Episode 12 – Part One: What Does Emancipation Look Like in 2021?




On June 17, 2021 Juneteenth became an official federal holiday, just 38 years after Martin Luther King Jr. Day was deemed an official federal holiday as well. On June 19, 1865, a Union General rode into Galveston, Texas to announce that the Civil War had ended, and slaves had been freed.

For this episode hosts Jonathan Rapping and Ilham Askia dive into the discussion of emancipation, and what emancipation truly means in the 21st century. This week’s featured guest is Alejo Rodriguez, the Chief of Curriculum and Storytelling at Zealous. Listen in as they speak about what emancipation means to them, how we can change our system with human-centered policies, and how to truly celebrate Juneteenth.





Alejo Rodriguez is Catalyst for Change Fellow at Center for Institutional and Social Change, and the Chief of Curriculum and Storytelling at Zealous, Alejo leads development and implementation of pedagogy, training, and curriculum design across Zealous’ national and local events and trainings, law school class development, campaign collaboration and creation, and technical support initiatives across the country, while imagining and implementing new and immersive storytelling and communications strategies to shift the narrative of what “justice” really should look like and move people and leaders to change legal systems for the better.

Mr. Rodriguez is a poet, teacher, and advocate. His poetry and writing work appears in The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry and Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing. Alejo is the winner of several PEN awards, and a Teaching Artist for Tribeca Film Institute’s screening series at Otisville Correctional Facility. He is also the co-screenwriter of a short film entitled UNBECOMING. Alejo has prior criminal justice experience having served time in prison in New York. His struggles with parole and legal discoveries were published in the February 2019 CUNY Law Review issue. Alejo holds a Masters of Professional Studies degree from New York Theological Seminary and a Bachelors of Liberal Arts degree from Syracuse University.




  • Why storytelling is an important skill for public defenders to obtain?
  • Have Black and brown people truly been emancipated?
  • How can we recognize and restore humanity back into our criminal legal system?
  • Now that Juneteenth is an official holiday, how can we celebrate and honor its meaning?

Gideon’s Promise: The Podcast can be found on Apple PodcastsSpotifySoundCloud,  YouTube and on the Gideon’s Promise website.




Gideon’s Promise: A Public Defender Movement to Transform Criminal Justice (2020) by Jonathan Rapping.

Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing (2011) Edited by Bell Gale Chevigny. Foreword by Sister Helen Prejean.

The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry (1999) by Alan Kaufman. Edited by S.A. Griffin.