National Day of Empathy shines light on the toll of mass incarceration

The idea of the National Day of Empathy is to highlight the human toll on millions of Americans impacted by mass incarceration and systemic injustices and to create a movement of healing. New York's event was held in Foley Square.

Shanequa Charles, the lead organizer, kicked off the event and set the tone for the speakers who followed her. Community activists from organizations fighting for justice and equality came together to speak out on the need for greater understanding and dignity for all.

Several activist-artists, including Kim Seabrook, lent their voices, too. She said she sends "love and light" to all.

William M. Evans told the crowd about the trauma he experienced as a little boy of seeing his late mother put behind bars when what she really needed was a treatment for a crack and heroin addiction.

Throughout the four-hour event, speaker after speaker addressed the longstanding issues that have negatively impacted communities of color and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods by destroying families. Participants said they had much hope for change.

The nonprofit bipartisan group #cut50 scheduled National Day of Empathy events in major cities and state capitals around the country. #cut50's mission is to reduce the prison population in every state while at the same time making our communities safer.