On Tuesday, June 13, at 6:30 p.m., the Adult School Department of the Montclair Public Library will host an author discussion on the devastating impact of incarceration on women and children. Inspirational speaker Khadijah Shabazz will have a three-way conversation about her debut memoir, “I Didn’t Sign Up for This: My Redemptive Story of Memories, Mayhem & Murder” with bestselling author and civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander (“The New Jim Crow”), and Gina Clayton-Johnson, executive director of Essie Justice Group, a nonprofit that advocates for the families of the incarcerated.
After the author reads briefly from her memoir, the conversation partners will discuss Shabazz’s book and how she came to write it, inevitably touching on the havoc wreaked by the criminal justice system, incarceration, and police violence on partners and children, and the importance of women bearing witness and finding a public voice. A live Q&A session with the participants, and then a book sale and signing will follow. Light refreshments will be served. Register now at adultschool.org.
Khadijah Shabazz is a public speaker and global advocate for women and children affected by incarceration. She is the mother of two biological children, five adopted children, and 25 foster children, some of whom were infants prenatally exposed to addiction or small children with behavioral difficulties. In addition to her work in the foster care system, Shabazz has often been called on to support families affected by police violence. She currently lives outside of Los Angeles. “I Didn’t Sign Up for This” is her first book.
Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, legal scholar, and author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” the New York Times bestselling book that helped to transform the national debate on racial and criminal justice in the United States.
Gina Clayton-Johnson is a Black feminist organizer, writer, and the Founder and Executive Director of Essie Justice Group, the nation’s leading advocacy organization of women with incarcerated loved ones. Gina has spent over 15 years advocating for Black communities and is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards. Clayton-Johnson is a leader of the Movement for Black Lives Policy Table (where she served as the central architect of the BREATHE Act), is a founding Advisory Council member of the National Bail Out Collective, and a leading advocate for bail reform in California. She holds a BA from the University of Southern California and a JD from Harvard Law School. Clayton-Johnson lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young children.
“I Didn’t Sign Up For This: My Redemptive Story of Memories, Mayhem & Murder” by Khadijah Shabazz is an engaging, bracingly candid memoir by a woman thrown into a life of isolation after her husband was convicted of murder. Shabazz unpacks the adverse effects of incarceration on loved ones —often hidden and damaging—to tell a personal story of recovery from shame into a life of advocacy and support for the most vulnerable of society. Now a public speaker on prison reform, police brutality, and foster care, Shabazz recounts how life sometimes threw her down a well, but how through her Islamic faith, tenacity, and guidance, she was able to rebuild her life, climbing to new heights.
As Shabazz herself says, “This memoir is for every woman playing the game of life with a hand of cards she would much rather throw back in.” But we believe it’s for everyone.