Alicia Keys Takes On Mass Incarceration

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The concert on A&E, Shining a Light, starring Alicia Keys, comes equipped with a serious call to action. On top of being an acclaimed singer, songwriter, mother, and marathon-runner, Alicia Keys has partnered with the #cut50 initiative to create a groundbreaking petition calling for an end to racially motivated mass incarceration. The campaign, #wearehere 4 #JusticeReformNOW, seeks 1,000,000 signatures to empower the singer and activist to present it before Congress and the White House and urge them to pass meaningful criminal justice reforms. Keys’s campaign is emboldened by a real sense of urgency, with aims to make these bold moves by the end of the year. In a speech delivered to Capitol Hill earlier this month, the singer emphasized the impact of mass incarceration on women and children. It’s practically common knowledge at this point that the United States’ corporatized prison system overwhelmingly, disproportionately keeps people of color behind bars (freshly-minted National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote the be-all, end-all on this subject in The Atlantic). But one statistic the petition mentions strikes us as especially tragic: "2.7 million American children currently have at least 1 incarcerated parent." “Too many families — and our communities — are being destroyed by mass incarceration,” Keys said in a statement, “mothers stripped of their sons, husbands and fathers, entire neighborhoods torn apart by the war on drugs, and families struggling to stay together. We need policy reforms that can keep people out of prison who don’t need to be there, and ensure that our justice system helps to heal communities, families and individuals.” The project began with We Are Here, the social justice movement Keys founded that aims to use culture to create meaningful change in some of the most dire issues our country and world faces today. The campaign launched with a video from a briefing held on Capitol Hill, it can be viewed on Alicia’s Facebook page. You can read and sign the petition here.

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