Hundreds gather to #FreeTonyLewis

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Sophie Lewis chants “Free Tony Lewis,” with her father, Tony Lewis, Jr., who organized the “Free Tony Lewis Rally,” on April 10 to fight against mass incarceration and specifically to free his father who has been incarcerated for 32 years. (Photo by Carl Thomas)

By Carl Thomas
Special to the AFRO

Let’s rewind to this time in 1989.  Sliced Bacon, by the pound is $1.90 and a movie ticket is $4.11. President George HW Bush has just congratulated the Michigan Men’s Basketball team on their National Championship victory and somewhere in Illinois the largest lottery jackpot in North America ($69 million) was drawn. Mid-April 1989 other fortunes were changing. This was the last week Tony Lewis Jr. would spend with his father, Tony Lewis, Sr. as a free man.

On April 10, hundreds gathered to stand with Lewis, Jr. on Black Lives Matter Plaza to ask President Joe Biden to reunite Tony Lewis Sr. with his family after serving 32 years in federal prison. 

Lewis Jr., addressed the crowd of supporters under the backdrop of a free outdoor concert featuring the legendary Go-Go group Backyard Band. The crowd could be heard for several blocks chanting “Free Tony Lewis,” as instructed by Sophie Lewis, Lewis Jr.’s eldest daughter. 

“We are fighting to reunite our families that are around the world that’s incarcerated,” said Anwan “Big G” Glover, of Backyard Band.  “This is the time, and the time is now.  Free Tony Lewis, free all our brothers…free everybody- all the brothers that’s in, that’s trying to get back and do right.”

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The younger Lewis, now 40, who has become a bonafide hometown hero, has spent his entire adult life and career trying to undo the ills many have attributed to his father’s youthful activities. An author, activist and advocate, Lewis, Jr. is, by trade, a vocational development coordinator with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), but his impact on the returning citizen community stretches far and long beyond his government employment.

In 2009, he founded the Sons of Life Outreach Initiative, which mentored the children of incarcerated parents through social, educational and cultural programming. Lewis Jr. has provided outreach to some of the most difficult to reach populations for several government agencies, but ultimately has always been able to engage people through authentic communication style. The “Free Tony Lewis Rally,” was no exception.

It’s amazing to see so many people came out to support and so many people following and supporting online,” TyJuan Brown told the AFRO.  Tony continues to inspire us to want more.”

Hundreds gathered in Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C., for the “Free Tony Lewis Rally,” on April 10, fighting to reunite families, put an end to mass incarceration. (Photo by Sam Johnson)

In the 32 years since Lewis Sr. has been incarcerated, gas has gone up 183 percent, sliced bacon is up 168 percent, and the cost of a movie ticket has increased 204 percent. It seems the only cost that hasn’t moved is the cost of freedom for a 58-year-old grandfather, if you were once a 26-year-old nonviolent drug offender as is the case with Lewis Sr.

“Thirty-two years is far too long when we consider that the U.S. government was the not-so-silent partner in this crime,” Brown added.

More information on the petition and the mission of Tony Lewis, Jr. can be found at www.FreeTonyLewis.com