by: bruce reilly, deputy director
It’s that time of year again. Time to mount up with 40 other riders and take a three-day trek to the Louisiana State Penitentiary and raise funds for families who have to ride buses to visit their loved ones locked inside. This is my third year being part of the Nola-to-Angola bike ride, and is likely to carry the most personal significance. Whether engaged in a conversation or focused on my thoughts, the struggles of American mass incarceration are reaching a critical era.
The ride itself mirrors the journey so many families in southern Louisiana take upstate, or up-river from New Orleans, to the plantation setting of Angola. Many are people are elderly, children, or lack reliable transportation, or the gas money for the trip. We are raising funds for the Cornerstone Bus Project, to provide free bus rides to visit their loved ones. Cornerstone has been able to expand the number of buses each month, and drive to five prisons, with this fundraiser becoming more successful with every year. Please donate here to help provide families a way to visit.
As deputy director of Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), it is my job to constantly use strategic thinking to mobilize people and shift American culture away from merciless punishment towards sustainable community health. This may sound like an “interesting” challenge to those tucked safely away, whether in academia, non-profits, or government. But for those of us who are living in the middle of this destruction, it is often infuriating or heartbreaking. I end up crafting love from injustice, such as this past week when a friend succumbed to cancer. Although we could not prove his innocence through the insane hurdles of the criminal justice system (that refuses to review the evidence), my friend was released in June after 32 years because he was going to die. “At least he died free” (relatively) “surrounded by the people he loved” (to a certain extent) “and was fortunate to have that time together with them” (because the law is a stacked deck). These mind tricks keep me pushing against the headwind.
Our work at VOTE has historically been a push against the wind, but we have seen the shifting direction in recent years. Our ability to maintain a stable course relies upon the participation and commitment of our fellow brothers, sisters, youth and elders in the Struggle. This 170-mile bike ride includes VOTE members and allies. Each mile is more meaningful with every dollar donated and every mind awakened.
Send-Off Event: Fri. 10/14, 8-9 AM at Municipal Court: 727 South Broad St., New Orleans