On a rainy Saturday morning while many folks were warm and dry, safely ensconced inside all over the city as they avoided the elements, a group of individuals, many of whom had traveled from all around the state, were standing outside in a line during the downpour waiting to get inside of LINC UP’s gallery.
Inside the gallery were a group of lawyers volunteering their talents for Grand Rapids’ first Expungement Resource Fair presented by the Black and Brown Cannabis Guild, who, along with a host of community organization partners and sponsors, labored to ensure that this one-day event was a success.
Going into the week on the Monday before the event, the Expungement Resource Fair’s co-organizer Denavvia Mojet had a handful of folks who had pre-registered to attend. However, after Grand Rapids' Mayor Bliss with Mojet alongside her declared that Sept. 21-28 would be acknowledged in Grand Rapids as National Expungement Week
, things began to really accelerate for the event.
Almost immediately after this city proclamation, Mojet’s team noticed a huge uptick in registrations and got to work to add more lawyers who understood the process of expungement, thereby ensuring the fair would be able to see as many folks as possible.
I, like so many others, over the next few days were able to observe via social media the incredible turnout seen in photos, as well as view a video that a young man posted that captured Mojet out in the rain (and sans an umbrella) addressing the long line of folks that they were doing the best they could and that they would be with them shortly. Her welcoming style and even a bit of self-deprecating humor won over the crowds, many of whom had been in line for some time.
It was a powerful moment that struck a chord with me as many of us have been in a similar position where demand outweighs the supply.
But in this moment, we also got to see the passion and heart of Mojet for the importance of the expungement topic and how her leadership style not only enabled her the ability to roll up her sleeves with ease and get in the mix, but also enabled her to listen and assure the audience that the team of volunteers just inside LINC UP’s gallery was moving as quickly as possible.
It was very inspiring to see and the reason why I wanted to sit down to hear her assessment of this first-time event and receive insights as to what they learned as a result of our region celebrating National Expungement Week.
Mojet joined us on The Morning Show with Shelley Irwin
(88.5 FM) on Thursday, October 3 to discuss her insights as well as reveal what comes next. To listen to the interview, please follow this link
and then take a moment to read our follow-up questions with Mojet shared below. We are certain you will be as inspired as we were by the Black and Brown Cannabis Guild’s first Expungement Resource Fair.
Be the bridge,
Publisher for Rapid Growth
Tommy Allen: After the Expungement Resource Fair, lawyers advanced the next steps for those who showed up to begin their journey. For the sake of those seeking more information on steps, what is typically the process one can expect?
Denavvia Mojet: The full process of having something expunged from a criminal record is a lengthy one, and ultimately requires the person to file for a hearing and go before a judge explaining their conviction that they hope to have removed. They are required to have their background check completed, as well as fingerprinting by a local law enforcement agency and to start any of that process, the person first needs to know if they are eligible.
Eligibility is contingent upon an array of variables like the nature of the conviction, location, length of time elapsed since sentence completion, etc., but the hurdle that most people experience to navigating that process is access to legal support and guidance. At the expungement resource fair, we provide that connection.
People get free legal consultations with attorneys. They are assisted in pulling their background info, they are informed of their eligibility status, and they are given the next steps and paired with a legal expert who will follow up with them to continue to guide them and assist them in court. That person pays only for their expungement materials and the legal support is entirely free.
TA: Earlier as we waited to go on the air at WVGU’s Morning Show with Shelley Irwin, you shared powerful reactions to the stories recorded from those who attended. What do you see happening next (or into the future) with these interviews of human experiences?
DM: I see the Black and Brown Cannabis Guild
taking the footage from the event and using it to tell the stories of the attendees on a larger platform.
Some of them found out that they were eligible for expungement and began the steps to file. Others found out they weren’t eligible and wanted to advocate for why laws should allow them the chance to qualify.
The people who willingly told their stories on camera wanted to be heard and we have the unique opportunity to amplify their voices to people in their community and to the people who represent them and govern them in the Capitol.
TA: How do personal stories like those you have recorded assist the mission of your group in advancing the narrative/mission?
DM: I believe storytelling is powerful. The story of the Black and Brown Cannabis Guild is the story of people being forgotten in an emerging industry that they helped pave the way for. The people who shared their narratives on camera during the Expungement Resource Fair had a narrative that was one in the same. They wanted access to opportunities.
Furthermore, they allowed us to capture the spirit of what we wanted to do – have an impact and make a difference in a way that the local cannabis organizations just don’t.
Other groups ignore the plight of the people who were criminalized by cannabis prohibition and never mention the racial disparity in their attempts to reshape the industry. The attendees were people that we would want to stop ignoring as an industry.
Also, their stories and lives were all unique but they allowed us to make connections and understand how to lobby effectively for change in expungement laws. Not only did it serve as a way to educate people who may have misconceptions around people with a criminal record, but their stories also keep us rooted in why we organized in the first place.
TA: While the Expungement Resource Fair is tied to the recently formed Expungement Week activities around the country, after seeing the crowds who came out exceeding everyone’s expectations, how do you see this work expanding in our region?
DM: We were so shocked and overwhelmed by the turnout for that Expungement Resource Fair. People from all over the region asked us when we would be hosting another and if we could do it again.
I think we will not only do it again but do so in other communities where we hope to have a presence as manpower and resources allow. We have made some really awesome connections with organizations and individuals who are willing to be a part of it as we grow and scale, but right now, we are still looking for more.
I see this being an important part of how community-conscious cannabis organizations like ours give back to the people who lost so much during prohibition and so it is an integral part of our vision in advocacy.
TA: Where can people go to keep in the loop for future events?
DM: The Black and Brown Cannabis Guild recently launched on all platforms. People can “like” or “follow” the Facebook page, ‘Black and Brown Cannabis Guild,’ or join the private Facebook Group where we talk news, events, and experiences navigating the industry.
People can also go to our website
and subscribe to our email list or make a donation. And some fun still to come awaits our new Instagram page and I’m excited to connect folks with that as well @bbcannabis
On those platforms and channels, our community and members can receive important updates on things happening in the industry and on our work. We will specifically use these channels to communicate upcoming events like the next Expungement Resource Fair.
To see images from the first Expungement Resource Fair, please visit their Facebook event page