A Night of Community
Story by Aqeela Starks. Originally Published by The California Endowment.
This Monday, nearly 25,000 people gathered in Sacramento for artist and activist Common’s Imagine Justice Concert. Imagine Justice was put on to spark conversation around mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline and, spanning five blocks of Sacramento’s Capitol Mall, it was definitely a concert to remember.
Working as a member of the youth media team allowed me to sit and enjoy the concert in the VIP area that doubled as a great place to get footage of the incredible turnout.
Led by Common, each artist did a fantastic job at keeping the crowed moving and spreading the overall message that there should be justice for all communities, we should be building more school and fewer prisons and that our youth should not be incarcerated and abandoned.
Seeing the artists perform opened my eyes and gave me hope that the little guys haven’t been forgotten about. That there are people in the world that care and see the changes that need to be made. One performance that really stood out to me was the Syncopated Ladies. I hadn’t known much about them before the concert on Monday, but I was very fascinated by their choreography.
Another person who stood out to me was Devon Franklin, one of the Imagine Justice speakers, who spoke on how we all have to work together to make things happen. This was a very real statement to me because without teamwork, Monday’s concert would never have happened and I believe it was living proof of what we can accomplish if we all come together.
Because I was there covering the event, I was able to meet dozens of people who came out to support the message. Even more importantly, I was able to highlight them as individuals who were out to support the movement, not just faces in the crowed. One of my favorites was a young lady named Miah. Miah was there with her mother celebrating her 17th birthday with the thousands of others in attendance and I was able to make her day just a little more special by giving her a special birthday “shout out” on The California Endowment’s Snapchat.
I also got to speak to several people about why they decided to come to the concert. The responses I received took me by surprise because a lot of people had been curious not because of the performers, but because they face these heartbreaking situations that often leave them feeling alone and unsupported.
One story that really pulled on my heart strings was of a young 18-year old and soon to be father who was taken away from his family for allegedly shoplifting the day his girlfriend went into labor. The young man was eventually found innocent of shoplifting, but was then given time for violation of parole: being out past curfew.
When this young man was finally able to give his statement in court, the judge found him guilty of parole violation because he should have “cleared all suspicions and worked out a late schedule to attend the birth of his child.”
The young man’s family, his mother, the mother of his child and their child, all came to find support because he will not be released until May 2020. While the family still remains hopeful that he will be released for good behavior due to the overcrowding of prisons, their real hope came from the amount of people who came out to Monday’s concert. They said the huge turnout made them feel like they were a part of a community that really understands; the performances were just a nice touch.
For me, this concert was a huge leap in the right direction. Seeing the amount of people who came out, the amount of people who found support, showed that we still have hope.