$40,000 (!) and My "We Are All Criminals" Story
Hello again, lovely humans! I wanted to share that we are now $10,000 away from our goal!!! My hopes have never been higher and I'm just so incredibly thankful for the surge of donations this past week. Honestly.
I'm about to kick the campaign-ing into its highest gear yet on this home stretch and just, again, want to say THANK YOU ALL for your contributions! You are fueling the progress and I am so grateful!
We Are All Criminals | Emily H. Turner
We Are All Criminals (WAAC) is possibly the most powerful movement I have seen in the criminal justice context to date and I absolutely love its ability to challenge one of the country’s most damaging narratives (the narrative: anyone who has committed a crime is a “criminal”) through the simplicity of storytelling. What a human and non-combative approach to reexamining the norms that have surfaced.
It seems that the sharing of stories, real stories, so often yields common ground in the most unexpected places; amongst the most unexpected populations. With that, I am so happy (though not proud) to share a few of my stories; to discuss some of the crimes I have gotten away with. As Emily Baxter, WAAC’s Founder, so eloquently states: there are so many of us that have violated laws yet have also had the luxury of avoiding an official reminder (i.e., an arrest or a conviction) of the mistakes we have made.
So… here are a few of my (criminal) mistakes. These are not instances that I ever planned on sharing with anyone. They aren’t exactly resume-worthy and I am just so lucky that I don’t have a rap sheet following me around. But the point is: I could.
Public Intoxication | Public Indecency (Age: 25)
I was in graduate school in Atlanta and had met a dear friend and former hockey teammate down in Columbus, Georgia. She had been overseas with the Navy and I was SO excited to see her again! So… we got to drinking. And laughing. And drinking. And laughing.
She had beer and I had whiskey (woops) and there wasn’t a lot of concern about amounts given the fact that our hotel was within walking distance. So we kept things flowing for quite a few hours, caring mostly about the fact that we were finally reunited and had so damn much to catch up on.
When we began walking back to the hotel, I realized that I really, I mean reeeeeally, had to go to the bathroom. My friend insisted I could hold it until we got to our room but I, apparently, didn’t agree. And I was wearing a dress, so I was totally convinced that I could just “pee real quick” along the (very public) median we were walking along.
As I began to transition from squatting to standing, I noticed the police officer who was casting his flashlight on the puddle I had just left. My heart started pounding and there wasn’t a lot that I could do. Hard to talk your way out of a visible puddle.
When he told me he should arrest me, I begged him not to. I told him I was applying for law school and had worked so hard and just could not afford to get in trouble. I started crying and insisted I “truly was a good person.” He was not impressed but, in the end, told me to get back to my hotel room and sober up.
Of course, I laughed about it the next day. Because at that point it was easy to chuckle and chalk it up to being young, dumb and drunk and pretend as if I hadn’t been absolutely terrified in the face of a pending arrest.
One year later, I saw a young (black) man in the French Quarter who was visibly drunk and peeing alongside Bar Tonique across the street from Louis Armstrong Park. A police officer saw and approached him. He was thrown against the wall, handcuffed, and arrested. There were no discussions. No questions. No negotiations.
In that moment, all I could think was: that could have been (and really should have been) me. And suddenly my drunken Columbus episode lost all of its humor.
Driving Under the Influence (Age: 33)
Three weeks ago (yes, three) I was driving to my fiancée’s cabin after a day of filming part of the All Square Kickstarter video at Knotty Nook (a cabin on Silver Lake). I had a beer as well as two strong gin & tonics in celebration of the week’s work.
I thought I was totally fine to drive (in hindsight, I probably wasn’t) and the cabin we were headed to was only a few miles away. So I got behind the wheel and three miles later I saw blue and red police lights flashing in my rearview mirror. I pulled over and, again, my heart was absolutely throbbing. I can’t get a DUI right now, I thought. I am days away from leaving my job and launching All Square. This will totally tarnish what I am trying to do….. I was terrified but tried to play it cool.
The officer said I was hugging the center line and asked if I had been drinking. I told him that I had but lied and said I had only had a beer four or five hours prior. I’m not sure if he believed me but he asked me for my license and registration. Of course, I didn’t have my license on me. And the car I was driving wasn’t mine. Things were not looking good….
I gave him my fiancée’s registration and told him my name and mentioned that I lived in Minnesota but still had a Louisiana license because I went to school in New Orleans.
When he returned to the car, he looked at me sternly and told me to stop hugging the center line and “get to wherever I was going.”
I took a deep breath and drove away –- another criminal record averted.
*With this particular story, I need to flag the recklessness, carelessness, and selfishness of drunken driving. My dear friend Allie Niemann’s son was killed by a drunk driver in 2003 and I am terribly embarrassed that I have engaged in the very activity that has caused her and her family so much pain. Allie, I take complete responsibility for the horror that is driving under the influence. I am so very sorry; it won’t happen again.
Possession of Marijuana (Age 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31……..)
I don’t have a particular story to share here --- This is more of a general recognition of the fact that I have been in possession of marijuana on multiple accounts. I don’t smoke often but I certainly have.
Given how regularly I see and experience weed (in every population, throughout every “class” of society), I still find it hard to believe that possession of it can yield lifelong criminal consequences. But it happens every single day.
My name is Emily Hunt Turner and I am the Founder of All Square: Grilled Cheese with a Purpose. I don’t have a criminal record, but according to my actions, I, too, am a criminal.
Thank you, Emily Baxter, for prompting us all to reflect on our backstories; our experiences. You are equalizing and humanizing a very polarizing narrative one story at a time. I am so inspired.