CHICAGO — Hill Harper, an author, actor and philanthropist, said crime is the issue of our time and no one is talking about it — until now.
Harper talked about crime and his most recent book, Letters to an Incarcerated Brother, during a panel discussion Friday, Nov.22, at Roosevelt University.
About 90 people gathered in Roosevelt’s Congress Room to take part in, as well as, listen to the discussion led by Harper and three previously incarcerated men – Michael A. Saunders, Johnnie Savory and Eric Caine – who are now headed toward success.
“I can say that success for me is waking up this morning,” said Caine, who was released from prison in 2011 after serving 25 years of a natural life sentence, and exonerated from a double murder charge.
“It was learning not to sweat the small stuff,” Caine said. “Success was actually comprehending something and understanding it. That’s success to me. “
Charles Stokes, an ex-gang member who has changed his life around, was one of several African-American males in the room who felt it was important they be in attendance.
“Mr. Harper reaching out to the brothers who are incarcerated means a lot to me because I lived that life. I went down that path. It’s important for me to be here to acknowledge what he’s doing for our communities,” Stokes said. “He showed us he cares and I had to be here to show him that I care.”
Chris Huff, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, was happy just to have read Harper’s book, which deals directly with issues surrounding the incarceration rates in the United States and its impact on individual’s lives, families, and communities.
“After reading the book, it made me feel like he understood the struggle and the challenges we face,” Huff said. “He was able to create a piece of work that inspires.”
Several times throughout the event, Harper referenced his Manifest Your Destiny Foundation based in Los Angeles. He spoke very highly of it when asked what it was and the impact on its participants.
“It’s a foundation that I created off of the subtitle of my first book, Letters to a Young Brother: Manifest Your Destiny,” Harper said excitedly. “The whole purpose and mission is to empower young people, particularly those who come from populations that tend to be underserved. We’ve had a lot of impact. At the end of the day no program can be more important than family and parents but we seek to be an intervention piece.”
Harper wrapped up the event saying that he is an advocate for being smart on crime, not tough on it.
“For our brothers who are incarcerated, the question is not did they fail us but have we failed them?” Harper asked. He hopes that people understand that his book is not just written for those behind bars because many of us are in prisons that aren’t made of iron bars. It is a motivational book that provides tools for breaking free of whatever binds you, Harper said.