Here's What You Need To Know About Kalief Browder

Here's What You Need To Know About Kalief Browder

Jay-Z made a documentary series about him, so here's what you need to know

Jay-Z's documentary about Kalief Browder was released to Netflix recently, and it is incredible. It's monumental even. Finally, someone is sharing the heartbreaking story that tells so perfectly how broken our justice system truly is. But I realize, there are a lot of people who probably don't even know who Kalief Browder is, let alone why this is so important.

Kalief Browder was a teenager from the Bronx who was arrested in the spring of 2010 at the ripe age of sixteen for a robbery he did not commit. There was little to no evidence to prove he had done it, but because he was arrested in New York, he was sentenced to spend the time until his trial at Riker's Island.

You probably know about Riker's from any New York City-based cop shows, especially Law and Order: SVU. However, what you probably don't know about Riker's is that it has been demonstrated to be one of the most violent prisons in the country.

Reports have shown that of the approximately 7,500 prisoners detained at Riker's, around 80% of them haven't been found innocent OR guilty of the charges pending against them. This is especially important because Kalief Browder spent THREE YEARS in Riker's Island at the age of SIXTEEN.

In those three years, he did not see a trial. He was not given the right to a fair and speedy trial. Instead, he was beaten. Not just by other prisoners. By officers. Those officers beat him, starved him and generally tortured him. This has been caught on video and surveillance tapes, which have been published.

"What about posting bond?" You ask, outraged that a 16-year-old was put into an adult prison for a robbery he clearly didn't commit.

He couldn't come up with the $10,000 for bail.

Three years later, after the case was bounced around and continuously delayed, Kalief Browder was released from prison after his case was dismissed. He spent two of those years in solitary confinement, all for a crime he did not commit. A crime he told police, corrections officers, anyone who would listen, that he did not commit.

In 2015, Kalief Browder committed suicide with an air conditioning cord after suffering from depression and PTSD from his three-year stint in Riker's.

That's why this is so important. It is so important that his story is told because our justice system is broken. It is broken if someone cannot afford to post bail and they are then forced to spend time in prison when they have not been convicted of anything. It is broken if someone can spend three years in that prison awaiting trial. What is the point of having the right to a fair and speedy trial when you can't even demonstrate that right?

How we let a sixteen-year-old rot in the most violent prison in the United States for a crime he didn't commit is beyond me. But the real tragedy here is that despite all that and despite all the support he was given after his release, he still felt that his only solution was to take his own life.

Say his name. Kalief Browder is only one of the many victims of our broken justice system. Say. His. Name.

Cover Image Credit: Socialist Alternate

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I'm A Christian And I Have A Tattoo

Stop judging me for it.

Like most people, I turned 18 years old during the course of my senior year of high school. I’ll never forget the months prior to my birthday, though, because I spent hours making a decision that would be with me forever, the decision of where I would go to get my first tattoo and where that tattoo would go, and of course I spent a lot of time deciding on the font, the colors, and all of the other aspects of the tattoo I wanted. Throughout this time, two things stood firm 1) the fact that I was going to get a tattoo, and 2) the six letter name that it would consist of.

Now, three years later, I’m 21 years old and I still get the occasional dirty look at church on Sunday or in line at Walmart, and more often than not this look is accompanied by the following words: “Why would you do that to your body when God says not to?” A few weeks ago at a new church, a woman came up to me and said, “How can you consider yourself a Christian when you have that blasphemous thing on your foot?”, I simply smiled at her and said: “God bless you, have a good week.” I let it roll off of my back, I’ve spent the past three years letting it “roll off of my back”… but I think it’s time that I speak up.

When I was 8 years old, I lost my sister. She passed away, after suffering from Childhood Cancer for a great deal of my childhood. Growing up, she had always been my best friend, and going through life after she passed was hard because I felt like even though I knew she was with me, I didn’t have something to visually tribute to her – a way to memorialize her. I, being a Christian and believing in Heaven, wanted to show my sister who was looking down on me that even though she was gone – she could still walk with me every day. I wanted it for me, for her. I wanted to have that connection, for her to always be a part of who I am on the outside – just as much as she is a part of who I am on the inside.

After getting my tattoo, I faced a lot of negativity. I would have Leviticus 19:28 thrown in my face more times than I cared to mention. I would be frowned on by various friends, and even some family. I was told a few times that markings on my body would send me to hell – that was my personal favorite.

You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28

The more I heard these things, the more I wanted to scream. I didn’t though. I didn’t let the harsh things said about me and my choice change the love I have for the Lord, for my sister, or for the new precious memento on my left foot. I began to study my Bible more, and when I came to the verse that had been thrown in my face many times before – I came to a realization. Reading the verses surrounding verse 28, I realized that God was speaking to the covenant people of Israel. He was warning them to stay away from the religious ways of the people surrounding them. Verse 28 wasn’t directed to what we, in today’s society, see as tattoos – it was meant in the context of the cultic practice of marking one’s self in the realm of cultic worship.

26 "You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. 27 You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. 28 ‘You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. 29 ‘Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. 30 ‘You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD. 31 ‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:26–31

The more I have studied my Bible over the past few years, the more I pity those who rely on one verse in the Old Testament to judge and degrade those, like myself, who made the decision to get a tattoo for whatever reason they may have for doing so. This is because, you see, in the New Testament it is said that believers are not bound by the laws of the Old Testament – if we were, there would be no shellfish or pork on the menus of various Christian homes. While some see tattoos as a modification of God’s creation, it could also be argued that pierced ears, haircuts, braces, or even fixing a cleft lip are no different.

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."
Galatians 3:24-25

In Galatians, we read that the Old Testament law was created to lead people to Jesus. However, we know that Jesus has come and died on the cross for our sins. He has saved us, therefore we are no longer held to this law in order to have a relationship with the Lord. Our relationship with Him comes from believing that Jesus came to Earth to die on a cross for our sins, and repenting of our sins – accepting Jesus as our Savior.

I am a Christian, I have a relationship with the Lord that is stronger than it has ever been, and - I HAVE A TATTOO.

I have a beautiful memento on my left foot that reminds me that my sister walks with me through every day of my life. She walked with me down the red carpet at my senior prom, she walked with me across the stage the day I graduated from high school, and she continues to be with me throughout every important moment of my life.

My tattoo is beautiful. My tattoo reminds me that I am never alone. My tattoo is perfect.

Stop judging me for it.

Cover Image Credit: Courtney Johnson

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To Fathers Acting like Parents, Not Strangers

You are a rare breed.


Thank you for everything that you are; for knowing that it is better to try to be there than to be absent entirely; for loving your children instead of teaching them not to love themselves.

"Father": there are many that vacate this title. Either they don't know what it means or they do and simply do not want to take on the role. It's "too much" for them. Tell me, is a father's presence too much for him or is his absence too much for the children? Who hurts more? The fathers at least had something to let go of, but a child never had anything to hold onto. Perhaps now their small hands only grasp the notion of a family, but even then, the concept is too big for them to wrap their fingers around.

So thank you for not letting your children's childhood lay as a corpse in a casket. Thank you for showing them that they are not some part-time job. Thank you for letting them know that they weren't a job to begin with; that loving them iseasy and difficult— but never impossible. Thank you for staying and making your presence worth it.

Thank you.

Cover Image Credit:

Derek Thomson

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