Eady is a student concern specialist at North Charleston High, in Charleston, South Carolina.
South Carolina was one of four states I visited to research—for my play Notes from the Field—what has come to be known, among social scientists, educators, jurists, politicians, and grassroots activists, as “the school-to-prison pipeline.” I met Eady when I took a side trip to Charleston while traveling up and down the “Corridor of Shame,” a stretch of towns along I-95 with about thirty-six substandard schools.
Many children in these schools are travelers on the school-to-prison pipeline.
During the Obama administration the Justice Department released data revealing the overuse of expulsions and suspensions to discipline kids who live in poverty.
His mother, Leonie, a black woman, is by her own definition Michael’s “baby mama.” Leonie’s father, called Pop by Jojo, spent time at Parchman too, as a teenager. Cross-racial dating is not unusual in the world of this novel; but the previous generation’s racism, like that of Michael’s parents, has not budged. Her daughter, Kayla (short for Michaela, after her father), a toddler, is not yet completely verbal. Mam says that this is because Leonie did not breastfeed Kayla.
Jojo and his younger sister, Kayla, live with Leonie’s parents, Pop and Mam, as do Leonie and Michael when he is out of jail. In the real world, a thirteen-year-old with Jojo’s profile might have an would record everything about him, including information about his family. All of the adults around Jojo are connected to the system of mass incarceration. Mam says the kneading of her brother’s ear is her substitute for the comfort she was not given by her mother. But it’s who she fell in love with that causes her to be haunted by Given’s ghost.
Saw the walking wound I was, and came to be my balm.Tony Eady was about the 250th person I interviewed.He had worked in a maximum-security penitentiary before becoming a student concern specialist at North Charleston High.Sometimes he’ll tell me the same story three, even four times.
Hearing him…makes me feel like his voice is a hand he’s reached out to me, like he’s rubbing my back and I can duck whatever makes me feel like I’ll never be able to stand as tall as Pop, never be as sure.If schools are to meet the demands of the modern world, they need to be more than sorting mechanisms designed to identify who goes to college, who joins the workforce after the twelfth grade, and those for whom there is no place.They need to be reimagined as centers for a culture of learning and growing in which students, teachers, staff, administrators, and parents are respected and cared for intellectually, physically, and creatively.Doing time there now is very different from doing time the way his grandfather River did time. Kim Rushing interviews a current inmate identified as Terry Wilkins: I’m in this 10×10 room 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Just set back and think of your self setting in a room the size of a small bathroom. But the reason you think that is because you don’t see the trusty shooters. You don’t know the sergeant come from a long line of men bred to treat you like a plowing horse, like a hunting dog—and bred to think he can make you like it.