Akeem Browder, an agent of change
For Akeem Browder, the political implications of his brother’s death, Kalief Browder, motivated him to confront as to what he saw was a complacent and corrupt justice system.
As part of 64 days of non-violence, the Multicultural Department and the Residence of Life hosted the agents of change to communicate the Kalief Browder story.
Throughout the videos Browder presented in the ASC theatre, audiences were given a glimpse of the excessive force and damage the correctional officers used on Kalief. On the other side, documentary clips and pictures with celebrities showed Kalief boldly expressing his discontent to how he was treated.
Browder, whose Time documentary exposes more in-depth on this controversial case, made it understood that his brother’s rejection for a plea bargain was based on principal. When virtually no one raised their hand as to whether they would accept a plea bargain, Browder was amused.
“Where are we as a nation, of black and brown people, or people period,” said Browder, “as a nation, where this still goes on in 2019?”
He said that he wanted to continue his brother’s legacy by making his story known. To challenge the perception that all those jailed are merely convicts overlooks a system that can deliberately go awry, he said. It can also lead people to ignore an individual’s suffering.
He said with the fortunate circumstance of having his brother’s story being told, it also stands for those who have gone unheard, but also generates a kind of suspicion by the community where they feel that over a bookbag, a sentence to prison is not far off the mark.
Browder spoke about his brother’s case and the impact on his family, he said that is the way he desired his message to come across. Even when recalling his mother’s reactive death and the details of his brother’s incarceration, Browder remained calm and focused.
“I had to tell the story different. I could not let the public turn because there were so many graphic images that you could’ve turned the tale from so we had to teeter from keeping the attention without being too harsh,” said Browder.
Immediately afterward, Browder turned to the audience to challenge them to consider the main crux of these issues: how can everybody be more aware of these issues and subvert as to what he sees are major problems in the incarceration system.
He said that the repercussions for poor families in black communities is even more felt. He said that the financial privilege of being bailed out still might not be enough.
For “You would then be free to fight your accusation out on the streets. Well, that’s great, but when your accusation has a price of $3000, maybe you don’t have that money,” said Browder.
Akeem Browder is the founder of Kalief Browder Foundation and an advocate for shutting down Rikers Island. Browder was not hesitant to express his utmost disappointment with New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio’s concerns with the prison. When asked as to elaborate his thoughts, he said that much of what New York promised was “lip-service.”
When asked by the audience as to what the residents of Connecticut can do, he said that learning the language of the law and voting is essential in changing the landscape on how the system is worked.
“Average people don’t know about law. And so since you don’t know of law, we just enforce it on you,” said Browder.
After his presentation, a crowd of nearly over 60 lined up either to take pictures and ask Browder questions.
Rose Perez, a senior, interdisciplinary study major, said that as a mother of four, she finds the inspiration to act within her community. This means getting involved with her children’s school and offering her thoughts about the curriculum that they so often teach.
“I think the biggest thing that we’re learning is learning the law to educate our community, “said her husband Nilvio Perez, “not just live through the news and say ‘that doesn’t happen to us.’”