“There’s people that care about you,” Common said on the call. “We cared about you before this pandemic, we care about you during this pandemic, and we care about you after this pandemic. These brothers are the example of the belief and transformation and the work, and what that can become.”
Jarrett Harper, a REPRESENT JUSTICE surrogate was in the audience when Common performed at Lancaster prison in 2017 — it was his first concert. Harper, now an advocate for foster care youth and justice reform, was serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole — one he received at 16 years old. He was released in June 2019, and told Common that the concert gave him hope.
“I just want y’all to know change is possible, transformation is possible, but you guys have to take that step and once that step is made, there are so many people on the frontlines fighting for you all,” Harper said on the call.
Common and Budnick have collaborated in the name of criminal justice reform before, including the Hope and Redemption Tour and in December 2019 for a concert and roundtable conversation between incarcerated individuals. The event, held at the California Rehabilitation Center (CRC) in Norco, California, was organized by the REPRESENT JUSTICE Campaign, in collaboration with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Imagine Justice. Hip-hop artist and ambassador of the REPRESENT JUSTICE Campaign, Bobby Gonz, also joined the pair on the Zoom call to perform a new song and talk about the healing power of music. Gonz first met Common during the Hope and Redemption tour, and has since had his sentence commuted, performed with Common at CRC, and is working with him on the Represent Justice Album with other currently and formerly incarcerated artists.
“To those artists inside,” Gonz said. “Keep your pencil and paper going, keep them guitar strings tight, keep them keys nice and smooth.”
“Now is an important time to share stories and messages of hope and humanity for all of the incarcerated brothers and sisters inside prisons, as well as prison staff, many of whom don’t have the option to choose how they can spend their days or how they can protect themselves – we want to let them know we are thinking of them,” says Budnick.
The content has been offered to Department of Corrections across the country with interest already from California, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Wisconsin. The first broadcast will happen across California, which currently has 130,000 people residing in prisons.
REPRESENT JUSTICE is working on several new initiatives during the COVID-19 crisis, including an Instagram Live series called #InfluentialJustice and creating an emergency relief fund through the REPRESENT JUSTICE Fund to support criminal justice organizations working on the health and safety of incarcerated and system impacted communities.
Follow the conversation: www.representjustice.org or @werepjustice on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. When sharing the Campaign, please consider using the hashtag #RepresentJustice.
About REPRESENT JUSTICE:
Through stories of hope and redemption, REPRESENT JUSTICE will engage audiences and spark collective action that creates public demand for a fair legal system, dignity for system impacted communities, and an end to extreme sentences. The Campaign works with a coalition of partners, artists, athletes and more to advance reform and build capacity for other organizations in the space.
About Imagine Justice:
Centered at the intersection of art and activism, Imagine Justice is dedicated to leveraging the power of art to advocate for marginalized communities around the country and spark meaningful change, to fight for justice and equality and to stand united against injustice wherever it appears. Deeply rooted in love, compassion and kindness, Award Winning Artist and Activist Common’s Imagine Justice focuses on criminal justice reform, coalition/community building, immigration, mental health, arts advocacy and civic engagement. Stay connected @ImaginexJustice
About Anti-Recidivism Coalition:
The Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) empowers formerly and currently incarcerated people to thrive by providing a support network, comprehensive reentry services, and opportunities to advocate for policy change. Through their policy advocacy, they are dedicated to transforming the criminal justice system so that it is more just and equitable for all people.