Executive Producer Eddie Conway speaks with Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, prison activist and founder of the Ordinary People’s Society, about building a broad coalition to boycott the businesses that are tied to prison slavery
Rattling the Bars, hosted by former Black Panther and political prisoner Marshall “Eddie” Conway, puts the voices of the people most harmed by our system of mass incarceration at the center of our reporting on the fight to end it.
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Eddie Conway: I’m Eddie Conway coming to you from Baltimore. Welcome to this edition of “Rattling the Bars.” A movement continues to move around the prison industrial complex and the slave labor conditions that prisoners continue to work and live under. Joining me today to give us an update on this movement is Pastor Kenneth Glasgow from the Ordinary People’s Society. Thanks for joining me, Pastor Glasgow. Kenneth Glasgow: Thank you for having me, Mr. Conway. Eddie Conway: After the national prison strike last year, you all decided to take the fight to the businesses outside that were benefiting from the slave labor conditions. And so, give us an update of what happened since then. Kenneth Glasgow: What we did was, after the prison strike, when [inaudible 00:01:03] 40 to 50 different prisons, we turned around and I came and joined the march with my brother, Reverend Al Sharpton, in Washington to end slavery. And what that was, we declared a boycott against Aramark. Aramark has been serving in over 32 different state prison systems, and in 32 different states there have been all kind of reports. From Virginia, there’s rocks in the food; from North Carolina; from Detroit, there’s maggots in the food. Even here in Alabama – we can’t get a picture of it because they won’t allow cameras inside to get to – but there have been reports of boxes there that’s not fit for human consumption. What has happened since then, is you got Color of Change, you got different organizations that’s joined onboard. But more especially, M.I.T., right there in Baltimore, joined onboard, and last Thursday they had a rally, a protest against Aramark, and asking their college and the administration of the college to end their contract with Aramark in their college, in their school. We are trying to build it up to where we would not only be boycotting Aramark, but we’ll also be looking at Corizon, who is one of the biggest medical providers in prisons as well across this country. Eddie Conway: But M.I.T. is in Boston, Massachusetts, and I’m sure you meant to say that. Give me an idea of what kind of success have those students at M.I.T. had. I interviewed them last week, I believe it, or two weeks ago, and they had several hundred signatures on petitions. I understand they had a rally recently. What happened with that? Kenneth Glasgow: What happened with the rally is that they were very successful. Even some of the staff, from my understanding, joined in with them and said that if the students don’t want it, then we’re with our students. They got a lot of attention up there, and a lot of people joined onboard with them that’s going to be joining onboard with us. As a matter of fact, I got a phone call for the last few days that I also be going to Chicago now to talk to the nurses’ union, and all this is behind the attention that was brought by those in M.I.T. Eddie Conway: So, where will this go? You’re saying it goes, maybe, to the nursing union and to look at the medical provider or something? Is that where this is going? Kenneth Glasgow: Yes sir. We’re going to be boycotting Aramark, and more and more students and colleges are joining all across the country. What I didn’t know is that Aramark also provides food for the hospitals. So the nurses are joining onboard not only for Corizon, who we’ll be boycotting next, but also for Aramark, who’s providing food inside their hospitals as well. We have a lot of people joining onboard, a lot of different organizations. You will see a lot of marches coming up, and a lot of people addressing this legalized slavery up under the 13th Amendment. Eddie Conway: You were telling me a little earlier that you just have to refight a battle that you won some time ago in Alabama. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Kenneth Glasgow: Yes sir. In 2008, I filed a lawsuit against the 1901 “Moral Turpitude Act,” that’s section 8, paragraph 177 in the Alabama 1901 constitution. And I fought it … for 107 years, Alabama had been taking people’s voting rights unconstitutionally. They’ve been taking voting rights from anybody and everybody who had a felony. Well, according to the Moral Turpitude Act, if you had a felony that did not – N-O-T – did not involve moral turpitude, that’s [inaudible 00:05:17], he should have never lost the voting right. The only definition that was out there was from a previous, late Attorney General called Fryer, Mr. Fryer, who said possession of guns is not moral turpitude, felony DUI, doing business without a license, or aiding and abetting an enemy of the state is not a crime of moral turpitude, so they should never have lost their voting rights. So I started going to different prisons and registering people to vote out of prisons and jail. We turned around and became the model city, a model country, a model organization to get people to vote by absentee ballot out of jail. Since 2008, I’ve been begging, declaring, and decreeing everywhere and trying to promote this [to listen 00:06:02]. to everyone, to go inside their jail to register people to vote. This started happening all across the country the last couple of years. But something tremendous just happened in Alabama. We had a bill, a bi-partisan bill, to define moral turpitude. There was about 435 felonies that disenfranchised you and takes the voting right. It was never a clear definition of what crimes were of moral turpitude and what crimes were not. What ended up happening last Thursday was the bill was signed that only 18 felonies are defined … 18 are defined as crimes of moral turpitude. This opened the doors, Brother Conway, for hundreds of thousands of people that’s currently incarcerated and formerly incarcerated to have their voting rights they should have never lost in the first place. Eddie Conway: That does sound like a great victory. Give me an update, if you will, on the pending National March for Human Rights for Prisoners in D.C. in August, August 19th. Can you give us a little update on what’s happening with that? Kenneth Glasgow: August 19th, August 19th … somebody say “A 19th.” August 19th is going to be the day that we’ll be doing the march on Washington, “Million for Prisoners” march, human rights march, and it’s going to be against slavery on its face. We just came out this morning, you could go to the Facebook page “Million for Prisoners.” We put out the demands that we want to end legalized slavery and the exception clause of the 13th Amendment. This is something that came out of the national prison strike [inaudible 00:07:50] brothers that’s currently incarcerated who started this and created it, and all of us have taken [to the forum 00:07:57]. Now, the update is that we’re actually mute. Those of you out there who claim and who are interested, who have family members, and who have the passion to end slavery and who have people that’s incarcerated inside the prisons, no matter what state they’re in, we’re asking you to get in touch, “Million for Prisoners” in order to be a coordinator or organizer to help us out. Those of you who are clergy, those of you who clergy, faith-based, no matter what your faith is, please get in touch with me, Pastor Kenneth Glasgow. That’s 334-7912 … 433-334-7912 … 433, get in touch with me all you clergy members because we want you to be there. I’m over that flock right there and we want you to speak. We want to hear from you. August 19th, we will be marching in Washington for human rights and dignity for all. Eddie Conway: Okay, thank you. And thanks for joining me. Kenneth Glasgow: Thanks for joining you back. Thank you so much. And let me say this about you, Eddie Conway. You are one man … there’s only two people I know that run just as hard as me or harder, and that’s you and my brother, Reverend Al Sharpton. Now, I’m trying to find out what’s that … the fountain of youth or whatever y’all got to keep y’all going [inaudible 00:09:19], because I can’t go as much as y’all do. Y’all be hitting three and four cities and states all day. It takes time [inaudible 00:09:27] to drive, so y’all gotta hip me to what y’all doing to get all that [inaudible 00:09:31]. Eddie Conway: You’re doing a great job, you’re doing a great job. Thank you. Kenneth Glasgow: God bless. Eddie Conway: And thank you for joining this episode of “Rattling the Bars.”