On Wednesday reality star and businesswoman Kim Kardashian visited the White House to take a meeting with Donald Trump’s top advisors on prison reform.
Kardashian has previously dipped her toe into activism, as she recently advocated for the release of two Black women whose cases received national attention–Alice Marie Johnson andCyntoia Brown.
Johnson is a 62-year-old grandmother who was arrested in 1996 and has served 21 years in prison after being found guilty of committing a first time non-violent drug offense.
Brown, a victim of child-sex trafficking, is serving 51 years in prison and currently awaits a clemency decison after she was found guilty of killing her abuser when she was 16.
The current administration, who jubilantly thrives on celebrity culture, missed an important opportunity to speak to public figures who have committed their life’s work to the cause. Again, the White House faces another misstep when it comes to tackling issues that disproportionately affect communities of color.
Though we applaud Kardashian’s efforts, we can also think of five Black women who would no doubt be better equipped to talk to the White House about the topic.
Alexander, a lawyer, activist and speaker, is most famously known for her 2010 book, “The New Jim Crow.” The book takes an in-depth dive into the systematic racial and economic history that led to the mass incarceration area–from the 1950’s to the Reagan era war on drugs. Alexander is currently a visiting professor at the Union Thelogoical Seminary in New York City, so we’re sure she may be able to clear her schedule since most colleges are on summer break.
DuVernay has consciously interjected Black American life in the film industry and has moved to the top of Hollywood as a cineamtic force to be reckoned with. Her 2016 Oscar-nominated documentary, 13th, visually investigated the issues first presented in Alexander’s research, along with the prison industrialization complex.
Elijah has a storied career in advocating against mass incarceration. As the executive director of the Alliance of Families for Justice and a former lawyer and Harvard Law professor, Elijah uses her platform to equip those who have been incarcerated with programs which help them integrate back into society. She also serves on two important task forces focused on criminal justice reform–Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s Re-Entry Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Implemention Task Force to close Riker’s Island.
The California senator and former state attorney general is well versed in prison reform. As a member of four senate committees, she routinely uses her voice to call out foolery. Remember her line of questioning that left Jeff Sessions shooketh last year? In 2017, Kamala teamed up with Senator Rand Paul to introduce legislation that would reform the broken bail system–in which many men and women of color suffer in jail due to the fact that they cannot post the amount. In turn, it can lead to crippling damage on the state of the family, work opportunities and not to mention, the psychological effects.
Topeka K. Sam
Sam is the founder and executive director of The Ladies of Hope Ministries, an organization that is dedicated to helping women transition back into life after being incarcerated–specifically focusing on strengthening them mentally and spiritually. She is also the founder of HOPE HOUSE ministries, a safe space for women and girls who were recently released from prison. Sam knows the experience all too well–in 2015 she was released from federal prison after serving three and a half years for drug trafficking.