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  • Writer's pictureVictor Paulino

The reason why I'm donating 5% of my commission to the Innocence Project

Updated: May 1, 2021

I am often quiet on the topic of race. Being a minority on the North Shore, I feel it is time I spoke out, and say proudly that I support the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Being in the Real Estate industry and growing up in a predominantly Latino/Black Community in New York City and now living in Beverly Massachusetts; I've interacted with people of all races, incomes, and classes. As a child in NYC, I witnessed firsthand the relationship between police officers and the black / latino community. I also witnessed several childhood friends being wrongly incarcerated. This has to stop. I have decided to help the Black Lives Matter movement by donating 5% of my 2020 commission to the Innocence Project. The Black Lives Matter is not exclusively about wrongful incarcerations, but it is about systematic racism in our society. The criminal justice system needs reform. I want to help do my part by exonerating people who are victims of this injustice. I feel very passionate about this, because this could be me.

My wife and I moved to Beverly Farms 3 years ago, and our community has embraced us. I feel very much a part of our neighborhood. I get a friendly wave from everyone that walks by our home. But, as a black man living in a mostly white suburban town, one of my biggest fears is being accused of a crime I didn’t commit. Just like last week in Newton, where Tim Duncan (not the Basketball Hall of Famer Tim Duncan) fit the description of a "Tall Athletic Black man" he was stopped while walking to Whole Foods with his wife. Or, like Henry Louis Gates, who was arrested while entering his own home in Cambridge.

I fear that if someone sees a tall black man running from a crime, I might "fit the description." This, unfortunately is the life many black men lead.  Those who know me understand that I would never commit a crime, but for many black men that doesn’t actually matter. This is why I want to contribute to the Innocence Project, they advocate for reforms that help prevent and address wrongful conviction.  They use DNA evidence to exonerate those people who are wrongfully incarcerated.  They have freed 360 people using DNA evidence.

I support Black Lives Matter because it means equal rights for everyone. It does not mean that all lives do not matter, but black lives have been ignored for a long time. This has to change. Black Lives Matter is not anti-police, it is anti-police brutality. If there is a bad apple within the department, the good cop needs to blow the whistle - Or the good apple has turned bad. I hope this movement leads to police reform, less racism, and to less wrongful incarcerations. The Innocence project is not just for black people. But, wrongful incarcerations over-indexes significantly in black communities.

The Innocence project has

  • Freed 362 people from DNA evidence, 222 were black men.

  • Freed 164 people from death row, 84 of those were black.

  • Black people spent an average of 10.7 years behind bars for a crime they didn’t commit vs. 7.4 for whites exonerees (National Registry of Exonerations

I also want to say that I am very proud of how our community has responded during these times. I have been so impressed by some folks in our local community who have stepped up.  I have seen a “Justice for George Floyd” in front of Vidalias, and a "Black Lives Matter" sign outside of Half Baked. Gentile Brewery wrote an amazing blog post. Atomic Cafe donated two days of online sales to Boston NAACP. I received a beautiful email from the Cheese Shop of Salem. And many more. I have had many white friends reach out and ask how they can contribute. An old high school friend Mary-Jo Cerasuolo Anderson called me a few days ago in tears. She didn't understand why in 25 + years of friendship we never had a conversation about race. We spoke about the protests, the George Floyd murder, and how she can make a difference; we cried together. I would encourage anyone reading this blog to do some research, watch a documentary (13TH — Ava DuVernay), have a conversation with friends of all races, and don’t stay silent.  Donating to the cause is appreciated, but the change has to come from within. Love

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