Abolitionist Force To Be Reckoned With: Reverend Doris Green

*Disclaimer: the views of Reverend Doris Green may not reflect the views of Her Campus* 

Reverend Doris Green’s memoir, “Don’t Wait Until the Battle is Over- Shout Victory Now”, details the beginning of her journey in abolition and how her faith helped her become the woman she is. Her story includes personal anecdotes from different individuals she encountered on her journey, including her current spouse. I first met Reverend Green through one of my professors, but after hearing her talk, I knew I needed to speak with her further about her journey and her motivation to end incarceration. She agreed to answer some questions about her journey and the current goals of the abolition movement.

Reverend Photo Photo by Diane Helentjaris from Unsplash

Her Campus (HC): In your memoir, you mention some of the trials and tribulations you encountered while growing up, and into adulthood, what would you say was the most difficult to overcome?

Reverend Doris Green (DG): My confusion about spirituality, or the lack of spirituality around my mother’s death. I was devastated for a long time until I came to grips with people and what they were saying about it. The fact that they were saying “God needed an angel” impacted all aspects of my journey. Lots of things impacted my life but that was the hardest to work through.     

HC: In the 40 years of your work, what has changed?

DG: In the field of corrections, re-entry and prison and abolition, for me, the biggest change that I have seen in these years would be people accepting the fact that we are horrible people when it comes to incarceration. People are beginning to understand that we need to do something about it. More people are open to hearing the painful conversations and more people, even young adults, seeming to be wanting to be a part of the change. Especially in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  

HC: Especially in the wake of George Floyd’s death?

DG: If you look at black families, they have lived through a lot of George Floyd’s death, murder, it wasn’t until his murder that change started to happen. In the context of a black family, it is exciting to see change, but it is also exhausting to think about how many have died before him. It’s kind of like we have to look at it from both lenses, it sits hopeful as a whole but for black people, we are still wounded from all the deaths before George. We are appreciative that it happened during a pandemic, where people were watching television and watched this unfold before their eyes.    

HC: How can we change the organization of the prison system so that it does not benefit the inmate? I know you’re working on Re-entry to No-entry and anti-capitalist framework, but could you explain the shift and economic implications?

DG: I am trying to put that in context to the first time I visited a prison in West Africa. I could not believe what I saw was happening. I saw families lined up with food to feed family members who were incarcerated. As I walked through the prison, I saw sewing machines and things like that. The first thing that came to my mind was since there are sewing machines in this room, they must be making something to sell for prison profit. During the debriefing with the warden, my mind flew towards ideas of capitalism. I asked questions about profit and those types of questions, but the warden asked me where I could even come up with ideas of profiting from prisoners. The warden explained that they have sewing machines because they need to make their clothes. I just could not believe what I was hearing! I then asked about the babies I saw when touring the prison. The warden said if a woman is charged with anything and must leave her village, she can bring her children if there is no one there to take care of them. When I asked what the maximum sentence was, and this is only for the West African country I went to, I don’t know about the rest, he answered that the maximum sentence was less than 365 days. He asked, why would we keep people looked up for more than that? I thought of the violence in America, but where I was, I only saw guards with guns. It made me re-examine what we have here, and this was only in the last 15 years. This inspired me to work towards taking the dollar out of prisons. We must make it not profitable for the prison complex. In doing that, we must take a deep dive into no-entry, what that would look like, and abolishing the prisons. But we must also put something else in place, we need systems in place to make changes like that in our capitalist county. We need to come with new language, reparations and restoring justice. We need to give these marginalized communities new options.   

HC: How are women recentering justice in America as reparations for those who were historically wronged?

DG: We need to come in with plans of restoration and reparations when working in this movement. Asking what you plan to do for the families that have been so devastated by history, so that they can have an option that they did not have previously. Young people are so important, especially in social movements. Several young black men and women have had their chance taken away to be a part of the movements because of incarceration, working towards repairing that is a key part of abolition.  

HC: What does the movement for reparations want to accomplish?

DG: The number one thing would be balance. To descendants of slaves, for that group of people who have suffered from slavery, it is a different type of thing, not just money. Providing medical care, housing, education, etc. Allowing them to be balanced and find a way to heal the pain and realign perspectives. Capitalism comes into play here as well, someone must be on the bottom, and descendants of slavery are tired of being at the bottom. We want to become real citizens, which means a lot of things, other than just citizenship. In my experience, the California AB3121 Reparations Bill is the closest to reparations we want than anything else that has been put forth.  I am still paying my student loans at 72 years old. We need economic reparations in order to provide for our children and grandchildren so that they aren’t still paying their student loans at 72 years old, we need reparations for economic inequality.  

HC: What are the forms of mutual aid and care that are the foundation of your work?

DG: Resources, knowledge and supporting what is already out there. I want to get my memoir in the hands of a lot of young people because of the impact it can have on their work. Another form would be getting into the heart of a person who is incarcerated, it creates another form of empathy for what has happened.  The check-in that Laura (McTighe) does at the beginning of your class is another great example of mutual aid and leaning on one another so we can continue to work.  

HC: How has your connection to Tallahassee and the students here affected your work?

DG: Tremendously. The student researchers from FSU were so attentive and helped to strengthen our organization in ways we had not seen before. Working with Laura and opportunities to get to speak with young people greatly help abolition and inspire me to work with young people. I knew I was going to be in young people’s lives for a while, and it gave me another reason to keep working.

Do Something Great Photo by Clark Tibbs from Unsplash

HC: What is the one thing you want readers to take away from this article? 

DG: My mantra, “I am because you are, and because you are therefore, I am.” We are so much stronger together, and we need to share our pain, because everyone has pain, with each other to move forward.

If you were inspired by anything Reverend Green said, you want to join the abolitionist movement, or just want more information check out the links included in this article. I want to give a big thank you to Reverend Green for speaking with me and for the abolitionist community for the work they are doing. Please feel free to look at Reverend Green’s website for her organization if you want to learn more from her! 

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