A Survivor of the School-to-Prison Pipeline Speaks Out.

This is a response by John Dukes, Vivett Dukes’ husband, to her most recent post. He describes himself this way: “You should know that first and foremost, I am a family man who loves God. I honor my commitment to my marriage, my children, and my friends fully. I am a happy person who has a positive outlook on life. I enjoy serving other people, and have been able to further this gift both during my 19 and a half years of incarceration and now my six and a half months living freely on the outside once again.” For more of their story see Vivett’s series, “Letters from John.

I’m not posting this because you’re my wife. I’m posting my honest thoughts because I’m moved by your truth, in addition to the research you shared with the reader in this thoughtful blog about Christian Hemans, your only son.

The way you captured your emotions for Christian on his graduation and intertwined the Black experience in America was more than just good writing. It was raw. Knowing you, it was written in one breath. I’m literally in awe from reading words fashioned from a woman who started out as a single mother way before we got married. Truth is, you revealed systemic issues that plague the Black boy experience in every neighborhood that some Black people affectionately call “The Hood.” These areas function as pipelines to prison all across America. Yes! The same America in which I’m proud to reside. The same America that horrifies me when I’m not ignoring its truth about Black and brown people that occupy the same space as white people.

Vivett gave the reader a vivid picture of the horror I’ve experienced in my forty-five years of living in America. The blog describes my life and the lives of many Black men living in the United States along with her dedication to the wonderful life she birthed, Christian Hemans. And even in a Black mother’s joy you hear her pain. Vivett acknowledged her son could have succumbed to the narrative given by the same powers that skillfully usher faces that resemble the beautiful brilliant men and women she saw at the May 10th, 2019 Howard University graduation, while equally sharing the pain of an American nightmare that her son Christian side-stepped.

Those sentiments expressed by my wife provoked me to write a response from a Black man that has been hit by the same plague Vivett spoke about.

It is incumbent upon all educators to broadcast messages like Vivett’s, regardless of your station in life. If you’re an educator I call on you to use your mind to uplift a group of targeted people, targeted at birth and preyed upon throughout the duration of a life that I liken to a hamster running in a maze. Again, thanks for publicizing Black excellence coupled with the frightening reality of our sons being targeted for prison and not making it to twenty years old.

I hear the conviction in Vivett while writing this celebratory blog and I connected with the misfortune of Vivett’s research blended with her truth. I am compelled to amen her sentiments. Vivett, your love mixed with your education was properly used to enlighten all. And I believe these words spoke for the voiceless plus the educated men and women who’ve championed causes — such as the school-to-prison pipeline — to rise against injustice. Your integrity infuses your work like fine perfume you never get tired of inhaling. Vivett, job well done, #MotherofCivilization. In addition to your son Christian Hemans, I salute you. #DefiedAllOdds

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