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Former prisoners meet to form a movement: Feb. 28-March 2 in Alabama

February 18, 2011

We need donations, frequent flyer miles, motel rooms or any help you can give those who may not be able to come on their own

Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of The Ordinary People’s Society speaks to the media at a rally outside the West Virginia capitol to protest the rape of a young Black woman.
On Feb. 28-March 2, 2011, a group of activists who have first-hand experience regarding inhumanities of the American prison industrial complex will convene in Alabama to lay the groundwork for a national civil rights movement. This conference of affected peoples grows out of broader momentum over the past decade, with many formerly incarcerated activists unifying to establish their own conference, for their own agenda, … as part of their own movement.

“What you are seeing now in Georgia,” says Pastor Kenny Glasgow of The Ordinary People’s Society (TOPS), “is a response to inhumane prison conditions and thousands of people’s sense of hopelessness.” He is referring to the Dec. 9 prison labor stoppage across the Georgia system, the largest prisoner protest in American history. “It has become so systematic,” he says, “the prison industry has managed to unite us.” Over 3,000 people have signed a solidarity petition in support of the prisoners.

America, with 5 percent of the planet’s population, holds 25 percent of the prisoners. The 2.3 million exist in a gulag of state, federal and for-profit prisons, while nearly 10 million people currently live under some manner of government supervision. This would be the eighth largest state in the nation. It is unknown exactly how many millions have a criminal record, or are family of those who have once been inside the prison industrial complex, but some estimates exceed 10 million released prisoners in America and 50 million with criminal records.

TOPS Youth is only one of the many activities of The Ordinary People's Society in Dothan, Alabama. Others are the Prodigal Child Project, Restoring the Family, Momma Tina's Soup Kitchen and maintaining the TOPS complex and church. TOPS has earned 501c (3) and 501c (4) nonprofit status.
Linda Evans, co-founder of All of Us or None, puts this gathering in a historical perspective: “Holding the first of two national gatherings at the epicenter of the civil rights struggle is a symbolic action of great power, invoking similar moments such as Stonewall, the Great Grape Boycott, and the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments. The rights of prisoners, including those who were there and those who are targeted to go there, need all of us to share our wisdom and unite our struggle.” Events will occur in Montgomery, Dothan and Selma, including a backwards march over Edmund Pettis Bridge.

The conference is being organized by a Steering Committee consisting of Malik Aziz (Philadelphia), Susan Burton (Los Angeles), Pastor Kenny Glasgow (Dothan, Alabama), Arthur League, Aaliyah Muhammed and Dorsey Nunn (San Francisco/Oakland), Bruce Reilly (Providence) and Tina Reynolds (New York). Participants will be putting aside their local struggles in order to develop a common platform regarding restoration of civil rights, stopping prison expansion, elimination of excessive punishments and protecting the dignity of family members. The Steering Committee will organize dozens of others to convene in Alabama.

Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, shown here in his church, was a leading member of the team that went into Georgia prisons and met with prison officials following the sit-down strike by thousands of prisoners across the state that started Dec. 9. They followed up on prisoners’ demands, investigated reports of brutal reprisals and sought information on 37 prisoners missing since the strike and labeled as organizers.
The Alabama Convention will be the beginning for activating a movement. Next stop: Los Angeles, on Nov. 1, 2011. Allies and supporters should send donations, via paypal, at www.theordinarypeoplesociety.com or by mail to: TOPS, 403 W. Powell Street, Dothan, AL 36303, to assist with the expenses of the event. People can also get involved, as participants or supporters, by supporting civil rights of the formerly incarcerated. A political agenda will be established by a collaborative process and provide opportunity for strategic support.

This national conference is supported by All of Us or None, World Conference of Mayors, Drug Policy Alliance, The Ordinary People Society, Equal Justice Initiative, Rev. Al Sampson, Dr. C.T. Vivian, Prodigal Child Project, National Justice Coalition, Rev. Al Sharpton, New Bottom Line, National Second Chance Council, National Exhoodus Council, A New Way of Life, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH), Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), MN Second Chance Coalition and others.

Those seeking more information should contact Dorsey Nunn at dorsey@prisonerswithchildren.org or (415) 516-9599 or Pastor Kenny Glasgow, alabamaalliance@yahoo.com or (334) 791-2433. Visit TOPS on the web at www.wearetops.org, www.theordinarypeoplesociety.com, wearetops.blogspot.com or www.ordinarypeoplenews.com.

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