The Felonious PhD.

White Collar Female PhD. Felon, Prison Camp, Re-Entry, Criminal Justice Reform. Women, Lesbian

An Unplanned Journey, Part 9……My last INCARCERATED Independence Day

An Unplanned Journey Part 9……………………………………….My last INCARCERATED Independence Day!

The irony of this day, Independence Day, and the status of my present imprisoned condition, is quite profound and leaves me speechless as I ask my favorite question, “Is this real life?” (lol). Today as I am sitting here and acknowledging that this is my last Imprisoned Independence Day at the Federal Prison Camp, I can not help but reflect on my very first day as I prepared to surrender into the Federal Criminal Justice System. I will forever be tethered to my feelings as I sat on the metal bench in front of the Camp, awaiting to be processed into the system. I recall sitting there listening to the chain pound against the flag post and sparingly looking up at the flag (the red, white and blue) as it waved so boldly and proudly and fluidly in the sky. I just looked so free and peaceful and it was another moment in my life when I quite honestly felt abandoned by my Country. I was deeply hurt and truly disheartened by how the Federal Criminal Justice System and it’s minions went to great extent to destroy and tarnish everything about who I was and what I stood for in regards to my life as a Social Worker, Foster Mother, Clinician, Community Advocate and a loving, caring soul.
As I sit here now writing this, I have come to the belief that I am this Country. I am United States of America and all that it stands for, not only when things in my life are going well, but I am also a reflection of its dysfunction when things in my life are challenging. Don’t get me wrong!!! I will never ever accept that the only option the Criminal Justice System saw fit for a hardworking, pull yourself up by your own bootstrap believer, American Dreaming, Black, Woman, Educated or mis-educated, Mother, Professional who was non-violent, 1st time non-intending and completely transparent, was to incarcerate and criminalize me to the point where it truly threatened my well-being on all levels. That I will never accept or forget. However, I will use this experience, that has forced me to clearly embrace the fact that to LOVE SELF and LOVE others despite any and all circumstances, as a catalyst to my success in my next chapter. I refuse to allow this crazy experience to be my last one, the end of my story or to render me a victim as well as a collateral damage to its ineffective policies. I will rise!
To sit imprisoned and acknowledge that today is a day about liberation and freedom can be heartbreaking for a moment. I am not sure if I ever took my life for granted prior to this experience with the Criminal justice System, but I can guarantee that after this emotional traumatic journey, I will forever be FREE! No one can touch me, nothing will shake my soul, that is my own consciousness of truth.
It remains to be seen or heard when I will be released from the Federal Prison Camp. The main thing for me at this point, is knowing that my stay will end soon. Two years ago I was sitting up in a desolate, quiet, dusty space, glancing with discontent at the American flag that has been my flag, despite all of the horrendous things it has represented in the past, and I felt orphaned. I mean even more so than I did as I fought my way to being an independent, productive Citizen despite all odds that presented themselves to me. Now I have to add another layer to my being. A layer I completely despise, but like many other aspects of my journey, I have to accept and incorporate into my life. It is just unfortunate that this label, I am now forced to carry, one of a felon, forever portrays me as someone who was rendered unsafe or unsavory, to be an active participant in Society. That is a tremendous heart wrenching thought and reality that I will have to accept and move past one day. I know eventually I will, mainly because I have never allowed negativity to guide my life and never will. But today when I am supposed to be a proud American, I can not help but question and feel saddened by my circumstances.
The 4th of July has many meanings to many people, for me it has always been a time when I got together with my loved ones and BBQed, laughed, sang, and just simply enjoyed each others company as we watched the fireworks at the end of the day. As I sit here alone, isolated and without my loved ones, bbq or fireworks, I have to admit that I still feel free and peaceful. I am lonely, yes, but damn I feel good and positive about my next chapter. I am completely free from any burdens that I once carried prior to my incarceration. I have intrinsically shed all of them and will not allow anything to jeopardize my internal freedom or my Soul ever again.
I will always feels some kind of way about MY FLAG, The Criminal Justice System and MY USA, but it is part of who I am and I am admitting today that I am okay with that. I will use this part of my life as a guide for my next stage and I am planning on my next chapter being my BEST ONE EVER!!!!!! I miss my son and my family and friends. I am sure everyone is enjoying their day and each other. I just want everyone to know that I am good!!!!! I am still my loving, caring self. I love you all!!!! I will see you all soon. Happy 4th of July!!

The journey continues………………………………………felonious phd 7/2015

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The Unplanned Journey Part 8………………………………… A Long hard Five years, an even harder 20 months! Life goes on.

As of today I have been physically imprisoned for 20 months! The entire legal ordeal within the Federal Criminal Justice System has taken a lot out of me emotionally. It has seriously been a long hard 5 years, and remarkably, I still have more years to go. The main thing that keeps me motivated towards developing goals and achieving them at a high level is my will and my desire to model for my sons, my friends, and my family, that we all encompass the ability to overcome any and every barrier we may encounter in our lives. I also want to live my life and serve as living proof to other Imprisoned Souls that they can still live a purposeful, loving, peaceful and productive life by simply operating Beyond Resilient. I am also cognizant of the fact that my story is not a special one or unique but it definitely is significant considering how our American Federal Justice System continues to imprison soulful non-violent beings at an alarming rate.

It is clear to me that the next chapter in my life is more about not allowing this part of my colorful journey to represent my entire life story. It truly is a few chapters to be honest. It may be the most depressing, challenging and life changing part, but still it does not complete my life story in its entirety. This stage of my journey has made me stronger and forced me to truly understand and clearly define the American Dream for myself, so that I can authentically share with the youth in my family that with education, Passion, Perseverance, Purpose, a Plan and the belief that all Possibilities are available, you can and will do and be anything you want to be no matter what happens to you. I will continue to tell all of the young people I encounter, love and tethered to that they are loved and capable of infinite possibilities. My hope for a wonderful life has not been stymied but my experience within the Federal Criminal Justice System, it has most definitely been paused, but it has reminded me that we as a Nation has a long, long, long way to go to become the greatest Country on earth.
Today, I am thankful that I am nearly done with the incarceration portion of my journey. I will never understand its purpose, or accept that it was the only option for non violent, non-intending, 1st time offender, loving caring soul. I am grateful that my teenaged son has moved through this process with the care, love and support of family and friends. I am truly thankful that I was born and raised to be who and where I am at any given moment. Life truly is GOOD.

The journey continues…………………………..felonious phd 6/2015

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My Own Quietly Explosive Here Part 6…………………………….Where does the PAIN go?!

Today I started my day as I do everyday, on the “track of tears”, where I can mindfully start my morning off in a peaceful and quiet space. My walk this morning was interrupted by many of my own thoughts and obsessive feelings about this Criminal Justice process. This week I had a very heartfelt and powerful conversation with one of my ex-bunkies, who is also a “White Collar, 1st time offender, non-violent, woman, mother, grandmother, Entrepreneur and a very soulful being”. The biggest difference in our journey is that she was sentenced to 120 months. Now, remember that translates to 10-years of “nothingness”.

     We have engaged in many conversations over the past 20 months in regards to our lives and our current state as an imprisoned soul, within the Federal Criminal justice System. We talk openly about how it is imperative that we keep ourselves strong, mentally and emotionally, while acknowledging that no matter how determined an individual soul may be, the life as an imprisoned soul, challenges all and I mean all that you stand far as a loving caring soulful being.

My ex-bunkie had requested to be transferred to another Prison Camp months ago so that she could continue to challenge her legal case and more importantly maintain a connection to her family. She was excited the day had finally arrived and as we sat in her favorite “window seat” in the camp cafeteria, we discussed the importance of remaining tethered to your CORE-self. My ex-bunkie made some very emotional and authentic statements about her fears of losing part of herself to this Federal Criminal justice Process. She passionately and emphatically stated, “I love who I was before all of this happened! I love me!”. Her specific question which is so familiar to me and deeply touched my soul was, “Where does the PAIN go?!” I have faced that question personally and professionally. I responded to her question by saying to her that it is imperative to merge with our pain, to not allow the energy of pain, to operate alone and untethered from our CORE self. I simply reminded her that, “We are NOT broken, we are simply INJURED and injuries do and can heal with nurturing, support and mindful attention. Our last conversation was productive and encouraging for both of us. She stated to me that it was the perfect exit conversation as she progress onward in her journey, and she thanked me. For myself, it did several things, it provided me an opportunity to share with the prideful, resilient, loving, hurt, black woman, mother, that she is BEYOND RESILIENT and that this traumatic experience has injured her but she is far from broken! It also solidified my stance that only through self love and love of others can or will we truly heal from traumatic experiences. It encourage me to continue to operate from a place of love no matter what.

I am grateful that I met my ex-bunkie and I truly wish her the best as she continues to fight for her physical and emotional freedom. I am thankful that my time of being incarcerated is nearly over. It hurts my soul knowing that I will be leaving many women in the Criminal Justice System and that more will be entering this absurd process. I will continue to share how important it is to remain tethered to your Loving Core Self and operate Beyond Resilient through it all.

The journey continues………………….feloniousphd 6/2015


Prison Industrial Complex Part 4…………………….. Conscious Awareness Identity (CAI)-Is this real Life?

Okay! I know that as long as I am alive there is going to be ongoing chaos and madness going on in the World.  But lately there have been a tremendous amount of talking points and incidents that are directly related to my present life within the “belly of the beast”  The Prison Industrial Complex.   Consistently, in the News, I have heard many familiar Federal Criminal Justice System terms, such as, Federal Investigation (a constitutional invasion of Americans privacy, dignity and humanity), Indictment (DOJ & IRS means for terrorizing and destroying its own citizens and fiber of our Country) Imprisonment (deconstruction of a human soul, rendering him/her powerless for the entirety of his/her life as an American Citizen), BOP (a financial broker of goods, services and labor for cheap, off the backs of imprisoned souls and tax payers dollars), Re-Entry (a complete joke! we were never meant to survive this atrocious systemic oppressive system) Supervised Release-Probation (a gateway back to prison and the only means the PIC has to ensure that PRISONS remain the only option for addressing issues of non-violent, non-intentional crimes, maladaptive behaviors, mental illness and poverty).  These terms have become part of normal conversation within our USA News cycle.  Yes, I added my own definition for each phase of this process and those are cliff note versions of my consciousness of truth in regards to the Federal Criminal Justice System process.  I plan to expand on those concepts once I am physically free, lol.

Daily on the News, yes! I know I should cease watching the highly political and fear based stream of information, I have become aware that I may be overly aware and connected to any and every incident that occurs Nationally within the Federal Criminal Justice System Process.  At this point, and considering my circumstances, it is difficult to not be awake.  Honestly, as I sit here I am witnessing an Indictment on a Nation at an seemingly increasing rate.  On a weekly basis there are reports of new indictments on Politicians,  Professionals, Organizations (no banks officials of course! lol) and even Sports.  Everyone has fallen under the Department of Justice’s archaic, mobster-like criminal codes such as FRAUD, CORRUPTION, RICO and CONSPIRACY (these are terms I plan to expand on in the future when I am physically free, lol). Once again I sit in this dehumanizing space asking, “Is this real life?” and “Is anyone paying attention?” whew!!

I know that because I am an INMATE or CONVICT, as they remind me daily, I may be a bit sensitive to the subject matter. I can remember when I purchased my red car, the moment I drove it off the lot, I immediately became aware consciously that I identified with every red car driver on the road and was able to point out every red car.  So I know that my present status clearly dictates my social conscious awareness, still my mindful intuition is saying “WARNING!” yes, this is a warning not to increase or encourage fear, I am so over that narrative!.  I just want those tethered to me and those reading to remain consciously aware without having to become closely identified with the Department of Justice, the Federal Criminal justice System and the Prison Industrial Complex.  I am truly bearing witness for you all!  Not on purpose though, lol! If you are involved with any Organization or business that involves Federal dollars or Federal oversight, just please (CYA-cover your ass).  Because similar to the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) narrative, the Department of Justice and the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) need NEW recruits and it could easily be you!   Don’t be swayed by the discussions in regards to Criminal Justice Reform they are simply Political and will increase as we get closer to the Presidential election, be mindful that here are NO conversations or plans to close Prisons.  Which means as a Nation we have to be bolder with our Criminal justice Reforms to truly change the paradigm.

I am so grateful that I am nearing the end of the incarceration process.  Although, I am not looking forward to the next phase which is the halfway house, I know that I am getting closer to being with my Peeps and this absurd journey is nearing an end.   I am also thankful that I was born and raised to be who and where I am at any given moment.

The journey continues……………………………………….felonious phd. 5/2015

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Diary of an Imprisoned Soul Part 6………..BEYOND RESILIENT: My 19th month of Incarceration.

Today marks my 19th month of being physically incarcerated at the Victorville Women’s Federal Prison Camp. It has been a long, hard, at times absurd journey to say the least and I am not done yet, whew!!! As I continue to progress onward in this process I try to remain cognizant of how each phase of this unplanned journey has impacted me on all levels-socially, emotionally, personally, spiritually, professionally, politically and financially. My goal is to allow my conscious awareness to mindfully guide me through each phase so that I can authentically share my experience.

     I have to admit that it takes a tremendous amount of self resolve to continue to strive for excellence through this madness. The past few weeks I have spent a huge amount of time formulating and planning how I am going to move past being a survivor of this system, so that I will be able to re-enter my community, family and and sons life effectively. I have to continue to remind myself that regardless of what and how this American Justice System treats me, and even though this has been the most difficult experience I have endured emotionally I will continue to be more of my loving, kind and caring self.

As I look towards the future, I am also reminding myself that despite all that I have lost, I have a Doctorate Degree, a lifetime of work experience, a healthy self esteem and a support system. I know that I will be ok despite how unforgiving and often callous our Society can be to those of us who are often forced to be on the fringes. It is also encouraging knowing that I have done this before, I have overcome, excelled and over achieved, despite my circumstances, I know what can be done with hard work dedication and stubbornness (lol). I am also remaining tethered to the fact that at my core, I am a fighter, an aware and conscientious warrior who will soon be released into the battle for my life and I am more than ready.

I want to always provide a realistic and authentic view of how I move through this process. Not for sympathy or anything special, just so I can provide an accurate narrative to voting citizens and Politicians who have a tendency to support and implement policies without critically analyzing the lasting effects they will have on the individual, the community and society as a whole. I want others to understand that our American Criminal justice System has far surpassed just punishing so called wrong doers, it is literally destroying the lives of American citizens, who really want and deserve a real second chance to revitalize, renew and reboot their lives. Our current system places anyone who has interfaced this Criminal Justice process in a position to just “give up”. I know that sounds so extreme but it is the truth, from my position as I sit here within the “belly of the beast” that is only preparing myself and others with less capacity to reinvent themselves, to just get on welfare, social security, food stamps and Obamacare. A lifetime of dependency on a system that leads directly to sorrow, poverty and self-doubt. In the spirit of my grandmother Geraldine, “I rebuke the thought of being a victim of the Prison Industrial Complex and any other systemic oppressive entity”. I will operate being “beyond  resilient” as I approach and enter the next phase of the Federal Criminal Justice process, and openly share with others how I was able to succeed, that is my plan.

I only have a few months left to sit in this visceral, dehumanizing, non-productive environment, and for that I am so very thankful. I am not sure where time has went and I am hoping that I have used it wisely, time will tell. But for now I will continue to plan for my tomorrow and live through this mess today. I am forever thankful that my son is good and doing him without skipping too much of a beat. I am also grateful that I was born and raised to be who and where I am at any and every point and time. But I am ready to leave here!!! (lol).

The journey continues………………………………………………… felonious phd. 5/2015

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!! (The big 51, whew!!)……………….A birthday message from the Camp

Yes, today I am 51 years old!. A strange thing for me to truly grasp but it is a fact. Despite the fact that I am sitting in the Federal Prison Camp, a very visceral and irreverent environment, I FEEL GOOD!!! And I look good too (lol). Actually I feel incredible and I am ready for my next chapter and whatever comes with it.

I have chosen not to do anything celebratory in here. Yes I am happy to have lived another wonderful year but I am reserving the pomp and circumstance for when I am home surrounded by those I love and care about. I will, however, take my usual 2 mile walk in circles, round and round and listen to India.Arie’s song “private party” out loud. OMG, I miss my karaoke machine and mic (lol). This will be my last imprisoned birthday and for that I am thankful.
Incredibly, at 51 years old, my journey the past few years has incontrovertibly been challenging to say the least. At the same time it has forced me to clearly define, refine, and renew my own purpose in life. It has also encouraged me to use my strong, powerful, loving, passionate, loving, authentic and consciously aware voice to speak from my own “consciousness of truth” at all cost. Because of my interactions with the Criminal Justice process my life has physically been on “pause” but my soul has continue to blossom, bloom and become a source that will take me to places I have never dreamed I could reach and I am ready! I am ready to live my life “Beyond Resiliency” and revel in its magnificence and simply do ME. I am not finished yet peeps!’
I am forever thankful for being born and raised to be who and where I am at any given moment. I am thankful for my mother, father, grandfathers and my very powerful grandmothers who provided me with the inner strength to overcome anything. I am truly thankful that I am almost out of here. OMG!!!! I am over it! That is my real consciousness of truth.

Happy Birthday to me! felonious phd 4/20/2015………………………………………………The journey continues.


SMOKE AND MIRRORS: We cannot handle the truth

constantly moving
moving in a motionless space
clouded by visions that
are repeatedly put in
our face
governed by laws
that we want to
blame on others
forgetting that we
the people
the people who really
are in charge

manifestation of blaming
a disregard for self
in a time
our mirrors
are broken
or non existent
time is here
actually time has never
we will perish
we will perish
we will perish
if we dont
stop looking for
answers externally
and believe the
messages within
smoke and mirrors
we see in on the tv
smoke and mirrors
we hear in everyday
smoke and mirror
we operate opposite of our
own consciousness
consciously surrendering
to the pressures
the irrelevant
the insignificant
because we
can not
handle the

felonious phd 3/2016

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HAVE NO FEAR!………….A Message of Solace from the Camp

As I enter my 17th month of incarceration at the Federal Prison Camp, there are a few things that I have just become accustomed to for the sake of my maintaining peace of mind for my soulful self. Then there are instances where I am caught off guard and my soul is touched at its CORE.

I have become accustomed to wearing the ugly, green, men’s uniform that is accessorized with the heavy, steel-toed high top boots. I am even accustomed to the oppressive, used green sports bra. I have become accustomed to the fact that this environment has incompetent, irreverent, depressed and often mean-spirited staff that work here. And out of pure survival I have even become accustomed to walking daily, round and round and round in circles on a rocky track. So boring!.

However, I have not become accustomed to how our United States Government Criminal Justice System continues to incarcerate, non-violent, low level offending, frail, elderly women. I know we as a Nation thrive on punishing those who have “done wrong” in the eyes of law. I am also aware of the fact that we have to maintain some level of order as a civilized society. I completely understand all of those concepts, believes and constructs. But what happens when a system is so extremely “FLAWED” and we as a Nation simply continue to ride the “SLIPPERY SLOPE” of mass incarceration without any hesitation or critical analysis into the inhumanness or the ineffectiveness of the process? How can we not act with a sense of urgency when it is apparent that our Criminal Justice system is broken? That sense of complacency is something I can never become accustom to as long as I live.

Today, as I sat in the library, reading and writing about how there are some signs of change on the horizon and how critical and urgent those changes are needed, we get an announcement over the loud speaker that says, “Golf South Mentor come to R&D”. That announcement is a request for one of the women who is a volunteer mentor for new arrivals to come the the R& D office and meet the new arrivals. It also alerts every other woman on the camp that new people are here. Typically, the mentors will take the new arrivals on a tour of the camp before showing them to their bunk area. When the mentor and the new woman arrived to the library, as they walked in I noticed that the Latina woman was “ELDERLY” and that she was trembling like a tree. As the mentor spoke to her and tried to console her she sat down at the table in the middle of the library, put her head down and whispered as her lips trembled, “I AM SO AFRAID!”. O M G! my heart stopped, for a few seconds I was at a complete loss for words. I looked over to the mentor and the other woman that was in the library and they were both standing there with their mouths open and speechless. My immediate reaction was to go give her a hug, but I could sense the complete “FEAR” in her at that moment. I gathered myself and told her softly, “You are very safe here, I promise no one is going to hurt you!”. I asked her if she was thirsty and she nodded yes, I went into the desk drawer and handed her a generic diet soda. I reassured her that the hard part was over. Being here is the easiest part of the Federal Criminal Justice process. Whew!! That was all I could do to not scream or burst out in tears. I am sure that would have scared her to death! After a few minutes she opened the soda took a sip and the other two women began consoling her and talking. I took the opportunity to gather my thing to walk back to the unit. Walking my usual path back to the unit I was trying desperately to find a way to switch emotional gears from pure anger to “March Madness” (lol).

Those are the moments that bring my anger to the surface. Because my own consciousness of truth is that I am forever angered by this process, but these types of days force me to be present in my anger. There is absolutely no way anyone will ever be able to convince me that as United States of America we do not have any other option other than to incarcerate, non violent, low level, women, elderly offenders or anyone who is not a safety risk. I just do not get it! or maybe I get it too well! I have forced myself to succumb and surrender to many things as I progress through my journey. But I will never ever accept how easily it is for our Government officials (fellow citizens), to skillfully and willfully destroy another persons soul with passion and fervor in the name of justice, corrections and rehabilitation. I will also never forget how easily we (Americans) allow these things to happen.

If you are a woman, sister, grandmother, aunt or mother who finds herself pending incarceration at a Federal Prison Camp, I want you to know that “YOU WILL BE SAFE”. Don’t get caught up in shows like “Lock Up” that are televised to brainwash US citizens into thinking we need prisons. Or believe everything about “Orange is the New Black” which is entertainment first and is very creative. The women here at the camp are people you know. “We are all people you know!” So trust me when I say you have nothing to fear in here.

I am so thankful that my time here at the Federal Prison Camp is almost over. It is a challenge everyday to wake up and renew my passion for being a loving, caring, soulful Black American Woman Mother. I am also thankful that I was born and raised to be who and where I am at any and every given moment!

The Journey continues…………………………felonious phd-3/201

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Diary of an Imprisoned Soul Pt. 1……………..Shout out to Marissa Alexander (Super Woman)!

This weekend I was fortunate to watch my favorite news anchor, MSNBC-Melissa Harris Perry’s interview with Marissa Alexander. Marissa Alexander is  black, a woman, and a mother who was the victim of domestic violence in Florida and later became a victim of the Federal Criminal Justice System as well. At least once a month I can count on Melissa Harris Perry doing a segment on Mass Incarceration and the challenges that our communities across the country have with the Criminal Justice System. I often find myself craving any form of dialogue surrounding the subject with hope that most of the conversations would lead into some critical analysis of how we need to seriously look at the formation of the Judicial System in America and proceed expeditiously to make some formidable and courageous changes.

Melissa Harris Perry’s interview with Marissa Alexander was just what this incarcerated, black, woman, mother needed. Marissa spoke with passion about her challenges with the Federal Criminal Justice system and the effects is has had on her life as well as her children’s lives. Her story just validated my core beliefs that it is not anger and bitterness that will free us from our internal pains and challenges, even when we feel we have been treated unfairly and without any regard to the truth, it is truly love and love of self that will set us forever free. When asked what she was going to do next, Marissa did not skip a beat when she stated with confidence, love and joy that her first priority was to reintegrate into the lives of her children who she has been separated from for 2 years. Even though she will continue to deal with her legal battles, she will be afforded the opportunity to do so from home as the Federal Criminal Justice system, instead of correcting its wrong, AMENDED her sentence by providing her the opportunity to do the duration of her next two years on home confinement. There is a lot more to that statement but it does not matter at this moment! What helped me as I listened to Marissa’s story, a mother who should not have been incarcerated, was that she is not focusing on anything other than assisting her children who were now teenagers and need her more than anything at this period of their lives.

As I sat there and looked at the television I saw myself, a woman, a black woman, a black woman mother who was now labeled a felon who was saving her own life so that she could be there for her children, I felt proud. I was also proud to hear and see that our stories can be told and received through the media.

Throughout my 50 years of life I have witnessed first hand how women are often placed in positions where they have to literally fight physically, emotionally and spiritually to stay soulfully alive. After overcoming being a welfare offspring, to spending more than half my life in the profession of Child Welfare and now enduring nearly 5 years with the Federal Criminal justice System I can honestly say with some conviction that I am a “SUPER WOMAN”. It takes someone special and soulful to overcome an experience like this, and that is the truth!

I am thankful that Marissa Alexander is sharing her story. I hope she knows that she too is a “SUPER WOMAN” and I am so happy she is home with her children which is where we all should be! I hope more women who have unfortunately interfaced with the Criminal Justice System share their stories. We truly are the only ones who can save ourselves!!

Felonious Ph.D. 2/2015

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Ujima: A Woman’s Work………An Unplanned Journey Part 3

Today as I sat in the library at the Federal Prison Camp in Victorville California. I began thinking back to how all of this began. The essence of time is truly a mystical force that we live with and internally construct as a means to give our existence here on earth some order and meaning. Today I have realized that my former agency, Ujima Youth Services, was  closed down in Reno, Nevada nearly 5-years ago. Honestly when I wake up in this space and realize at the precise moment that my eyes open, that I am still laying here in an ugly, cold-ass warehouse with over a hundred women, it feels like everything  just happened to me yesterday.

It has been nearly 5-years since my heart was broken. Ujima was my life’s work and dream. It was a lifestyle that just about embodied all that I had visualized in regards to providing unconditional love to at risk kids and families in foster care. The word Ujima derives from a Kwanzaa term that is defined as “working together as a community to solve problems.” I wanted to create something that not only had a meaningful purpose but was also an entity that transformed the precious lives of youth by utilizing an “It takes a Village” modality for kids in foster care. For Ujima, that entailed working primarily with youth who were teens, boys of color, with high medical needs, or severe mental health. I loved each and every one of them and continue to love and have contact with many of the older ones whom I raised. I was not just the CEO of Ujima I was the mother for many of them.

After Ujima closed, I began questioning my purpose. Ujima was not closed because I harmed a child or a family. It was closed because of policies and procedures and bureaucratic red tape that create barriers to providers, clinicians, people who worked directly with the youth and other stakeholders to create real opportunities for youth in care and give them an authentic chance to be successful. I was closed because of money!

I was a CEO who loved her job and all of the crises, emotions and daily surprises that arose because of the job. My main goal was always to put the youth and families first and at the center of the program and its decisions. I demanded that they be treated with love and respect. I am not being naive in speaking of Child Welfare. It is one of the most difficult systemic organizations to work in and be a part of, similar to that of the Judicial System. Both systems are structured with an invisible glass ceiling attached to them which limits all possibilities for those involved unless there are people who are willing to create and fight for alternatives to those structures. I was one of those creative, bold and brave people. But I did not have the capital available to me to clearly follow through on my dream. I now understand that by accepting Government funding you are also accepting their mode of functioning. That is all that I am going to say about that!!!

Alice Walker made a comment in regards to how the work, life, and essence of Winnie Mandela was challenged. She was isolated, ostracized, slandered, abused, imprisoned over and over, tortured and lied about in her community. She brilliantly stated that in reference to how others viewed Minnie because of how the press depicted her, she poignantly stated that, “A Woman’s Work is her Signature”. Once I read that over and over and over and I mean nearly a hundred times since I have been incarcerated, it empowers me to continue being my powerful, brave, beautifully passionate self. My work over the past 27 years in Child Welfare literally “speaks for itself”.

Through Ujima I learned that I have the power to embrace anyone and any point in their lives and encourage them to be all that they can be no matter what their circumstances are. Ujima gave me my wings and a platform to grow and learn about the developmental task of youth in reference to being in crisis and trauma. Through Ujima I learned that unconditional love is transformative, which is why I truly believe that through love we can conquer all. I have lived and seen it first hand happen. I have some rich and wonderful stories about the youth I have had the pleasure to share that part of my life with. I can not wait to share many of those stories with others and give some of those youth who are now adults the acknowledgement they deserve.

Today I am grateful, that I have the capacity to understand how powerful “forgiving” and “letting go” is in my life and for others. If you find yourself imprisoned not only physically but by emotionally holding on to your pain or a negative situation, simply “let go”. Also “forgive” all that are involved in your letting go. I promise you will feel so much lighter and prepared to move onward towards another dream or just simply live peacefully and lovingly. I am thankful!!!

Felonious Ph.D. 1/2015

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