Knowledge Session: Who was Edwin Eddie Ellis?

Ellis was born in Har­lem, Decem­ber 1941. In 1969, Ellis was dir­ect­or of Com­munity Rela­tions for the New York City branch of the Black Pan­ther Party when he was caught up in the FBI’s Counter-Intel­li­gence Pro­gram (COIN­TELPRO), which sys­tem­at­ic­ally tar­geted rad­ic­al groups.A year later he was con­victed and sen­tenced for killing James Howard, a man Ellis had nev­er met, des­pite there being no evid­ence link­ing him to the crime.

He was sent to Attica Pris­on,attika where he wit­nessed the notori­ous riot there in 1971. He was then trans­ferred to Green­haven Cor­rec­tion­al Facil­ity, a max­im­um secur­ity pris­on where New York’s infam­ous elec­tric chair “Old Sparky” was sta­tioned.

At Green­haven, Ellis and a group of men suc­cess­fully lob­bied to have col­lege pro­grams made avail­able to inmates, and per­suaded the warden to house the par­ti­cipants togeth­er in the same area of the pris­on.
A col­lege dro­pout, Ellis said he was motiv­ated by his par­ents to return to his stud­ies. In pris­on, he earned two asso­ci­ate degrees, a Bach­el­or of Sci­ence in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion from Mar­ist Col­lege Green­haven (magna cum laude) and a master’s degree from New York Theo­logy Sem­in­ary (summa cum laude).

“Eddie sees things that people don’t see and I pushed oth­ers to attend col­lege, because Eddie pushed me,” Cham­bers said.
By 1992, Ellis was in a work release pro­gram at Lin­coln Cor­rec­tion­al Cen­ter in Har­lem. Two years later, he re-entered main­stream soci­ety and con­tin­ued his advocacy work.
While still in pris­on, Ellis, War­ren Harry and George Prendes set up the Pris­on­ers Parolees Anti-Crime Organ­iz­a­tion. It even­tu­ally became the Com­munity Justice Cen­ter and Ellis became exec­ut­ive dir­ect­or after his release. Harry and Prendes were deputy dir­ect­ors. The cen­ter provided hous­ing, edu­ca­tion oppor­tun­it­ies fun­ded by the state and fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and assist­ance from social ser­vices pro­grams.

In 2002, it became the Nu Lead­er­ship Pub­lic Policy Group, con­cen­trat­ing solely on justice and pris­on con­di­tions, employ­ing work­ers who earned post-gradu­ate degrees and PhDs.

In 2008, the pub­lic policy group became the Cen­ter for Nu Lead­er­ship on Urb­an Solu­tions, a crim­in­al justice think tank, headed by cen­ter dir­ect­or Dev­in Pry­or, PhD. Ellis has traveled the world on behalf of the cen­ter, lec­tur­ing at Yale, Har­vard, Stan­ford, in Lon­don, South Africa and Scot­land on crime and con­di­tions in the com­munity that keep people in poverty, and how the com­munity pro­duces law abid­ing cit­izens.

“We look at the lar­ger pic­ture, both eco­nom­ic­ally and socially,” Ellis said.

A former adjunct pro­fess­or at Medgar Evers Col­lege, Ellis, now 70, works at home writ­ing and research­ing. He lob­bies state and loc­al legis­lat­ors on behalf of the unem­ployed, provides brief­ing papers to law­makers and trains parole officers, police officers, social work­ers and cler­gy­men how to deal with at-risk youth. He also is work­ing on a major cam­paign to end the prac­tice of char­ging teen­agers under 18 as adults.
Ellis’ raspy voice – a res­ult of a para­lyzed vocal cord – can be heard on “On the Count,” a 90-minute weekly, pub­lic affairs radio pro­gram on WBAI FM 99.5. It is the only radio talk show in the coun­try pro­duced by formerly incar­cer­ated employ­ees who have post-gradu­ate degrees, two of them with PhDs.

Ellis, author of “The Real War on Crime,” said thou­sands of formerly incar­cer­ated, edu­cated people reshap­ing the world don’t get the respect they deserve because their former status con­tin­ues to define them after they’ve paid their debt to soci­ety, even though research shows recidiv­ism drops sig­ni­fic­antly for Afric­an Amer­ic­ans who earn a degree while imprisoned.
Edwin Eddie Ellis served 25 years in pris­on for a murder he did not com­mit, but he nev­er let that get in the way of liv­ing a life of pur­pose. He passed away in the early morn­ing hours of July 24, 2014, from a heart attack.


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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.

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