His mom saved his life by sending him mail in prison. Now he's paying it forward.
True
Dave's Killer Bread

Marcus Bullock spent his most formative years in a prison.

He was 15 when he was convicted and served eight years — a shockingly common experience. Of the millions of people incarcerated in the United States, about 70,000 of them are juveniles.

Marcus, though, was determined to become more than just a statistic.


Bullock in 2015. Photo by J. Pratt Jr. via Marcus Bullock, used with permission.

Luckily, he had a family support system that kept in constant touch. He learned firsthand the value of knowing that people are there for you, even when you're in prison.

His mother, in particular, made it a point to send him a steady stream of letters and pictures while he was incarcerated. "She would just send me tons and tons of mail," Marcus explains. "So it created this sense of accountability."  

Now Bullock is 35 and the founder and CEO of Flikshop; an app that helps prisoners keep in touch with their families.

Photo by J. Pratt Jr. via Marcus Bullock, used with permission.

After having a hard time finding a job after his release — a ubiquitous experience among former inmates — he started his own painting and construction business that quickly became successful.

His friends and cellmates back in prison wanted to know more about what he was up to and how he found success, but the only way to reach them was through traditional letters.

"My life was just moving too fast to sit down and write a letter when there’s such a thing as Facebook," Marcus says.

The problem is, there was no such thing as a convenient social media platform for prisoners. So, he left his construction business to build one.

Flikshop lets you take a picture on your phone, add text, and turn it into a 99-cent postcard for your friend or loved one in prison.

It's an innovation that has the potential to help millions of families stay in contact with their incarcerated loved ones. And while a postcard may seem like a small gesture, Marcus knows more than most how meaningful it can be.

"For all the things that kind of beat me down when I was [in prison], that mail-call lifted me back up," he says.

Marcus and his mother during his time in prison. Photo via Marcus Bullock, used with permission.

The app quickly found success and is helping families all over the U.S. find a sense of normalcy through communication.

"They want to keep in contact and send those in-the-moment Instagram selfies or say 'this is what we're eating for dinner' to their husbands, brothers, cousins, uncles, or children in these facilities," Marcus says.

For Marcus, Flikshop is more than just a communication tool; it's a way of fostering relationships with a population that is too often ignored and forgotten.

"You probably haven’t seen your first cousin in weeks," Marcus says. "But because you see them on Facebook, you feel close to them. The reality is — that cousin in prison? — You forgot he existed until someone brought him up in a conversation at Christmastime."

It's that difference, Marcus notes, that can lead to prisoners feeling like they're not even a part of their own family anymore once they come home.

Until now, communicating with an inmate involved making a special visitation trip or taking an expensive collect call. If you can't afford to do so on a regular basis, the disconnect grows fast.

Upon release, that distance from life outside, along with dim career prospects, contributes to the United State's high recidivism rate. Simply sending some photos, Marcus explains, is a huge step toward reversing the vicious cycle. "It will keep your engagement going which will help strengthen that relationship, which will inherently help lower incarceration. Thats what we want our technology to do."

Marcus has never lost sight of how important it was for him to stay in touch with his family.

Photo via Marcus Bullock, used with permission.

It's what helped him stay focused, uplifted, and motivated to make a better life for himself once he was released. More importantly though, it's what helped him remember that he was more than just a statistic. He's a human being with dreams, hopes, and a mother that loves him and believes in him.

"The entire time I was [in prison]," Marcus explains, "I was ready to come home and prove to my mom that the love she showed me during those pivotal times wasn’t in vain."

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
True

With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

Keep Reading Show less

Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less
via @Kingkeraun / Twitter

Keraun Harris, who goes by the name King Keraun, is a popular comedian on social media who's appeared as an actor on HBO's "Insecure" and ABC's "Black-ish."

On Monday, he posted a video on Twitter sharing the story of how a white woman had his back during a recent traffic stop.

"I just got pulled over, and for the first time, I watched a white woman record my whole traffic stop," she said.

Keep Reading Show less
True

*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through links on our site.

With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

Keep Reading Show less