Summit Enters Its 5th Year Of Empowering Women Impacted By The Justice System

Source: Sterling Thomas

Jun. 7 2024, Published 8:10 a.m. ET

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The 5th annual “WE Nation Re-entry Summit,” held June 2 in New York City, was filled with panel discussions on personal and economic development as well as breakout sessions on branding and finances.

This year, the event brought a new partnership between Ladies of Hope Ministries (LOHM), a nonprofit to support women and girls impacted by the criminal justice system, and Activate Your Life, also focused on advocating for women of color who have been impacted.

According to a 2021 study, “Black people make up 40% of the incarcerated population, but only 13% of the general United States population and Black families, regardless of individual involvement with the criminal-legal system, lose their loved ones to prisons and jails at higher rates than their white counterparts.”

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Source: Sterling Thomas

Lucinda Cross speaks at the 5th Annual The WE NATION Re-Entry Summit in Harlem, New York City.

“If I don’t see anything other than what is in front of me then I can’t dream to be anything else,” said Topeka Sam, founder of LOHM. Sam, who experienced incarceration herself, founded the nonprofit in 2017 “to create pathways to success for women and girls and advocate for alternatives to incarceration,” according to their website. When Sam connected with Lucinda Cross, founder of Activate Your Life, it made for a purposeful partnership for this year’s summit.

“Women can work together, and women must work together, in order for us to be able to help transform our communities,” Sam said.

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“It’s bigger than just someone being incarcerated. There’s also those who are mentally incarcerated. Depression going through anxiety. If we look at it mentally and have a sense of empathy, because there’s a lot of things we all have done, and some of us haven’t gotten caught up or caught out there with it or we know someone and so it’s about grace,” Cross added.

Nathifa Forde, executive director of NYC’s Her Future, shared some thoughts with Her Agenda around mental health support. “What are the things that you love to do? And what are those hidden places that you need to feel whole as an individual. So for me, it’s really about how we ground ourselves holistically and understand what the full individual needs and making sure that we’re having thriving communities,” said Ford.

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Source: Starling Thomas

Topeka Sam engages with an attendee at the 5th Annual The WE NATION Re-Entry Summit in Harlem, New York City.

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She added, “a lot of times when people are going through changes in life, they can’t see out of it. But when you hear other people’s stories, and you see where they come from and where they started then this is just a chapter for me.”

Safyah Tate, an attendee who experienced solitary confinement, expressed the significance of seeing women who’ve found success in their reentry.“ I’m a college student. So, my biggest dream right now is to be a college professor. But I also want to be able to be a public speaker. And it’s really given me encouragement. I feel like I’m more prepared now.” Tate graduates with her Associates degree in liberal arts and will pursue her Bachelors and Masters. “When I said to myself enough was enough, I had to be the one to make those changes. Can’t nobody make a change to you but yourself,” Tate said.

Though the event focused on women impacted by the justice system, there were men represented as well. “The Mens Den” panel moderated by Brandon Frame, creator of The Black Man Can, featured formerly incarcerated men. One of the panelists, Khalif Johnson, encouraged those trying to reenter society to “take the good out of the experience that you had. I don’t allow it to beat me up anymore. I use it as a tool.” The panel ended with the men sharing what helped them in their transition. “I would definitely not be where I am today without the women in my life”, said Trent Griffin-Braaf.

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By: Danielle Layton

Danielle Layton is a multimedia and mission-driven storyteller based in NYC. She works in marketing production and is a freelance journalist with a passion for telling stories that encourage, empower, and evoke meaningful change. She enjoys using her personal platforms to encourage the purposeful journey. When she isn't telling stories, you can find her sharing her favorite vegan recipes on her food Instagram @plantifullymade.

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