Ames NAACP Freedom Fund event to focus on criminal justice
The Ames NAACP's 20th annual Freedom Fund Event will be held virtually for the first time due to the pandemic.
This year's theme is the "Mission Continues...", carrying on past community conversations on criminal justice.
“The Ames Branch of the NAACP has been at the forefront of addressing injustices locally,” chapter president Edna Clinton said in a news release. “We will continue to lead efforts that address inequities by partnering with community organizations and local government to educate, raise awareness, and provide tools and resources for leaders and organizations in our community.”
The event on Thursday will begin at 6:30 p.m. online. The individual registration fee is $50, and corporate sponsorships are also available. For more details, visit naacpamesiowa.com or send inquiries to email@example.com.
Criminal justice advocate Kemba Smith-Pradia is this year's keynote speaker. In the 1990s, Smith-Pradia was sentenced to 24.5 years in prison for a drug offense, but after being incarcerated for 6.5 years had her sentence commuted by then-President Bill Clinton. She has since dedicated her life to protesting felony disenfranchisement and sharing her story of "how making poor choices blinded by love and devotion can have long-term consequences," according to her website.
"I've heard (Smith-Pradia's) story several times at different venues," event co-chair Vanessa Baker-Latimer said. "It just touched my heart because I have grandchildren and I have what I call my god-kids, that could have easily had the life she had."
The event will also include more information about an upcoming three-part town hall series on criminal justice, set to launch in April.
"We're going to continue the criminal justice (conversation) because we think that it's important to continue to educate the community about the differences of how people of color are treated and sentenced compared to the rest of the country," Baker-Latimer said.
Black people in Iowa are incarcerated at a rate 11 times higher than white people in Iowa, according to The Sentencing Project.
Baker-Latimer says the series will discuss "our (state) legislators down to our local levels, including judges ... and figure out what the impact is in Iowa and how we can educate ourselves to make it more balanced."
Other speakers Thursday include Mayor John Haila, Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen and Iowa-Nebraska NAACP President Betty Andrews. Students from Ames High School are also performing.
Isabella Rosario is a public safety reporter for the Ames Tribune. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @irosarioc