By Jos Duncan Asé
While Radee Hammett was incarcerated, he witnessed a tragic act of violence that shifted his perspective on the value of his life. In 2016, with his newly bolstered vision intact, he was released after serving 3 years in prison. Set on using his inherent talents as a speaker and leader to make a positive impact, he quickly realized he needed help with day-to-day necessities in order to change his life’s course. He went to a halfway house and put his pride aside to accept support from his mother, sister, family members and friends.
Within a year, Radee found his footing and founded The Reawakening Agency to help people who are transitioning back into society after incarceration. He started by putting donation boxes in hair salons, libraries, and recreation centers. Then he purchased and prepared care packages and distributed them to shelters and drug treatment centers. Since the organization’s inception, Radee and his team have served more than 3,000 homeless and formerly incarcerated people with care packages filled with hygiene products, underwear, masks, condoms, feminine products, and more.
He is now a community leader, who uses his experience with incarceration to bridge the gap between prison life and the outside. He also works as a community liaison for the Mann Up program through SCI Pheonix Correction Facility, founded by Tyree Wallace and Anthony Sutton who are both serving life in prison. Through the Mann Up program, Radee has gained access to therapeutic resources and healing practices that help people he serves address trauma, damaged relationships, and mental health needs. His goal is to ‘meet people where they are’ and be a helping hand for people looking to sit down and talk with someone about mapping out a life plan while confronting compounding issues they may have experienced while incarcerated and before prison in their home lives. Radee considers himself a “credible messenger,” who reentering citizens can relate to because he has been through the system and has navigated life in both worlds.
The Reawakening Agency offers programs that assist with employment, education, housing, and tools to achieve personal independence. He says, “People have cried simply because they had a point of contact who cared. Behind the walls of the penitentiary, they go through a lot, so they are surprised to come out and have people who don’t know them treat them like family.”
As studies increasingly make connections between the pandemic and Philadelphia’s increase in gun violence, Radee points out the lack of access to places of respite and resources/tools that could help address the community’s needs. “There’s the law, but where’s the order? Order has to come in the form of resources. There are no wellness or recreational spaces for people to process pain right now. Libraries are shut down. Schools are shut down. Resources that were once in the community are no longer there. There are no crisis centers. Where can a person who is seeking an alternative to violence go? Where can a person go who is experiencing rage?” He also pinpoints drug addiction and mental health triggers as common factors in setting people back.
When asked what family members can do to support their loved ones reentering society, he notes that it’s important for the community to help them feel a part of something, “love them, listen to them, and be spiritual.”
To volunteer donate or learn more about The Reawakening Agency visit Aftertheawakening.org.