Several men, ranging from 23 years old to great-grandfathers, were honored at the Alliance for Change graduation for completing the rehabilitative course that taught them how to achieve social justice for their communities.
“This is the dopest class ever,” said graduate Phillip Kelly. “When I go out to my community, I look to build it up and procedural justice taught me how to do that. If they kill me in the process it will be worth it if I change one life.”
Alliance for Change has a social justice mission. The program focuses on teaching seven different kinds of justice — Restorative, Procedural, Distributive, Transitional, Transformative, Community and Social. Alliance examines these forms of social justice and educates the men in ways of achieving social harmony in their communities.
Graduate Brandon Hidalgo, 23, said, “This class was really good because of all the wisdom and experience from older guys and ambition and new ideas from the younger generation.”
Sponsor Mana Jaundoo added, “Every cycle keeps me inspired to continue to sponsor Alliance. For this cycle it was watching the two generations come together and seeing the growth that they achieved by learning from, and with, each other.”
The Alliance graduation opened with founding sponsor Karen Lovaas reading some words from former Alliance President Isaiah “Raheem” Thompson-Bonilla, who transferred to another prison.
Thompson-Bonilla wrote about social justice being a living organism that should lead to the fair and righteous treatment of all human beings. He advised the graduates that sacrifice and compromise were necessary to achieve change.
Alliance Vice-President Troy Phillips calls the four-days-a-week, 16-week course “rigorous. You miss more than two days without a legitimate excuse you may be excused from the program. We want the guys to be accountable.”
“This class taught me ways to fight injustice peacefully”
As facilitator Marty Walters gave out certificates enclosed in a fancy blue binder, he told the graduates, “Each person must say something they learned about the program and something positive they learned about the next man.”
The responses ranged from inspiring to hilarious.
Hidalgo, who doesn’t need to take a self-help group in order to parole, said he enrolled in Alliance because he wanted to use his time for education. Now he plans to use what he learned in his community.
“This class taught me ways to fight injustice peacefully,” Hidalgo said. “I believe there is a lot of injustice and hate crimes against illegal immigrants.”
Great-grandfather Charles Marsaw said he wants to give what he learned to his grandkids so they don’t ever come to prison.
Kenny Brydon joked, “You young whippersnappers were more mindful than I thought you would be.” The elderly man claims he can still beat the youngsters in handball.
Davis mentioned that prior to taking Alliance, all he knew was street justice.
Roman said, “I will try to convince people I hang out with to take this class. I would like to thank Raheem. He said I would learn a lot here.”
Branden Riddle-Terrell said, “This helped get me back on track of wanting to help people. You facilitators helped us in a fun way. I want to get out there and help communities too.”
For a few alumni who support the group in mentor and facilitator roles, the Jan. 4 Alliance graduation will be their last because they are scheduled to parole. Cleo Cloman said he paroles five months later. Sam Johnson was scheduled to parole in 2017.
“I learned a lot about restorative justice and that’s what I want to give society — the true me,” said Johnson.
After the graduation, Nathanial Moore, an Alliance sponsor since 2011, remarked, “I always learn a ton from you folks and it’s a privilege to be able to take it outside. … What you’re doing is pretty important.”