From Hassan Shabazz: Peace and Solidarity to the Unified family:
First, I would like to thank everyone who has worked long and hard to make this event a reality and have braved the current conditions of Covid-19 to participate in this 4th annual Prison Justice Rally. When I look at the past 4 years there have been so many people who have advocated, supported, and dedicated their time and energy to the goal of progressive prison and criminal justice reform, and to all of you I would like to express my gratitude.
2020 was a year filled with many accomplishments mirrored by many losts. For the first time in 26 years in Virginia, prison reform laws were passed for Fishback, Juvenile Parole, and Good Time Credits, but at the same time we saw people take to the streets demanding justice in honor of those forever lost to the struggle such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery amongst many others too numerous to name. We continue to watch the fire of Covid-19 tear through our world, international and domestic, and while the hope of vaccines have shown some light at the end of the tunnel, it is still a tunnel we must go through, and undoubtedly it will be a long hard journey.
With all that is going on today, some may not see prison or criminal justice reform as something significant, but the truth is that we are all tied together in the struggle to escape oppression, in whatever form it may appear. Covid-19 has shown us that “No man is an island unto himself.” It doesn’t care about your race, nationality or status. I have seen the virus affect my own family and ravage the Reentry Community where I reside infecting men (including myself) that only have a few weeks to months left to serve and who are afraid that they may not make it home. I have seen men taken out on gurneys never to return. There is no parole for the majority of the population, so many of them are hoping for an early release through the Covid release plan or a vaccine. Covid-19 has shown just how ill prepared the DOC is to deal with a pandemic and more oversight is needed for the safety of those under their care.
As we continue to endure the pandemic we proceed to have thoughts of freedom, justice, and equality. We must not be satisfied with the accomplishments that we’ve made thus far and we cannot rest until justice prevails. From the issues of No-Knock Warrants and Community Policing, to Parole and Good Time Credits, we must press on. Let us not be discouraged when we do not succeed right away, rather, we must understand as I always say, “There are no microwavable solutions to problems that require an oven of activism.” Thank you for your time and participation, and with that, I leave you as I came, in peace and solidarity.
Hassan Shabazz, VAPJN