In early December 2019, REPRESENT JUSTICE — working with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) and Imagine Justice — organized a concert and roundtable conversation between incarcerated individuals and Grammy and Academy-Award winning rapper and activist, Common. The event, which took place at the California Rehabilitation Center (CRC) in Norco, California, emphasized the goals of the campaign to uplift narratives of hope and redemption, while also breaking down stigmas associated with individuals who are impacted by the justice system — disproportionately people of color and the poor.
“I do my best to use my platform to support the people who need a voice in the world,” Common said. “I’ve met some of the most incredible men and women in prison and I continue to work for criminal justice reforms. I’m proud to stand with REPRESENT JUSTICE on this important work.”
Common was joined on stage by formerly incarcerated rapper and REPRESENT JUSTICE Ambassador, Bobby Gonz. This was Bobby’s second time appearing on stage with Common. A year ago, the rapper pulled Bobby, who was incarcerated at Valley State Prison at the time, on stage to perform with him. When Bobby was asked to return to a prison only three months after his release, he stated, “I had mixed emotions to say the least. However, I knew I’d be in good hands with REPRESENT JUSTICE — a campaign that’s on a mission to lift up stories like mine. So, it was an honor to further their message of hope and redemption to the currently incarcerated by reuniting onstage with Academy Award-winning artist and activist Common — now, as a free man.”
In addition to the performance, visual artist BMike painted a mural that day. Over the course of five hours, BMike and facility residents used spray paint to bring the artwork to life. At the center, was the sketch of a pink rose growing through concrete, a demonstration of the power of art to reflect humanity’s potential.
“The process of creating allows you to escape what’s around you, in the ultimate hope of reflecting what’s inside you,” BMike reflected in a post on his Instagram account.” “There’s no greater example of this than seeing the joy on these men’s faces as we painted alongside each other. Physically locked in a cage but painting freely.”
Common also took part in a roundtable discussion with residents of the facility, REPRESENT JUSTICE Surrogates and Ambassadors, and members of ARC. “Just Mercy,” actress Karan Kendrick joined the roundtable and reminded residents that they are loved and have people on the outside that care about them.
In allowing current residents to share their stories with formerly incarcerated individuals and visitors to the facility, the roundtable underscored the recognized the humanity of those impacted by the criminal justice system and offered participants the chance to see that hope and redemption should be available to all.