A New Chapter: Sha-Ken's Advocacy Leads to Landmark Legislation

Sep 18, 2023   |  By Emily Montgomery

Sha-Ken recently realized a dream he never imagined was possible: he helped pass New York state legislation that will positively impact people with past justice-involvement like his.

It’s been a journey for him to get to this point. Sha-Ken, who is from Brooklyn, first became involved with CEO several years ago but says he wasn’t ready then to take advantage of the program entirely. However, when he was released at the end of last year after being incarcerated again, he decided it was time to lean into everything CEO had to offer.

“My state of mind was different,” Sha-Ken says. “I had goals I was ready to work toward.”

As a father of four children, he says that his focus was just on supporting them. Yet now it’s also important to him that his children see him with a life goal.

“I want to build a legacy,” Sha-Ken said. “This is where I need to be and this is where I’ll thrive.”

While he was a participant with CEO, an employee told him about the Advocacy Leadership Committee (ALC). ALC is a CEO program that provides advocacy training for select participants in which they learn leadership and community organizing skills - even how to advocate on specific legislation.

Sha-Ken knew that this was something he wanted to be a part of.

Sha-Ken got involved with ALC in the spring of 2023 and graduated from the program in June. He says it was an excellent experience.

“I got to meet people from different cultures, ethnicities, political views, and criminal backgrounds,” Sha-Ken says. “But with all our differences, we share one common goal. That was a change for me. To be around people who don’t look like or talk like me but have the same goal as me, that was incredible.”

During his tenure on ALC, Sha-Ken’s focus was New York’s Clean Slate bill. According to Forbes, the legislation “aims to streamline the process of sealing criminal records for eligible individuals, granting them a fresh start and a chance to rebuild their lives.”

The hard work of Sha-Ken and others paid off: the Senate passed the bill. Now it’s just waiting to be signed by the governor.

“It felt excellent,” Sha-Ken says. “I got a chance to see for myself that the legislative process can work. For that to happen my first time in the field, that’s an excellent motivator.”

In addition to their success passing the bill, Sha-Ken expressed the amazing sense of accomplishment he felt graduating with his cohort from the Advocacy Leadership Committee program.

“This graduation has been a big confidence booster,” he said. “It’s the best thing for me. I get to show my children that I could change my life–I get to tell my kids that it’s never too late if you want something.”

Sha-Ken is weighing options for what to do next, but knows whatever he does, his purpose will be to help others.

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