On Friday, November 3, 2017 the General Baptist State Convention of WI, Inc. GBSC) – Health Outreach Prevention Ministry (H.O.P.E.) hosted a presentation of the Milwaukee53206 Documentary, followed by a panel and audience question/answer session. The event took place at Canaan Baptist Church – Education Building.
Though the RSVP ended at 5:00 pm on October 31st, calls continued to come in the day of the event ending with an anticipated audience of 375 people. In attendance were over 320 people from varying zip codes across Southeastern WI. There were seniors, adults and children of various ethnicities and races. There was a large population of adults between the ages of 25 – 40 years old. During intermission, the General Baptist State Convention of WI, Inc. sponsored a light meal for all in attendance. After a 15-minute intermission, the guest panel session took place. The audience remained for the discussion with the exception of few that left.
The idea to show the film was spearheaded by the GBSC President Reverend Dr. Garry Levy. President Levy stated that there is a special need for this documentary to be shown to our community. Mass incarceration impacts the church as well as the individual that is sent to jail. Mass incarceration causes someone to be missing from the family during critical celebratory milestones and life changes. The church is a family. We identify the family to be a significant part of the church. Levy quotes: “if families are broken; the church is broken.”
Levy asked the convention delegates during the October board session, “how many had seen the documentary?” Less than 20 people raised their hands. The auditorium was completely silent during the film. The audience was engaged for the entire viewing. This validated the need to bring back to the community efforts of the documentary in addressing mass incarceration.
The panel consisted of the moderator, Reverend Joseph Jackson, GBSC State Missionary; Dr. Lillian Johnson, GBSC Vice President of the Congress of Christian Education and Prison Ministry; Dr. Josie Veal-Associate Dean Milwaukee Area Technical College and Family Nurse Practitioner for Milwaukee County Corrections- Behavioral Health, Dea. Albert Brown Reverend, GBSC Laymen President; Reverend Grady Davis, Jr. –National Baptist Convention, USA Criminal Justice Commission and Minister William Harrell, Table of Saints and former prison inmate.
The panel discussion provided members of the audience to have a glimpse of the various roles each panelist plays in working with the incarcerated ministries. Audience members were allowed to ask questions or make comments. A few thoughts from audience participants: “I can related to Ms. Walker (in the film), I too have a significant other that is incarcerated.” When one panelist spoke to the 40 year impact of mass incarceration and compared it to modern day slavery; a member of the audience noted that mass incarceration began more than 40 years ago; rather it started 400 years ago.
Another young mother asked for resources that would prevent her sons from repeating the imprisonment cycle that their fathers were in. She stated, “I am a woman, I cannot teach my sons to be men.” Reverend Davis asked the men that
could raise their hand to being a vigilant father; 50 men raised their hands to fatherhood. Davis shared his experiences in visiting prisoners in Louisiana’s State Penitentiary (Angola). He ministered to an individual on death row. The inmate told
Davis, “they may take my life but they can’t take my soul.” Davis explained to the audience what placed this individual on death row – stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family and an altercation happened that caused the clerk to hit his head. He died. The adolescents in the audience were intrigued by the experiences shared.
Dr. Veal encouraged all Church goers to be non-judgmental when these individuals return to our communities and seek the churches assistance. “We must acknowledge that we all have fallen short of the glory of God.”
President Levy ended the evening with a “Call to Action”. He identified that the GBSC will move forward in its commitment to helping others that are affected by mass incarceration. Levy assures that the GBSC will continue the conversation and seek opportunities to make a difference in this critical issue.
MILWAUKEE 53206 shows the daily realities of all those affected by mass incarceration in America. Through the intimate stories of three 53206 residents, we witness the high toll mass incarceration takes on individuals and families that make up the community. The film not only examines Milwaukee’s ZIP code 53206, but also illuminates the story of people from across the United States who live with the daily affects of excessive jail sentences.
This screening of MILWAUKEE 53206 is a part of outreach campaign presented by Odyssey Impact, a multi-faith media non-profit that creates and implements outreach campaigns for documentaries to mobilize faith leaders and change makers to address the most pressing social issues facing our world. The MILWAUKEE 53206 social impact campaign aims to engage, educate, activate audiences and build stronger foundations of support for the children, parents and families affected by mass incarceration in communities across the country.
The General Baptist State Convention of WI, Inc. (GBSC) is a member of the National Baptist Convention, USA. Inc. with 7.5 million members across the United States.