Photo: Mrs. Phyllis Hardy welcomes participants to the 2018 NEW Reentry Council Resource Fair.
Community mobilization is a powerful tool, allowing communities to bring together as many stakeholders as possible to raise people's awareness of programs to strengthen for real change.
Phyllis Hardy, a member of the NEW (Nash, Edgecombe, Wilson counties) Reentry Council, is an example of that mobilization. Her successful reentry inspired her to give back to the NEW Reentry Council in a major way. An incredible reentry advocate, Ms. Hardy is a member of numerous advocacy organizations, fighting for systemic governmental change surrounding mass incarceration issues.
Her recent efforts landed a $2,500 sponsorship from the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls to help support the NEW Reentry Council’s programs and services. After securing this funding, Ms. Hardy, a member of the National Council and a NEW Reentry Council executive committee board member, traveled with the director of the National Council to Washington, D.C. to protest for the clemency of 100 women. “Our work is a movement that continues to bring about change,” she said. “I was ecstatic they wanted to support my efforts.”
NCCAA Communications Fellow Kelley Traynham met with Ms. Hardy to discuss her advocacy work.
Kelley Traynham: Please explain how this sponsorship will continue to promote and advance the mission of The NEW Reentry Council?
Phyllis Hardy: I hope the money will help the NEW Reentry Council receive more sponsorships. The $2,500 is a direct way to offer support to help meet our members basic needs that are essential for survival, like paying a bill, buying food and clothing. I believe when a member asks for help, we should have the funds to provide for their need.
Kelley Traynham: What advice do you offer to those uncertain about supporting or donating to organizations that support formerly and incarcerated individuals?
Phyllis Hardy: Years ago, we invited the public to events like community listening parties to better understand their thoughts on incarceration. It also gave them an opportunity to learn about life in the prison system from the perspective of an inmate. There are so many myths about incarceration. Although someone may have committed a crime, once they’ve served time, they deserve a second chance in the community. Offering support is just one step in the right direction for them to make a difference after returning from jail or prison.
Kelley Traynham: What has the support of the NEW Reentry Council and the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls meant to you?
Phyllis Hardy: It is the love of my life. The work and my family are what get me up each day. While I was incarcerated, I received the name “Grandma.” That nickname has transitioned with me. I’m proud to call myself a member of these councils as both organizations value my vision and advocacy work. (North Carolina) Governor Cooper should implement more reentry councils in counties across the state because these councils truly transform lives by all the great work they do. The only way communities grow is by people working to make changes that others are afraid to undertake.
Kelley Traynham: How has successful reentry into society been pivotal to your new life?
Phyllis Hardy: I was over 65 years old and had completed more than 75% of my prison sentence when I was released. While in prison, I became very sick, requiring several surgeries and was bed-ridden for a long time. So, my start to a new life was totally different and challenging. While in prison, I crafted my reentry goals and that motivated me to give back once released. I made a promise to the women that I met in prison to never forget about them. I’m so blessed that my family was so supportive in making sure that I got back into the groove of society by providing me with everything I needed to prosper.
In conclusion, Ms. Hardy said that her incarceration inspired her to advocate for prison reform. “I will continue to secure funds for our council and many others as long as I live,” she said.
Kelley Traynham is a writer in the North Carolina Community Action Association’s Communications Fellows Program. NCCAA Communications Fellows are students or recent graduates pursuing a career in communications, graphic design, IT, public policy or a related field. They receive a stipend for their participation in the program. For more information on the NCCAA Communications Fellows Program, please contact Yvette Ruffin, director of the NCCAA Communications Fellows Program.