June 1 2017 08:22 AM

‘13th’ screening with author James Kilgore invites community to discuss race and criminal justice


THURSDAY, June 1 — When James Kilgore talks about prison, he has some personal experience to back it up. The author of “Understanding Mass Incarceration” spent six and a half years behind bars for crimes he committed as part of the Symbionese Liberation Army in the 1970s.

Kilgore visits Lansing tomorrow for a public screening of “13th,” an Ava DuVernay documentary that explores issues of race and criminal justice. The evening also includes a light meal and a post-viewing discussion of “13th” with Kilgore.

“We will be talking about ‘13th’ and its impact and importance,” Kilgore said. “This documentary has an amazing impact on people. For some, it's their story being told, and for others, they are shocked.”

According to the Netflix, “’13th’ refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The progression from the end of slavery to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by Ava DuVernay. In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.”

“Systems of oppression find a way to reinvent themselves,” Kilgore said about the shift from slavery to Jim Crow laws to the mass incarceration of African Americans today.

Kilgore argues that films like “13th” are important, because they reveal the shortcomings of our current system and encourage people to discuss the problems.

“The documentary is visually striking, with the use of historical footage, music and infographics,” Kilgore said. “The reason this film is so important is because people should be doing something about it. Every future teacher, every school across the country should have to watch this documentary.”

Kilgore is an educator, writer, and activist based in Urbana, Ill. He writes on issues of mass incarceration and the politics and history of southern Africa. Kilgore has written four novels, all of which he drafted during his time in prison.

“I am hoping to have a dialogue with the audience, an interactive dialogue where we can discuss how things can change,” Kilgore said. “We are in need of a fundamental rethinking of our laws and how our prisons work.”

“13th” screening and discussion with James Kilgore

6-9 p.m. Friday, June 2


Lansing First Presbyterian Church

510 W. Ottawa St., Lansing