Peace and Justice Community Summits

Linda Evans
Three extremely successful Peace and Justice Commu-nity Summits were organized by All of Us or None in Oakland, San Francisco, and East Palo Alto in 2004. A total of over 1200 people attended the three Summits. For the first time, formerly incarcerated people were speaking in our own voices, making demands and policy recommendations to Action Panels that included over 70 elected officials and community leaders.
The voices of formerly incarcerated people and our families have been repeatedly marginalized in debates about policy issues affecting our communities. The Summits provided forums where people who had been in prison and suffered injustices testified, and policy-makers and community leaders listened. We hoped the Summits would help mobilize communities devastated by mass imprisonment and its after-effects to struggle for criminal justice reform.
All of Us or None members took flyers in English and Spanish to neighborhoods in Oakland, San Francisco, and East Palo Alto every Saturday during the months prior to each Summit. We talked to hundreds of people at community meetings and on the streets, handed out flyers at community fairs, events, and at bus and BART stops all over the Bay Area. We made presentations at schools, halfway houses, and drug treatment centers. We put stacks of our flyers in beauty shops, barber shops, and corner grocery stores in targeted neighborhoods.
At the Summits, formerly incarcerated people told our stories ? about being locked out of employment, housing, higher education; about our families being torn apart because of 20-year-old felony convictions; about being denied welfare, foodstamps, and custody of our children after getting out of California prisons or Youth Authority. We demanded an end to the discrimination we face in so many areas of life. We made very specific recommendations for changes in public policy to the Action Panels at each Summit.
After each Summit we held community meetings where many new members joined All of Us or None. We formed active workgroups to involve our membership in the ongoing work: Policy, Outreach/Inreach, Sustainability, and Membership. We continue to do outreach with formerly incarcerated people and to neighborhoods that are hardest hit by incarceration. We have regular programs of outreach/inreach at local jails and prisons. We are continuing to meet with elected officials and community leaders. Many of them have come forward to support our demands.
We are determined to win significant change, even though it is a long-term struggle. Most important, we are determined to build a powerful movement of formerly incarcerated people so we have a voice in our own futures and in the survival and development of our communities.