This past Friday on the January 9, 2015 I had the privilege of speaking to about twenty New Jersey students who were all at the college level about the powerful organization that is Decarcerate the Garden State. Approaching my presentation I was extremely nervous to talk about this topic even though I did my fair share of reading on it. I know now that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Twenty of us gathered in the name of students of color and people of color in New Jersey. I thought this would be a brilliant time to introduce this organization that is so deeply connected to many of the issues we face as people of color here in the United States. Sharing this information with these students served as a stepping stone in Decarcerate's mission to gain a youth component to it's movement. I was so excited to bridge this gap, as I talk about the movements concerns and actions I passed around a petition for the students to sign in which they pledged their support to Decarcerate's cause.
The presentation was informal however I found something interesting began to happen the more I talked about the issue. I learned that this work is extremely emotional, as I read off statistics and facts and expressed my visions of hope I began to slightly choke up. As I urged the students to understand the importance of this issue I began to really grasp the harsh reality that is upon us. Although this issue is emotional the information has to keep being shared and spread and I found that being considered an expert on the subject wasn't absolutely necessary to relay the information.
As I continue to educate myself on the issue it will become easier and easier to speak with confidence. That being said I have to thank Bob Witanek for sharing countless pieces of information with me about this issue. The resources I was provided include a presentation at a Tour de Decarcerate panel given by Johanna Fernandez. Much of the information for this particular presentation came from the way she outlined her presentation on the video that was shared with me. I believe the most important part of this presenation was sharing the 5-pronged action plan that decarcerate is currently living by. I informed students just how easy it was to get involved and why this should be at the forefront of their lives as student organizers.
My preparation for this presentation was at short notice, however it really was simple in terms of preparing. I remember when I first met Bob in the summer of 2014, we were all encouraged to purchase and read "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander as a base for our knowledge on the subject. Having already read this book I had the basic knowledge on the subject, however I couldn't recite the whole book so narrowing the information down was necessary. Johanna's presentation really helped me with that structure. After doing this presentation I would encourage anyone who wants to gain the confidence to be a spokesperson on the issue to read "The New Jim Crow" and study presentations that others have made, because it helped me tremendously.
As you listen to the information in this video I would like to encourage everyone who is involved in NJ to make a real effort to make it out to the upcoming Decarcerate panels. There will be one in Camden on the 24th of January starting at 3pm at the Ferry Ave. Library
and one on the 24th of Feburary in Plainfield New Jersey starting at 6pm at the Plainfield Public Library. More information can be found on the Decarcerate NJ page on facebook and on website for the Decarcerate daily newspaper. Also please check out this article written by plainfield native Sabrina Lyttleton who is also one of the main organizers for KYSS (a plainfield based organization)
Sabrina writes of her experiences organizing and her specific reasoning behind it. As you are reading and watching these videos I hope you are inspired to join the movement as I and so many others have been.