Today is one of those days where I’m incredibly excited to share some really good news with you. Seven months ago, right here on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, I announced that I was forming a protest group that would be targeting New York City, and that we had two goals. Both seemed outrageous at the time.
The first goal was that we wanted the State of New York to raise the minimum age of criminal prosecution from 16 to 18. 48 other states had already made this change and activists had been fighting for five long years here in New York to Raise The Age. Black and brown kids all over New York, when committing petty offenses, were being tried and sentenced as adults.
The other goal was for New York City to close down Rikers Island. It’s a hellhole of a jail that chews people up and spits them out. It’s beyond repair. Its very design is dysfunctional.
And at the center of both of these reforms, to Raise The Age and Close Rikers, is Kalief Browder. His life would’ve likely been saved if these reforms would’ve taken place before he was wrongly accused of stealing a backpack as a 16-year-old. Kalief spent three years in Rikers without being charged, mostly in solitary confinement. He was beaten and regularly mistreated, and when he was finally released, after all charges were dropped, he was a shell of himself, ultimately succumbing to depression and committing suicide.
Well, in the past week, with the help of thousands of our listeners, New York City announced that they were going to close Rikers Island and the state legislature finally voted to Raise The Age. Governor Cuomo just signed the bill into law about 12 hours ago.
You helped make that happen. You joined our actions — emailing and calling and tweeting and Facebooking local politicians here in the state. You let your voice be heard, and changes that people thought were impossible, are now going to come to pass.
All day yesterday, I received phone calls and emails from activists and organizations thanking us for the extra support we gave them and I want to take a quick moment out to thank all of our listeners who signed up at InjusticeBoycott.com and joined in our efforts to get these reforms passed. A huge shout out to Tom for letting me push these things over and over again here on the show.
Now let me tell you what we just did. I’ve talked about it several times, but now I’m sure what we are doing is working. Throughout history, Black folk have often fought hard for federal changes and reforms, but in the age of Donald Trump, we have to give that up. It’s not a good use of our time or energy.
If we want to see change, real, tangible, measurable change, we are going to have to fight for it one city and one state at a time. See, what we did in New York, is we put pressure from our 8 million listeners, and the 500,000 people who signed up for the Injustice Boycott, all on one state, and it made a very local battle into a national issue.
Now, one city and state and issue at a time, we want to repeat the lessons we learned in New York, and take them all over the country. People keep asking me why we won’t focus on a national reform, and I understand why that feels normal to you, but right now we must go local.
See, our goal is not to be heard for the sake of being heard. Our goal is not to be seen for the sake of being seen. Our goal is change. Our only metric is change. If we aren’t making change, then it’s not worth our time.
Later this month, on Thursday, April 27th, we are going to announce our next local targets, goals, plans, and initiatives. What we did in New York, we are going to do again, in new cities across the country. I’m feeling good about what we can do. We’ve done it before, we can do it again.
Thank you all again for your tireless support in New York. What you fought for matters and the changes are going to save real lives. Take care everybody.