A few weeks ago, I participated in a conference in northern California with elected officials interested in making a positive impact on juvenile justice.
It was an amazing gathering where candid and honest conversations were held and people in various positions of influence committed themselves to working together to reform the justice system.
Immediately following the gathering, I attended the 40th birthday party of one of my favorite cousins.
I was particularly looking forward to spending time with my cousin Isaac who I grew up with and whom I hadn’t seen since my wedding almost two years ago.
Isaac is the son of a Vietnam veteran and someone whom I’ve always admired because he’s overcome many of life’s obstacles and is now preparing to become a father for the first time in three months.
With anticipation, I get to the party and don’t even recognize my cousin Isaac as he slowly walks through the door.
Seeing Isaac for the first time in two years, it was obvious that he had lost at least 60 pounds as his clothes were all but barely hanging onto his bones.
As such, I immediately went up to Isaac and held him tightly as I struggled to hold back my tears.
As the night progressed, I came to learn that Isaac had been fighting an addiction to meth for quite some time.
At that moment, the personal became political and the lines between my work, activism, and life became blurred.
At that moment, I realized that the reason why so many of us are rooted in compassion and forgiveness is the simple fact that we speak from a place of truth.
We do not make up stories of young people being pushed out of school and into prisons.
We do not make up stories of young people fighting addictions and becoming worse addicts while locked up in prison.
We do not make up these stories, because these are in fact our own stories.
And that is why I ask you to support my own family and countless families across this country by supporting the Youth PROMISE Act, historic federal legislation that would change the way America deals with juvenile addiction, delinquency, and violence.
The Youth PROMISE Act will provide concrete resources such as counseling, mentoring, after-school programs, and job training so that young people will be given a chance to succeed in life.
A few days ago, I was honored to be in a packed Congressional Room in Washington, D.C. for the premiere of a viral video that I co-produced and wrote starring Russell Simmons, Robin Wright, Baron Davis, Mayor Cory Booker, and others committed to raising awareness of this important legislation.
Within hours of launching the video at youthPROMISEAction.org, over 10,000 people signed a petition asking President Obama and Congress to immediately pass this critically-needed legislation.
The viral video, along with other social media organizing tools, has now provided us with new ways to directly engage with our legislators and hold them accountable for their decisions.
However, we can only get this bill passed and make history, if we all get involved and get our friends, family members, and neighbors to sign the petition at youthPROMISEAction.org.
So I humbly ask you to join me and thousands across America in ensuring that my cousin Isaac doesn’t become another statistic in a system that too many of us know does not rehabilitate people, but rather further marginalizes our own brothers and sisters.
I ask you to dig down deep and know that every family has stories, whether they be
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