Mustafa Malik El-Shabazz Blogs – “A Revolutionary Act”
By Mustafa Malik El-Shabazz, EJP student
June 28, 2014
“Education is the passport into the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” – Malcom X
The push for programs of higher education in prison is a Revolutionary Act, make no mistake about it. It is a progressive push against the status quo of society that disregards the incarcerated-citizen/person as a social pariah and as human waste. It is a liberatory process of intellectual transformation that restores dignity and self-worth to those who have been deemed by society as incorrigible and unworthy of love. Higher education is about Love, an unconditional bullet-proof love that is not confined by steel, brick, and razor-wired penal colonies. Higher education informs and transforms the character of the incarcerated-citizen/person and thereby the prison environment. I believe it can be effectively proven that the more educated the incarcerated-citizen/person becomes the less violent he/she tends to be; therefore, education fits into the administrative call for security. If you want to create safe spaces in prison and beyond, higher education is essential.
When I first entered the EJP Community/Universe in the summer of 2010, I was very apprehensive about the pedagogical milieu. After years of incarceration without any genuine socio-academic edification with people who had any sincere interest in optimizing my human potential or reviving my intellectual real-estate, I was feeling somewhat inadequate. Most of my educational experience in prison had been based either in a deposit and withdrawal banking system; a group-thinking dynamic; or autodidactic. The pedagogical experience of EJP has broadened my worldview by challenging me to think both literally and figuratively outside of the box. The program has assisted me in continuously transforming prison into my University and my cell into my classroom.
The Education Justice Project, through higher education, humanizes the prison experience. In an environment that is overtly hostile toward habilitation and re-habilitation, and the powers that be tend to check their own humanity at the front gate; the Education Justice Project recognizes and attempts to revitalize the humanity of the incarcerated-citizen/person. Here students are members of an intelligentsia that privileges our intellectual pursuits; our faith is restored in our own humanity and in the humanity of others, while also allowing one to redeem his own sense of self-worth and community value. To my knowledge, in EJP’s 6 year history, no student-member/alum has recidivated and all continue to be productive members of their communities and society at large. Which goes to bolster the stance that when opportunities for higher education amongst the incarcerated are offered and taken advantage of, the rate of recidivism can actually be reduced by significant margins over time.
As a liberating organism, EJP continues to till the soil of our fertile minds, sowing the seeds of critical pedagogy, and reaping the Beautiful Harvest of our human intellectual potential as incarcerated-citizens whose treasure-troves of knowledge and wisdom are priceless. One of my instructors once told us that her grandmother once told her that “you don’t know anything unless your friends know it too.” As the drama of higher education in prison continues to unfold, EJP is the lived pedagogical experience of incarcerated-citizens/persons “telling the stor[ies] that cannot be told.”