Cleveland Vigil Report

By Kelly Ali, TNC Vigil & Regional Leader

My goal when I hold a vigil is to put a human face on drug war victims. I want the public to see that people who have been imprisoned for 15, 20, 25 years are not demons or unredeemable. They are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and children. I want uninformed people to know that the drug war is a war against all people, and unless policy changes are made soon, this war will certainly affect someone they love.

I want people to know that if they remain silent, then this war will surely continue. After months of holding vigils each and every week, I decided that I couldn't just forever continue holding up pictures of inmates and handing out paper to people walking by. I decided to talk to people more, to teach them what they don't know, and in many cases open blinded eyes to the way the justice system really works.

This summer season gives me the medium to do just that. I have contacted all of the surrounding cities to get lists of community events (most have secured a permit from the city). I then contacted the event coordinators and found out what steps to take for setting up a booth. I have attended four, local festivals so far, and there is at least one planned every week from now until after Labor Day.

People come up to my booth, and I am able to engage them in meaningful conversation. I can honestly say that not one person has walked away without at least a question in his/her mind about the drug war. That includes the police officers who supervise the events!

As a regional and vigil leader, I am always trying to increase participation within the chapter. The Vigil booth has done just that. One man I talked with is currently on probation. He worried that becoming active could cause him problems; however he still wanted to help. A few days after I met him, he called with a list of scheduled events I didn't know about.

His comment was that he couldn't rest well after his talk with me, and he had to find some way to help. He plans to keep me informed, which is a BIG help! I also met the girlfriend of a man who wrote me awhile back. She was signing the inmate information form I created, and I recognized the name; we spoke and she now plans to become active.

As an organization, I think it's beneficial for everyone to attempt something like this. It will allow us to grow faster, and then our quarterly nationwide vigils will have bigger and better turnouts each time! There is strength in numbers, and the only way to reach people is to go where they are, where they live and gather.





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