Over the past year & half, I have been managing Sunshine Enterprises’ partnership with Pathway to Enterprises for Returning Citizens. It’s a program that provides entrepreneurial training to formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs.
Tonight, we gathered on the south side of Chicago to just have conversation & a meal! We engaged in thoughtful dialogue on what they are ALREADY doing to transform their lives, their families & their communities. We talked about their vision to grow their business mission. And, it’s not surprising to me that they lead with their heart to seek social change, knowing that the revenue will follow.
What they are doing is partnering with other formerly incarcerated persons by providing employment opportunities, training, mentoring & building social capital. They are actively seeking their own personal & professional development in spite of the plethora of barriers they encounter, as a result of discriminatory reentry practices.
These men & women are just a handful of formerly incarcerated persons that I personally know that are about the business of transforming lives & communities.
They are justice seekers. They are justice doers!
I am thoroughly convinced that the myth that so-called “criminals” are lazy & unproductive is toxic discourse that merely keeps privileged individuals & communities blind, complicit & comfortable with the atrocities of mass incarceration.
What those of us with privilege can do is share our privilege by partnering with our formerly incarcerated & directly impacted citizens.
- Learn—Read “The War on Neighborhoods: Policing, Prisons and Punishment in a Divided City by Ryan Lugalia-Hollon & Daniel Cooper
Reflect—Unpack your implicit bias & savior mentality towards the so-called “criminal” class. They are people with a history and a story, not projects that need saving.
Get involved—Partner with formerly incarcerated & directly impacted individuals & organizations doing the work. In Chicago, Parole Illinois, Community Renewal Society & A Just Harvest are just a few organizations doing collaborative work towards structural change.
Be good listeners—seeking ways to share power & social networks.
Support directly impacted entrepreneurs— patronize their businesses and follow them on social media platforms. Here’s a few to follow and patronize: Yohance Lacour | Aaron Smith | Yaacov Delaney | Breaking Cycle
I firmly believe that the hope for this nation will not come until justice is served to those individuals & communities directly impacted by mass incarceration.
Note: This post was first shared on Facebook on 12/18/2019. Photo was taken 2/2019 at the Fall 2018 PERC graduating ceremony at Sunshine Enterprises. These men and women were present at our monthly gatherings.