Room for Redemption

When I think about men I think about guilt and complicity. The words power and abuse come to mind. I also think about responsibility, accountability and redemption. What does it mean to hold someone accountable? What do we mean when we talk about transformative justice?

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My friend Darrin Howell (Evolutionary Leadership Cohort of 2016) is running for State Rep here in Boston. The opposition tried to attack him by bringing up his criminal record. Darrin responded with a story of transformation. He articulates a 15 year journey from mugshot to the exemplary man he has become today.

How can we believe in evolution if we don’t believe that people can change?

What do we have to do to make room for redemption? For forgiveness? For growth?

This year, Calvin Feliciano, who is like a brother to me, was held at the Canadian border. He was not allowed into Canada. He could not participate in this year's Evolutionary Leadership Workshop.

He was not allowed to take this life-changing journey of transformation.  He was sent back to the United States for mistakes made sixteen years ago, when he himself was 16.

No longer in the gang database, yet forever marked a gangster." An article in the Bay State Banner shows how ludicrous it all is. Calvin is deputy political director at an  Union Local. But they asked him about his knowledge of gang leadership structures. It was all a caricature of the Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings and MS 13 groups that seem to fascinate mainstream culture.

That wasn’t his life, it never was. He was a kid when he ended his association with his criminally-active neighbors in Boston's Villa Victoria. He became a teen activist, then joined the staff of City Councilor Chuck Turner, and he simply stopped hanging out with them. Has not been arrested since he was 18.

Like Darrin, Calvin has redeemed himself a thousand times over. He is a committed father and husband. He is a skilled strategist. And he is a passionate voice against the ills of toxic masculinity. He was unjustly deprived a freedom most Americans can assume. Our Evolutionary Leadership Community was made smaller by his absence.

The culture needs to make room for redemption.