Truth Be Told graduates advocate for all justice-involved women at the Capitol

On March 8, International Women’s Day, a group of Truth Be Told graduates used the power of their stories to advocate on behalf of all justice-involved women in Texas.

Graduates Margie O’Neal, Lisa Davis-Bell, Kimberly Davis, Chelsea Williams, Dara Musick, Evelyn Fulbright, Laurie Pherigo and Lauren Johnson were part of a much larger community of formerly incarcerated women who gathered at the Capitol to participate in Women’s Injustice Day, a day of community and advocacy hosted by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. The event’s objective was to raise awareness on a shortlist of bills in the 86th Legislative session that, if they became law, would improve the lives of the more than 12,000 justice-involved women in Texas.

The day involved a march from the state jail to the Capitol, a press conference on the Capitol’s south steps (at which Evelyn and Lauren were featured speakers), a healing circle of formerly incarcerated women and their allies, and office visits with legislative staff.

O’Neal, who drove more than three hours to participate in Women’s Injustice Day, said what “made her heart sing” was “the idea of being able to promote the hope of change in the criminal justice system and instill the dignity women have deserved for a long time.”

Kimberly said that advocating at the Capitol filled her heart with joy “for so many reasons.”

“The biggest reason is because legislators were really taking the time to listen and read about what we’re trying to do,” she said. “I’ve never rallied before, so this was extremely awesome. I feel like we’re really making a difference and getting so much respect. I’m not afraid to say I was once incarcerated anymore, because people aren’t going to condemn me or give me negative vibes.

“I hope to do this again,” Kimberly continued. “My heart is truly sincere when it comes to volunteering my time for events such as this. I am so glad I attended. A very powerful day! I kept getting teary-eyed thinking about it.”

Dara, who shared her lived experience of incarceration with several legislative staffers, said she also felt heard at the Capitol. “We brought humanity into places where people only know us as a number and a statistic. My heart overflows with complete gratitude for all who put this day together and for the ones who will and are still advocating for all women. What a beautiful privilege to be a part of something so big and impactful.”

Laurie agreed, saying: “This was an incredible experience, the fulfillment of a dream come true.”

“For me, this represented the taking back of my power and my voice,” she said. “No longer did I have to rely on what other people were saying I needed. I was saying it for myself. That was so amazing, so awe-inspiring. I found my voice. I used my voice. I learned the power of my voice. I told my truth, thanks to Truth Be Told.”

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