Looking back in 2019, I must say that it was a pleasant and prosperous year. Often we misplace gratitude by substituting an adverse event as if it defined the entire year. Clearly, that is not the experience I encountered.
In February, I was able to speak and interview with Mary Sue Molnar of Texas Voices about her work and advocacy affecting registrants. She is an amazing woman and champion for registrants all over America. Speaking with her was indeed a privilege and helped spark a transformation about if my doctoral research was in the direction I really wanted to pursue. A week later, I was able to interview Dr. Alissa Ackerman, Sex Crimes Expert, and Social Justice Advocate that focuses on restorative justice. I often don’t discuss my personal life of those that have an impact on “the type of person I wish to immolate.” However, Dr. Ackerman embodies everything I wish I could possibly be in critical thinking. She has no idea how much her TEDx Talk changed not only my perspective of restorative justice but helped improve not only my Ph.D. direction but lit a fire within me to learn and advocate her message.
In March, I interviewed Dr. Will Mingus, Editor-in-Chief of Lifetimes Magazine. His awe-inspiring message of positivity helps lift many from a dark place in the world towards the light. If you are not a subscriber of the Lifetimes Magazine, you should subscribe today. Naturally, speaking with Dr. Nick Dubin made me feel like I had connected with a friend and ally that I had not seen in decades. His passion and insight about autism opened new doors for me to become inclusive in advocacy. Though we have never met in person, his story and personal connections that felt similar to mine presented a warm-fuzzy feeling that we all have a purpose, message, and similarities.
I also had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids. I absolutely loved listening to her story and how she, with an unafraid approach, tackles fear to identify the facts left to question why we were fearful in the first place?
April I spoke with Rachel Barkow of New York University. Dr. Barkow thoroughly researched criminal justice reforms that can make the most staunchly close-minded individual changing his/her tune towards better reforms starting in the courtrooms all across America. Listening to Dr. Barkow is easy to understand lectures with easy to follow guidelines that are fair and balanced for both sides of an issue.
May I met Paul Dubbeling and began lobbying efforts with North Carolinians for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NCRSOL). I spoke to both chambers of the North Carolina legislature to halt Senate Bill 199. For the first time in nearly a decade, registrants of the sex offender registry were able to appear in person at the legislative building without reprisal or fear of arrest. Later during the month, I was able to interview and speak with David Lee Garlock. His story touched my heart. While we have never met, he too feels like a long-lost brother. We often collaborate via social media, and I am deeply impressed with his vision of inclusiveness despite all that he has endured. He is an amazing young man.
Of course, the NARSOL National Conference in Houston, Texas, was a highlight I will never forget. Meeting so many beautiful people from all over the nation is a memory I cherish each and every day. I met others with fantastic stories and talents that I began to rethink where I could best serve registrant advocacy on the national level.
In June/July, I pressured the state legislature to remove language that would be challenged in court. However, the state budget took the spotlight. Quietly the bill was stripped down to barely nothing at all. Victory, no matter how small or insignificant, was transforming into a triumph for registrants.
In August, I met with Senators Tillis, Burr, Kaine, Rubio, and others at Congress to discuss how to reign in sexual offense reforms. I was assured by all senators and representatives that no new legislation would be introduced. Amazingly, they kept their word. I was fortunate to speak with Sen. Lauren Book (FL-D) in a cordial conversation about how the sex offender registry harm families. It was the first step in perhaps the right direction of diplomacy through dialog. Hopefully, there will me more upcoming conversations.
In October/November, I began NCRSOL partnerships with the NAACP, The NC Justice Center, Second Chance Alliance, and the Latino League to engage our message about the registry and the impacts it has on families.
In 2019 I was elevated to the NCRSOL Board of Directors and appointed as Executive Director. I am proud to say that NCRSOL has not only the best staff but is the most effective team that genuinely cares about registrants, families, and allies.
I purchased a new car, which was highly overdue. I managed to change Ph.D. programs and switch universities, providing me an opportunity to focus on my desire to focus more on collateral consequences. There are so many people that I could mention that such gratitude for having the ability to connect with them all demonstrates that advocacy is not an isolated job. There are plenty of resources to effectively work as a team and build wonderful friendships and opportunities.
Overall, 2019 has been an incredible year for me. Despite the minor setbacks by a few unsavory characters, I and the bigger message of inclusiveness was supported by people that genuinely care about others and took risks to protect not only me but others with a firm understanding of the bigger picture. A lessons learned moment is that we must be mindful and distant of those with an agenda filled with hate and a self-serving agenda. I pray for those individuals that they seek a betterment of life for themselves.
2020 has so much more to offer. Despite registry setbacks for many, I am optimistic that change is around the corner. This upcoming decade is geared towards criminal justice reforms for all. Not just a few.