We the People: Jalissa Fletcher

We the People is a blog series that features the stories of members, supporters, volunteers, and allies of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming. Together we are accomplishing critical work in our state to protect and advance civil liberties across the state and beyond.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a black woman, an activist, a law student, a wife, a mother, and, most importantly, soon to be a civil rights attorney. I grew up in the south, both in a small town in Georgia and a big city like Houston. My father worked at the University of Georgia for over 30 years and my mother worked as an occupational therapist for a little over 15 years. I have one sibling – an older brother. We are 10 years a part. My husband is active duty in the military and we have a 7-year-old son.

I have lived in Cheyenne for almost two years. I have met some amazing people here, which unbeknownst to them have served as a catalyst for my activism. Since being here in Cheyenne, I have joined various organizations and I would consider myself a community organizer.

My passion in life is criminal justice reform and by becoming a civil rights attorney, I aim to play an intricate role in ending racist systemic oppression that plagues marginalized communities every day.

Why do you support the ACLU?

The ACLU has been on the right side of history for 100 years. This organization stands in opposition of supremacy and oppression. The simple fact that the ACLU has been an active participant in more Supreme Court cases than any other private organization is enough to make me a supporter for life. I hope to partner with the ACLU one day as an attorney.

How does the ACLU and our work relate to you personally? Are there any issues you feel most connected to?

As a future civil rights attorney, I study civil rights violations and cases of discrimination. I am invested in criminal justice reform. The ACLU has been not only been at the forefront but also the center of every landmark Supreme Court case that I can think of.

Why is being an advocate for issues you care about important to you?

One of the daily mantras that I live my life by comes from a person that I admire the most in this world – Angela Davis: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept.” 

As a Black woman, my existence is resistance. In the face of police brutality, poverty, unemployment, the preschool to prison pipeline, wage gaps, redlining, the dismissal of black women in health care, being silent is simply not an option for me.

Can one person really make a difference?

I believe so. Life is a series of choices based upon the paths we choose or don’t choose, the opportunities to speak up or stay silent in the face of injustice, and the chances we have to challenge our privilege or stay complacent. Every decision we make can make a difference, but we are stronger together.

You’ve been volunteering with the statewide campaign to repeal the death penalty? Why do you want to see the death penalty repealed?

As a Black woman, I have witnessed firsthand the lives and the amount of time lost from individuals due to the injustices in our so-called justice system. The United States makes up 4.4 percent of the world's population but accounts for 22 percent of the world's prisoners. Sometimes we get it wrong. One in every 25 people on death row is sentenced to death despite being innocent. Since 1973, more than 165 people who were wrongly convicted and sentenced to death row have been exonerated. The rates of wrongful convictions for prison sentences demonstrate the fallibility of human judgment and remind us that there is always a risk of killing an innocent person. How many more innocent individuals have to lose time from their lives while sitting on death row for crimes they did not commit before we seek systemic change?

What is your favorite way to get involved in your community?

Lately, my favorite community events have been town halls. I believe in inviting the community into a safe and welcoming space, feeding them because a nourished body paves the way for a nourished mind, and providing them with the platform to voice their opinions both good and bad are essential for growth and unity.\

What would you tell people about getting involved with the ACLU?

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain! We are the keys to the change we want to see. The first step is making a difference is a choice to say yes!