HOUSTON — Six individuals who have experienced incarceration and one individual affected by the criminal justice system graduated today from the TSU Anthony Graves Smart Justice Speakers Bureau Program as trained public speakers for criminal justice reform. The program is the first initiative of the collaboration between the ACLU of Texas, the Anthony Graves Foundation, Texas Southern University’s Urban Research and Resource Center.
“We are proud to be a part of the Speakers Bureau, the realization of Anthony Graves’ nearly decade-long dream to create an opportunity for people who have something to offer society but who too often are invisible, or worse,” said Terri Burke, executive director for the ACLU of Texas. “Graduates of this program are now able to tell their personal stories and advocate for themselves. In doing that they will ultimately help us all to understand what must happen to make our state, and our nation, a place that lives up to its ideals, creating a fairer, more just, smarter criminal justice system.”
“The TSU Anthony Graves Speakers Bureau marks a dramatic change in how we will work to reform criminal justice in America,” said Marcia Johnson, director for Texas Southern University’s Urban Research & Resource Center. “Not only is our main focus on people who are directly impacted by criminal justice policies like the people graduating today from this inaugural class, but we are working as a collaborative of similarly interested stakeholders, organizations, academe, community residents, law enforcement and those against whom the law is enforced to reform our criminal justice system. It is an honor for the URRC to be working alongside the ACLU-Texas toward Smart Justice.”
The graduates attended a 12-week certificate program at TSU where they learned how to research, outline, write and deliver their own personal stories. Each graduate will take their education to advocate in public forums, at local council meetings, and at the state legislature.
“Our seven graduates will make a big impact at the legislative session this year and I am so thrilled for these new advocates,” said Anthony Graves, Executive Director for Anthony Believes and Founder of the Anthony Graves Foundation. “I know through sharing my own story around the country how big their voices can be in our push for criminal justice reform.”