A five-hour drive from Chicago on interstate 57 South will lead you to Southern Illinois. You will encounter towns such as "Marion," "Harrisburg," "Benton," and "West Frankfort." Arguably, the most notable town in Southern Illinois is "Carbondale." A turn on Highway 13 West will lead you to Carbondale. The town received its name due to the abundance of coal in the area. Besides that, the area is hilly and surrounded by woodlands. It has a population of nearly 26, 000 residents. However, because of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC), the population can easily increase by 18,000 during the academic semesters. Of that student population, a considerable number of them are Chicagoans. The African American students have labeled the indigenous residents "Carbonites." Apparently, this label reflects an intra-cultural distinction. Like the most segregated large city in the United States, Chicago, Carbondale is segregated by race. Most African Americans live on the Northeast and East sides of the town whereas most of the Whites live on the West and South sides respectively.
My family arrived in Carbondale in the early 1960s, but my uncles further migrated to Chicago. Like many large agrarian African Americans families, we were part of the great exodus from the south. Some families settled near-south in areas like Southern Illinois while other families continued to places like Chicago and Detroit. Life in Carbondale was quaint, but poverty and the lack of a post-secondary education haunted many of us in ways we could not have imagined. Despite its size and relatively low crime rates, Carbondale has many African American males who face consistently ominous encounters with the justice system. High incarceration rates and race have a strong correlation in Carbondale, Illinois. .
I recall two of my brothers as well as five cousins serving time in either the Illinois Department of Corrections or the Federal Bureau of Prisons.