Convener’s Corner

Taifa pensive

 May 15, 2018

Entire video here – VOTE FOR JUSTICE

“Vote for Justice: An Evening of Empowerment with Artists and Activists,” powered by the Justice Roundtable coalition on May 9 was spectacular. The event began with a reception featuring a poignant Art for Justice display; a justice-themed book pavilion made up largely of titles authored by Soros Justice Fellows; the ACLU Smart Justice Initiative’s voter education demonstration website; a social media photo booth with the tag, #JusticeLooksLike; and a well tread red carpet. The theatre program was a fast-moving mosaic of conversation, performance, video and awards, bringing together artists with advocates and the community at large to reflect, celebrate and be reenergized.

The event launched a six month social media impact and civic engagement campaign to inspire the public to individually and collectively imagine what #JusticeLooksLike and to remember those visions when they go to the polls in November and beyond. The campaign challenges celebrity, athlete and policy influencers to help make the vision of justice reform personal and proximate to themselves and their followers by posting to social media words and visions of what #JusticeLooksLike in their lives and motivating others to do the same. We hope such mass action will help normalize progressive narratives on justice system reform and transformation, and translate into concrete policy changes.

During his opening remarks at the program Open Society Foundations President Patrick Gaspard challenged the live and online audience to imagine what #JusticeLooksLike even while we are, in the words of Bryan Stevenson, proximate to injustice. It is our hope that the #JusticeLooksLike campaign will help shape and amplify a narrative change in policies that slash mass incarceration, reunite families, and strengthen communities.

As I stated in my closing remarks, “We want candidates to be empowered to say ‘No more drug war. No more felony disenfranchisement. No more juvenile life without parole. No more money bail system. No more fees and fines. No more collateral consequences. No more warehousing a generation.’ And we want the community, in a non-partisan fashion, to vote for those candidates that lift up justice and vote smart justice.”

The event combined grassroots, on the ground activists who are making a difference in state and local campaigns with national leaders, policy makers and directly impacted people. For people across the country who were not able to come to DC, the program was live streamed by media partner, MIC. #VoteforJustice and #JusticeLooksLike trended all evening. That night there were over 90 million impressions on social media, 856 shares of the live stream video and 74K views.  Entire video can be viewed at VOTE FOR JUSTICE 

The event was hosted by Tichina Arnold and Michael Eric Dyson.

Readings and testimonials were performed by Senator Kamala Harris, actor Michael K. Williams, Congressman Cedric Richmond, Congressman Lacy Clay, State Attorney Kim Foxx, District Attorney Larry Krasner, Open Society Foundations President Patrick Gaspard, ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice director Udi Ofer, Mic Video Columnist Brittany Packnett, commentator Shaun King, Florida Rights Restoration Chair Desmond Meade, 11-year-old Naomi Wadler, Carmen Perez, Kemba Smith, Jamira Burley, Jessica Perez, Judith Browne Dianis, former NFL player Donte Stallworth, and more.

The evening also featured performances by Grammy-nominated artist John Forté, Goapele, Raheem Devaughn and Wes Felton, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Ayanna Gregory and Ka’Ba Akintunde.

Certificates of Excellence were awarded to 40 formerly incarcerated leaders, and the Legacy Justice Award was presented to Harry Belafonte and Dick Gregory (posthumously).

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Nkechi Taifa is the convener of the Justice Roundtable. An expert in the field of criminal justice, she is the Advocacy Director for Criminal Justice for the Open Society Foundations and Open Society Policy Center.

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