Jared Lloyd Koehler sat down with David Ashley Jr., otherwise known by his alias “Dashley,” to talk segregation in the US, in Chicago, and right here at North Park.
JK: David, where do you hail from?
DA: Chicago, Illinois. South side. The 47th. They call it the low-end.
JK: Why do they call it the low-end?
DA: Because that’s what they call it. It’s the hood, man. We live in a very segregated city.
JK: You grew up in Chicago for your whole life. You must have a personal account on the city’s segregation.
DA: For sure. Slavery is still happening today. Mass incarceration of black and brown people is a huge problem for Chicago and all of America. The War on Drugs doesn’t exist; it’s just the new Jim Crow. They call it the War on Drugs to hide a greater problem of the American system.
JK: What problem?
DA: The terminology is used to hide the oppression and hidden racism of black and brown individuals.
JK: Did you see that happening growing up?
DA: If a black male was convicted of something, he would experience more hell here on earth because the system has been designed to keep the poor, black male at the low-low.
JK: How about black individuals who have never been incarcerated? Do you still see opportunity?
DA: In the black community, it is very hard to find jobs and be able to escape poverty and care for one’s family. If you are a single mother because your husband has been incarcerated you have very few options. People will do anything to make money somehow, and it perpetuates the oppression of blacks in Chicago and across America. It’s a cycle.
JK: Did you know there are more African Americans incarcerated today than there were slaves in 1850?
DA: That makes sense. It is all a part of the new system. It’s a perfect way for the government to continue oppression. We need to understand history because the new system of oppression is to both make the black communities look like criminals and inferior. Again, it’s the new Jim Crow.
JK: So you see the new medical marijuana laws lessening the incarceration of blacks?
DA: It’s a good direction. Until its fully legal, I think we will have significant black incarceration. Why does marijuana use transcend race, but blacks are overwhelmingly incarcerated for possession of marijuana?
JK: What do you think of people like the owner of CNN, Ted Turner, who is open about smoking marijuana every day?
DA: No. He’s not thrown into prison. It’s the inner city kid.
JK: How do we fix this problem?
DA: Wisdom. If we all work together as humans, we can get through the oppression of all people. Sometimes violence is necessary, but we must love one another at all costs.
JK: What message do you have for Americans in this country?
DA: Change doesn’t happen until we look inside ourselves. Change doesn’t happen until we forget ourselves. Once we find that balance, we will begin to see change all around us.
JK: That sounds a lot like Martin Luther King, Jr. What message do you have for fellow African Americans?
DA: Don’t let your situation defeat your purpose in life. There are so many more opportunities in this world. I am where I am today because I pushed myself and was hungry for knowledge and growth. I never thought I would be able to meet the people and experience the different environments that helped shaped my life’s foundation. Because of my situation growing up, I know there is always more to life than where we begin. Learning and growing is necessary for the black community.
JK: Do you think North Park lives up to its intercultural values?
DA: I appreciate the opportunities and people North Park has exposed me to, but I don’t think North Park lives up to its intercultural values. We have programs but we also have some students who really want to reconcile and who have a heart for inequalities across the board. Administration should examine if polices and programs are really living up and balancing those bolded, dark blue words on the right-hand side of the website.
JK: What specifically can the university improve?
DA: I’ll keep it simple. The graduation rate for African Americans at this school is so low. This shows an institutional problem.
JK: You’re right. Only 26 percent of African American North Parkers graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years.* But are you seeing any positive change?
DA: We are pushing ahead and I see some great things happening. We need to really look at our policies and continue to look at the implications of our policies on inequality.
* "Percentage of full-time, first-time students who began their studies in Fall 2007 and received a Degree or Award within 150% of 'Normal Time' to completion for their program," U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics