Meet the People Behind LINC: Evelyn D. Adger, Board Member
Talking with all the people who have been involved with LINC over these last two decades, it is so clear that the organization has been on the frontlines of working for change for a long time.
Yes, maybe even longer than 20 years. When you think about the group of us who started working together at least 30 years ago, we were trying to fight the fight. We were looking at all the systems, and making sure that we had representation across the board, to make a difference, and to make a change.
It was hard. Then, people looked at us as “younger people.” They didn’t understand that we were really committed to the cause, and that we wanted to see a change. When LINC was created, that was the solidification of a lot of things that we had set out to do years earlier. I just commend Frankie for going forward at that time, and doing that.
I think it was about a year ago, Frankie pulled up some articles about things that we had done and the activism that we embodied, and it was amazing. We could have gone to jail!
Twenty or thirty years ago you couldn’t have known that the brave move to engage in the social justice space would launch so many careers – Frankie’s, Tracey’s, and more. Is that where you found your calling, too, from that collective?
I think it just solidified our purpose. I’ve been working for Attorney Waters for 25 years. Prior to that, I was working for another attorney, and prior to that, for another. I’ve done real estate work, personal injury, civil, and criminal cases.
I think that, for me, this is the most fulfilling, doing the work I’m doing now. I get to empower people who don’t have access and who don’t have knowledge when it comes to the criminal justice system.
Just helping the community have the necessary resources so that they can have a productive life. I think that’s important. Especially given the state that we are in now.
What would you say on behalf of LINC, about where we are now? Do you think that the organization, and all the people who have worked to get LINC where it is now, could have seen this coming?
To be honest, I really don’t know. I’ve been paying attention to Governor Cooper’s task force. I’m excited to see how that’s going to turn out. What’s amazing to me, is that this should have been done years ago. It’s important now. But imagine the impact it could have made by today, if it had been done all that time ago.
For every sector that we operate in – people going to jail, people getting out of jail – going through he process itself can be antagonizing. A lot of people have already given up, and so many could have had a better outcome.
I’m thankful that I am part of the process now, but I really think that it could have been done sooner.
When you first started working with LINC, where did you want to see the organization make the most impact?
I really think it was in educating people. I think that, from where I sit, people don’t know the criminal justice system, and the issues that it doesn’t take on.
I really believe that most people have some type of lack – whether it be love, or understanding, and it may lead them to do things that could be illegal activity.
So when I look at the aspects of people getting arrested, and locked up, it’s because they are going through something that isn’t addressed. It’s a continual cycle. Whereas, I think that LINC is that link to all of it: “I’m going to show you that you can be the person you are supposed to be. And I’m going to make sure that you have the resources to be a better citizen and a productive citizen.”
There aren’t a lot of organizations out there that are addressing recidivism in such a direct way.
We hear so often from M.E.R. residents that LINC provides a family, and that it helps fill those needs. That is intentionally how LINC operates. That’s what families do for each other, they resource and fill the gaps to help each other.
When I look back at some of the things we’ve done to fill those gaps for so many people, it’s amazing. If I see something that needs to be done, then I do it. I think that LINC operates with that philosophy. I don’t look for accolades or a pat on the back. I’m beginning to realize that a lot of the things that I take on are because twenty or thirty years ago, I surrounded myself with people who saw the need to make a change.
I think that’s the key thing. We knew each other. We understood each other. And we were willing to work with each other, no matter what our differences were, in order to see change.
That is, to me, so important. Even now, I call them my family. If I need something, I know I can call on them. I remember seeing the children coming through door when Frankie and others were doing the after school program for African American youth. I remember thinking, I’m not a certified teacher, what am I doing here? And the kids were coming through the doors of the auditorium, and the room was filling up. But we saw the need, and I knew that I had to volunteer to get something done.
I’ve been in my current job, and I so much appreciate my boss. He says that he sees the need for me to do what I do. He allows me that latitude to go and volunteer, or whatever I need to do to help where I can.
We can’t think of anyone who has more on their plate than you do. You just do. You have a piece of everything. Where do you get your energy?
I just go. I just do it. I think that if I didn’t, I may be lost.
I think it’s because I have done it for so long that it has just become part of my life. Even my children, although they don’t do the same things that I do, they see the need to make a change and they get out there, and do it too. I acknowledge what they take on, and what they have accomplished. I see myself in them.
What’s important to you right now? What happens tomorrow?
I just want to see a change. Even if right now, it’s only from this community.
When I was growing up, I lived with my mom and my grandma. I never understood what racism was. I knew that there was a difference between people, whether they were white or black, but that is all that I kind of knew.
In the third grade, I was separated from my class by my teacher. It was because I was Black, but at the time, I didn’t know what she was doing. My second grade teacher, who was white, intervened. She knew that my mom was disabled, and this woman took the time to say, “I know that your mom can’t be here, but I’m going to make sure that you are okay.” I didn’t know the woman, but I knew that she wanted to see me succeed. I never spoke up for myself and I didn’t know how to protect myself, because I was such a sheltered child.
What my third grade teacher was doing to me was racist. I didn’t realize until later on how much the intervention of my other teacher meant to me.
I went off to school. When I came back, I reconnected with Frankie and some other people to create a political action team. Amazingly, my second grade teacher reached out and contacted me; she had seen a newspaper article about what we were doing. She was so excited about it that she wanted to talk. That really reassured me that there were good people out there.
During the time in my career when I was working for the first attorney, a psychologist that he consulted with persistently asked me out to lunch. I didn’t want to go, but I finally gave in, and at lunch, he said to me, “God intended for you to be white.”
That really shook me up. I remember thinking, “Do I act up, or do I calmly say, ‘What do you mean by that?'”
He said to me, “The way you talk, the way you are sitting, the way eat, they way you use your utensils: God intended for you to be white.”
I was ready to go. I had never really considered that people would think like that, but when I thought about things I had gone through, all the way back to high school, that triggered my memories of so many incidents.
In my high school yearbook, there was a picture of 3 or 4 white guys standing under a white sheet, that had written on it, Kill n*^%r babies. My English teacher, that I had so admired, went to New York with a group, and took me to a five-star restaurant. Sitting at the table, she had said something similar to me, that later the psychologist had said all those years later.
So, I realized how much I had suppressed all the things that I encountered. I guess I didn’t believe that people were really like that.
It’s like you think to yourself, “That can’t be what I heard.” It’s so blatantly racist.
Right. So just being part of a system where change can occur, and that people can see people for who they are, and not the color of their skin, is what motivates me. That we stop the scenarios and the stigma of racism.
When I look at the criminal justice system, and how it is basically designed, I question everything. You have to stand up for those persons who don’t have a voice for themselves. I think that is the part that I play.
I’m hoping that there are others who will continue the movement for change, especially with the protests that are going on now. The young people who I am communicating with, I tell them: Get involved in your communities. Get involved in the boards, and the committees, and the political part. If you want to see a change that is lasting, make sure that it is solidified in the books.
Don’t just do it to be doing it. I recall this is another thing that happened four or five years ago, and we are right back at the same place.
Moving yourself to a position of influence where you can keep on working for change. That is so important.
Yes, it is. I’m on the board of elections. My daughter wants to talk about educating the community about voter suppression. Her thought is that if you teach the community about what suppression is – and how it looks – maybe everyone will understand that they need to get out and vote. That’s a good idea, and I don’t want anyone to be discouraged, but we’ve done that. Of course, we can do it again, and see if we move things this time.
You don’t seem like you get frustrated.
I do. But not like I used to. I used to get so frustrated that I would say, “I give up. I don’t want to do this any more.” I couldn’t put my words together. I would cry. I was tired of seeing it over and over and over again. But, I think that people started understanding me for the passion that I had.
Where do you think this new momentum goes? What is LINC’s place in it? There is certainly enough work for LINC to keep doing.
LINC is the first of its kind. I hope it can expand: services, facilities. Imagine a community that embraces what LINC does instead of trying to pull it away from it needs to do, so that people can get the help they need, and be provided what they are lacking, and do better in life.
I really do believe that LINC is the key to everything that is going on.
We’re just in New Hanover County, so what if there was a LINC in Pender County, Brunswick County, Columbus County. In the entire southeast region. We work in those communities now, but imagine residential campuses, and satellite offices.
I remember when LINC first started, trying to get people to understand, especially judges, and attorneys to understand the need, not to look at it as an opportunity to further criminalize folks, but to give them a real chance. That many people locally are now aware of the difference LINC makes, impresses me so much. To see it evolve from one thing to another thing, and to get so much local support. Wilmington is a hard place to break, and LINC has really done it.