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Finding Hope As A Lifer

Bridging The Gap is a biweekly column in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder which various contributors from both sides of prison walls explore common ground for effecting change.

Seeing life in a better light from the vantage point from which I now stand [as an inmate in the Rush City Correctional Facility] hasn’t always been easy, especially when darkness and struggle are found all around to the point that  life feels like its pains are consuming and its challenges are capable of drowning you.

How and when does hope kick in?

For me personally, the process took years for that focus to come to fruition. What I was really looking for to happen couldn’t be given to me out of the hands of somebody else — it could only come from myself.

I had no more time to be a part of the “blind leading the blind” (metaphorically speaking) when I was sentenced to life in prison in March of 2003. Now, unfortunately for me, my whole life, mentality and reality had changed. Nothing that might happen in prison seemed “far-fetched” when my life’s perspective left me looking for or expecting the worst out of every situation.

It took re-educating myself to again become alive with the very notion that despite my prison circumstance, that if I was ever going to experience that hope that seemed to have faded, it was going to be incumbent upon me to turn the soil of the soul and begin to cultivate the culture of the seeds planted in order to make a difference. Then and only then would hope come alive, because it was never about me but changing the culture in which I lived. There lay faith, hope and love!

In the midst of this re-educating and turning of the soul, it became crystal clear that the thought of me one day being all alone on my own, with all of my loved ones who were here for me no longer living because my “sentence” had surpassed their existence, was a vision of reality that vexed my spirit man and troubled my mind.

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Staff Blog: Community School to Prison Pipeline and Education Equity School Board Candidate Forum

forumFrom Julia Freeman:

On October 13, 2016 VRJ along with, BRIDGE incarcerated leaders, their families, MIGIZI Communication, HOPE Community Inc., Minnesota Education Equity Partnership, Hispanic Advocacy Community Empowerment through Research, League of Women Voters, and Solutions Not Suspension Coalition. Hosted a youth lead Prison to School Pipeline and Education Equity Community School to Prison Pipeline and Education Equity School Board Candidates Forum.

One of the goals of the Forum was to create a more personal environment for communities of color and American Indian community to engage with candidates.  The School Board Candidates were seated at tables with students, parents, organizers and education stakeholders. They had seven minutes to answer questions and had one minute to rotate to another table. This was a youth-led forum, the youth moderator Amir gave instructions for the evening and told the tables when to rotate. He also asked the final two questions of the night to Candidates who spoke from the front of the room. The youth at the tables the asked different questions “How will you support culturally relevant curriculum? Mario” The youth all had on name badges that said I’m eligible to vote in 20__ that to them felt powerful.

Another goal was to have the BRIDGE incarcerated leaders hear from those who have personally impacted by the School to Prison Pipeline. The incarcerated leaders recorded questions for the candidates to answer like “How will you work to remove those policies and practices that contribute to the school to prison pipeline?” We asked for all who attended to take notes to share with their constituents, parents, friends and neighbors.

When the Forum was over people said things like “this was telling because some of the candidates couldn’t answer some of the questions.” People called the event powerful, real and engaging. and were happy that it was community centered.

“I’ve never been this close to a candidate before and to able to speak directly to them was amazing.” Jhe’Nell Martin BRIDGE a family leader.

This was the ultimate outcome to have given the people the opportunity to elevate their power and voice so that they feel more civically engage. Remember to VOTE November 8th !r 8th !