Op/Ed By Wallace Mabry
Johnny Blackshell Jr., with no disrespect or dishonorable intent to his parents or his relatives, would, were we to require a poster child for the one most likely to cause grief and suffering, be at the top of most of our lists of candidates.
For his crimes against the black community, and the city of Rochester, felony federal and state charges have been brought against him. His future is determined, and set in stone: life imprisonment, at one of New York State’s prisons.
It is not gainsaid; the overwhelming majority of New York State prisoners are black. He will join that majority.
And, during the course of the years he will spend there, he may spend a great many of which employed as a cell-block worker, sweeping and mopping floors.
Or, perhaps, he may employ in the mess hall, serving food, sweeping and mopping floors, cleaning tables, and washing food trays, cups, and eating utensils.
He may employ in the big yard, cleaning the grounds.
Perhaps still, he may employ in one of the prison industries, making furniture, desks, or license plates to be sold on the free market. Or, in one of the various shops, under the supervision of a guard, where he will provide maintenance services for the prison’s various maintenance needs.
Or, in the shoe shop, clothing room, tailor shop, or the laundry area, washing the dirty sheets and clothes of prisoners.
In time, he may even become one of the select few, and employ as a clerk in one of the cell blocks, kitchen, mess hall, or even as an administration runner. In such a position he will be given the privilege of an institutional pass, which will enable him to move about inside the prison, carrying out the tasks to which he would have been assigned.
His wages, however, in either scenario, will never be commensurate with the time he will put into the work.
Prison schools are also available, and perhaps he may become motivated to further his academic skills. If that is the case, he may enrich his mind with some outside reading, and become consciously aware of the devastation he left in the wake of the August 19, 2015 homicides, and associated injuries.
Johnny Blackshell Jr., without question, made a choice with which he will now have to live. A life forever ruled over by contemptuous prison guards, and the dictates of a prison authority.
For those of us who remain in the community, we, too, have choices, many of which have yet to be made. As parents, we can decide to prioritize our lives around the needs of our children, or we can continue to fail them, and ourselves. What prioritizing may mean for some of us is re-constructing our thinking to include our children, our neighborhoods, our educational possibilities, and our economic growths. It may also include reassessing how we communicate with our children, how we treat them, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
First and foremost, we must begin to understand that schools are not responsible for taking the time with our children that we are not taking with them at home, to get them to learn, and to understand basic principles. The primary responsibility for the education of our children rests with us. Education begins at home. How we relate to our children in our homes is how our children will relate to the world outside our homes.
Home is where we teach, and our children learn the basic values which will serve them, and further their possibilities in life. What we do with them at home will lay a foundation of study which will serve them long after they leave our abodes.
Black families, like Polish families, Italian families, Puerto Rican families, and Jewish families, to name a few, must begin to introduce our children to the history of our ancient, African ancestry. Having that as a knowledge base, we will come to realize the richness of our people, and to appreciate our need to be renewed within the spirit of that richness. I know, in saying that, many black people will cringe, and say they do not want, or care, to know anything about Africa. They will say, they are Americans. It is that very attitude, however, that prevents black people from emerging from their psychological enslavements.
The sirens’ song of American capitalism has captured the day for all too many of us. It is all we know, and all we want to know. The drive for the accumulation of things, and for the greatest profit from any of our transactions is the song that has continued to lead us down the paths to our destruction.
We have choices as parents, and we’d best begin to think about what choices we are making for our children. The wrong choice could result in an uptick in the number of black prisoners, as well as an increase in black grave sites.