Last week, my husband Bilaal Evans was handcuffed and hauled away to a police station for hours. I was in the passenger seat praying that this wouldn’t turn into another horrific incidence of violence like those we have become all too accustomed to watching on our social media feeds.
For months, Bilaal has been carrying physical proof that he is no longer required to register for Illinois’ Violent Offender Against Youth registry. This mandate was for a crime he committed as a young person himself over two decades ago, and Bilaal has already completed his lengthy prison sentence and parole term. The officer didn’t even give him a chance to pull it out though.
If you’ve been around IMAN for the past decade, you know my husband and you’ve met my family. Bilaal is IMAN’s Green ReEntry Coordinator and has been working there for the last eight years. He has dedicated his life to the work of transforming people and communities. My daughters and son have all grown up around IMAN, participating in organizing campaigns, helping guide the youth council and even serving on IMAN’s board of directors. My family has been on the front lines striving to improve our communities.
And yet, with just one cop and a faulty piece of legislation, none of that mattered. The Violent Offender Against Youth Registry Act has haunted my husband’s life since he was released from prison years ago, and there are hundreds of other people in Illinois facing the same situation. It is exactly these types of humiliating, dehumanizing, and demoralizing encounters that IMAN is working to eliminate.
Thankfully, two weeks ago, IMAN successfully passed the “Path to Restoration” bill, which will enable people stuck on this unfair registry to amend inaccurate information about themselves, and to petition for their eventual removal from the list. This is a huge achievement that my husband and his colleagues at IMAN spent months organizing at the grassroots level to push through.
But it’s still only a drop in the sea of policies that continue to criminalize black and brown people.
The cop eventually let us go—once he actually bothered to find out that Bilaal was no longer on the registry. But lists like these continue to disrupt the progress of many men and women who are simply trying to get their lives back on track and do something positive for their families. And that’s why I’m urging you to contribute to IMAN’s ‘Off the List, On the Love’ Ramadan Drive.
God willing, one day there will be one less list we have to worry about.