The first time Karima Amin attended a Family Empowerment Day Conference, she drove solo to New York City.
The following year, she traveled there with a group.
Then, in 2007, the community activist decided to bring the event to Buffalo.
"Why not have it in Western New York and have all those folks downstate come to Western New York?" Amin said, adding that about 150 people came from all over the state - New York, Binghamton, Poughkeepsie, Albany, Syracuse.
Only 30 to 50 people were drawn to the 2008 conference here. But this year, Amin is optimistic about Family Empowerment Day 5, a free, two-day event that will be held Friday at the Golden Cup on Jefferson Avenue and Saturday at SS. Columba & Brigid Catholic Church on Hickory Street.
A history of Family Empowerment Day will be presented on the first day.
The second day will feature opportunities to learn about resources available to families with incarcerated loved ones. Formerly incarcerated people re-entering society also will be able to network with helpful individuals and organizations, said Amin, founder of Prisoners Are People Too, a local monthly speaker series created in 2005 to increase the public's awareness about prison issues.
The first two local conferences were organized by the Buffalo chapter of Prisoners Are People Too, but this year's forum has been expanded to include the Niagara County chapter of the organization, as well as the Albany-based Prison Action Network, which put together the first conference in 2005.
Free breakfast and lunch and eight workshops will be available dealing with family issues, parole, re-entry, mental health, employment, women's issues, voting and kinship care, a program of Catholic Charities that focuses on family members who are raising children of relatives.
Keynote speakers will be Rufus and Jenny Triplett, a Georgia couple who were named Ebony magazine's "Couple of the Year" in February. Married 23 years this month, they are the 44-year-old parents of three sons, ages 19, 21 and 23.
The family faced incarceration when Jenny Triplett went to prison in 2004 after a gambling addiction led her to "write some checks that did not belong to me to cover up for monies I shouldn't have been spending," she said in a phone interview.
After she was released four years later, the Tripletts created a multimedia company called Dawah International, which publishes Prisonworld magazine, broadcasts Prisonworld radio and distributes Prisonworld records. The couple has appeared on various television shows, including "Dr. Phil" for a segment on parenting.
Their presentation at the Buffalo conference is called "The Face of an Inmate." Jenny Triplett will talk about her story and how families can move forward like hers did. "What people don't seem to realize is that incarceration affects a lot of people. Inside, I saw doctors, lawyers, nurses, grandmothers," she said.
The Tripletts are a "remarkable young couple," Amin said.
Donations are being accepted. Checks or money orders may be mailed to Prisoners Are People Too, P.O. Box 273, Buffalo, NY 14212. For information on the conference, call Amin at 834-8438 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org.