Eva Shang

Why I'm participating in the October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation

By: Eva Shang, Harvard ’17, is the founder of the Student Alliance for Prison Reform and an Editor-at-Large at the Huffington Post

I attended my first rally against mass incarceration this past spring in Boston Commons on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Called "Jobs Not Jails," the rally hosted by the Boston Worker's Alliance and EPOCA (Ex-Prisoners Organizing for Community Action). They were serving peanut butter on bread when I came.

We chanted in the rain as speakers one by one ascended the stage. Down below, groups of people huddled together for warmth bore signs carrying the names of organizations from the American Civil Liberties Union to workers' associations from Chinatown to Harvard students. This movement, it was clear, encompassed everyone. In Martin Luther King's words, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Mass incarceration, as the preeminent civil rights battle of our time, requires everyone to stand together - people of all races, genders, and ages. Students, most of all.

I fight for an end to mass incarceration because it's clear to me that nothing will change until we fight back against the systems of oppression that confine and kill our brethren. The racial injustices perpetuated by our system of criminal punishment are a violation of basic human rights. Again and again, police brutality and unequal punishment reinforce the message that black and brown lives don't matter.

I owe it to my parents, who came to America looking for freedom, democracy, and a better life, to make that America a reality. That America, the land of equality, cannot exist while the epidemic of mass incarceration still runs rampant. Ultimately, it's not the criminalization of individuals that mass incarceration creates - it's the criminalization of communities of color. It's the kind of institutional racism that can only be overcome if we all stand together.

As an Asian-American, as a student, I owe it to my family, community, and the country that I proudly call home to be an advocate for reform - whether it's by rallying for change or organizing coalitions like the Student Prison Alliance. None of us are free until all of us are free.

7x9 Solitary Confinement Vigil

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