In an interview with Book Club Chicago, Vic Mensa described the details of his Books Before Bars program, which aims to supply prisoners with books that can transform their lives. Mensa also mentioned his Books Before Bars program to High Times in 2022.
Currently, tens of thousands of prisoners are currently locked up on federal and state cannabis-related charges, which is one of the reasons why some cannabis brands and the leaders behind them aim to change that.
Mensa is one of the rappers trying to do that. He explained that Books Before Bars can trace its story back nearly a decade ago. Mensa gave a copy of Huey P. Newton’s autobiography Revolutionary Suicide, 1973, to an incarcerated friend.
The book tells the story of how Newton, co-founder of the Black Panthers, “mastered his memories and, essentially, transported himself mentally beyond the walls of a prison” during his own time behind bars in the ’60s.
“I’ve seen how the right book at the right time can be a seed which, if watered and natured, can grow an internal freedom even within the walls of a modern-day plantation,” Mensa said. “I started [Books Before Bars] with the cannabis company because I wanted to provide a freedom.”
According to data from the Illinois Department of Corrections, in 2019, the department banned hundreds of books including many about race and racism, before being forced to change its policy after public outcry.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Illinois has the third-highest racial disparity in cannabis possession arrests, with Black people 7.5 times more likely to be arrested than white people despite consuming cannabis at similar rates.
Some of the other books include The Autobiography of Gucci Mane by the Atlanta, Georgia-based rapper to Sister Outsider—a collection of essays and poems by Audre …
Author: Benjamin M. Adams / High Times