There is perhaps no show better suited to host a roundtable around the issue of mass incarceration and criminal justice reform as it affects communities of color than Orange is the New Black. The Netflix show always wove a committed social justice message through its storylines — be they about prison reform, the war on drugs or police brutality. In a special livestreamed conversation titled Reform. Solidarity. Action, the cast of the show reunited to help audiences learn about and activate for anti-racist criminal justice reform.
The entire event, which included conversations with Color Of Change’s Rashad Robinson, activist Rachel Cargle and Stacey Abrams, was designed to not only raise awareness but to direct viewers to action. Plenty of resources were shared throughout, including links to donate to Color of Change and to the Poussey Washington Fund, which donates money to eight different organizations, including Freedom for Immigrants and Immigrant Defenders Law Center.
On top of the worthy resources and inspiring talks, the chats between cast members made sure to center the event on how best to respond to the current protests and calls to action being shared worldwide. Natasha Lyonne spoke candidly about the war on drugs (and how she knows her own problems with substance abuse would have likely ended differently if she weren’t white), Dascha Polanco announced she’d just become an ambassador for the Innocence Project organization, a nonprofit legal organization committed to exonerating wrongly convicted individuals and to reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. And Selenis Leyva voiced concerns many in the Latinx community are no doubt struggling with.
“For me, being anti-racist has a lot of different dimensions,” Levya shared. But she always begins with what’s in front of her. “And one of the things that’s right in front of me is my beautiful Latinx daughter. How do I raise my daughter to be truly anti-racist?” It’s a question that animates her to take action, and prompted an emotional exchange with fellow cast mate Danielle Brooks, who talked about what it meant to listen to George Floyd call out for his mother.
But Leyva also wanted to make something very clear: “Asking for help doesn’t mean making Black people do the work.”
Stream the entire conversation below.