Did you ever wonder about where our one-hundred billion dollar prison industry had its beginnings, and why it so disproportionally confines people of color?

For starters, look no further than the Thirteenth Amendment to The Constitution of the United States.

Go ahead. Look it up on Google. Read the whole Amendment. I’ll wait here while you read.


Back so soon? Yup, it’s only 2 sentences long.

The Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude. That is very good thing. But there is an important catch built into it: the 14-word second phrase.

A few days ago I watched a stunning documentary, made in 2016, that I’d never heard of before last week: Thirteenth, written and directed by Ava DuVernay. It focuses on the implications of that 14-word phrase. It can be viewed on Netflix.

This is the sum and substance of my blog post this month: WATCH THIS DOCUMENTARY.

Then I’d love to know what your observations are. One thing we can thank the coronavirus for is giving us the opportunity to ponder really big, unexpected issues. Thanks for considering this one.

9 replies
  1. Anna
    Anna says:

    Hello from Michigan! What else are you watching, listening to or reading as it relates to the Black lives matter movement?


  2. Victoria Stevens
    Victoria Stevens says:

    Since you’re rarely on Facebook I thought I’d share one of my recent posts related to supporting the BLM Movement with you:

    The moment that finally kicked me into high gear to support the BLM movement was a global townhall organized by my CEO, who is Black, where he and our Chief Growth Officer, who is also Black, shared their personal experiences of living as Black men. Of achieving what many would describe as the top of the game, but still getting pulled over, still being discounted in meetings, getting arrested, and still having to humble themselves in front of thousands of employees around the world to share these devastating experiences.

    They did not want to have this conversation. They should not have had to have this conversation. I should not have had to watch my company’s leadership emotionally describe some of their most humiliating and devastating experiences in their careers and lives.

    But there we were, once again, having the exact same conversations we’ve been having for decades. And after they spoke, two national leaders in the Black movement explained the importance of this moment. They asked everyone in the company to take it upon themselves to create the change. To pledge to do better. To say something when we see something. To refuse to let this moment pass. To stop just tolerating diversity and start valuing diversity. To participate in all the anti racism trainings our company will be offering in the coming months and share what we learn and experience in our communities and make a difference everywhere, not just within our company.

    I was so moved I watched the Townhall twice. The next week I helped organize a BLM rally in my town. And we’re working on our local education system, our local church leaders, and our local elected officials. I may be in a small town in Eastern Kentucky, but I’m the only person in my company of thousands who lives in any Appalachian community. And as the one person in my company who lives in this gigantic swath of America I made it my personal goal to be the one person in my company working to change Appalachia.

    If all companies, all organizations, all churches, and all school boards could ask all of their members and employees and students to do what my company asked of me to change our local communities… to just start there… just imagine how quickly we could be the last generation to have to have this conversation.

    Because no one wants to have this conversation… not my Black CEO, CGO, CDO, or the legislator in this video below. They just want their perspective to be trusted and believed so we can understand how important this is.


    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      I am so proud of you, Vicki! THIS is the time. WE are the ones we’ve been waiting for. There will never be another moment such as this. And you, dear niece, are stepping up, in a difficult locale, to the difficult challenge of being fully PRESENT, deeply LISTENING, and empowering others to do so as well.

      I repeat: I am SO proud of you!!

  3. Robin Caruthers
    Robin Caruthers says:

    I watched this documentary several years ago and that is when I learned about the “exception.” It appalls me that I did not know it before. Further study and reading have shown me how slavery has morphed into convict labor, peonage, Jim Crow, work place, real estate, job discrimination- in short, the criminalization and negation of black humanity. Where should my voice and my action be used in this moment? How do we caring white people advocate while in quarantine?
    I have started by hosting Zoom groups discussing the book White Fragility– so we can see how whiteness works within us. Maybe then, we will move on to more anti-racist work with a healthy sense of racial humility and a will to work for true equality.

    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Thanks, Robin. And let’s not forget that we can’t do “anti-racist work” apart from the input and collaboration of people of color. Otherwise, no matter how good our intentions, it’s still “us” and “them.”

  4. Thomas Hartwig
    Thomas Hartwig says:

    Just a quick note my olde friend, to say hello and thank you for the important role you played in Michigan for all those who needed you. You were special then, to all of us, and you are special now, in your life in the northwest.

    Gods Speed and Stay Well……….Tom Hartwig

    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Tom, how wonderful to hear from you! You may expect a catch-up email from me very soon. In the meantime, I have very fond memories of you as my-mentor-who-was-more-friend-than-boss. It was exciting to reach out into the West Michigan communities to discern the needs and wants of the elders rather than imposing “our solutions” on what we perceived they needed. Thank you for showing me that path.


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