2019 Roddenberry Fellow
Amani Sawari is a writer, founder of the site sawarimi.org, currently residing in Seattle, Washington. She graduated from the University of Washington with her Bachelor degree in both Media Communication Studies and Law, Economics & Public Policy. She was selected as Jailhouse Lawyers Speak’s spokesperson for the 2018 National Prison Strike. Her coordination of over 300 endorsing organizations led to the successful participation of incarcerated activists in 17 states and 3 regions abroad. Her advocacy for prisoners’ human rights has stemmed from her understanding of the negative socio-political effects that stereotypical media portrayals have on Black people.
Amani’s work as an organizer is driven by her vision of a world were prison abolition has allowed for all those suffering from trauma to be served based upon their individual needs rather than thrown into a cage for a life of abuse and exploitation.
Amani is also a poet, experienced in teaching poetry techniques to students incarcerated in King County’s Juvenile Detention Center. She uses her poetry as a form of healing, reflection and protest as well as a tool for educating those with opposing perspectives. While Amani is an advocate and prison abolitionist she also enjoys singing, writing music and playing guitar.
The Right2Vote Campaign is a game changer by engaging incarcerated individuals into the political processes that they’ve been barred from since the erection of our current criminal justice system. A system that was established in order to completely bar formerly enslaved Black people from the benefits of American democracy.
As impoverished communities were targeted by executive forces, the downward spiral that begins at arrest effectively works to completely disenfranchise our caged community members from all aspects of society. This is done under the guise of corrections, as if it were a means to Rehabilitate.
This project focuses on dismantling this wall of oppression by attempting to restore the absolutely necessary privilege of citizenship within a democracy, regardless of one’s past offenses. This project aims to restore prisoners’ Right2Vote with an understanding that our criminal justice system can never operate as a rehabilitative or corrective environment without the influence of those who are most affected, the inmates.
Making sure that prisoners’ voices are a part of the conversations about reform is the most important step to accomplishing that goal. The re-enfranchisement of marginalized people’s voices in the political conversation is a critical step to repairing our criminal justice system, ending mass incarceration and restoring the lives of those prisoners and their families who’ve been traumatically impacted by their being pushed into the outskirts of society. The time has ended where those with absolutely no experience with prisons or prisoners make those critical decisions that change the course of millions of lives.