Thursday, July 26, 2012

Community Profile: Brenda Williams of VOTE

After attending an “outstanding” presentation that VOTE sponsored at Ashé Cultural Arts Center in Central City, Miss Brenda Williams was inspired to get “involved to make a difference in the lives of those who suffer injustice at the hands of lawmakers, judges and others involved in the criminal justice system processes.” She has heard stories from many people who were treated unfairly, exposing her personally to the powerlessness individuals face when they are forced to confront the criminal justice system. Knowing that there is power in numbers and that reclaiming the power of those who have had it taken away, “will require many people of good will to exercise informed, persistent, due diligence until change comes.”

Her favorite aspect of working with VOTE is the “persistent involvement in the legislative process.” She feels the most important things that VOTE does are to provide space where formerly incarcerated people and their families, friends and communities can “voice their concerns, meet with others of like experience and mind, learn how to effectively advocate for themselves and recognize and utilize their power in numbers.”

Through educational sessions at VOTE Miss Brenda has increased her knowledge of ways the criminal justice system is stacked against the betterment of people of color. She also became aware of the many licenses that FIPs are barred from obtaining, an issue that VOTE members have tackled head on by creating House Bill 295. She calls VOTE “the answer” to the call that is, comprehensive civic engagement necessary to transform societal ills.

In order to increase impact and scope Miss Brenda believes that it would be a benefit for VOTE to collaborate with more African American organizations such as Greek-letter organizations, Urban League, NAACP, Zulu, NOMTOC, Forresters, Masons, Knights of Peter Claver etc.

Outside of her work with VOTE Miss Brenda enjoys reading, fellowshipping with members of her church, actively participating with her sorority sisters in community affairs, advocating for a Louisiana Civil Rights museum and supporting continued growth and development of Ashé Cultural Arts Center. She also loves spending time with her 16 month old grandson whom she admits doting over.

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