“He is our President now. I still have a responsibility to live my life in a way that matters. We should give him a chance to lead.”
This is a quote from someone you may never expect, which was echoed by others who were sitting in the same room. I didn’t hear it at work, in a coffee shop, at a friend’s house, or in church.
These words were said by a 38 year old, black woman who has been incarcerated for the better part of 2016 and has been incarcerated off and on during her adult life for non-violent crimes.
Last night, I sat in a circle of women who have no reason to care about politics. They have spent the majority of their lives in the prison system, lost the right to vote years ago, who can’t read the paper, and can’t leave their own bed to pee without permission, and they know more about our country’s history and political system than most of the people I pass during the week on my way to work.
These women read and research and study. They have nothing but time on their hands. Some are guilty of their charges. Some are not. That part doesn’t really even matter in jail. Everyone in jail is considered guilty, whether they have been to trial yet or not.
I expected to walk into the jail last night and be met by room full of angry, incarcerated women. I could not have been more wrong. I was met by a group of compassionate, educated women who were honest about their feelings and open about the fact that even though their futures are being decided by strangers, they have a responsibility to live their lives differently if they want a different life.
So where is the breakdown? Who’s lying? Have we been deceived by the media, by politicians, or am I being manipulated by the women I work with each week?
Over the next few weeks, I am going to share the stories I have been collecting over the last two years. I wanted to write a book and while I still do, but as I read the paper and Facebook statuses and hear conversations around me, I don’t want to wait until some of these stories are heard. I have been given the gift of a front-row seat to some of the darkest brokenness in our country today, and I want to share what I experience.
“I just didn’t know” isn’t an excuse anymore. So many lives are being lost in our own neighborhoods, and we can actually have an impact on this without going broke or changing our daily routines! You and I have so much power in our communities! So, if you would like to keep reading, I want to inform and empower anyone who dares to hope for a different life. If you don’t want to read, that is ok. This isn’t going to be politically persuasive or judgmental – and if it gets that way, call me on it. This is about stories that matter, people who matter, and the voices that are not being heard.