From Criminal Justice to Human Justice

Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions (CNUS) launched their campaign for a paradigm shift “From Criminal Justice to Human Justice” Friday, April 15, with a formal gala at the 1199 SEIU Penthouse, where the monumental evening featured speeches from Guest of Honor Harry Belafonte, honorary host committee chairs Danny Glover, George Gresham (1199 SEIU president), and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) along with addresses from civil rights activists Bob Moses and Gus Newport.

CNUS, which in the past has been summoned to the White House for consultation and called to testify as experts before numerous committees, commissions and legislative bodies, aims to reduce reliance on the criminal punishment system as the answer to solving socio-economic ills, violence, structural inequities, substance abuse and other health-related issues.

The First Annual Human Justice Gala provided a launch pad for CNUS members to formally present their concept of human justice to their constituents and supporters.

CNUS opened the evening with a cocktail reception showcasing a media gallery with 10 significant prints of statistics, photos, and letters from inmates that correlated with the theme. The prints brought attention to the amount of money the U.S. spends on education versus incarceration and highlighted the fact that the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world. 2.3 million are in jails and prisons with another 5.1 million on parole or probation, which results in 7.4 million people in the U.S. being under some form of correctional supervision.

The dinner program was opened with a moving choir performance by MS 113 Ronald Edmonds Learning Center Choir, which included Harry Belafonte’s “We Are The World.” Mr. Belafonte followed as the guest speaker giving accolades to activists ranging from his generation to today’s youth. He concluded by drawing attention to today’s heightened political climate saying, “Capitalism has no compassion. The oppressor has not such humanity.”

Similarly Yasiin spoke to humanity telling the audience, “The goal is to reaffirm humanity.”

Civil Rights Activists and founder of The Algebra Project, Bob Moses drew a bridge between the intergenerational audience commenting that, “Today’s issues in the criminal justice system are a continuation of the struggles we faced in the civil rights era.”

Veteran activist and actor, Danny Glover read the organization’s open letter on Human Justice, which states, “Human Justice is defined as the merger between Human Rights and Human Development. It is about enlarging one’s choices, achieving well-being and combatting processes that impoverish people or underpin oppression and structural injustice.”

The culminating moment of the night was when Mr. Belafonte surprised CNUS founder, Eddie Ellis by presenting him with the inaugural Human Justice Award for his dedication to social justice and human development.

In the words of CNUS Executive Director, Dr. Divine Pryor, “The CNUS Gala was a huge success that delivered our message and mission to an expansive audience of esteemed activists, elected officials, and a host of other significant supporters in a way that really made them comprehend what we are dealing with in today’s justice system.”

Among the notable attendees were New York City Council Member Letitia James, New York State Committeeman Walter Mosley III, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, representatives from Senator John Sampson, and hip-hop pioneer Kool Herc. The program concluded with a performance by Master of Ceremonies, Bryonn Bain’s group Lyrics from Lockdown and music was provided by DJ Reborn.

For more information on CNUS Human Justice campaign and other initiatives, please visit www.centerfornuleadership.org.

About Center For Nu Leadership On Urban Solutions

The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions is an independent activist think tank and the first and only criminal justice policy, training and advocacy center in the United States whose founding staff is primarily comprised of formerly incarcerated professionals. They stand at the forefront of researching, educating, and implementing transformative human rights approaches to prevention, re-entry, and community development. Based in Brooklyn, N.Y. they provide premier trainings, direct services, and social justice campaigns that restore educational, economic and civic opportunities for men, women and children who are impacted by the criminal justice system.

More from Around NYC