From our friends at VOTE-NOLA:
Some members join VOTE out of a sense of social responsibility or a personal mission. For Betty Wells Allen it was all of these forces combined with the joy of helping ex-offenders understand how to thrive in society. “My son was convicted with a life sentence [for something] he didn’t do,” she explains. “I came to learn what I could do for my child because when you are knowledgeable about sentences and what a crime entails you can help more.”
Her personal interest in understanding her son’s conviction caused Betty to become an active member of VOTE. Grateful for the knowledge she learned in both the paralegal and street law classes, she hopes that she can use it to help unite ex-offenders in their common interests. “My goal is for the organization to be very widespread because it touches a lot of African Americans,” said Ms Allen. “But I’m not just looking for African Americans, it should be ex-offenders all together."
Betty’s central concern for ex-offenders re-entering society lies with the essentials like housing and jobs. She would like to see VOTE’s message become more widespread among people who are lacking these essentials.
Betty’s career working in the school system, both with children and parents, has illuminated the intersections between that system and the systems that VOTE seeks to change. “My work in the school system relates to the work I am doing at VOTE because they both have to do with people helping people, trying to give everyone a chance in life.”
During her time at VOTE, Betty has had many new transformative experiences, especially through the trips and gatherings that VOTE has been involved with. “[VOTE’s recent trip to] L.A. was one of the best experiences that I have ever had,” she says. “From getting a lot of information at the conferences I realized how intertwined we were with the other groups of ex-
At the end of the day, Betty’s passion for VOTE comes from being part of the organization’s community and part of the community for which VOTE advocates. “Learning how to interact with different people, it’s a joy in the midst of all this work,” explains Ms. Allen.