Verizon debuts #Next20 series to listen, learn and accelerate systemic change.

By: Rebecca Nicole Laming

Criminal justice advocates call for a more equitable system.

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Exhausted and hopeful. Those are the words that Adrian Burrell, a burgeoning filmmaker from Oakland, CA, shared when asked about the current state of the world.

Just last year, Adrian was the victim of police brutality and captured the encounter on video. That moment ignited a further desire to take action and serve as a catalyst for change. When discussing the incident, he explained, "There's something that's taken away from you in that moment that you can't take back."

Adrian joined fellow criminal justice advocates for the first episode of #Next20, alongside Xavier McElrath-Bey, Deputy Executive Director at the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, and Christina Swarns, President and Attorney-in-Charge of the Office of the Appellate Defender and incoming CEO of the Innocence Project

Marquise Francis, reporter and producer at Yahoo News, guided the featured guests through a candid conversation on the critical and fundamental improvements that need to happen to reform the criminal justice system and unravel what Christina calls a "culture of impunity."

At times, the stories shared were a deeply emotional recount of the racial injustices and discrimination endured at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. Even more sobering were the jarring statistics that Marquise and Christina shared on the racial disparities within the justice system, especially when it comes to children of color. Translating that data into reality, Xavier explained how the system failed him starting as a young boy and shaped his youth, where he spent his childhood cycling in and out of the juvenile justice system.

When reflecting on the time he spent incarcerated, Xavier shared, "It hurts not to be free. It hurts not to be with my family. It hurts to see my family still struggling. It hurts to wake up every day. And seeing myself change as a person and knowing in my heart that I'm a caring and compassionate person; that I'm not a monster like they said I was."

What can you do?

Right now, we have the opportunity to transform these pivotal moments happening across the globe into a movement for real, sustained change. As Christina explained, “It's important for us now to realize our power, to take hold of that, to harness it, and be unrelenting in the demand for structural change, and we can't let up.”

We all have the power to make a difference. Here are some of the actions our speakers flagged to support those facing an inequitable justice system:

  • Donate gift cards for food, clothing and supplies.
  • Donate devices and technology to help with job searches.
  • Provide short-term loans.
  • Donate to bail funds.
  • Think locally, support and amplify the efforts of community organizers.
  • Extend employment opportunities and on-the-job training for the formerly incarcerated.
  • Donate to organizations who are fighting for criminal justice reform:

V Teamers, you can also check out the racial justice volunteer opportunities offered through our Portal.

Change starts with honest dialog and recognizing where and how we need to improve so that equality isn't selective. Hosted on BUILD by Yahoo, HuffPost, Up To Speed and other Verizon channels, #Next20 will feature young visionaries and groundbreakers to explore the inspiration behind their ideas.

We all play a role in shaping an inclusive future, so listen and learn as we kick off this series of conversations to amplify the calls for change from those on the front lines of moving the world forward for good.

This is #Next20—the voices of the future.

Listen on the go: Check out the Up to Speed podcast for the latest episode of #Next20, so you can listen and learn no matter where you are.

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