Recently, folks from the Mosaic and I got the opportunity to travel to Portland, Oregon to present at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE) to present a session on the theory and praxis used in our own Mosaic programming. We attended a variety of sessions ranging from keynote speakers, unique performances, lectures, workshops and more. One of the sessions I went to called "Centering the Impacted: A Facilitated Dialogue about the Challenges formerly Incarcerated Individuals Face Along the Path of Re-entry and Higher Education" talked about the experiences and hardship that justice impacted folk have to struggle with due to their incarceration. One participant of the panel failed to sign up for selective service due to being incarcerated and therefore was unable to receive the financial aid he needed in order to attend school and now has to jump through hoops to try and afford his education. Another person talks about how shocking it was for them to be released from prison with little to no resources or support which contributes to the high rates of recidivism. One of the amazing resources that was spoken about in this was colleges and universities having prison re-entry specialists that are equipped with the knowledge and experiences to help other justice impacted people navigate the higher education system. It is also beneficial if these staff members are formerly incarcerated people who need jobs and know what it is like to struggle with getting out of prison
As a person that has lived in Maryland for most of her life and having graduated from UMBC, an institution located only about 15 minutes outside of downtown Baltimore, made me think about what we are as a University. We should be ensuring that current and prospective students are being met where they are at instead of expecting them to meet us. In addition, thinking about Baltimore's long history with racism, segregation and police power- It challenged me to think about what we can do better as a community. For those that might not know, people that are justice impacted often lose a lot of rights that most Americans take for granted or simply do not care about. Such as voting, access to government programs like housing and food stamps. We should all think harder about the kind of policing that we support, if any. Read up on abolishing prisons, watch documentaries like the 13th that talk about mass incarceration. The work is much deeper than that but a great place to start. Gaining knowledge is one of the most effective ways to be an ally to marginalized people because you then are better suited to question the systems you are a part of and contribute to. In today's age, we cannot afford to be complacent, and we all should be asking ourselves- " is this the kind of world that I want for everyone?". If your answer is no, your work starts there.