Walk with me as a ‘possible’ and step away from the ‘probable.’
by Saad Soliman, #LwC2019
September 30, 2019
I am the founding Executive Director of the Peers Mentoring Center and Peace By Piece Inc. in Wilmington, Delaware. We provide a range of reentry services, from workforce development, to job placement, to case management and transitional housing. We’ve serviced more than 400 returning citizens in the past 24 months. The need for these services in Delaware is huge. The recidivism rate in my state is 79 percent, and more than half of those are based on technical parole violations, not new crimes. Peace By Piece aims to radically change that calculus for the better. I speak to every cohort and touch every one of our participants. I find that people who come through our program are inspired, hopeful, and see a way toward success; that’s the general trajectory. Notwithstanding all of the barriers that exist, people are incredibly resilient.
I also speak in a variety of public forums. In the next few months I am scheduled to be the keynote speaker for both the Mid-Atlantic States Correctional Association (MASCA) Convention in D.C. and the Federal Bar Association’s Annual Reception in New Orleans. Recently I was invited to speak at a federal judge’s portrait dedication. When I speak before these kinds of elite audiences, I am keenly aware of the fact that most of the members are judges, attorneys, and correctional professionals. I ask them to walk with me as a “possible” and step away from the “probable,” because I have lived my life by defying statistics, by defying the odds, and by opening my world and inviting everyone into it to see what is possible. I don’t go into the conversation presuming to know where they come from. I listen and I answer questions and I offer my opinion and my experience when people ask for it. I try to find commonality and talk about how we can move forward together and make this world a better place for everyone.
I didn’t begin my life in the free world thinking that I would be criminal justice reform advocate and reentry professional. When I came out of prison, I began working at pizza shop, then at a pay day loan company, and then a church. I worked two full-time jobs and one part-time job for over a year and saved money to start my own landscaping company. I did $2.7 million in business over the course of 15 months and the point in time came where I no longer had to worry about paying bills and could start to think more about purpose than profit. I saw that in our society, no matter what barriers exist, no matter what boundaries there are, economic freedom is the key. To move mountains you have to be able to establish people financially so they have a voice not only with their hearts, but also with their pocketbooks. My focus on workforce development and entrepreneurship is a person-centric approach to economic development.
I’m so excited about my involvement with JustLeadership that I’ve put it in my official biography and I reference it in virtually every talk I give. It’s vital that people understand that the men and women who have emerged from our criminal justice system recognize the ways in which the system is flawed and why it needs a complete overhaul in order for it to be in line with human rights. There are so many amazing people in this Leading with Conviction cohort who have emerged with such resilience and power and I’m honored to be in their group.