Booker T needs to introduction. He’s played backup for some many hit songs on Stax records, and now he’s putting out another solo record for the label.. Much like the previous few, he’s enlisted some musical help from a wide variety of styles. On the record are Mayer Hawthorne, Gary Clark Jr., Estelle and, on today’s tune “66 Impala”, Poncho Sanchez, who is an accomplished percussion player.
“66 Impala" reaches into Santana territory a bit when they vocals come in, but it is mostly just one long groove with a few solos thrown in. It’s a funky sound that Booker T compliments well with his backup organ. The rest of the album is unfortunately a little hit or miss, but it’s nice to see Booker T back in the Stax studio still recording.
Prisons are big business in upstate New York, but many are closing. Milk Not Jails is working to promote a new industry in the state’s shifting rural landscape.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this summer that he will be closing four more state prisons. Combined with two shuttered this month, that will bring the grand total of prison closures over the last two years to 13.
State officials say the rapid rate of prison closures is the result of sharp declines in the number of people incarcerated for drug offenses. They’ve dropped by 71 percent since 1996, from 24,085 to 7,053. Advocates attribute the decline to 2009 reforms of the infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws, and to efforts to end the NYPD’s controversial stop and frisk policy. Stop and frisk has overwhelmingly targeted young men of color and led to an exorbitant number of arrests for marijuanapossession.
But Governor Cuomo’s move, which many prison reform activists are thrilled about, has been a flash point for residents of the upstate rural areas surrounding upstate penitentiaries who depend on prisons for jobs, as well as the elected officials who represent them.
Enter Milk Not Jails, an unusual intervention that draws from both the prison and food justice movements. Volunteer-run and based in New York City, the organization has worked closely with groups on both sides of the coin to present dairy farming as an alternative to New York State’s prison-dependent rural economies.
The organization lobbies legislators on policy initiatives including the decriminalization of marijuana, closing empty prisons, increasing the amount of locally sourced school food, and legalizing the sale of raw milk. On the commercial side, they partner with upstate dairy farms to market and distribute their products to consumers and farmers markets in New York City. The organization’s goal, according to co-founder Lauren Melodia, is to create closer ties between upstate and downstate economies and issues.
There are criminal justice and anti-policing campaigns in New York State that unfortunately don’t have enough rural support. We see ourselves very specifically playing the role of mobilizing strategic rural support for those initiatives so we can get laws changed at the state level,” says Melodia. “On the flip side, there’s a lot of hard-working farmers trying change laws that impact their lives and their work, but they don’t have enough urban support. So we’re trying to provide that for them. We are mobilizing urban consumers to care about where their food comes from and we’re asking rural farmers to help participate in building healthy [urban] communities.”
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