Shades of Freedom

Restoring Rights and Clearing Records

Episode Summary

We don’t make it easy for returning citizens to restart their lives. Though they’ve done their time, a whole host of federal, state and local laws – not to mention the discriminatory practices of private employers and landlords, for example – stand in the way of finding a new footing and starting afresh. Sheena Meade, currently the Executive Director of the Clean Slate Initiative, has focused her career on supporting formerly incarcerated people to get the second chance they deserve.

Episode Notes

Sheena Meade talks about her beginnings in labor organizing, then helping to co-lead the successful fight to restore voting rights in Florida, and how that has led to a push, across the States, to automate the clearing of records, and other new collaborations, such as Next Chapter, to change employer approaches to hiring returned citizens.

This episode is part of Rework Reentry, a partnership of The Aspen Institute and Slack supporting career options for returning citizens.

Guest Biography

Sheena Meade is the Executive Director of the Clean Slate Initiative (CSI). CSI is a national bipartisan organization that builds state-based coalitions to pass legislation that automates the expungement of eligible arrest and conviction records. Before being selected as the organization’s first executive director, Sheena served in various leadership roles focused on building long-term, sustainable change for communities. As a criminal justice program officer at Galaxy Gives, she helped develop and lead a Criminal Justice Fellowship program that helps grantees hone professional skills to build stronger, more impactful organizations.

Sheena has also served as the director of strategic partnerships at the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and senior advisor to the Second Chances Florida Campaign. In those roles, she developed the blueprints for fundraising, events, and grassroots organizing that helped win the landmark ballot initiative that restored voting rights for Floridians who have completed all of the terms of their sentence. Sheena, who has been directly impacted by the criminal legal system, is a mother of five, proud wife, organizer, optimist, and leader of a national organization committed to ensuring meaningful opportunities for all, regardless of past records.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, The Aspen Institute is nonpartisan and does not endorse, support, or oppose political candidates or parties. Further, the views and opinions of our guests and speakers do not necessarily reflect those of The Aspen Institute.

Visit us online at The Aspen Institute Criminal Justice Reform Initiative and follow us on Twitter @AspenCJRI.

Episode Transcription

Shades of Freedom 


Episode 15: Restoring Rights and Cleaning Records

Guest: Sheena Meade

July 13, 2022


Copyright 2022 Aspen Institute Criminal Justice Reform Initiative


Announcer: (00:00)
Welcome to Shades of Freedom from the Aspen Institute's Criminal Justice Reform Initiative. Be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing to Shades of Freedom on your favorite podcast app. This episode's guest is Sheena Meade, executive director of the Clean Slate Initiative.

Sheena Meade: (00:19)
There may not be anything in the company policy that said we don't hire people who have a record, but for some reason, it is a myth that they don't. So they just don't hire folks. But when you actually poll them on a question, they're like, "I don't know why. This is not nothing we ever discussed." And this is what we're seeing with a lot of the businesses that are coming to Clean Slate. And some of our partners like RBJI are asking, "How do we be a better employer, a fair chance hirer? And how do we change our practices?" I think it's practices is I think the answer I'm trying to say. There are practices that have been in place for years that are not policies within a company or organization, but people practicing them. And then people are being discriminated against because of that.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (01:03)
Welcome to Shades of Freedom. I'm your host Douglas Wood, director of the Aspen Institute's Criminal Justice Reform Initiative. Our guest today is Sheena Meade. Sheena's the first executive director of the Clean Slate Initiative, a national bipartisan coalition advancing policies to automatically clear all eligible criminal records across the United States. Sheena brings an enormous wealth of personal and professional experience to this role and is deeply committed to ensuring that the individuals, families, and communities most impacted by the justice system remain at the center of the reform movement.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (01:38)
Prior to joining the Clean Slate Initiative, Sheena helped restore voting rights to 1.4 million people experiencing felony disenfranchisement as the director of strategic partnerships for the bipartisan Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and senior advisor to the Second Chances Florida campaign. A seasoned organizer, campaigner, and advocate, Sheena Meade’s calling is to transform pain into power. As a mother and an activist, Sheena knows firsthand that the communities most impacted by injustice are closest to the solutions. Sheena, welcome to Shades of Freedom.

Sheena Meade: (02:15)
Thank you. So happy to be here, Douglas.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (02:17)
There's so much to talk about. You have a great deal of expertise in grassroots organizing and leveraging community power. So, let's begin with your youth. Tell us about the work you did in voting rights, early childhood, and workers' rights advocate as a young person.

Sheena Meade: (02:33)
Yes. So, from the time I can remember, my mother always had us on the front line of fighting for some type of justice. I tell folks we didn't take family vacations; we took union conference trips. So, that's how we got our vacations in one, and also getting educated, activated mobilized. And my mom was a union worker. She worked actually for the State of New Jersey at a mental health, psychiatric hospital. And she was a part of AFSCME union, and she was a officer in the union. And so, she would take us anytime they had a rally, fighting for state workers’ rights or city workers. She would load me up on a bus. We would go to the capital of New Jersey. I would have my sign and we'd be marching around the capital.

Sheena Meade: (03:22)
Probably my most fondest memory of my childhood activism was making sandwiches for the Million Man March. I remember just being up past midnight as the brothers were getting ready to go to Washington and just wrapping up chicken in some aluminum foil bags and Ziplocs and sandwiches for the brothers to get on the bus to go march on Washington. And I remember going back home, watching on TV, seeing over a million Black men march on the Hill and just having that pride, knowing that I was a part of that.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (04:01)
We have intentionally tried to provide a platform for the voices of Black women on this podcast, as you know. So, tell us about the work you did with the girls' initiative of the Black Women's Round Table.

Sheena Meade: (04:12)
So the Black Women's Round Table, and I appreciate y'all creating space because it looks so much different than it did when I was younger. I remember the reason why the Black Women's Round Table was created because it was not a space for Black women. Under the leadership of Melanie Campbell, she was always driving, making sure that women would have a seat at the table, that their voices were heard. And when their voices were not heard, she would pull up her own table, and she would create her own table. She did that for Black women and I've been a part of Black Women's Round Table since I was a young teenager. They always created the space for me as there's this stigma that comes with being a young mother, then a young Black mother. And they would welcome you with open arms and love, with my baby on my hip and will still plant those seeds of your voice still matters. You have things that you want to advocate for.

Sheena Meade: (05:05)
So, my work there was for a long time, was just sitting at their feet and at the table of these women, watching them matter of fact, LaTosha Brown, who's a advocate, was at that table, Salandra Benton, my sister, and Helen Butler. And I'm just with all these women who were always at the table advocating for the issues that impacted Black women the most. I mean, from health inequities to financial inequities, into our voices at the ballot box. For years, that was a place where I got fed. I got full, my cup got full. They really planted the seed. I wasn't activating that seed at that time, but they was really planting a seed.

Sheena Meade: (05:50)
I always give honor and homage to them because I tell them where others may not have believed in me or understood where God may take me, they believe, they plant those seeds and today, I'm the manifestation of them planting the seeds, watering it, fertilizing it, bringing sunshine to my life. And so that has contributed to the woman I am today in a big way. From going from being a part of Black youth folk to marching on the Hill next to Melanie Campbell and all the other women, too ... I mean, it's been a great experience and it is definitely a space that's needed. We're still seeing where there's spaces where Black women are not necessarily welcomed to the table or as a afterthought. And so it's something that we got to keep pushing on.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (06:35)
I want to circle back to your work around workers' rights. Can you tell us about the work you did with the Florida AFL-CIO?

Sheena Meade: (06:45)
Yes. So, the work I did with Florida AFL-CIO was such a ... it was really an exciting moment. So let me tell you Doug, for years, I would tell my mom and my sister, "I want to get into organizing. I want to organize like y'all." And my mom would say, "You want to keep making babies. You do not want to organize because this takes a lot of work. You got young children, you can't whatsoever." I had actually took a job before I went to the Florida AFL-CIO, I had worked for a woman named Margarita George, who was working with SCIU union.

Sheena Meade: (07:21)
I had just got done working on with Acorn working across the country. And I was like, "I had to come back home.' She actually gave me a chance to manage a campaign in South Carolina, for Americans for Healthcare For All which is now what we call Obamacare. I came home to Florida after that campaign was done. And I applied for the Florida AFL-CIO. Let me tell you, me getting a union job felt like me joining a sorority that my mother might have been in. It was like, I've made it. I was so proud, and it wasn't just one union, I was working with all the unions.

Sheena Meade: (07:57)
So, I was still a baby in the movement. I got to work with Florida AFL-CIO. That was 2008 and it was such an inspiring moment because I got to work on the Obama campaign, in a coordinated way but with the union. The role that I played was coordinating among all the union affiliates, getting their political program up and running, making sure that they're mobilizing their base, mobilizing their members and trying to bring the issues together. So, that's the work I did with the Florida AFL-CIO. I learned so much around organizing, around issues and just not candidates and people, but issues that people care about. I did that for several years, to about 2013, 2014.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (08:45)
So tell me, how did you get involved with the incredibly successful Florida Rights Restoration Coalition?

Sheena Meade: (08:51)
Well, you know it wasn't incredible and successful until I came around, Doug. So, let's just put that on the record. Make sure you don't edit that part out.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (08:57)
No, we won't.

Sheena Meade: (08:59)
So you know how I got involved, I got married into it. So, I met Desmond, we talk about my stint at the Florida AFL-CIO. In 2012 during Black Legislative Caucus week in Tallahassee, I was up there organizing a rally around worker rights and working with the state legislators and senators and the union. I met this fine man that was smelling really good. That was up there talking about he had a vision that people's rights could be restored.

Sheena Meade: (09:30)
We met in February of 2012 and we end up marrying in December of 2012. When he proposed to me, he said, "God has brought us together to help the least among us. And we're going to do some great work together." Ever since then, he's just been working my behind. So I married in movement. FRC was not really fully established. It was a project I believe at that time of the ACLU and it was just a listserv. It was just Desmond by himself and I'm so honored because I learned so much to help build that with Desmond, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, but it came through relationship.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (10:03)
So tell us a little bit about that whole process. What was inspirational? What was hard was challenging about that entire process and the work you did in Florida around the restoration coalition?

Sheena Meade: (10:16)
There was many phases of that campaign. That campaign was not like a one-year campaign, two-year campaign. That campaign started in, I feel like 2012 from the time we got married to ... it's still going on, so 2018. That campaign was a constitutional citizen ballot initiative. So, it was ran by the citizens and we had to collect over ... we collected over a million petitions across the state. So, are you talking about that process?

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (10:43)
Yeah, tell us about that.

Sheena Meade: (10:44)
Or just the whole thing?

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (10:45)

Sheena Meade: (10:47)
Well, we were broke. Let me just start with that. We were some broke folks with a mission and you know, Desmond is a visionary. Desmond, who's the president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition had a vision that he could organize and mobilize people around bloodlines and around forgiveness, redemption and second chances. At that time, there was no money. There was no campaign. There was no real structured organization. Desmond wasn't even getting the paycheck and he was still in law school and to make a long story short, I supported him collecting signatures along with a lot of volunteers across the state, thousands of volunteers and we just kept pushing forward. The story is a lot, so it's hard to just get it all in and just one series. It's probably even more fun, Doug, when Desmond's doing it with me. But I will tell you this, as we talk about Black women, it was Black women that surrounded Desmond along that journey. Whether it was praying for him, he had a whole ... and we're people of faith. So, he had people of faith. So there was a prayer band every morning. It was the mothers, the Black women that was praying for him every morning because they knew it was going to be a uphill journey to protect him, his health, and things that was coming forward.

Sheena Meade: (12:10)
My sister, who I talk about a lot, that I've already talked about a lot here, Salandra, was also working for the AFL-CIO and we didn't have enough money to get petitions actually printed. He had no budget for that. And she went to the president, Mike Williams of the Florida AFL-CIO, and they printed the first batch of petitions. My mother, who's old school organizer counted over 80,000 petitions herself and would stack them into counties and wrapped them, so Desmond could take them back. So, the Black Woman's Round Table stepped in here locally, would open the mail, go through the letters. And so, it was very much a grassroots movement, real grassroots, not the grassroots we talk about today, I'm talking about chart paper in my house, bingo ladies coming over, movement ladies coming over. So, it was those women who were the foundation of really supporting as it got off the ground.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (13:10)
As you reference, voters in Florida approved an amendment to the state's constitution that permits people with prior felony convictions to vote once they complete quote, "all terms" of unquote, their sentence. In 2019, the state's legislature enacted a law that defined all terms of the sentence to include the payment of all court costs, fees, and fines. Voters challenged the 2019 law in federal court arguing among other things that making the right to vote hinge on the payment of court costs and fees violates the US Constitution's ban on poll taxes and discriminates based on wealth. The voters asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the district court's ruling, but the justices declined to intervene, and the 11th Circuit upheld the law. What's been the impact? And what have been the implications in other states who seek to accomplish what the majority of voters wanted in Florida?

Sheena Meade: (14:05)
Amendment Four passed in November. It was implemented in January. And so, then the fines and fees part came, but before then we was like, "How are we going to find all these people? FRC's a membership-based organization, but how do you find returning citizens that sometimes don't want to be found? Because of all the stigma, all the things that they're dealing with, and the fines and fees actually created opportunity, or organized an opportunity, where folks would come to the organization that says, "Hey, my name is Doug. And I'd like for my fines to get paid off, because I do want to vote. I want my voice heard. I want to be a part of contributing to democracy." And so that organized an opportunity to have returning citizens, not only come to get their fines and fees, maybe helped get that assistance to pay off, but an opportunity to educate them, civic engagement and educate them on the power of their voice.

Sheena Meade: (14:53)
So, I believe that has been a positive impact of that. And then when you think about across the country, I think the impact that it has had is to show that people can come, organize around an issue in a positive way without fear, or having opposition. There was not a villain in this campaign. It wasn't about us versus them. It was about the people. And we saw that because of that, we saw soon after I believe, Virginia had made some movement, then Iowa had some movement and things were moving in Kentucky and North Carolina and Louisiana with formerly incarcerated people being able to regain the right to vote.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (15:44)
So I want to go back again to your work with the Florida AFL-CIO, in the sense that you have a long history of supporting workers and pathways to employment for underserved populations. So, tell us about the Clean Slate Initiative.

Sheena Meade: (15:59)
Yes. So, the clean Slate Initiative is a national bipartisan organization that's focused on automating record clearance. So, around the country, in most states, there's a mechanism to clear your record. Once you have done your time, or if you have a conviction or a non-conviction on your record, you're able to petition to get your record cleared. Doug, there's about 30 million people across the country who's eligible to get the record cleared but have not either pulled the trigger to get the record cleared. It's too cumbersome to get their record cleared. They may not even know that they're eligible to get the record cleared. What we're trying to do is making sure that everyone who's eligible is able to get their record clear and have a second chance, a second chance of opportunity for jobs, housing, livelihood, whatever that may be, whatever shade of freedom that may be to them. So, that is what Clean Slate Initiative is doing and we're automating it. So the burden is not on the person, but on the government to do that.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (17:06)
So, your work at the Clean Slate Initiative has been so impactful already. So, can you take us through the things you guys have already gotten accomplished and what do you think is your vision for it moving forward?

Sheena Meade: (17:23)
So, the Clean Slate Initiative, before it was an organization in 2020, I became the first executive director of the organization, but in 2018 Clean Slate Law had passed in Pennsylvania. And since then, it has already cleared 36 million records, over 36 million records. So since then, since I've taken a helm, we have already passed in over six states, since Pennsylvania and it has been a powerful ... it has started from a campaign to becoming a movement, where we're seeing states across the country wanting to see how they're able to move forward and give people access to a second chance by clearing records. We passed it in red states, blue states, purple states and also we've seen more states are moving incremental laws to get to a full automation across the country.

Sheena Meade: (18:18)
So we've seen this become a movement. And the vision that I have for the Clean Slate Initiative is not to stop until we're able to get 70 to 100 million people access to a clear record, but also to be able to do other things that will help set the pathway for automation, whether what we talked about earlier, reclassifying some of these laws that have been deemed as felonies that could be misdemeanors, or seeing how we could just impact narrative change across the country around this issue as well.

Sheena Meade: (18:54)
This issue has not only been looked at as a criminal justice issue, but we saw in Utah, this was an economic issue and also Oklahoma that they saw that people needed to get back to work and have gained a lot of support from the business community, from J.P. Morgan to Walmart, to the Fortune 500 companies. Folks are seeing that there's a 70 million people that want to get back to work when they're saying there's a shortage. There's a lot of people who have barriers before them to getting back into the workforce because of a record. So, we're trying to change that. I believe that Clean Slate is a pathway to other reforms. It could be a starting point to help build a movement to greater reforms across the country.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (19:40)
And do you also engage in what I term "myth busting," meaning some people try to put up these barriers that are not necessarily barriers, but folk don't know that it's ... you know what I mean? You know what I'm saying? So, for example, in housing, that's a big one. When I used to work the federal level, when I was at Ford, the department of housing and urban development used to send out these myth busters, which clarified, who can actually be in public housing because folk thought that just because they had a record, they couldn't be in public housing, for example.

Sheena Meade: (20:13)
So, the thing is, is not always with the people who are directly impacted that we got to educate, it's the businesses in the government agencies that we got to educate on this because there is these ... these are not really policies. For instance, let me use employment, you used housing, let me use employment. There may not be anything in the company policy that said we don't hire people who have a record, but for some reason it is a myth that they don't. So, they just don't hire folks. But when you actually poll them on a question, they're like, "I don't know why. This is not nothing we ever discussed." And this is what we're seeing with a lot of the businesses that are coming to Clean Slate. And some of our partners like RBJI are asking, "How do we be a better employer, a fair chance hirer? And how do we change our practices?"

Sheena Meade: (21:04)
I think it's practices is I think the answer I'm trying to say, there are practices that have been in place for years that are not policies within a company or organization, but people practicing them. And then people are being discriminated against because of that. And so it is like public education partnering with like organizations, company firms, and it is the public education to not only to directly impact the people, but to give it some teeth, you got to educate whatever that entity is that is still in those bad practices or dated practices.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (21:34)
And what is your long-term vision for the Clean Slate Initiative?

Sheena Meade: (21:40)
Well, let me tell you, I have been thinking about this long-term vision, because when I started two years ago, this was supposed to just be a two year campaign. And well, it's two years later, I'm still here, and we're still passing legislation and moving forward. So, long-term vision is to work myself out of a job and to do something else that's ... move on to the next fight. But I think there's always something to do. So right now, we're focused on removing those barriers and I'm really interested in how to create more opportunities for the folks that removing barriers and trying to see what that looks like. Also, as we're moving to automation, continue to expand who's eligible.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (22:20)
And tell me, something else I think is so fascinating about all your work, is that it is bipartisan. So you didn't start in the easy places, so to speak.

Sheena Meade: (22:30)
Oh no, honey. I went to CPAC. I went to CPAC a few months ago, I was actually on ... The funny thing I was on a Congressional Black Caucus call, shout out to Vince Evans. I'm on a call with him and his team and talking about how I could show Congressional Black Caucus. And I was like, well, I have to go, "Because I got to go head to CPAC because [inaudible]." Everybody’s face fell.

Sheena Meade: (22:52)
I had to let folks know and I say that jokingly. And I say that in that joking way because people know, I am someone ... Outside of clean slate, I'm Sheena. I have things that I've been involved in. And so yes, it is bipartisan and we have some great center right partners where we align on these issues of people having a second chance. And so sometimes, we may not always be on the same side on different fights, but on this fight we have come together. I think that's the beautiful thing about it. I build some good relationships and I think that there is a learning around this to take this same practice into maybe some of our other fights. It's hard, but you got to talk to people. If we're not talking to people, they're just going to come up with their own assumption. The power of storytelling, and be able to change the narrative and bringing people into proximity of people who are closest to that pain to change hearts and minds, it works and it's a beautiful thing when it happens.

Sheena Meade: (23:51)
So, I've had fun with ... Listen, I have fun anytime I go on the Hill, but I have fun with my Republican partners and my Democratic partners. I've found that middle ground and it's just a beautiful story to be told, that people are coming together.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (24:05)
I'm so glad to hear that. As someone who worked for a Republican governor and a Democratic governor. I really appreciate that and I appreciate that strategy.

Sheena Meade: (24:13)
Yeah, it's beautiful.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (24:16)
How have you been involved with Slack Inc's Next Chapter initiative, which seeks to promote employment opportunities in the tech industry for returning citizens?

Sheena Meade: (24:24)
So I just, that's a really new relationship. I will say we Slack the hell out at each other in our jobs. So, we are Slack users. I will say that. And to hear that Slack, when they did a short film to talk about their project that they're working on and I was able to be a part of that project, which I'm so excited about when it comes out. But when I got to meet with some of the Slack executives, or the folks working on the project, they were telling me how they are hiring people who are formally incarcerated, directly impacted, paying them credible wages to get into the tech industry. I was really inspired because many times, a lot of companies and organizations may do a lot of lip service and say they want to invest in formerly incarcerated leadership, people, projects, initiatives, but then not really doing it. To see that Slack has been doing this without a lot of spotlight and they've been doing it behind the scenes, because they're doing it in intentional way and want to do it right has been really inspiring. And so, I'm looking forward to what this partnership is going to grow to be, in the future.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (25:34)
And tell me, what is the importance of narrative change when it comes to addressing some of these barriers around employment, housing, transportation for returning citizens? What needs to happen?

Sheena Meade: (25:53)
Narrative change, yes. So narrative change, it's so important how we talk about all the issues around ... that's involved in criminal justice. And so, it is about how we talk about this and narrative's important for us to communicate these initiatives that we're fighting for. Why is important, how people get caught up in the system. Also, some of the offenses that we're talking about clearing and when we went around Amendment Four, talking about felony disenfranchisement, when people hear felony, they think about the most heinous crime or offense that could have happened. Not understanding that, especially in the South, damn near everything's a felony, it's just unfortunate.

Sheena Meade: (26:38)
You could go fishing. I mean, I met so many people who have wildlife offenses that actually stripped them of their voting rights. People who have driven on suspended license and maybe they got caught more than once because they could not afford the fees to get their license reestablished, but they had to continue to work and couldn't afford the high insurance that you had to get if your license got suspended. So, now they're considered a habitual offender for driving, now it's a felony on the record. Messing with nesting sea turtles is a felony in Florida. It is a thing that we're constantly trying to figure out the best way we talk about these issues of record clearing, reentry, especially in this tough on crime era when this is a narrative that we're fighting up against. So, it's one I'm still trying to figure out.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (27:35)
That leads into my next question perfectly. So, given the backlash happening around criminal justice reform today, what needs to continue to happen with regard to grassroots organizing and policy considerations? You gave such an inspirational example in Florida when you used the challenge, turned a challenge into an opportunity. So tell us, what needs to continue to happen in the space of the backlash that's happening today?

Sheena Meade: (28:02)
Moving with intention, moving with integrity, moving with intention. I think what's important in our movement all the time, in any movement, is that you're centering the people that is closest to the pain in our movement, make sure that we're centering them with authentic voices and not hijacking that and making sure that they're at the center of policy creation, they're at the center of telling their stories, there's power in this, there's so much power and storytelling. I have seen hearts and minds changed, tugged and pulled. When you have someone who has been directly impacted by this system and is able to share this story with someone who maybe not is as versed on the issue or know much about the issue, I've walked into legislator's office, I've walked into congressman's office, and I've seen folks be intrigued with the power of the storytelling and that have changed their hearts and minds, but also has given them space to share their authentic story of it's like, "My uncle, my father, my son," is almost like I'm going to keep going back as a shade of freedom. It freed them to be able to share their own stories.

Sheena Meade: (29:20)
And so I think it's really important for people in this movement to continue to center the stories, telling an authentic way, make sure that we are tapping the right messengers too. We have to be also be strategic in who's the right messenger for what audience, not making compromises on policies in a way that's going to hurt people, but making sure that we're doing adding value in helping the movements.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (29:49)
So, we always ask this question at the end of the podcast, and that is what does the phrase "shades of freedom" mean to you now and to the future?

Sheena Meade: (30:01)
Shades of freedom, when I hear that statement means to me, there's so many variations of freedom and freedom could mean so many different things for people, I think ... I'm just thinking it back about my last few months, what I've been doing over the summer, I visited Savannah, Georgia and actually went to South Carolina with ... people and going back to thinking about my ancestors in their increments of freedom. I found myself going, I took my staff, my board, my colleagues to EJI, to Alabama, to the EJI museum. I saw from the moment of coming through the last door, no return from Ghana to what my ancestors went through throughout the South and throughout slavery and throughout reconstruction, and just think about those different increments of freedom.

Sheena Meade: (31:04)
I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma last month and went there to Black Wall Street. And then I went to the African American Museum a few weeks ago in DC. I think of the shades of freedom is just, it could mean so many different things, economic freedom, freedom to live, freedom to drive, freedom to have joy, freedom to be upset and want to do more. My shades of freedom for the future is looking back at those different increments of shades of freedom and trying to figure out what my legacy is to continue to make sure that generations to come have the freedom that they deserve in every aspect that they want. So, it could mean so many things and so many variations.

Dr. Douglas E. Wood: (31:52)
Well, thank you so much Sheena. It has really, really been a pleasure having you as a guest on Shades of Freedom's podcast. I wish you all the best in your work with the Clean Slate Initiative and all the great organizing work you have ahead. So, thank you for being here.

Sheena Meade: (32:08)
Thank you so much, Doug. Thank you so much. I appreciate being here with you.

Announcer: (32:15)
Thanks for joining us for Shades of Freedom from the Aspen Institute's Criminal Justice Reform Initiative. We'll be back soon with more thought-provoking guests. So please subscribe on your favorite podcast app, or you can find all of our past episodes by visiting our website at\cjri. This podcast was engineered and produced by Natalie Jones with research assistance by Willem Patrick, it was edited by Ken Thompson with production support by Christian Devers and Wanda Mann.

Announcer: (32:53)
CJRI's programs are made possible by support from Arnold Ventures, the Ballmer Group, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Ford Foundation, and Slack.