by Joy Saxena
On the 68th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights (Dec 10, 1948), the Union Baptist Church in Trenton, NJ held an event pivotal to the human rights movement in the country today. Incarcerating US, a documentary on the current challenges and faces behind the trillion dollar prison industry promises to be a seminal grass-roots movement that is defining the direction of social activism today. Directed by Regan Hines, this documentary was presented at Union Baptist Church, and asked the question “What is the purpose of prison?” and more importantly, “Are we truly meeting this purpose?” and “Are prison systems just?” It featured the story of Tracey Syphax, an author, entrepreneur, and criminal justice advocate (From the Block 2 the Boardroom) from Trenton, NJ.
Tracey’s story is that of a troubled pre-teen who grew up in the projects; introduced to drugs at an early age; experiencing life challenges well beyond his tender age. Many individuals in such situations succumb to their environment and cannot break the cycle of prison—but not this man. After exiting prison, Tracey did what so many couldn’t—he took himself off the streets, cleaned-up his image and became a successful entrepreneur. He made strides in 2011 by becoming the 1st African American in 51 years to be awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Princeton Chamber of Commerce in his home state of NJ. His self-created businesses went on to gross over a million dollars a year.
Today titles and awards chase Tracey. Most recently he was named one of the 25 “Most Influential African Americans in New Jersey” by the South Jersey Journal. In 2014 he was one of sixteen citizens chosen by the Obama administration as a Champion of Change under the category of Re-entry and Employment. The White House describes these as outstanding individuals “who [are] doing extraordinary things to make a difference in [their] community.”
“The truest test of a person’s life is what we do for one another,” said President Obama in a recent ceremony. (credit: ABC news) Tracey embodies this spirit of giving back. In his own words he gives back because “[i]n America you have the right to remain silent and a right to free speech; in response to injustice and inequality, the former is not an option.”
Having been incarcerated before he became an adult, Tracey had a few bouts with prison, and a year in solitary confinement, before realizing he had hit rock bottom. Things needed to change for Tracey. After serving his sentence, he went back to his community in 1993 looking for employment. He was inspired to start his first business after attending the Million Man March on DC in 1995, a business which hires returning citizens as a mission and a statement. In doing so, Tracey supports others like him who have a hard time finding employment after prison. Tracey has also co-founded the “Entrepreneurship Reentry Initiative” to further support this cause.
Tracey’s activism is his passion and he wants you to be a part of it!
Would you support a cause that asks the question…
- Why is the recidivism rate for returning citizens so high?
- Why are returning citizens leaving prison ill-equipped to re-enter back into society?
- Why are we spending a trillion dollars a year on prisons, when over 50% of those released come back to prison?
- Are mandatory sentences unjust because they are blind to the facts of the case?
- Do you have concerns about the war on drugs and/or mental healthcare and its impact in sentencing?
- Doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance?
Pledge to Fair Chance Hiring by visiting Whitehouse.gov and/or get active at local, state, and federal level as an advocate.
Are you or a loved one having a hard time finding employment after you’ve served time and paid your debt? Tracey can help you! Enroll in Entrepreneurship Initiative at www.ftb2tb.com.