Head of Criminal Justice Reform Group to Speak at Annual Unity Breakfast

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Andrea James will speak at the Annual Unity Breakfast.

Andrea James will speak at the Annual Unity Breakfast.

Andrea James will speak at the Annual Unity Breakfast.

For the 16th year in a row, Watertown will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a Unity Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. The event brings together hundreds of people, representing Watertown’s diverse population, to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man who devoted his life to ending prejudice and racism in our country.

The Unity Breakfast has become a Watertown tradition, drawing over 400 guests. The program includes a timely keynote speaker, lively choral music, essays and art projects by Watertown middle and high school students, and the presentation of the Unity Award to a Watertown individual or community organization that has demonstrated outstanding community service.

This year’s keynote speaker is Andrea James, the Founder and Executive Director of Families for Justice as Healing, a Boston-based criminal justice reform organization advocating for community wellness initiatives to replace the war on drugs and incarceration. Ms. James has worked within the criminal justice system for more than 25 years from her days as a youth worker to a criminal defense lawyer. She dedicated her time and resources to providing zealous representation to families within her community of Roxbury, Massachusetts. In 2009 she was sentenced to serve a 24-month federal prison sentence. Even after a lifetime of seeking justice on behalf of disenfranchised people, she was stunned at what she encountered upon entering the federal prison system as an incarcerated person.

The strength and fortitude of the women she met in prison motivated her to establish Families for Justice as Healing. One of the goals of the organization is to reduce punishment for non-violent crimes that separate mothers from children and the irreversible disenfranchisement of families and entire communities that incarceration fosters.

Ms. James is a current Soros Justice Fellow and author of Upper Bunkies Unite: And Other Thoughts on the Politics of Mass Incarceration.

The Greater Boston Intergenerational Chorus, under the direction of Joanne Hammil, will perform. The chorus is a diverse group of singers of all ages who sing an eclectic, lively mix of music. Watertown middle and high school students will be actively involved in the program by sharing essays on Dr. King’s legacy and how his teachings relate to their lives, and by displaying art work that depicts his principles.

The Unity Breakfast, sponsored by the World in Watertown in collaboration with Survival Education Fund, Inc. and Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment, will be held on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016 from 9-11:30 a.m. at the Hellenic Cultural Center, 25 Bigelow Avenue, Watertown. Child care will be provided for pre-schoolers. The Hellenic Cultural Center is handicap accessible. Tickets are $10 (children 12 and under free). For group reservations call 617-924-6143 or email fpwatertown@comcast.net by Jan. 15. Tickets will be available at the door.

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