by Karima Amin
Happy New Year, Family! We trust that the last month was good for you. Ours was filled with family, friendship, fun and a focus on the life-affirming principles of a productive Kwanzaa celebration. The principles: Unity, Self-determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith were emphasized as principles to be honored all yearlong.
I took the time to reflect upon the topics that were highlighted during 2016 at our monthly meetings and I was both saddened and encouraged. The Restorative Justice Developer, our Program Director, BaBa Eng, is still hard at work, sharing information about Restorative Justice Practices. 2016 saw two more “peace hubs” being established and the total number of individuals being trained in restorative practices reaching 70 trainees who are capable of facilitating peace circles and peace conferences.
Topics that we have highlighted in the past were emphasized again. Positive movement in these areas has been slow as many in the general public fail to view them as critical issues until an issue “hits home”: solitary confinement, juvenile justice, recidivism, and mental health during incarceration and reentry. Needless to say, we have work to do as prisoners and formerly incarcerated people tend to be marginalized and stereotyped. During 2016, we featured eleven guest speakers who helped us to reach a better understanding of the ways in which the criminal justice system functions, too often ignoring the importance of valuing an individual’s humanity. Prisoners are people, too.
As I am typing this, I am remembering those guest speakers who volunteered their time and energy to talk to us about their prison experience. They also shared what they have encountered since their release. Some of our guest speakers have never been to prison. These were young people working hard to help others avoid the traps that sometimes lead to incarceration. Among our speakers, we also hosted two clergy people, a teacher, and a former councilman who all talked about crime-generative factors (such as drugs, high unemployment, and poor health care) that have led to crime in this community.
Our next monthly meeting will be held on Monday, January 30, 2017 at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street in Buffalo, from 7:00 to 9:00pm. We will have a guest speaker who has been with us in the past. Alfonso “Fonz” Carter, a native of Niagara Falls, NY, has a gift when it comes to connecting with the youth and the streets through music. As a hip-hop artist, he shares the stories of his life, talking about his youth, his drug selling days, and the 2004 arrest that resulted when the FBI and the Amherst police, working together, brought his street journey to a halt. He also talks about finding his true identity during his incarceration. “Fonz” is an entrepreneur with a clothing line that features his distinctive label and post-incarceration attitude, “Brand New Life.” Hear about the twists and turns that led him to a brand new life and be inspired.
For more information, contact Karima Amin, 716-834-8438 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or BaBa Eng, 716-491-5319.
“God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through.” (Anonymous)