This Saturday, Reform L.A. Jails and their founder/chair, activist, public speaker, and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Global Network, Patrisse Cullors, held a triumphant event to raise awareness about mass incarceration and mental illness. The event, also an opportunity to educate people about L.A County jail reform, encouraged the local community to vote “yes” on the Reform L.A. Jails measure that will be on the California presidential primary ballot (March 3, 2020). Held at A Noise Within Theatre, the event included powerful programming, a special performance by rising Compton rapper Boogie, a world-class art exhibition, and more.
The event began with Patrisse Cullors making her opening remarks on bringing L.A. County together for one day in support of mental health reform leading into a discussion between running District Attorney candidates Richard Ceballos, George Gascon, Joseph Iniguez and Rachel Rossi on how each candidate will work to decriminalize mental illness. Cullors moderated each panel throughout the event. The very first panel focused on mental health and incarceration where the history of institutionalization and increase of mentally ill inmates was discussed. Panelists included actress Dawn-Lyen Gardner (Queen Sugar), Medical Director of the Office of Diversion and Reentry Kristen Ochoa, Michael Saavedra survivor of state violence and LA coordinator for Critical Resistance, Lex Steppling, Director of Campaigns and Policy for Dignity and Power Now and Michele Infante, Senior Campaign Lead for Dignity and Power Now.
The second panel conversation, “Policy Solutions Addressing The Mental Health Crisis,” included change agent and breakout star of ABC’s Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated comedy series “black-ish” and star of “grown-Ish” Yara Shahidi, actress Zuri Adele (Good Trouble), Reform LA Jails Senior Advisor Christman Bowers, Helen Jones mother of John Horton and Diana Zuniga from Whole Person Care whom discussed current policies and political actions followed by a deep dive into the Reform L.A. Jails Ballot Measure.
The third and last panel conversation, “Social Movements Responding to Social Ills,” included Mark Anthony Johnson Soro Justice Fellow, Compton rapper Boogie, actor, activist and co-founder of BLD PWR Kendrick Sampson, Guadalupe Rocio Chavez Health and Wellness Director at Dignity and Power Now and Juan Correra father of Juan Correa jr. discussing how to make it popular to care for the mentally ill and homeless and how to take steps to start a movement.
To close the event, Boogie offered a dynamic performance of his songs “lolsmh” and “silent ride”. Following his performance, Cullors and Reform L.A. Jails surprised Boogie with a plaque naming him the first-ever Reform L.A. Jails Ambassador in honor of his partnership in the fight for an adequate mental health care system in L.A. County and advocating for those without a voice. In support of the movement, other attendees included singer and songwriter Lauren Jauregui, actor and activist Matt McGorry, and actress and producer Keri Shahidi.
With the focus on uplifting the stories of members of the L.A. community, the inspiring event simultaneously generated the political support necessary to take the next steps in fixing L.A. County’s broken jail system.
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