In an effort to bring awareness to the issue of mass incarceration, Grammy and Academy Award-winning Artist and Activist, Common gathered more than 25,000 people for the Imagine Justice concert at Capitol Mall on Monday.
The free concert was only a part of Common’s efforts in the state capital this week, although he has been dedicating his time to the cause for the last year. In March, Common embarked on a Hope & Redemption Tour, which took him to four different prisons in Southern California to perform and connect with prisoners.
“Most of the prisoners I spoke with committed crimes when they were adolescents,” wrote Common, in a statement. “That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t serve time. But many of them aren’t the same people they were when they came in, just like none of us are the same people we were decades ago.”
As Monday’s sun began to set on Capitol Mall, groups and individuals affected by the prison system shared their stories of redemption. Joined by the likes of CNN commentator Van Jones, poet Bryonn Bain and Devon Franklin, facts and figures educated the masses towards issues otherwise unknown. In addition, groups such as Californians for Safety and Justice reiterated the unifying message behind their #SchoolsNotPrisons campaign, which calls to amend the current system.
Sacramento’s own Sol Collective took part in the event as well, with several booths set up for concert-goers to write letters of encouragement to current prisoners – a necessary tribute in honor of the event’s cause.
As for the musical guests, Los Rakas, Goapele and J. Cole performed fan favorites throughout the night, with an emphasis on their most uplifting songs.
Of course, in the end it was Common who brought the most energy to the stage with numerous hits from his long-time career. He then brought out singers Ledisi and Andra Day for a performance of “The Light,” before giving each artist room to perform their own hits.
Surprising everyone, Common and Day took the opportunity to perform an unreleased track, titled “Stand Up for Something,” from the upcoming movie “Marshall,” which tells the story of a wrongly accused black man in 1940 Connecticut.
Keeping the youth in mind, causes and events as monumental as the Imagine Justice concert speak volumes when the community shows up. As its title suggests, the mission of Imagine Justice is simple when thousands are able to bring the image to life.
“What we need is a criminal justice reform that eliminates life without parole sentences for juveniles and includes bail reform and reductions in harsh sentences for juveniles, and gives kids the chance to expunge their criminal records,” wrote Common. “These are small but important steps in the grand scheme of this mass incarceration epidemic.”
Below, we have captured a few of the moments from Monday’s event. Enjoy!
Photos by Steve Martano