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Grandmother of Juneteenth and former inmate partner for A Second Chance Tour

“I worked a lot with Juneteenth over 40 years. Getting a national holiday is just ecstatic,” said Ms. Opal Lee, Grandmother of Juneteenth.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — ABC 24 shows you a new message of hope from an unlikely pair.

One is a 94-year-old activist and former school teacher. The other is recently released from prison.

They are on a shared mission to help others.

From the outside looking in, hope has no bounds.

“It all started with my incarceration. I spent nearly two decades in prison for a nonviolent offense. Instead of becoming bitter, I became better,” said Dr. Belay Reddick, A Second Chance Tour Manager.

Changed by the chains surrounding him, we first met Reddick last summer while serving a 20-year sentence at Forrest City Corrections in Arkansas. He was seeking compassionate release because of pre-existing health conditions and the high exposure to COVID in prisons.

After our coverage of his story and prison conditions, Reddick was released last July serving 16 years of his sentence.

For him, he has a new found freedom with endless opportunities.

“Unbelievable. FedEx brought me on. They coined the phrase 'From ex Fed to FedEx.' I have an opportunity to share my reentry story with many people across the country. I also had the opportunity to work with a great family, Ms. Opal Lee’s family,” said Reddick.

Ms. Opal Lee is the grandmother of Juneteenth.

“I worked a lot with Juneteenth over 40 years. Getting a national holiday is just ecstatic,” said Lee.

She is ecstatic, but that is not the end. Lee started a food bank and farm in Texas helping former inmates.

“I feel like there are things that are minor. I feel like there are things that can be forgiven. It’s important. We’ve got too many people. Our prison population is overwhelming. We must do something about it,” said Lee.

Meeting at an event in her honor, Ms. Lee brought Reddick on as a tour manager.

“We came up with a great way to combine two worlds in generational combination, if you will, with Juneteenth representing freedom and of course reentry representing freedom,” said Reddick.

It is A Second Chance Tour advocating for inmates and freedom.

“Can you not see? If we are able to get some young people who’ve been incarcerated jobs and they become successful, they in turn tell other people,” said Lee. “They are ready to begin working and making up for the time they lost.”

They are ready to work like Reddick who is no longer confined and now a confirmation.

“Second chances are possible and you’re looking at a second chance,” said Reddick. “Don’t just do time but invest your time… A lot of men in prison, they waste their time because they feel there’s no hope. I never gave up hope.”

Reddick describes hope as a state of freedom from within.

“Freedom comes from your mindset… You have people that walk the streets every day although they’re not free. They’re physically free, but freedom to me is being able to live your life on purpose and not by accident,” said Reddick.

“Freedom to me is almost like a religion,” said Lee.

It is a freedom that is never shaken, always desired, and available through second chances.

A Second Chance Tour kicked off in Memphis last Saturday.

They will spread their message in other cities and help some who are currently incarcerated get second chances through their Pardon Me America Campaign.

RELATED: Inmate granted Compassionate Release during COVID pandemic after 16 years in prison

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