Returning Humanity to Returning Citizens

Returning Humanity to Returning Citizens

You know I was taught that democracy Is where everyone is free, freedom of speech Freedom of press, freedom to vote Voting is a basic right that we shouldn’t even have to be fighting for What I see everyday in Baltimore is not free Most of my adult life I was locked up, I was in prison When I was told that I couldn’t vote That was something I couldn’t comprehend That just makes me feel like I’m nothing and nobody When we talk about democracy, the freedom of speech, and the constitution Guess what? For most of us that don’t apply though The systemic issues in America that prevent
returning citizens from exercising their full rights There’s a direct line of policy initiatives That timeline goes back to the 1800s Voting rights is very much attached to humanity In that whenever anybody, or government institution wanted to dehumanize someone They went after the right to vote Felony disenfranchisement laws were put in place just prior to the ratification of the 13th amendment Slavery and or involuntary servitude shall, shall be abolished except whereof the party shall have been duly convicted If you were black, you could be arrested for walking Literally walking beside the railroad tracks Or if you were carrying a stick that was deemed a weapon and you could be arrested Looking at a white woman, you could be arrested People who are returning citizens they come from households where Their grandparents marched for the rights to vote And how voting was a part of not just humanity But also part of justice How are you going to put somebody in office that, look Doesn’t share your views, don’t know your pain, and has never walked in your shoes How do you do that? But if you don’t have the right to vote anybody can get in office And you have no say Override, override that veto The way that crime goes away is that you allow people their freedoms You don’t continue to oppress them How is it that I am punished after I finished the sentence? What is the legal basis for the continue punishment of any citizen after the expiration of a sentence given to them by a judge in a court? There’s one man in Annapolis keeping over 40,000 people from voting I want my vote to count If you are not siting at the table you are on the menu Let’s get our seat at the table When they passed the ex-felon voting rights act Ah man, that’s like a breath of fresh air for me Why? Because now I have the opportunity to have a voice in an election You want to make a change, you want your voice to be heard, then you will come and vote It makes me feel like I am a citizen in this country It makes me feel like a person again I knew that I had a voice I knew that I had issues that I wanted to address And I can do that through voting I can do that through helping people in the communities Right? And they got to, oh these people are relentless so let’s get it done I think that it’s only a start I think we got a lot of work to do as so far as Once our brothers and sisters return home And once they begin the process of reintegrating into society We have a responsibility to ensure that they have every opportunity to properly do that Ex-felons or returning citizens come home Public programs such as food stamps, getting benefits from places like social service is almost impossible Housing, you get denied for housing The rate of unemployment is like phenomenal because you can’t get jobs So if you don’t have jobs, you become stressed out and depressed and you look for a way to find that capital So what do I do? I go back to what I know And in order for us to quell the recidivism rate Then you have to give us an opportunity to also work Because nobody really wants us to be a criminal I need people to understand that they are not relegated to charges on paper They are not relegated to who someone else says they are They have the ability to be anything and everything that they want to be If they understand how to use their faculties How to listen, think, and then speak critically They don’t have to be a felon for life I came from a hopeless place I knew nothing but crime and drug use That’s where I come from I come from picking up a gun to picking up a pamphlet and being able to help somebody Hey how you doing man? You gotta minute? I go out and talk to ex-felons I talk to recovering citizens and I talk to people in recovery and I let them know that they have voice Because everybody is important This will give you an opportunity to voice your opinion on those things that’s holding you back and holding you down We need to make our society as a whole, a society that is friendly to returning citizens And one that embraces the opportunity to have a second chance It is very important for anyone who thinks the world should be more peaceful Thinks the world should be better Wants to make America great again How about you make America great for the first time by freeing some people that have never been free The average person can be extremely helpful moving people from ex-felon to citizen by becoming advocates In the way that a bodyguard gets the star to the stage Don’t get the star to the stage and then grab the mic Let people speak for themselves the people closest to the problem are closest to the solution The ex-offender community in Baltimore can be the community that moves the entire community forward It’s almost like a rubber band, the further you pull it back when you let it go, the further it will travel That’s the ex-offender community They’ve been pulled back so far that if you let them go Watch them take us to where we need to be We’re fighters and the change is coming, we’re building an army and I am a part of that army I am telling you man it’s going to be a great movement coming And I want everybody to be a part of it In America, there’s an ongoing war It’s a war against poverty It’s a war against homelessness It’s a war against hunger You know, all of those things we’re faced with in our everyday life And you need to fight for what you believe in Why? Because we deserve the same thing as everybody else We should be equal and we are


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