All Of Us Or None Holds First Annual Justice Ball For Community Leaders Fighting Against Mass Incarceration

The All Of Us Or None Wisconsin Chapter Justice Ball was a black-tie event celebrating leaders in the movement against mass incarceration. (Graphic courtesy of All Of Us Or None)
The All Of Us Or None Wisconsin Chapter Justice Ball was a black-tie event celebrating leaders in the movement against mass incarceration. (Graphic courtesy of All Of Us Or None)

Honoring the Everyday People

All of Us Or None  (AOUON), a grassroots organization with a mission to fight for the rights of all people impacted by mass incarceration, has over 40 chapters across the country. The Wisconsin chapter was looking for a positive way to celebrate the achievements of community leaders and organizers doing the hard work to make their communities better. That’s how they landed on a black-tie, red-carpet event, the Justice Ball.

“I was thinking we celebrate all of these entertainers and rappers and actors and stuff like that. But, how are we celebrating the boots-on-the-ground work that’s out here every day, risking our lives, our freedoms, and putting our liberties on the line to secure the freedom and justice for all of our people from within the own social constructs of our communities and our environment? What are we doing to highlight and celebrate these people?” said Minister Caliph Muab’El, President of the Wisconsin Chapter of All Of Us Or None. “The Justice ball is geared toward liberating the voice of the voiceless, recognizing the work, and highlighting the efforts of the grassroots boots on the ground people and the people who are allies to us in this movement.”

Minister Caliph Muab’El is the President of the Wisconsin Chapter of All Of Us Or None. (Graphic courtesy of All Of Us Or None)
Minister Caliph Muab’El is the President of the Wisconsin Chapter of All Of Us Or None. (Graphic courtesy of All Of Us Or None)

Solitary Confinement to Movating the Community 

Muab’El had a challenging past. At 15, he became the youngest person in Wisconsin to go to an adult prison, and he spent 10 of his 15-year sentence in solitary confinement. But Muab’El took his experience and turned it into a positive future. He became a motivational speaker and teacher regarding the impact of mass incarceration and started his nonprofit organization Breaking Barriers Mentoring, which empowers youth facing societal barriers through mentoring and community support.

“All Of Us Or None Wisconsin is a project of Breaking Barriers Mentoring, where we do advocacy, and we do leadership and development for people who are impacted directly and also indirectly impacted…directly meaning you’ve been to prison, jail, arrested, etc. And indirectly impacted meaning, you’re a friend, loved one, and supporter of someone who is going through, is wrapped up, or who has gone through the system,” Muab’El said

A Sold-Out Event with 30 Days of Planning

The date of the Justice Ball, June 20, 2021, was intentionally held the day after Juneteenth, on Father’s Day, because of the impact mass incarceration has had on fathers in the community. Within 30 days, the team secured a venue, music, and food for the black-tie event. The community response was overwhelmingly positive. With all 250 seats sold out on Eventbrite, the AOUON Wisconsin team worked to squeeze more people into the event. If you couldn’t grab a seat, the event was also held virtually.

“There are great fathers out there. A lot of our fathers are plagued with mass incarceration. They’re taken out of the households, far removed, and things of that nature. Some of them aren’t in the children’s lives, but there are a lot of fathers who are, and we want to celebrate those efforts,” Muab’El said.

The Justice Ball Awards spanned over 10 different categories including the Justice Media Personality Award, Community Stabilizer Award, and Art of Justice Award. A selection committee chose nominations due to time constraints and then opened up voting to the people. Next year Muab’El hopes to institute a “people’s choice awards”-style event, where all community members will be able to nominate and vote.

“This has been such a journey. It’s been a great journey, and it’s been a great learning experience in the process. Being able to produce or host an event like this, which is out of the box, very innovative and very courageous, especially within the constraints that we had to do it,” Muab’El said. “We only had 30 days to put this thing together, make it make magic, and get the community involved and invested.”

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