As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, one sore subject that America often avoids is that of mass incarceration and criminal justice reform. Activists and leaders such as John Legend and Marcus Bullock have been leading the charge and keeping the conversation going. Flikshop would like to honor some of the men and women who have continued the fight for reform and pushed the movement forward.
“Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.”
Angela Davis - Is an educator and activist who has been instrumental in leading the nation closer towards social justice for decades. She avidly advocated for prisoners in the 1960s and 1970s and came to notoriety during an escape attempt at the trial of the Soledad Brothers who were charged for the murder of a white prison guard. This attempt resulted in the death of four individuals and authorities accused Davis of conspiracy as the guns used were registered to Davis, landing her on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Davis was arrested but eventually acquitted of all charges ironically by a jury of all white peers.
A member of the Communist Party and Black Panther Party, Davis was known as a radical feminist at the time and has traveled the globe where her belief in socialism strengthened. She currently plays a major role in the prison abolition movement that seeks to eliminate prisons and is a co-founder of Critical Resistance that is focused on building an international movement to dismantle the prison industrial complex. The prison abolition movement also pushes for smart decarceration and the termination of both solitary confinement and the death penalty believing that it is inhumane. Davis continues to be active in speaking against structural racism and other systemic tools of oppression, specifically within the U.S. that lead to inequities.
“Mass incarceration is a policy that's kind of built up over the last four decades and it's destroyed families and communities, and something we need to change. And it's fallen disproportionally on black and brown communities, especially black communities, and it's kind of a manifestation of structural racism.”
John Legend - Is a man of many gifts who has vehemently supported criminal justice reform for years. Understanding the hardships faced by those who’ve previously been incarcerated, Legend has chosen to back social entrepreneurs through a business accelerator program. He has supported reforming the biased bail system that disproportionately affects low-income individuals and people of color. Legend has traveled across the country using his platform to raise awareness and champion criminal justice reform.
He launched the initiative for criminal justice reform, Free America, a multi-year campaign that focuses on having open dialogue to change the criminal justice system in America and partners with multiple stakeholders to impact change.
“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.”
Bryan Stevenson - Is a lawyer, activist, and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a 501(c)(3) that provides legal representation to those who have been wrongfully convicted, unfairly sentenced, or victimized while serving time in jail or prison.
Mr. Stevenson has argued multiple cases, winning several cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2019, Stevenson successfully argued a case that led to the protection of convicted prisoners who suffered from dementia and a milestone case from 2012 that prohibited mandatory life sentences. Stevenson has continued his social justice efforts with the creation of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum that combat issues poverty and discrimination in America.
“I want to change the entire world’s perception of formerly incarcerated people…”
Marcus Bullock - Is a criminal justice activist who knows first-hand what it’s like to navigate life after incarceration. From inmate to tech entrepreneur, Bullock launched Flikshop, an app that allows individuals to receive postcards from friends and family while serving time and being separated from loved ones through the Flikshop Angels program.
With a primary focus on re-entry for returning citizens, Bullock wants to ensure that the lines of communication remain open to help with the transition back into society thereby reducing recidivism. Through Flikshop, Bullock has developed strategic partnerships geared towards offering job opportunities regardless of their criminal record. Bullock hopes to broaden the conversation and get people to see that criminal justice reform is not just a problem for the returning citizen or the criminal justice system itself, but one that involves the entire community.
Many big names from Meek-Mill to Jay-Z and the late Nipsey Hussle have used their platforms and lent their voices to speak out on criminal justice reform. Reform is a subject that is of interest to many as both they or their loved ones have had a relationship with the system in the past. No matter your status, race, or political affiliation, criminal justice reform is a humanitarian issue in which we all play a part in coming up with a solution.