My name is Latoya Slater. I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, and at 19 years old, I went to prison. I spent the next seven years incarcerated. By the time I was released, I was 28 years old with two children, and I had never experienced anything like going to prison, so I wasn’t really familiar with how to be a mom or how to even be a citizen.
After being free for about five or six years, I went to school, and I studied speech and theater. That’s where I learned to turn my past into something more resourceful for myself, and I wrote a play about the experiences I had in prison, and I won a lot of awards for the play. That turned my life around.
Restoring my vote has been not at the top of the list for me. I had not been able to vote for so long, so I just didn’t care anymore. I stopped watching the news; I stopped being concerned about political races. When I came home from prison, and I kept registering to vote, kept trying to get my rights restored, and I was getting turned down left and right, because they’d say, “Well, the class felony you have, you won’t be ever able to vote.” So I kind of just gave up on it and didn’t look back.
I found this new program and it’s been a very redemptive experience. I feel real good about it. I feel like now I’m more interested about going into the booth. This will be my first time ever going to a booth to vote my choice, and I’m 43 years old.
Voting is very vital. It helps us as a collective, and I’m not just speaking racially, I mean globally, it helps us. It’s a forum. It gives us a format to promote justice, to promote equality. So voting is very important to me now.
Speaking for ex-felons, don’t give up on it. Don’t turn your back on politics because your rights have been taken. We do have programs in place now that’s helping us restore our rights so we can make a difference. We can make a change. Every voice counts.
Latoya Slater is currently working with organizers from CLC’s Restore Your Vote project to try and regain her voting rights.