RALEIGH, N.C. – A Raleigh organization is doing its best to reconcile with police and keep young black men off the streets. Members of “Justice Served NC” have been quietly but feverishly working in the community for years.
“We cannot reach everyone, but the ones we can, we put in 100 percent,” said Executive Director Diana Powell.
After working in the Department of Corrections for ten years, Powell saw a need and Justice Served in 2011.
“We began to work in the jail and teaching class over there, life skills, critical thinking skills and how to navigate through this court system,” Powell said.
Through these classes she helped dozens of young men get back on their feet, including James Alston, who was in a gang. “He had never had a job before in his life and he was so happy,” Powell said. “I remember him posting the pictures, him in his hard hat.”
Alston started turning his life around and left the gang. But his change of heart didn’t sit well with everyone.
“Tragically he was killed right there in his neighborhood, in his community he was gunned down,” said Powell.
William Swain was in the same Justice Served class with Alston.
“I got arrested for felony hit and run,” Swain said. “At the time I was low down. I didn’t think nobody cared.”
Justice Service helped Swain get a job and a place to stay, Powell said.
Today, Swain is a former gang member, a loving father and a student.
“I never thought I would be in college,” Swain said. “I’m going to Miller Motte. I’m going for paralegal.”
He said Powell is still there for him. “I don’t know where I would be,” he said discussing what would have happened had he not met Powell.
Powell and Swain are now trying to help more people through classes at the jail, community events and meetings every Monday night. They are educating others and advocating for peace.
“If we can send that message across the world, can you imagine what can happen? That we can live in a peaceful world?” Powell said.
Powell is also an associate minister at Revelation Missionary Baptist Church. They hold community forums every Monday at 7 p.m. and anyone is invited.