Oprah recently interviewed criminal justice activist Shaka Senghor as part of her SuperSoul Sunday series. Shaka spent nineteen years in prison for second-degree murder at the age of nineteen, and seven of those years were spent in solitary confinement.
There are many parallels between Shaka’s experiences with the criminal justice system and the anecdotes in Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. Shaka, like many of the individuals Mr. Stevenson has represented, experienced physical and sexual abuse growing up, and he also turned to the streets and drug dealing as a way of gaining the support and acceptance he lacked at home.
Shaka also discusses the dehumanization that takes place in modern American prisons. This dehumanization almost certainly contributes to the high rates of mental illness in prisons, which Shaka describes as common and especially apparent when inmates were subjected to solitary confinement.
Shaka now visits classes and kids in his community to talk about his experiences, teaches classes at the University of Michigan, and has a fellowship at MIT’s Media Lab. One of his greatest challenges in his activism is figuring out ways to “empower young men and women in communities where powerlessness is the norm.” Shaka’s ultimate goal is to “raise awareness” that young people in communities and in prison are worthy, valuable, and redeemable. He says that “all [he] ever wanted was a fair chance to just be a human,” and his actions help spread that message in communities where youth are at higher risk of incarceration.
To watch the full episode, click here.
Michael Pollan appeared on the Oprah Show last Thursday, January 18th, 2010. He was promoting his new book, Food Rules and talk about the documentary film, Food Inc. Pollan’s brief appearance lasted about five minutes and during that time Oprah praised his book for being “eye-opening and thought provoking.” A question that Michael Pollan gets quite frequently is about what he himself eats. Pollan freely admitted to Oprah that he does eat sustainably raised animal-meat, arguing that animals that were well fed themselves (such as grass-fed cattle rather than corn-fed) in turn make more nutritious and healthy food sources for humans.
Oprah introduced a family who claimed that they could not afford to buy healthy food and asked Pollan how he would respond to this common problem. Pollan discussed what a shame it is that a family can buy fast-food for less than fresh produce. He referred to studies showing that calorie for calorie, people can get much more food for their money by shopping in the processed and packaged food sections of the grocery store instead of the produce section. Pollan argues that this is a result of government interest and subsidies in the corn and soy industries.
Both Pollan and Oprah stressed that the most important take-home point from this conversation is that the individual has power to make change. Organic and sustainable foods are expensive now, but if more people demand them the cost should come down accordingly. Pollan described how he shops for produce at his local farmer’s market whenever possible, and how he frequently buys food from the same farmer’s over and over again and has come to know them. Pollan stressed that although sustainable food products may not yet be affordable for everyone on a daily basis, starting small can make a big difference. By incorporting local and organic foods into even one meal a day can help help drive up the demand for the supply and eventually make it more accessible to everyone on a regular basis.
Oprah ended the segment that reminding the audience that everyone should have an opinion on these issues and it is up to the individual to decide what is right for them and their families.
To see a clip from the interview visit this website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/28/michael-pollan-on-oprah-l_n_440476.html
Did you see the Michael Pollan appearance on the Oprah show? What did you think of their conversation? What about his new book and the documentary they discussed–has anyone read/seen them? Comment on this post and let us know your thoughts. Let’s keep the conversation going!