‘Free her’ — Junior Reid advocating for release of daughter, other female first offenders
While performing his One Blood classic at Reggae Love Fest in New York on Friday, Junior Reid paused his set to engage the audience in a “free her” chant. The singer’s daughter Tanya is five years into a nine-year drug sentence at Aliceville Federal Correctional Institution in Alabama, but his appeal extended to other incarcerated women.
“Dem nah really deal with the women right inna dah prison deh, so mi just a bring attention to it,” Reid told The Gleaner. “We nah try fi support nobody weh go against the law certain way. We a deal with the women weh do certain amount a time already, like some women would have 25 years and dem do 17 out of it and dem old, up 70 years old, and dem nah let dem out. Dem all inna pampers, some old ‘til dem have walking stick, and dem nah let dem out cause, at the end of the day, it’s a business for them.”
It’s more than just talk for Reid, who established the One Blood Freedom is a Must charity two months ago to defend the rights of incarcerated female first offenders worldwide. The initiative was inspired by Tanya’s experiences and observances there.
“We a try mek dem get a second chance and it’s been doing good so far,” he said. “That prison has mostly young girls, and 70 per cent that come in are mothers. Some come in with baby inna dem belly, born inna the system. So this is just an awareness fi mek the women know unno haffi know weh unno doing out there cause you have a system out there waan tek weh the women off the road. Without the mother, you nav no community, because the women take care of the youth and the family while the man goes out there go look it. If the mothers aren’t there, the youths will just get into more trouble and gone back inna lockup.”
Reid is undoubtedly a family man, often seen around his children and even ushering some into the music business like from Andrew and Wada Blood to, more recently, Russell Reid and Kimio. Needless to say, the incarceration of one of his children has taken its toll.
“It affect me bad because mi nah really expect that and, throughout the whole thing, dem never really deal with her fair,” he said. “At the same time, when I was trying to assist her, she was saying she has it and she will deal with it. So she got her own lawyer. Every time she call, mi haffi just answer her and hear all of weh a gwaan, so more time it’s like a mission. It’s like she just pass through there fi give me a certain message that me coulda really look inna dah direction yah and give it some attention, ‘cause it’s something to address.”
Beyond his advocacy work, Reid has also been hitting the studio with Great John and Wada Blood while in the United States. He also filmed for Math Hoffa’s My Expert Opinion barbershop series. The platform has featured names like Methodman, Treach, Fat Joe, NORE and Remy Ma.