the responsibility of seriously engaging with this aspect of our society — until now.
Fury understands this and more. Growing up on the Lower East Side (LES), he witnessed neighbors and friends being arrested and sentenced to lengthy, mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes. Fury realized the quickest way to understanding criminal justice issues was to spend time with those directly impacted. His empathy turned into action by helping the incarcerated with legal fees by selling their artwork; communicating with family members, and providing support at hearings around the country. In time, his actions became the impetus of the Die Jim Crow project by bringing to light the high incarceration rate of African Americans.
When Fury asked me if 2Leaf Press could help him create an accompanying book for the EP to help raise funds to complete the LP project in 2018, I asked the Board if we could squeeze in this last minute project, and they said yes. Even though our resources are minimal, we felt it imperative to support this very important project.
Why? Because we believe there is a huge gap between the public’s perception of prisoners as lacking in value and their humanity and productivity. Prison forces one into a punitive relationship with time, where one is counting the days to be released. I think for some that relationship to time has led to compelling creative practices, whether it is artwork, writing or music. Since so much of a prisoner’s image is defined as “bad,” when an opportunity comes along to become part of a creative process, it not only empowers them, it empowers us as well, opening up endless possibilities including dialogue about the prison industrial complex.
What Fury, along with co-producer Dr. Israel have accomplished is to create a powerful call to action with a collaborative project with formerly and currently incarcerated African American men and women that are bringing their art into a public space that typically silences or excludes them. More importantly, by virtue of their art, writing, and music, they’ve managed to create a stage for bringing thousands of people together to engage, question, and attempt to transform the very social structures that are leading to such high rates of incarceration.
While the DIE JIM CROW THE EP BOOK started out as a 50-page softcover 6×9 book, it quickly evolved into the 182-page 8×8 hardcover book it is today. And in his role as a cultural organizer, Fury managed to bring a multitude of people together to help nurture and complete this project in less than sixty days. It was also one of the most difficult books to produce, not only in terms of time and space, it broke conventional publishing rules with reverse type, bleeds, low-res grainy images, and homemade fonts. Fury wanted to create a visually edgy yet informative book that documented not only the recording sessions and the songs the EP represents but also provide a space to exhibit artwork, essays, interviews, poetry, recipes and other documentation as well as celebrate the participants and their being. To that end, I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity to participate in such a project that I believe is worthy of your support.
So please buy the book. Buy the EP. Spread the word. Donate to keep the project going so that the LP project can be completed and released in 2018. Why? Because your support can and will make a difference.
Contact Fury Young: diejimcrow [at] gmail [dot] com
— Gabrielle David