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Infotainment: Hicks speaks about The New Cotton

By Floyd Miller



On April the 16th, citizens of the Abilene community were informed and entertained by Mr. Leo Barron Hicks of Dallas, Texas. Mr. Hicks has a law degree, but refers to himself as “a recovering attorney”. He is the author of The New Cotton and The Cotton Chronicles. {{more}} The discussion of the evening focused on his book The New Cotton. Hicks went to law school, he said, with the sincere but mistaken belief that, with the knowledge and power derived from being a lawyer, he could make a difference, but he said the things that he saw as a defense attorney chilled him to the bone. He was shocked and saddened by the sheer amount of minorities and the hopelessness and despair of those caught up in the system. Dealing with the day-to-day malevolence of the criminal justice system and looking at the black and brown faces of the criminal defendants I represented, I could not help but wonder what happened to us. How did we, as a society and people, go so wrong? He said it was based on this information that he decided to write the book, The New Cotton, which explains a lot of the problems that African Americans suffer, but he also feels that, by writing this book, maybe some people would not fall prey to the economic and social factors that invariably to the new slavery and to create dialogue about where we have come from, where we are, and where we are going. He said finally, I want to send a wake-up call to other young black males to show them the real purpose of the criminal justice system and to convince them that we can and must do better.A local Abileneian, Robert Lilly one who has been on the wrong side of the law and knows much of the pain that criminals inflict on society and also the demeaning ways in which prisoners are sometimes treated was the catalyst behind Mr. Hick’s trip to Abilene. Lilly said “ I invited him to Abilene in order to raise the consciousness of our citizens and particularly our students at ACU to the challenges that mass incarceration will pose to our future generations.”There were a few individuals from the community and quite a few college students at this event. The Hunter Welcome Center was a wonderful venue for such a meeting. Mr. Hicks laid out 13 steps that individuals can take to avoid becoming victims and in bondage in the new criminal justice system. He said “that involvement in the system is like AIDS, once your charges are filed, it is too late. The defendant is already infected. The time has therefore come for African Americans to adopt new codes of conduct .”. I am tempted to list all 13 steps but I think it would have a greater impact if you bought the book I will share several of the steps. 1. Do not harm others. While slave-on-slave violence undoubtedly occurred during traditional race slavery, Hicks said, “It has reached new heights in modern America”. He quoted statistics about Black on Black Crime. 2. Do not idolize or make excuses for African Americans who engage in destructive behavior or who violate the law. He said “other than Hispanics, African Americans are the only ethnic group whose young people worship prisoners, and far too many are getting rich by glorifying criminal and destructive behavior. African Americans can no longer tolerate blacks who harm other African Americans or who engage in cultural pathology and social suicide”3. Obey the law. As a general rule, a person cannot become a new slave unless he or she gives the criminal justice system personal jurisdiction over them. Jurisdiction is acquired by engaging in conduct that rises to the level of probable cause that a crime has or will be committed.4. Embrace learning and the first thing African Americans must learn is their own history. 5.Teach your children what it means to be a real man or a real woman. Real men and women take care of the people they love. Real men and women go to work everyday not because they want to, but because others depend upon them to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. The students from ACU and McMurry asked some very though provoking questions. Mr. Hicks took time to answer their questions.The students recited poetry, they sang and used their talents in many other ways. This group of students was optimistic about the future. Some of them have already faced tremendous challenges but they are determined not to be a part of The New Cotton .

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