YONKERS, N.Y. -- At 16, Darius Clark Monroe couldn’t fathom how his family, who lived outside Houston, Texas, still struggled when both parents had full-time jobs.
“It seemed like my family, my neighbors and community were working, but no one was able to progress,” said Monroe, a 33-year-old filmmaker. “Everyone seemed to be financially stuck. It felt like we were always one or two paychecks away from stepping down a dark hole”
Monroe, who had a part-time job, was finally pushed over the edge when his family’s home was burglarized in 1996. After seeing an episode of "America’s Most Wanted” a few months later, he decided to rob a bank out of desperation with two friends.
Monroe asks for forgiveness from those he terrorized 17 years later in his first feature-length film “Evolution of a Criminal.”
Monroe will discuss the question of how a teen becomes a bank robber in a Q&A session after the screening of his film at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Yonkers on Wednesday, Nov. 5, at 7:30 p.m.
Those in Yonkers may also have similar questions, in light of the r ecent arrest of a 17-year-old who was charged in two bank robberies in the city last month.
Monroe said that though circumstances vary, poverty can be a natural catalyst for crime.
“People who feel disenfranchised in neighborhoods where funding and programs are decimated and devalued, that pushes people to go into crime,” said Monroe.
Monroe stresses the importance of explaining to young boys, especially those of color, how criminal convictions can make life very difficult.
“We have to explain the prison-industrial complex and how there is a system set up to keep you forever in chains, a system where even when you are free you are burdened with your record,” Monore told Daily Voice.
Monroe alluded to the criticism of America's prison industrial complex which is accused of disproportionately jailing minorities ; incarcerating more people than any other country in the world; and profiting from it by entering into privatized systems where jails must meet inmate quotas.
“We have to speak the truth and speak it often,” said the filmmaker.
Monroe’s film is also a story of redemption made possible through compassion from those who did not stigmatize him, allowing him to earn a graduate degree from New York University.
“We have to tell kids they are important, how much we love them and how beautiful they are," said Monroe. "We have to let them know there are people who will allow them to improve and grow and do better, instead of constantly reinforcing punishment.”
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