We need to work together for the freedom of all 


It’s been 154 years since slavery was abolished, and a little more than 55 years since Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But we’re still fighting for liberation — as John F. Kennedy said, “for all citizens to be fully free.”

The United States still has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with disproportionate effects on black and brown communities. As civil rights lawyer, advocate and legal scholar Michelle Alexander states in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, white supremacy has never been vanquished, venomous racism has just morphed into disproportionate incarceration rates.

We can’t look at numbers alone and draw biased and ignorant conclusions like, “people of color commit more crimes.” We must collectively address the intersectional effects of economic injustice, educational injustice, housing injustice, food injustice and transportation injustice, which have histories rooted in racist policies.

Many of those who finish a prison sentence struggle to find meaningful employment that pays enough to cover living costs, helps meet the terms of their probation/restitution and works around required classes and therapy. A few months back, I wrote a piece about Robert Andrews and Juaquin Mobley, president/CEO and vice president, respectively, of CommunityWorks, a faith-based program that is making major strides in helping the unemployed find economic empowerment in Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs. They particularly work with those who’ve been involved with the justice system, helping them obtain skilled trade certifications that prepare them for long-term employment at living wages.  CommunityWorks hosted a day-long leadership conference followed by a gala on Oct. 18 at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Aurora to inspire conversation around the theme: The Power of Collective Action. The conference consisted of expert panel discussions about education, civic engagement (a panel on which I sat), criminal justice, communication and entrepreneurship. The evening gala was emceed by Emmy Award-winning journalist Tamara Banks, and the keynote speaker was Tamika Mallory, social justice leader, advocate, activist and mother.

Mallory, an award-winning activist applauded by the Obama administration, was named to Time magazine’s 100 Pioneers list and Fortune’s list of the World’s Greatest Leaders for her work in co-organizing 2017 Women’s March on Washington — one of the largest protests in U.S. history. Mallory stepped away as co-chairwoman of the Women’s March earlier this year (last year she came under fire for statements she made about Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan).

Her firm, Mallory Consulting, works with Fortune 500 corporations and organizations on projects addressing mass incarceration, gun violence and police brutality.

At the gala, Mallory encouraged those in attendance not to take collective action lightly and to “be in the move,” meaning movement, everywhere, all the time. “If black folx are lifted from the places where we are low, untouched and unsupported in this nation and across the world, we will all be healed,” she said to the crowd.

Mallory said it is imperative to understand that the system in place is working exactly the way it was designed: to oppress women, Latinx, black, gender non-conforming and formerly incarcerated people. “There is a reason for that,” she said. “If we as oppressed people ever came together to do real, true liberation work, this country would flip over and it would become rightside up.”

Mallory’s message couldn’t be more timely. We have little more than a year before the presidential election. We are all still fighting for civil rights, and we can’t let up now.

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