Reimagine Reentry is something I considered doing since I was incarcerated in Western Penitentiary, over 30 years ago. I was born and raised in Philadelphia and got involved with gangs when I was a teenager. I spent 23 years in prison, from 1971 until 1991. I am a supporter of the MOVE Organization, and credit much of my ability and willingness to change to MOVE.
As a returning citizen, I completed my Master of Social Work in 1996, specializing in Community Organization. I now am an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, where I work with communities across Allegheny County to create outreach infrastructures aimed at reducing crime and violence. At Pitt, I am the Director of the Violence Prevention Initiative, where I oversee outreach work, provide gun violence training and education, and conduct the Gunshot Recurring Injury Prevention Services (G.R.I.P.S.) project to provide support to gunshot wound victims.
The many men and women I left behind are largely responsible for my transformation, and I feel it is my responsibility to give back to them. They helped me while I was incarcerated, and they have supported me since I’ve been home. They helped me realize that returning citizens with a plan can change the world! The success I have had is due to the teachers and mentors I had while incarcerated. Reimagine Reentry is not only a tribute to them, but a product of the direction given to me, by them, to change for the better.
My desire is to change the narrative around recidivism. I wanted to create a program for returning citizens, by returning citizens, to help better deliver holistic, trauma-informed services to people traditionally counted out by the rest of society. The desire and hope instilled in me by my past has charged me with changing the face of recidivism, and I hope that Reimagine Reentry serves as a beacon of hope for those who have experienced or have been affected by incarceration. “If you believe it, you can achieve it”. Reimagine Reentry exists today because I believe that by the power within each and every one of us, we can change the world.