Podcast: Race & Institutionalized Inequalities in America

Across the Margin presents the next installment of its podcast, Beyond the Margin, entitled, Race & Institutionalized Inequalities in America….

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We here at Across the Margin know when we are out of our league. We are keen at recognizing those moments in life when assistance is needed. And we, too, are not shy in asking for that help. With a desire to discuss race relations, the faulty judicial and prison systems, and the socioeconomic divide in America, we knew it would require vetting someone with many years of experience. Someone who had toiled within the convoluted systems that attempt to close the sociological divides and threaten to sever our national solidarity. And we found that help in one Paul Gutkowski….

Paul Gutkowski is a veteran social worker in the city of New York. Currently, he acts as the Developmental Director for Opening Act, a not-for-profit organization that introduces theater programs to underserved public schools throughout the city. Before that, Paul served as the Associate Executive Director at Getting Out Staying Out, where he helped justice-involved men aged 16 to 24 achieve success upon release back into the community. To relieve the stresses of working towards positive social change, Paul is also an active comedian, improviser, and actor. He can be seen throughout New York City as part of his twoprov group True East, and also can be found performing every Wednesday night at The People’s Improv Theater with his improv team, The Studio System. In addition, Paul plays FBI Agent Ben Harp in Point Break Live and is the co-host of the podcast, The Paulcast Starring Mark Jared Smith.

We approached Paul following news of the tragic death of Kalief Browder, who spent three years, two of those in solitary confinement, on Rikers Island following an arrest – without ever being convicted of a crime1. The trauma of Kalief’s incarceration led him to attempt to take his own life repeatedly, before finally succeeding at the beginning of last month. We turned to Paul to help make sense of this alarming situation, and to gain insight into the adversities that teens like Kalief face every single day. We also sought to obtain Paul’s unique perspective on the responsibilities of everyday citizens in this Post-Ferguson America, the challenges of reducing recidivism, and his views on our broken prison system as a whole. To lighten the mood, we also dug into Paul’s other passions, comedy and acting, peppering Paul with a series of questions that explored his motivations, his methods, and his goals while working in the performing arts.

In this podcast, solutions to society’s ills were hard to come by as expected. But by the end of the episode we felt confident that there was insight to be gained by way of our discussion. Along the way you will hear an excerpt from the book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander2, listen to a reading of a segment of Talib Kweli’s essay entitled From Freedom to Ferguson, you will bear witness to the one of the most awkward transitions in radio/podcast history, and be present for the most unique pronunciation of the word “improvise” you will ever come upon! So, take a journey with us once again Beyond the Margin, as hosts Michael Shields and Chris Thompson continue their quest to prove that stories, inspiration, and understanding can be found all around us.

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  1. The details of this troubling event can be found in Jennifer Gonnerman’s essay, Before the Law. []
  2. The music accompanying the reading was produced by Tom Rau. []

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