Below is the full text to the speech I wrote which won the Best Speech Award in the 2020 American University Speechwriting Charity Contest. Each year students write a speech advocating for a charity that has special meaning to them. The class votes on their favorite speech and then comes together to make a contribution. The charity of the winning speech receives the total contribution from the students and professors. The organization I advocated for was Black Alliance for Just Immigration’s mutual aid and bail fund. Here is a note from my professor:
Angelique Fullwood, who will soon be receiving a Master’s in Political Communication, wrote this year’s winning speech; the class made this donation on her behalf. Angelique’s connection to BAJI and your mission is both personal and filled with passion. Her skillful speech was a thoughtful and moving testament to the work you do. This year was a little different, of course, as we held our contest on Zoom. The speeches, though, were as meaningful as ever.
When my father was released from jail, he came home with virtually nothing.
My parents tried their best to keep me from knowing how much we struggled because I was only a child, but I remember coming home from school playing a guessing game on whether or not the lights and water in our apartment would be on.
Because of his record, he had to take whatever job he could to support me, my mom, and my older brother.
From selling wood pallets for dollars a day, to long grueling hours working in the shipyard of the Tampa Bay,
He patiently and persistently grinded for years until he was given the chance to give us more than government cheese sandwiches for dinner.
Today, many people are getting bailed out or released from prison and have to face some of the same struggles my dad was up against in order to return back to their families
But, however challenging the hardships my family had to go through, it wasn’t in the midst of a global pandemic.
As our nation grapples with Coronavirus, all eyes are on New York City. But what you may not know is that New York’s most notorious jail, Rikers Island, is the epicenter of the virus.
Rikers Island has the highest rate of infections, not just in the country, but in the entire world.
This means that there are people locked up for parole violations, marijuana, and those who haven’t even been convicted of a crime, are being left behind to die alone.
Those who are “lucky” and get a chance to taste freedom beyond the prison walls are entering a city on lockdown where food, shelter, and essential supplies are scarcely available.
Even the most privileged amongst us are feeling stressed, unsure, worried, and scared about the handling of this deadly virus.
Now imagine being someone that society has thrown away behind walls on the outskirts of town so that the public never has to think about the atrocities happening inside.
Let’s never forget: people in prison are still people.
and now more than ever is time to acknowledge the humanity of those in the lowest and darkest of places.
Black Alliance for Just Immigration has never forgotten. Baji is a grassroots organization made up of Black Americans and immigrants, and they are urgently organizing the community to not only bail people out of jail, but provide returning folks with housing and supportive funds.
The efforts they have made so far have been critical and their mutual aid support have meant life or death to the most vulnerable among us.
It would have been critical for 53-year old Michael Tyson. Michael was locked behind bars on a non criminal technical parole violation since February of this year. He was considered to be in the highest risk group due to his age and health conditions, and was one of many who petitioned the New York governor to be released.
Tragically, the only chance he had to leave Rikers was when he was taken to the hospital where he eventually died from coronavirus, never to be reunited with his loved ones again.
That is why I’m imploring you to donate to BAJI’s Mutual Aid Fund. It is a way we all can
come out of this crisis better and stronger.
The President may fail. The Governor may fail. The Mayor may fail. But the community will always take care of each other.