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There was a time when the first words that might have come to mind when discussing Hasan Davis could have been delinquent, troublemaker … or worse. In Hasan’s youth, running the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, he barely stayed one step ahead of the law. After an early arrest as a pre-teen and expulsion from alternative school Hasan earned his GED and decided to leave the life he knew well, for one he could hardly imagine.

 

Hasan moved to Kentucky to attend Berea College. Although Hasan was expelled from Berea College twice, he returned a third time, determined to prove that failure would not be his legacy. With the right attitude and support Hasan earned his BA degree from Berea College and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law. 

 

This book of poetry and creative advocacy is an expression of his journey, those he brought with him, those he met along the way, and even those people and places he left behind.

 

Hasan is the author of “Written Off,” a memoir of how his journey through disability, poverty and delinquency is transforming the juvenile justice system; and “The Journey of York, Unsung hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition,” which chronicles the experience of the Corps of Discovery’s only African American member, an enslaved man named York. Read more about Hasan here.

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Hasan Davis, J.D. began writing poetry at an early age with the encouragement of his mother, who he refers to as the international word wizard, Alice Lovelace, and his father, local Reggae Legend, Charles “Jikki” Riley. 

 

Following them across the city of Atlanta, I witnessed the birth of spoken word from two pioneers of the art. 

Initially, I think it was intended to occupy my time and energy, keep me out of trouble. 

 

But there was no place that I would rather have been than in the front row mouthing along to their lyrical celebration of life, pain, and struggle like I was lip-syncing Stevie Wonder. This was how I learned to make sense of the chaos in the world I was navigating every day. Growing up experiencing ADHD and Dyslexia, I first created works with a natural cadence meant to be heard more than for reading. 

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Hasan Davis, J.D. 

Hasan's mentor and forensics coach, Harry Robie, encouraged him and helped him believe that he had a gift for telling full, well-rounded stories in just a few minutes. 

 

Throughout college and law school this gift won me open mics, talent shows, poetry, and speech competitions to help pay the bills. 

 

In time Hasan began to feel as if the issues and experiences that had sparked the anger and the creativity that fueled his pen had passed. He put away his words and began new work through living history interpretation and advocacy work focused on the pressing issues facing disconnected and disenfranchised communities. Recently, Hasan pulled his old poetry notebooks out and to his disappointment realized the experience of his early writing was as relevant to the issues of justice, access, and opportunity in 2021 as they were in 1990.  

 

So, here we are.

 

Hasan Davis is a Hope Dealer. 

 

Growing up in the south in the 1970s and ‘80s wasn't easy. between the overt racism and schools that did not seem interested or prepared to support me I the way I needed to find success navigating my learning challenges. That kind of frustration easily turns to anger and just feeds itself. When I was eleven, I was arrested and adjudicated delinquent by the state of Georgia. I was on probation for the rest of my childhood. After my 7th-grade school year, my mother enrolled me in an alternative school. A last-ditch effort to give me the kind of learning environment I could thrive in. Though I found some success and developed confidence in my ability to overcome obstacles, I was expelled my senior year.

After years of navigating the streets, I knew what others saw when they looked at me, a menace, a monster, but I didn't care. I had learned to wear my armor of rage and anger as a warning to the world, don't mess with me or mine. I never forgot the words my mother spoke to me on that long ride home from the police station all those years ago. When looked at me with tears rolling down her face and said, "If you could see what I see, every time I look at you, then you would know how great you already were." I was still looking for that guy and wanted more than ever to be the man my momma imagined and spoke into the world that night. 

Hasan's persistence paid off as he earned his GED. Then decided that college would be his next big step.

This was a crossroads for me. I was still struggling, but I really wanted to make it. And for the first time I think I finally understood that the only person who could stop me from succeeding was me.

Today, Hasan has a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctorate. He has served as Director of youth violence Prevention for the city of Lexington Kentucky and Commissioner of Juvenile Justice for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Hasan is transforming systems to ensure that all students are safe, supported, and on a clear path to success. As Commissioner of Juvenile Justice for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Hasan led a comprehensive juvenile justice reform effort that resulted in the passage of legislation that dramatically transformed the work of child-serving systems across the Commonwealth. As a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, Hasan provided guidance to Congress and the executive branch around the importance of racial equity in the operationalization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Hasan is an Education Trust Family Fellow, a Rockefeller Foundation next generation leadership Fellow, an Annie E. Casey children and family Fellow, and a Council of State Governments Henry Toll Fellow.

Hasan is committed to empowering young people and adults by assisting them in finding their voice, personal power, sense of self-respect, and dignity. He uses his passion for theater and the arts to ensure educators and leaders understand issues of equity and their role in ensuring all young people are engaged, encouraged, and empowered. He is internationally recognized as a speaker, educator, and advocate for youth.

Each of us has a right to become the hero of our own story. Some of us just need more help finding the right cape ... and comfy boots!