While in Federal Prison, Topeka K. Sam witnessed first hand the epidemic and disparity of incarceration on women but most specifically women of color. She felt the urgency to bring the faces and voices of women in prison to the public in order to bring awareness to women’s incarceration and post-incarceration issues in order to help change the criminal legal system. In February 2016 she created the first of now 11 symposiums, Real Women Real Voices, “Where the People Meet the Policy” which focused on incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women, the children of incarcerated parents and the carceral state. This symposium sparked a wave of panels and discussions surrounding women in the criminal legal system around the country.
Ms. Sam is the founder and executive director of The Ladies of Hope Ministries – The LOHM – whose mission is to help disenfranchised and marginalized women and girls transition back into society through spiritual empowerment, education, entrepreneurship, and advocacy. She is also the founder of HOPE HOUSE NYC – a safe housing space for women and girls recently released from prison. Topeka serves on the board of directors for Grassroots Leadership. She is a Beyond the Bars 2015 Fellow and a 2016 Justice-In-Education Scholar at Columbia University, a 2017 Soros Justice Advocacy Fellow working on Probation and Parole Accountability and a member of The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.
“I think the people who actually live these experiences look at it like the bond that we have that we can use to empower one another instead of fighting each other or competing against each other. I think if we look at it as a way that we can elevate each other with this power that we have, especially within these spaces, there would be nothing we can’t accomplish together.” - Topeka