While 2021—like the year before it—made it plain that so much lies out of our control, it reinforced the continued power that is created by our collective action. Though some sought a return to normalcy, we directed the growing public demand for a new justice system towards new stories and opportunities for advocacy. And we were astounded by the creativity among our community to continue building relationships and organizing through the distance, phone calls and zoom screens.
And thanks to that creativity and strength of community, we managed to accomplish a lot. We created 28 pieces of narrative content that collectively generated over 2 million views. We grew our online supporter base 44%, had folks take 537, 629 advocacy actions, and reached 2.85 billion people on social media.
And on November 18, after 22 years on death row for a crime he did not commit, Julius Jones had his sentence commuted by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt just hours before he was set to be executed. It was a years-long effort to fight for Julius’ freedom and his life was saved due to the countless supporters, organizers and volunteers from all over the globe who showed up to demand Justice for Julius. People who organized vigils, walked out of school, took over the Oklahoma State Capitol, flooded their legislator’s voicemails and inboxes, and were among the 6.5 million people who signed the petition to free Julius.
Through storytelling centering Julius’ voice, and his truth, we brought thousands of Oklahomans proximate to Julius for the first time. Our public opinion polling prior to his commutation showed a shift in public sentiment in Oklahoma — 61% of Oklahomans polled believed Julius’ sentence should be commuted (compared to 47% when we first polled in 2020), and 46% of Oklahomans believe Julius is likely innocent (compared to 36% when we first polled). But while Julius is off of death row, we’re not done fighting until he’s free.
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We directed our efforts to calling attention to the unjust treatment of youth in our justice system. Working with a coalition of organizations across the country, we developed a tool to allow folks to write their senators in favor of passing the First Step Implementation Act, which would end juvenile life without parole at the federal level in the United States. And with our impact campaign for the documentary, On These Grounds, we worked to shift the narrative around safety in US schools, and generated demand to invest in alternatives to policing for schools. We’ve hosted over 30 screenings so far, with many more to come in 2022
After following COVID protocols and testing in November, Represent Justice staff and Ambassadors were lucky enough to finally gather safely in person. I can’t express just how wonderful and life-affirming it was to spend time together, break bread and share laughs after an incredibly challenging last few years.
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Our Ambassadors are some of the most inspiring, hard working people I’ve ever met. They have collectively done over 150 speaking engagements, 160 hours of training, appeared in over 40 pieces of content, and received over $1 million dollars directly in grants and fees. It meant the world to mark their graduation and celebrate them in person as we get ready to welcome a new cohort of Ambassadors and leaders who are making a profound difference in our justice system through their voices and advocacy. We’re excited to announce them to you next month.
Next year, we’ll continue our storytelling work, expanding our focus to include advancing justice for women in the system, continuing to build narrative power for our Ambassadors, and building public demand for policies tied to storytelling.
We can’t wait to get started. I wish you all a safe and reflective holiday season, and thank you for your continued support.