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|From Montgomery to Los Angeles and Beyond:
Formerly Incarcerated People Building a Movement
By Kenneth Glasgow and Dorsey Nunn, AlterNet
Would you feel like a full citizen if most of your civil and human rights
were denied you? If the privileges afforded to community members
were withheld from you, would you feel like a welcome member of
the community? Probably not.
As formerly incarcerated people, every day is another reminder that
we do not have full access to our civil and human rights. Having
served our sentences and returned home, we face circumstances
that often seem designed to prevent our full participation in our
communities and country: stigma for having a criminal conviction.
Barriers to gaining meaningful employment and decent housing.
Barriers to constructive educational opportunities. Lack of access
to healthcare. Denial of our voting rights.
This is a widespread problem. Consider this: there are nearly 2.4 million
people incarcerated in prisons and jails in the U.S. today. Most people
currently incarcerated are coming home -- according to the Department of
Justice, over 700,000 people were released from incarceration in 2006
alone. Across the country, over five million people are under state
supervision like parole or probation. There are millions of people who are
currently and formerly incarcerated, and millions more who were never
incarcerated but have a criminal conviction--all of whom live, every day,
without our full civil and human rights.
What happens when people's civil and human rights are denied for too
long? Movements for change spark and catch fire.
As we near the 46th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March over the
Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma , Alabama , we're reminded of the Civil
Rights Movement. For nearly 100 years after the end of chattel slavery,
Black people were denied their human and civil rights, including the right
to vote. People got tired and organized all over the country to win their
rights. In Alabama , the movement was especially vibrant.
On Sunday, March 7, 1965, 600 Civil Rights activists attempted to
march from Selma to Montgomery to protest the murder of a fellow
activist and to demand their rights. As the marchers crossed the
Edmund Pettus Bridge , they were brutally attacked by the State
Police. After a second march was turned back, a third march was
organized shortly thereafter-- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and
Congressman John Lewis and thousands of others crossed the
bridge and walked to Montgomery . The march delivered a powerful
blow against Jim Crow, and the Edmund Pettus Bridge became a
symbol of a people's struggle for justice against oppression.
Only by organizing and building a people's movement - the Civil
Rights Movement - did Black people win their human and civil rights.
The Movement transformed the South, the U.S. , and the entire
For formerly incarcerated people, the promise of the Civil Rights
movement - full civil rights and an end to Jim Crow - remains
unfulfilled. Just consider the over four million formerly incarcerated
people who are denied their voting rights.
Guided by this history, and inspired by demands for justice in the U.
S. and around the world - from the prisoner strike in Georgia to the
Egyptian revolution -- a vibrant new movement is now being born as
formerly incarcerated people join together to secure our full civil and
From February 28 - March 2, 2011, formerly incarcerated people
from around the country will gather in Montgomery and Selma to
develop a common platform regarding restoration of civil rights,
stopping prison expansion, elimination of excessive punishments,
and protecting the dignity of family members and communities. The
gathering, hosted by The Ordinary People's Society of Alabama, will
include formerly incarcerated leaders from dozens of groups from
round the country, including co-conveners All of Us or None (CA),
Women on the Rise Telling Her Story (NY), National Exhoodus
Council (PA), A New Way of Life (CA), Direct Action for Rights and
Equality (RI) and more.
After meeting, we will take action: on March 1, the eve of the Bloody
Sunday anniversary, and with the blessing of Civil Rights veterans
from Alabama and beyond, we will march across the Edmund Pettus
Bridge , signaling our intent to fulfill the promise of the Civil Rights
Movement. The following day, we will rally at the statehouse in
Montgomery , just steps away from Dr. King's old church.
The only way to secure our full civil and human rights is to organize
a people's movement. Launching this national movement from the
epicenter of the Civil Rights struggle is a symbolic action of great
power, invoking similar moments such as Stonewall, the Great
Grape Boycott, and the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments. A
follow up gathering is scheduled for Los Angeles in November 1-2,
2011. Formerly incarcerated people are building Civil and Human
Rights Movement for the 21st Century. We hope you'll join us - in
Alabama , Los Angeles , and beyond.
Pastor Kenneth Glasgow is the founder and director of The
Ordinary People’s Society. Dorsey Nunn is co-founder of All of Us or
None and Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.
© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/149975/
Pastor Kenneth Glasgow
Founder, National President
The Ordinary People Society (TOPS)
403 West Powell St.
Dothan, AL 36303
www.wearetops.org or www.theordinarypeoplesociety.com or