As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., one of America’s greatest civil rights leaders, I’d like to acknowledge another angel walking among us.
You see, the reason why we cherish people like John Lennon, Harriet Tubman, or Cesar Chavez is because they stood up for those individuals often times marginalized and ignored by society.
They stood up for those mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who are being systematically denied a voice in the political process.
Last month, I had the privilege of participating in Babies Behind Bars, a series of educational events in Los Angeles aimed at raising awareness of the juvenile justice system in America.
The centerpiece of Babies Behind Bars was a Holiday Celebration at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, one of the largest juvenile facilities in the northern hemisphere.
Given the fact that the holidays are often a trying and difficult time for those young people who are incarcerated, community leaders, such as Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas, internationally-renowned author Luis Rodriguez (Always Running), multi-talented producer DJ Skee, and the Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, all came out to show their love and support for those youth who were spending the holiday’s alone without any friends or family.
However, the main performer that day was Grammy-nominated artist John Forté.
Some people may remember John because of his work with the multi-platinum group the Fugees.
Others may know John as the person who served seven years of a fourteen-year federal prison sentence for a non-violent, drug-related offense and was then granted a commutation (i.e. released) from prison by former President George W. Bush.
However, on that day, five hundred plus young people saw John as family.
Five hundred plus young people saw John as family because his words reminded them that they are not alone.
Five hundred plus young people saw John as family because his words inspired them to reach beyond what society expected of them.
Five hundred plus young people saw John as a positive example of how they could turn their lives around if given a second chance.
On that day, I walked with John Forté and looked into the eyes of hundreds of babies crying out for love and resources.
On that day, we talked to hundreds of babies serving double-life sentences for first-time, non-violent offenses.
On that day, we recommitted ourselves once again to working to transform America’s juvenile justice system.
No matter what political party or ideology you subscribe to, the fact is that our justice system is broken and cos