The Fierce

Urgency

of Now

The Institute seeks to ensure that urban residents live in a society that respects their humanity, provides equality of economic opportunity, empowers them to use their voice in the political process, and protects equal justice.

 

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In the News

In Prison, and Fighting to Vote

September 16, 2019

The Atlantic's Dana Liebelson reports

A campaign for suffrage is growing inside prisons. Is anyone listening?

When Derrick Washington, a 34-year-old incarcerated in Massachusetts, found a pocket legal dictionary in prison, he decided to memorize every amendment to the United States Constitution. He was particularly struck by the Thirteenth Amendment, which states that slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime, shall not exist; to him, it codified his status as a “slave of the state of Massachusetts.” Around that time, he said, his prison was not allowing phone calls, and showers were restricted as part of a lockdown. He said he did not understand how administrators were allowed to “treat us how they were treating us.” He was moved to do something about his situation. In 2012, he founded the Emancipation Initiative, an advocacy group that, as one of its priorities, wants all prisoners in the U.S. to be able to vote.

 

Criminal Justice Reformers Say Let Inmates Vote

August 28, 2019

WNYC reports:

In New Jersey, 94,000 people can’t vote — because the state constitution in 1844 outlawed voting for people in prison, on probation or on parole.

America’s Original Sin and its Vestiges Belong to its States - Including N.J.

August 19, 2019

Institute President and CEO Ryan Haygood writes for NJ.com:

Four hundred years ago this month, Black people arrived in Jamestown, brought to America as captives.

The issue of America’s original sin and its lasting stain have led to a national conversation about reparations this anniversary year, with people asking who is responsible, for how long, and what to do about it.

But the reparations conversation must occur at the state level, too, with each state confronting its historical role in American slavery, as well as the modern day vestiges that continue to harm descendants of enslaved Black people, while simultaneously conferring advantages to the descendants of that system’s beneficiaries.

In doing so, we must acknowledge the direct line from American slavery to today’s system of voter suppression, racial wealth disparities, mass incarceration, and racial segregation.

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Given the significant challenges we face, we have only two options: to embrace chaos or embrace community. We choose community. Join us as we work to bend our neighborhoods toward the beloved community.

 

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