Accompanying billboard campaign in original DNC host city, Milwaukee, and swing states across the country aims to draw further attention to those incarcerated during the deadly COVID-19 pandemic
August 10, 2020 — Milwaukee, Wisconsin — JustLeadershipUSA, the organization that empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform, and the #JustUs Campaign will present Rebuilding the Table, two days of engaging virtual programming to accompany the 2020 Democratic National Convention. For the first time, a leading criminal justice reform organization will create proximity and opportunity for the DNC, democratic officials, and Vice President Biden’s campaign to hear directly from the people whose lives are most affected by our country’s criminal legal system. They will offer up their support, ideas, community needs, and partnership to the Democrats, to the Biden campaign, and to the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force on criminal justice reform.
The United States is a nation defined, in part, by incarceration. The imprisoned population has increased 500 percent in the past 40 years, and now 2.3 million people are behind bars, and 4.6 million more are living under supervision. Throughout the two days of programming, formerly incarcerated leaders, elected officials, entertainers, storytellers, and policy makers will come together to discuss the painful legacies of racism and mass incarceration in America, while illustrating how we can effectively rebuild the criminal justice system so that it works for communities, families, our society, and those individuals who are currently incarcerated. Writer, activist, and comedian Baratunde Thurston will host both days of Rebuilding the Table.
The Rebuilding the Table at the DNC virtual event comes on the heels of the JustLeadershipUSA #JustUs campaign, a nation-wide call for policymakers to decarcerate the United States by immediately adopting federal and state-based policy recommendations to save the lives of incarcerated people during COVID-19 and any type of future major crisis or emergency.
“Rebuilding the Table at the DNC will encourage Democratic officials and the general public to ensure that the next administration agrees to ensure that those with lived experience have a seat and voice at the table for criminal justice reform decision-making moving forward,”said DeAnna Hoskins, President & CEO of JustLeadershipUSA. “We must have more expansive conversations about directly impacted advocacy, mass incarceration, and system change to shape and shift our shared truths. During this virtual event, we hope that everyone who joins us leaves with the knowledge of how they can most effectively help uplift formerly incarcerated people and ensure true justice for all.”
The virtual event’s programming will include:
- DAY 1 (Monday, Aug. 17): Truth & Reconciliation: the pain of mass incarceration and its legacy of racism, though a historical lens
- DAY 2 (Tuesday, Aug. 18): Rebuild the Table: the power of directly-impacted advocacy and how we can humanize people enmeshed in the system, shift the narrative, and change hearts and minds
Throughout the virtual event, and kicking off day 1, audiences will hear the powerful, poignant human stories of those who have been formerly incarcerated, what they’ve dealt with through the pain of mass incarceration, the system’s legacy of racism, and so much more. These special guests include:
- Norris Henderson who spent 27 years wrongfully incarcerated at Angola prison, a former slave plantation
- Jimmie Gardener who was wrongfully convicted for 27 years
- Award-winning poet, memorist and teacher Dwayne Betts, who served eight years in prison, in conversation with actor and activist Michael K. Williams of The Wire and Boardwalk Empire fame
On day 2, as part of the DNC official daytime programming calendar, Rebuilding the Table will offer up a must-see panel that illustrates the ways in which the collision of the coronavirus pandemic and the epidemic of mass incarceration have laid bare the failures of the criminal legal system. Formerly incarcerated leaders will lead a panel to discuss the power of advocacy by those directly impacted with members of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force including Representative Bobby Scott (VA-03), Vanita Gupta, and moderated by Josie Duffy Rice.
This virtual event also comes as a follow up to the Justice Votes 2020 Presidential Candidate town hall where formerly incarcerated leaders hosted the first-ever Democratic presidential forum inside an historic prison in Philadelphia.
In conjunction with Rebuilding the Table, in Milwaukee, WI the planned location for the 2020 DNC, and in other key swing states, JustLeadershipUSA has commissioned custom billboards designed in collaboration with James “YaYa” Hough, a formerly incarcerated artist from Pittsburgh, PA who at age 17 was issued a mandatory life without parole sentence and then released last year after serving 23 years. The billboard campaign aims to draw attention to those incarcerated during the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and urges people to take action by signing JustLeadershipUSA’s petition to elected officials to act immediately on emergency management legislation that will protect incarcerated people’s lives.
Along with Milwaukee, people will see the billboards pop up in swing states, many in cities near jails and prisons with devastating COVID-19 outbreaks.
- In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the billboard states that 8 of the top 10 biggest U.S. coronavirus hotspots are prisons.
- In Homestead, Florida, the billboard will show how the Homestead Correctional Institution was overrun with COVID – 301 cases – before the rest of the state was hit hard by the pandemic, the largest prison outbreak in Florida.
- In Marion, Ohio, the Marion Correctional Institution has the largest COVID outbreak in the country with 78% of the population testing positive. Since most cases here went undetected, the estimated # infected is 1521 of 1950 of those incarcerated.
The billboards demand action and recognition by elected officials on this crisis, and through this art, encourage all of our sustained political participation especially as we head to cast our ballots this November. To view and download images of the billboards, click here.
To learn more and to RSVP for Rebuilding the Table at the DNC, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
JustLeadershipUSA is the non-profit building a national movement to decarcerate the United States. The organization, led by directly impacted people, is dedicated to doing so by empowering the people and communities most impacted by the criminal justice system to drive, amplify, and sustain policy reform. Learn more about JustLeadershipUSA at https://jlusa.org.