Calvin Boswell, who is currently incarcerated, is a native of Minneapolis who has been in prison for the past 15 years since he was a 15-year-old youth. He is now the lead voice from behind the walls of the BRIDGE work.
Kevin Reese, recently released from prison after 14 years, is the former lead voice of the BRIDGE work from behind the walls. Kevin’s new role as director of criminal justice at Voices for Racial Justice is to now bring the from-behind-the-walls urgency to the front lines of the movement.
The following discussion is a lens through which to examine the emerging conversations to be had in the community that originated behind the walls.
I recently heard a man say, “I am the byproduct when you invest in our youth.” This statement had an emotional connection to me. It forced me to pay attention to who this African American man was. I found out that he (Cpt. Barrington Irving) is the youngest pilot in history to fly around the world solo, but before accomplishing such a feat he first built the plane from scratch.
After researching youth incarceration and wanting to curb the rate, being someone who has been incarcerated since I was a youth, I found myself asking what I can do to directly affect the youth in the neighborhoods where I’m from.
One of the things that is great about being an organizer is that the answer to any question that is posed is to simply build from wherever you are, with whatever you have. One of the fundamental principles of organizing is the importance of creating gracious space for the transformative work to take place.
The seed of the need to bring youth together to build with them on the possibilities of what they can be, and what they can do, came from you, Calvin. In my role I consider it a great honor to host the space for Calvin’s leadership to be in the center.
We will be hosting a youth engagement session in September that Calvin will lead. Some next steps will emerge from it, and we will follow up right here in the MSR on how the community can support this work.
America has done a disservice to us, and the reparation conversation is a real one that needs to have a check at the end of it. With that said, we cannot stand by and wait. We owe it to ourselves and our ancestors who did not wait.
This BRIDGE work is an example of what it looks like to not wait. This space was created by incarcerated people, for incarcerated people, while they were incarcerated, because they knew best what the road to freedom should look like.
There is an ocean of examples of what we can look like when we let our light shine. The examples of success are great, but the examples of the tragedies are waiting around the corner of every decision that we make. I wish to use the space to hold a conversation about the importance of our children’s dreams and examine what it looks like to see our children’s nightmares.
As long as there is a cage for our children’s dreams, and a grave to muffle our children’s screams, we are not free. The conversation around youth empowerment is going on everywhere, and the push for uplifting the dreams of our children is on the hearts and minds of the community.
We wish to not own this conversation. We just wish to contribute to it with our stories of tragedy and triumph as fruit to feed the conversation.
It’s not just the one percent of us who make it that can do it. I know if we give ourselves and our youth the platforms and outlets to be creative thinkers, inventors, and builders, we will flourish.
Kevin Reese, now director of criminal justice at Voices for Racial Justice, was just on the prison yard with me two months ago. Now he is in the community building bridges, and he has been given a platform, and he has extended the platform to me, and I plan to use it wisely.
What better way than to start with our youth? There are so many Black men and women who motivate and continue to inspire me, I wish to be a part of the inspirational chain that connects us from the dawn of time and will be the cord we hold on to as we strive towards our future.
Collective uplifting is how we start, and the uplifting of our youth is where we start.
Kevin Reese is director of criminal justice reform at Voices for Racial Justice. Calvin Boswell, Jr. is a participant in Voices for Racial Justice’s “BRIDGE Partnership.” Reader responses are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the organization’s work, visit www.voicesforracialjustice.org.