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The Voice of the Black Community
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Opinion

Voices from the NC Poor People’s Campaign
 
Published Monday, June 4, 2018
by Andrea “Muffin” Hudson, Salahudeen Abdallah and Cate De Maille, Editorial

What if you were arrested and couldn’t afford the bail money for your release? What if you paid taxes but weren’t allowed to vote?

Two of us, Andrea “Muffin” Hudson and Salahudeen Abdallah, shared our stories at a rally on May 21 for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival in front of the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh.

Andrea “Muffin” Hudson

Until I experienced it myself, I had no idea how systemic racism is woven into the police and court systems. When I was arrested, I knew it was a case of mistaken identity. I thought I would be able to straighten it out and go home the next day. I had one minute to make a phone call. I called my 17-year-old daughter and asked her to take care of her 7-year-old brother. I’d be home tomorrow. But the judge raised my bond and I didn’t come home. Access to money was my only barrier to freedom. The next time I was able to speak to my daughter was two weeks later. I soon found out nothing works quickly in a justice system that targets black, brown and poor people. I stayed in jail for 61 days simply because I couldn’t afford bail. Meanwhile, my children still needed to be provided for and there was no income.

I lost my job, my house and my car. When the charges were finally dismissed, there were no apologies, no restitution for the income lost by their false arrest. The police wouldn’t listen to me, but the Poor People’s  Campaign listened. They asked me to tell my story at the rally. Even if you don’t have a lived experience, you can reach out to those who have and ask how you can help them.

Salahudeen Abdallah

Through firsthand experience with state and federal judicial systems, I learned our prison system is a punitive system, not focused on rehabilitation. When people look at my record, they don’t see the whole story of who I am, where I came from, and how hard I’ve worked to get to where I am today. I want people to see me as a human being instead of a profile. Even though my record doesn’t define me, I’m being treated like a second-class citizen because of it.

Since I’m on probation for a felony conviction, I have no right to vote even though I pay taxes. Society doesn’t value me enough to let me vote for people who will affect the well-being of my family. It’s as if we don’t count. My voice should be heard because I pay taxes. But I’m not heard by people whose salaries are being paid by my taxes because I can’t vote. The elected officials who make the laws are the same people who are getting paid with my tax dollars but my opinion means nothing to them. We don’t see these elected officials in low income areas trying to learn what it takes to stop recidivism.

My tax dollars don’t represent me. I, and people like me, should be able to vote. We should have a voice in the conversation when it comes to changing unjust laws. I want America to have some humanity and compassion for the people who are overlooked, and often ridiculed and put down. The Poor People’s Campaign is bringing this issue to the attention of our legislators. Making them look us in the eyes and hear us.

We invite others to join the North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign. Go to www.poorpeoplescampaign.org or write to northcarolina@poorpeoplescampaign.org.

Somebody’s hurting our people and it’s gone on far too long.

 

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