In 2002, Keeda Haynes was arrested as a senior at Tennessee State University and imprisoned after graduating from college.
Her then-boyfriend had asked her to sign packages for a cellphone and pager company, and Haynes agreed, unaware that the packages were actually filled with marijuana. She spent four years in prison and studied for the LSAT while incarcerated. After her release, she went to law school.
Now a criminal justice reform advocate, former public defender, and former congressional candidate who ran for Congress in 2020 to represent Tennessee’s Fifth District, Haynes is launching her new book that details those experiences, “Bending the Arc: My Journey from Prison to Politics,” at the Williamson County Library on Sunday.
The event will last from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Haynes will read an excerpt from the book and discuss criminal justice reform, racial justice, and his personal journey through the prison system. Afterwards, the spectators will be able to ask questions.
“The book actually came out on November 16…but because I’m from Franklin, I thought it was important to do something like this for people in my hometown,” Haynes said.
As a black woman and a victim of what she believes to be a racist and sexist justice system in America, Haynes is grateful for recent symbolic advancements in the Franklin community, such as the United States Troops of Color statue ( USCT) recently installed downtown. However, she believes that the day-to-day inequalities experienced by many people, especially people of color, within the Franklin community have yet to be addressed.
“We can celebrate people realizing that American soldiers of color played a big role in the Civil War…but that can’t be the end of it all when there is so much more work to do in Le Williamson County as a whole,” she said. “So, [the statue] is great, but as I say in the book, and as I continue to say in all the work I do, the work continues.
Haynes hopes her book will inspire such solution-based change and activism on a community and personal scale.
“First of all, I want people to understand that nothing folds without us folding it first, right?” she says. “That’s where the title comes from. … We all need to do this work and bend this bow so that we can see the change we want to see. And so it’s a community thing, it’s a collective thing, but personally, I’d like people to go away not only inspired as they walk through the pages of my life, but also empowered and empowered to know, whatever what happened to them in life, that we control the stories of our own lives and our own history.
In addition to discussing his experiences on both sides of the criminal justice system and his political journey, Haynes’ book also provides commentary on criminal suffrage and the history of criminal disenfranchisement while explaining the importance of second chances.
“The point of this book was to bring all the injustices to light and talk about racism and the white supremacy that’s rooted in it and, you know, a lot of the time people don’t talk about it or there can be people reading the book who may not know it because it’s not part of their life…and now that they’re reading it, they may decide they want to join this fight too.
The book is currently available for sale at www.keedahaynes.com.