“From the time he moved to New Orleans four years ago to attend Tulane Law School, I’ve been waiting for the chance to get him working with us full time,” says Norris Henderson, Executive Director of VOTE. “Now that we got him in house, we can amp up the leadership development of our members, build out the economic empowerment services for people coming home from prison, continue to expand the electoral engagement of formerly incarcerated people and their families, and achieve policy victories to stop the over-incarceration of our communities on local, state and national levels.”
“I want to help build a movement led by directly impacted people, alongside Norris, VOTE’s base, and allies in New Orleans,” Bruce explains. “For too long others have claimed to speak for us while denying our expertise. Those of use who know what it means to be locked in a cage or visit our family through a glass partition are best informed, and have the most at stake, in our collective commitment to end state polices and administrative practices sustaining mass incarceration at the expense of healthy communities. For over forty years the United States has engaged in a disastrous campaign to criminalize social and public health problems including poverty, unemployment, homelessness, substance abuse, and mental illness. If we are ever going to switch our approach, while also dealing with reentry and rehabilitation, people with the wisdom of experience must be at the policy table. VOTE is committed to organizing strategies that ensure people in positions of leadership and influence come from the 80 million people impacted by convictions. I am one of 110,000 people in Louisiana, and six million nationwide, denied the right to vote in a nation striving to be the world’s model democracy. For us to claim that title, second-class citizenship needs to end, and only a genuine movement of civil and human rights can do it.”
“VOTE could not have found a better Deputy Director, period,” says VOTE Board Chair Robin Templeton. “Bruce brings to VOTE a fierce intellect and a honed set of skills—coupled with his brilliant creativity—that positions VOTE to grow its organizational capacity by leaps and bounds. But what’s most impressive and inspiring about Bruce is his indomitable passion and loving commitment to VOTE’s mission and to the community that VOTE serves.”
Hiring Bruce comes on the heels of organizer Gahiji Barrow transitioning out of VOTE. Gahiji’s tireless work ethic and loving spirit has been a staple of VOTE and the wider social justice community, and will be missed. The organization expects to expand in the near future, and continues in its central role for criminal justice reform in New Orleans.