On Thursday, November 14, 2019, The Gathering for Justice hosted our third live #RadicalReadz event in New York City, featuring Cyntoia Brown-Long, author of Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System. Watch the full livestream here.
When Cyntoia was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 16, she was a child, a victim of abuse and sex trafficking, and someone who feared for her life. In early August 2019, she was released as a 31-year old with a Bachelor’s degree, a mentoring program for girls and an autobiography on the way to becoming a bestseller. Cyntoia joined Carmen Perez-Jordan, President and CEO of The Gathering for Justice, for a discussion on women in the justice system, support programs young girls and the resiliency of joy.
The Gathering for Justice is grateful to Rev. Kaji Douša and Park Avenue Christian Church for hosting the event in their beautiful sanctuary on Park Avenue and East 85th Street. Rev. Douša is the first black woman to serve as pastor at the 210-year old church, and she welcomed attendees to the event by speaking about having a liberationist perspective in the face of mass incarceration and racial injustice.
Art is a core part of our movement and the program featured two incredible poets. Camryn Bruno, New York City’s Youth Poet Laureate and a member of Urban Word NYC, gave a powerful performance about the school-to-prison pipeline and the fear of young black and brown boys in the face of an unjust system. Matthew Sanchez, also of Urban Word NYC, reflected on the movement in response to police violence and the fear white society has of black bodies.
The “Voices of Cyntoia” segment featured six excerpts from Free Cyntoia read by six women for whom the story hits close to home: Tamika Mallory of Until Freedom; Leyla Martinez of the Beyond the Box Initiative; Vanee Sykes of Ladies of Hope Ministries; Jamila T. Davis, an author and activist; Andrea Gonzales of Youth Over Guns; and Aaliyah Guillory-Nickens, youth activist.
At the conclusion of our program, The Gathering for Justice honored those who have been impacted by incarceration with a ceremony and flowers, beginning first with Cyntoia and all those in attendance who had experienced incarceration themselves, followed by all who had been impacted through the incarceration of a loved one.
After the program, attendees lined up for a book signing with Cyntoia and light refreshments provided by The Gathering for Justice. The mood was joyful and light.
It was a powerful evening that reaffirmed the reasons why we fight for Black and Brown women and girls, especially within the justice system. You can watch and share the full livestream here, and stay in the loop on future events by following #RadicalReadz, following @nyjusticeleague on social media, and joining our mailing list.