By Nakechia Gay
A new year, new challenges, new hope. That's the normal way of things. The beginning of a new year is always accompanied by a self-reflection of purpose in life and a resolution to change actions to achieve that purpose.
But so far, 2017 is no normal year.
Last week, millions of people around the world changed the meaning of self-reflection and purpose into a collective-reflection and marched in solidarity for basic human rights. This collective-reflection and purpose flowed and filled the National Black Theatre on Jan. 26 for the first monthly community action meeting of 2017 for the Alliance of Families for Justice.
At the meeting, we reviewed our policy agenda, which includes:
- Raise the Age
- Parole Reform
- Prison Abuse
- Prosecution of Domestic Violence Survivors
- Treatment of people with mental health challenges
- Prison Closures
In response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to decrease maximum security prison visitations from seven days a week to three, we decided to add prison visitation rights to our policy platform. Studies have shown that successful re-entry is greatly enhanced by maintaining strong family and community ties. We agreed that we cannot allow implementation of this inhumane policy to happen.
Following our policy agenda review, we launched our new website with a #ViralForJustice session. We used our social media outlets to share selfies of our group with our networks. This was a great way to promote the work of AFJ and meet people who attended the meeting.
Next, we broke into small groups to discuss how we can turn this platform into an action plan. For those who were unable to attend the meeting, some of the ways you can get involved today include:
- Being an advocate at the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus the weekend of Feb. 18.
- Helping plan the March for Justice this coming Sept.
- Assisting with weekend outreach
- Helping plan and attending our first welcome home ceremony in February
- And let your fingers do the walking. Share, retweet, post and advocate through social media the work and mission of AFJ.
During the meeting of my small group, a formerly incarcerated man shared a story about how he went to Senator Perkins' office to advocate for issues regarding mass incarceration. As he was leaving the office, someone said to him, “I know you.” He looked up and realized it was the director of a shelter he used to stay at when he first got out of prison. Reflecting on that experience, he told me “look at where I was and where I’m at now. I never realized my progress in life, but that day it really showed.”
Let’s continue to change lives and the world by supporting AFJ’s purpose in life- to support and empower families of incarcerated people and people with a criminal record