Dream Corps JUSTICE is hosting the Day of Empathy Summit is on April 5 in D.C., but includes events all around the country beginning March 26. (Courtesy Photo)

By DeAnna Giles,
Special to the AFRO

Dream Corps JUSTICE is set to host the sixth annual Day of Empathy Summit to bridge the gap between lawmakers and communities disproportionately impacted by incarceration.

According to Dream Corps, the goal of the event is to build empathy with governors, state legislators and federal policymakers to take action on criminal justice reform. 

The Day of Empathy National Summit will be hosted at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. on April 5 at 6 p.m. and streamed virtually. 

The Summit is in partnership with the Empathy Network and includes a Week of Impact events nationwide. The events are meant to be a catalyst for policy changes in criminal justice reform.

“The Day of Empathy is important because it is led by all formerly incarcerated persons. It allows those of us who the justice system has oppressed to work alongside survivors, victims, legislators and other formerly incarcerated people to be a voice for the voiceless,” said Ruby Welch, Dream Corps JUSTICE Campaign Coordinator.

Co-founder Van Jones, members of Congress, celebrity influencers and more will be attending the national event. It will also include a special performance by Roc Nation’s Reuben Vincent and an art exhibit by artists who were once incarcerated and impacted by the criminal justice system.

Those attending the Day of Empathy event will have the opportunity to experience what it is like to be incarcerated through an immersive virtual reality experience.

“We hope that they will walk away empathizing with the 2.3 million people in U.S. jails and prisons and commit to advocating on their behalf,” said in a press release.

According to The Sentencing Project, the United States is the world’s leader in incarceration and is disproportionate among minorities.

The nationwide Day of Empathy includes 20 events all around the country beginning March 26 through April 5. Many of the events will be led by advocates that have been impacted by the criminal justice system.  The goal is to humanize and uplift real stories by sharing the impact policy has on their lives and communities and to inspire and activate common-ground solutions that keep people out of prison.

“I hope people nationwide will listen to our messages that our past does not dictate our future, and doesn’t hinder us from being respectful, tax-paying citizens,” said Welch.

Day of Empathy events will be hosted in various states including: North and South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Atlanta, California, Oregon, Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Philadelphia, New York and Maine.

Welch said for each event, the Empathy Leaders have the freedom to decide and choose what is most needed in their respective states when it comes to laws, advocacy and nonprofit work.

The events are scheduled to be held in person and virtual and will act as a virtual lobbying effort to urge lawmakers to pass the EQUAL Act Passage.

The EQUAL Act Passage is a defense against the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act which created a higher penalty for crack as opposed to powder cocaine. The Act would further reduce the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine. 

Dream Corps’ vision is that the deep divides seen in our country can be healed and closed in order to focus on the solutions that unite people.

The Dream Corps initiated three renowned programs: “Dream Corps JUSTICE,” “Dream Corps TECH” and “GREEN For All,” which continue to provide opportunities for Black and Brown communities.

The Dream Corps JUSTICE works with impacted leaders and allies across the political spectrum and seeks to transform the criminal justice system. In the end, this program advocates for prison doors to be closed.

Dream Corps TECH provides a tech program which gives underrepresented tech talent access to employment in the tech industry.

GREEN For All is a nationwide campaign focused on encouraging more electric forms of transportation to rid pollution caused by carbon emissions.

These programs seek to open the doors of opportunity that is feasible and equitable for everyone.

The National Summit will be streamed on the Dream Corps website at 8:30 p.m. on April 5. Supporters are encouraged to stand in solidarity with Empathy Network leaders on the Day of Empathy Summit.

The Day of Empathy has brought together sisterhoods and brotherhoods across all 50 states and continues to be a support system for each other.

“We believe that the people most harmed by our current system are uniquely qualified to create and champion the solutions that will begin to transform it,” said National Director of Dream Corps JUSTICE Janos Marton.

Go to www.DayofEmpathy.Org to get involved or find an event near you.

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