Youth of Color: The Riveting Truth From School to Prison


School-to-prison pipeline is not a hashtag in social media garnering attention to unite for a more significant cause; however, Victory Gardens Theater decision to bring attention to the injustice within this process gets five stars even before the play begins.

Dominique Morisseau's Pipeline deals with the School-to-Prison Pipeline policies and practices that seem to be thrusting students of color out of school and on a pathway to prison. The 'School-to-prison pipeline 'is a profound process of criminalizing youth by carrying out harsh disciplinary actions that connect the deemed unruly student with law enforcement.

Unfortunately, once connected with law enforcement for their disciplinary actions, they are taken out of the educational system and forced into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Well, it's Black History Month, so here are some facts. In 2014, CIVIL RIGHTS DATA COLLECTION provided a data snapshot detailing a disproportionately high suspension/expulsion rates for students of color. Within the detailed report, they were able to show that those of color were suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students.

This School-to-prison pipeline suspension statistics start as early as preschool where 2014 data revealed that close to 50 percent of children of color had received one or more than suspensions.


With studies that provide a correlation between school suspension and expulsion of those of color relate to the increase of inmates in prison, we can see indisputable facts that the School-to-prison pipeline is very detrimental to those of color and only benefits prison stock shareholders. In fact, in 2015, statistics showed that each federal prisoner costs taxpayers an average of $20,000 to $40,000 wherein 2018, the average cost for school tuition was only between $10,000 to $14,000 per year; revealing that it cost more to imprison a mind than it does to educate

Rick preached and taught in the prison system for close to a decade, so we can choose to agree or disagree about how these people of color get into this School-to-prison pipeline, but what we should be discussing is that it's more hurtful to society to imprison than to educate.

Now, that we're off of our soapbox, with the Zero-tolerance policies being widely criticized for its broad narration for expelling students for minor infractions that should be handled by school officials and not cops within the school, you can easily see why Nya, would feel hopeless about the future for her son Omari.

The play presents a very much needed conversation about parenthood and the state of our school systems where the students of color are faced with a higher rate of punishment.

Nya, (Tyla Abercrumbie) a public high school teacher, is committed to two things, her students and to give her only son, Omari unlimited opportunities outside of the four walls of a school. However, her desires to make this happen has been compromised because Omari (Matthew Elam) has been involved in a controversial incident at his private school threatening to get him expelled. With the school-to-prison pipeline system set in place and this being Omari's third strike Nya is now questioning her parenting choices and what is causing her son's rage in a backdrop of poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks poem 'We Real Cool!"


Speaking truth about the unequal propensity of minors and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds, we see a mother's love and determination to reach her son before the world beyond her put him in the system of incarceration. She would move heaven and earth for him, but can she move the seemingly unflexible punitive school and municipal policies.

Tyla Abercrumbie does an excellent job of portraying a compassionate mother trying to save her son from the wrath of getting caught up in the School-to-prison pipeline system, and Janet Ulrich Brooks (Laurie), whose delivery is impeccable, plays to perfection the many emotions teachers that witness horrid daily events that take place in the school.

Rounding off the cast is Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, Mind Games, Empire and the Black Lighting TV series actor Mark Spates Smith (Xavier) Omari's father. Smith role is an unemotional, detached father was on point and has one line; all fathers will love. Priceless! Ronald L. Conner played the security guard at the school that wasn't quite doing enough to deescalate a problem between some students according to one of the teachers. Then there's Aurora Real De Asua (Jasmine) Omari's girlfriend. Aurora in her Victory Gardens debut will definitely be someone to notice, and she's not shy about letting you know. My one drawback is the very bland stage setting that with the combination of a dull background and darkness would make people think its bedtime. This to us pulled away from the audience seeing some good performances. Victory Gardens, you can do better.

Let's Play recommend that you see ‘Pipeline' at Victory Gardens to enhance your experience and dialogue about a real problem that is plaguing our school system and the children of color within our society.

Victory Gardens Theater Presents the
Chicago Premiere of
By Dominique Morisseau
Directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce

February 1 – March 3, 2019

Filed under: ChicagoNow

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