Formerly Incarcerated People Building a Movement

*From Montgomery to Los Angeles and Beyond: * *Formerly Incarcerated People
Building a Movement* * * *By Kenneth Glasgow and Dorsey Nunn, AlterNet
Posted on February 18, 2011, Printed on February 18, 2011*
Would you feel like a full citizen if most of your civil and human rights
were denied you? If the privileges afforded to community members were
withheld from you, would you feel like a welcome member of the community?
Probably not.
As formerly incarcerated people, every day is another reminder that we do
not have full access to our civil and human rights. Having served our
sentences and returned home, we face circumstances that often seem designed
to prevent our full participation in our communities and country: stigma for
having a criminal conviction. Barriers to gaining meaningful employment and
decent housing. Barriers to constructive educational opportunities. Lack of
access to healthcare. Denial of our voting rights.
This is a widespread problem. Consider this: there are nearly 2.4 million
people incarcerated in prisons and jails in the U.S. today. Most people
currently incarcerated are coming home — according to the Department of
Justice, over 700,000 people were released from incarceration in 2006 alone.
Across the country, over five million people are under state supervision
like parole or probation. There are millions of people who are currently and
formerly incarcerated, and millions more who were never incarcerated but
have a criminal conviction–all of whom live, every day, without our full
civil and human rights.
What happens when people’s civil and human rights are denied for too long?
Movements for change spark and catch fire.
As we near the 46th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March over the Edmund
Pettus Bridge in Selma , Alabama , we’re reminded of the Civil Rights
Movement. For nearly 100 years after the end of chattel slavery, Black
people were denied their human and civil rights, including the right to
vote. People got tired and organized all over the country to win their
rights. In Alabama , the movement was especially vibrant.
On Sunday, March 7, 1965, 600 Civil Rights activists attempted to march from
Selma to Montgomery to protest the murder of a fellow activist and to demand
their rights. As the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge , they were
brutally attacked by the State Police. After a second march was turned back,
a third march was organized shortly thereafter– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
and Congressman John Lewis and thousands of others crossed the bridge and
walked to Montgomery . The march delivered a powerful blow against Jim Crow,
and the Edmund Pettus Bridge became a symbol of a people’s struggle for
justice against oppression.
Only by organizing and building a people’s movement – the Civil Rights
Movement – did Black people win their human and civil rights. The Movement
transformed the South, the U.S. , and the entire world.
For formerly incarcerated people, the promise of the Civil Rights movement –
full civil rights and an end to Jim Crow – remains unfulfilled. Just
consider the over four million formerly incarcerated people who are denied
their voting rights.
Guided by this history, and inspired by demands for justice in the U.S. and
around the world – from the prisoner strike in Georgia to the Egyptian
revolution — a vibrant new movement is now being born as formerly
incarcerated people join together to secure our full civil and human rights.
From February 28 – March 2, 2011, formerly incarcerated people from around
the country will gather in Montgomery and Selma to develop a common platform
regarding restoration of civil rights, stopping prison expansion,
elimination of excessive punishments, and protecting the dignity of family
members and communities. The gathering, hosted by The Ordinary People’s
Society of Alabama, will include formerly incarcerated leaders from dozens
of groups from round the country, including co-conveners All of Us or None
(CA), Women on the Rise Telling Her Story (NY), National Exhoodus Council
(PA), A New Way of Life (CA), Direct Action for Rights and Equality (RI) and
After meeting, we will take action: on March 1, the eve of the Bloody Sunday
anniversary, and with the blessing of Civil Rights veterans from Alabama and
beyond, we will march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge , signaling our intent
to fulfill the promise of the Civil Rights Movement. The following day, we
will rally at the statehouse in Montgomery , just steps away from Dr. King’s
old church.
The only way to secure our full civil and human rights is to organize a
people’s movement. Launching this national movement from the epicenter of
the Civil Rights struggle is a symbolic action of great power, invoking
similar moments such as Stonewall, the Great Grape Boycott, and the Seneca
Falls Declaration of Sentiments. A follow up gathering is scheduled for Los
Angeles in November 1-2, 2011. Formerly incarcerated people are building
Civil and Human Rights Movement for the 21st Century. We hope you’ll join us
– in Alabama , Los Angeles , and beyond.
*Pastor KennethView this story online at: <>*

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