As the Voting Access for All Coalition began to take shape in the spring of 2020, Danny stepped forward as a natural leader simply with his presence. He helped build the spirit of our community space: welcoming everyone, validating everyone, listening fully, engaging others’ ideas, contributing his own, and always ready to say yes and to take action.
In addition to setting a positive ‘can-do, let’s-do’ tone to our work, Danny also helped instill the value of self-care within our VAAC family. He took personal interest in people’s well-being, not just their “usefulness” as someone to get the work done.
Danny always had a positive way to connect with each person and helped build a warm community feeling, including always encouraging us to enjoy ourselves and each other.
He ended every meeting wishing us all “Peace and Love,” and we truly felt it.
As chair of the VAAC, Danny made it his mission to ensure that justice-impacted people knew they were eligible to vote, had the information to make informed decisions, and had access to the polls. He cared deeply that the voices of those most affected by our criminal legal system were heard at the ballot box. In addition, Danny advocated for legislation to end life sentences for juveniles, and provide second chances and good time credits for all people serving time. He spoke passionately to Michigan’s Independent Redistricting Committee, as well as to legislators in Lansing about ending prison gerrymandering.
A full biography of Daniel Jones has been preserved on our website.
Visionary yet grounded, Earl was the consummate “relational organizer” who knew all too well what it means to be silenced AND what it means to have a voice. He felt his purpose was to use his voice to help others— in jail and out in the community— to find freedom and justice and to use their own voices, via voting.
From the founding of VAAC to his final days, Earl was both a leader and a total team player. He brought in key coalition partners like Michigan Liberation, and invited VAAC folks into many spaces and conversations.
Earl lived with conviction as well as respect for the efforts of others. He may have been the smartest person in the room but he sat back and let everyone else express their thoughts and ideas first. When it was time for him to speak, it was always the clarity of thought we needed to move forward.
Earl was always encouraging. He not only uplifted people and made them feel special, he did the same for our organization. He always had a warm smile and a warm greeting.
He told a story many times about when some young people talked about not voting because they didn’t like the candidate options. He challenged them immediately and passionately. He asked, ‘Do you have any idea that people died for your RIGHT to vote? You had better step forward and realize you cannot be passive.’
Going forward, VAAC will strive every day to continue his legacy of organizing for voting and prison reform. Among his achievements were advocating to eliminate cash bail, fundraising to provide bail money (sometimes out of his own pocket), and assisting so many others in their post-release journeys. Earl knew that voting is integral to making change in all areas.
Read about Earl’s work in his own words here.