In his role as Local Organizer, Darris leads Ella Baker Center’s effort to build a coalition of families negatively impacted by the criminal justice system in the Bay Area.
Darris brings to his current work past success as a certified addictions, domestic violence, and violence prevention counselor and victim advocate with local organizations, including City Team International and Allen Temple Baptist Church. In addition, his experience as both a formerly incarcerated person and a police academy graduate give him a deep understanding of how the current justice system operates and where change is needed.
In January of 2008, while at Solano State Prison in Vacaville, Darris co-organized a prison-wide work stoppage in response to the loss of recreation privileges for inmates. Although it is prohibited for an inmate to organize or participate in a work stoppage, Darris and his co-organizers shut down the prison for more than five days and got the word out to other prisons, resulting in solidarity actions. Ultimately, the work stoppage prompted the warden at Solano and several in his top command to negotiate with inmates, and lessened the severity of the recreation privilege reduction.
Born in Oakland, Darris grew up in Berkeley in the mid 60’s and early 70’s, where he witnessed first hand the riots of 1967 and 1971, members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense dressed in their signature black berets and black leather jackets, and police brutality against Black and white demonstrators alike. Those childhood scenes stuck in his mind and eventually shaped his life toward service and activism, first as a police officer and later as a counselor and advocate.
Working with Black and Latino youth caught up in the criminal justice system is a particular passion for Darris, and he believes there is a role for every community member to play in creating a just, healthy, and prosperous future for all.