Justin Henton - Image via bailproject.org

Justin Henton, a bail disruptor with The Bail Project.

The fight to end police brutality will never be over for Justin Henton, a bail disruptor in Cleveland.

At 21 years old, he was incarcerated in Virginia. He didn’t let this define him as he kept pushing and fighting for a better future for himself.

“I tried to seek redemption and give back to the community that I’ve taken so much from, as well as to my loved ones who believed in me and knew I was better than what I was and what I was putting out. I just attempt to give back to them and give them something and someone to be proud of,” Henton said.

After his incarceration, Henton moved back to Cleveland with a goal in mind.

“I wanted to come out of my incarceration and to live a productive life, have a family and have a legacy that could not only outshine my past, but a legacy that I could pass on to my children. I want to make sure that my advocacy stays pure and that I don’t have to defend my advocacy via me having to defend my past actions,” he said.

Henton is an educator by nature. He never turns down a chance to educate someone on any topic they want to talk about, even controversial political and social issues.

“The sometimes-polarizing wording that I might have on one of my T-shirts may be offensive or insensitive or seem insensitive to some but it's challenging them. I want you to ask me about this because when you want to have this conversation this is the only way we're going to segue into it,” he said.

His drive to give back to the community he took from is what constantly pushes him to keep trying and to not let anything hold him back from fulfilling his purpose.

Latonya Golsby, the co-founder and leader of Black Lives Matter Cleveland, had the chance to meet Henton at Pier Hue in the northeastern city. This spot was open to the community as many were expressing their grievances over the Tamir Rice case; a 12-year-old Black boy who was shot and killed while playing with a toy gun.

“He is very caring, compassionate, dedicated to the work, he is someone who has been impacted by the system and knows how to actually advocate for change … He understands that certain policies create harm and trauma within our community and I think that’s what makes his work so amazing because he’s able to draw that parallel between them and then be able to make those connections,” Golsby said.

Another one of Henton’s friends is Anthony Body. They met when Body was involved with the police commission, and Henton would come in and give speeches to contribute some advocacy work. Now, they both advocate for the Bail Project and continue to help people’s lives together.

“He would come and speak and always be able to grab my attention. His messages were articulate and could always get his audience to receive the message he’s trying to put out,” Body said.

Throughout their time working together it was a learning experience for Body. With their difference of age — Henton is older than Body — Body learned wisdom and guidance that he now carries with him daily.

Body described Henton as relentless and a real life “Uncle Buck,” and his dedication to his work is what always keeps Body by his side.

“He definitely taught me a lot, like how to be patient and not impulsive, because millennials want things when they want it. He taught me how to be more of a strategic thinker,” Body said.

For many people in Cleveland, Justin Henton has impacted their lives greatly. He has shown many communities that he’ll fight for them until the end.

“There is always a place for you and most of the time the people that are doing the best work; the most effective work tends to be the ones who aren’t very well funded. Find those people and help them. We need you,” Henton said.

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