The Felonious PhD.

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

Diary of an Imprisoned Soul Part 5……………… “We were never meant to survive!”

I have met several incredible women, mothers, here at the Victorville Federal Prison Camp. Recently I had a wonderful discussion with one of the women I love to talk and laugh with. She was sharing with a small group of us how horrific and challenging her journey has been within the Federal Criminal Justice System. Like myself, Ms. Y.C. is a Black woman, mother, sister, non-violent, first time, white collar offender who worked hard to pave a way for herself and her family and struggled to find solace in how the U.S. Government Criminal Justice System worked diligently to create a narrative that was completely opposite of her reality.

During one of our many discussions, Ms. Y.C. shared with us how she and her family explained her absence from her younger children and her teenaged son, who is autistic. She spoke passionately about her reservations about merging her two worlds by allowing the children to visit within a system that had treated her with such disrespect and disdain. As she explained her reluctance I completely understood how a mother bear would do whatever had to be done to protect her cubs. Well the same is true for an imprisoned mother soul, who has endured and experienced how easily it is for a prison staff (also a human soul) to completely disconnect from another soul and simply choose to be mean-spirited and callous at any moment in time, because they feel they legally can! So, the thought of allowing her children and family into this space was nerve wracking to say the least.

As time went, on Ms. Y.C. ran out of excuses and allowed her children and family to visit, which proved to be very therapeutic for all of them. My favorite part of this story is how she and her sister chose to tell the younger children and her teenaged son, who is autistic, that she was simply away at “FAT CAMP” (lol). OMG! we all laughed and laughed at her description of the story. She then proceeded to tell us that her teenaged son, who was sitting next to her, gently patted her on top of her head and kindly stated, “Sheeeesh mom, it is not working! you must try harder.” That interaction immediately did two things for me. First, it provided me the opportunity to laugh and laugh, a wonderful, deep heart felt, soulful laugh at a soulful, loving story as I stood in the bunk area in a cold, barren warehouse. It felt so good! Second, it solidified my insistence that we must tell our stories. We imprisoned, women, sister, grandmother and friendly souls have to leave a deep, passionate, purposeful and powerful imprint on this process by speaking our truths FEARLESSLY!

I am dedicating my next chapter to making sure I tell all that I can squeeze out of myself. As I have sat here in the Prison Industrial Complex, a systemically oppressive environment, it has been the lives, words, and stories of incredible women that have pushed me through and given me the strength to move onward whole and sane. Once again I have relied on the loving words of Dr. Maya Angelou, the powerful words of June Jordan, the womanist prose of Alice walker, the pain and triumph of Mary J. Blige, the peace and soul of India.arie, the authenticity of Tracy Chapman, the intellect and graceful story telling of Toni Morrison, the real deal of Iyanla Van Zant, the courage of Melissa Harris Perry, and the spirit and power of Oprah Winfrey. Those and many other incredible women have assisted me with being purposeful and mindful in this journey.
Ms. Y.C. will be ending her 3 1/2 years of incarceration in about a week. We have discussed the importance of speaking the truth regarding this process. I remind her as much as I can to PLEASE tell her story, give others the real narrative. To use her sharp sense of humor and keen, aware intellect to tell her truth boldly and with the prideful spirit that she embodies. Our stories are very powerful and necessary as we understand the state of our Criminal Justice System and every other Structural Oppressive entity in our society. We must provide others with a clear and precise narrative that awakens and encourages others to not just empathize but take action in their own lives. We have to tell them over and over, again and again as long as it takes to get our Nation, Communities and Politicians to understand that the system is broken, but we can fix it. There has to be some credible, courageous and honest women at the table telling the truth about this process.

Through it all, I know that I may not be able to save the World, like I once so naively thought, but I can provide a prescription to those close to me or near me that will give them some hope and promise for their own tomorrow. I clearly understand, as I have stated numerous times, that our Country was not structured with us in mind (us- being all human souls who reside on the fringes) and essentially, “We were never meant to survive, but we do!”.

I am thankful for my many conversations with Ms. Y.C. and I am truly going to miss her. I am going to miss our passionate discussions about race, class, democracy, prison, capitalism and the elusive American Dream. My hope is that our paths will cross again, after probation, of course!. At which time we could continue to laugh like hell and have a couple drinks, well maybe more than a couple after this ordeal, lol. Thanks to Ms. Y.C. …..Always, and I mean Always do you!
I am also thankful that my time here is nearly over. I am beginning to see the rainbow after enduring this tornado. I have labeled myself as being “Beyond Resilient” because this journey has far surpassed simply being in a storm. And that is my own consciousness of truth!

The journey continues…………………………………felonious phd 4/2015

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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
are
the people
the people who really
are in charge

manifestation of blaming
a disregard for self
reflection
self
respect
self
accountability
in a time
where
our mirrors
are broken
foggy
or non existent
time is here
actually time has never
left
we will perish
we will perish
we will perish
if we dont
stop looking for
answers externally
and believe the
messages within
ourselves
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
why?
why?
because we
can not
handle the
TRUTH

felonious phd 3/2016

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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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A Critical Analysis of Re-Entry……..

 

Beginning in January 2015 I will began my official emotional, mental and professional preparation for re-entering my community, my family, my friends, well essentially my entire life. All of this transformative action will be done without any assistance from this system.   Not that I require any assistance from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, but there are many women in here that do need assistance with transitioning from an environment that is proficient at telling you how little you actually matter as a felon, and how low you are on society’s heirarchy. The label “FELON” alone carries a lifetime of shame, disenfranchisement, and one can be self-deprecating if your capcity to understand that no man or system has the right nor the ability to define who you are and your place in the world is not well-developed.

I will spend the next eleven months reminding myself that I am Felonious. As the Felonious Ph.D.,  I have to take ownership of a label that someone else gave me and redefine it in an effort to once again be successful in the United States of America. It is very humorous to me when I think about it.  That happens often in this space. I am not very concerned about my ability to successfully re-enter into society, because I honestly know what it takes and I am well practiced at overcoming barriers in order to achieve the goals and possibilities I have for myself and my son. My biggest challenge and that of other women like myself has been reconciling the fact that this has happened to us, and being able to work with my Ego self and not from my Ego self. A difficult concept to explain but those of us who have endured this process and feel that it was and unnecessary and extreme outcome are stuck with the curse of forever questioning “why” and battle with motivating ourselves to once again becoming a hard-working, active members of a professional community.

I know my next is not going to be easy but my past was not a bowl of cherries either and through it all I am still my loving, caring beautiful self. The true issue at hand here, in regards to re-entry and the many Prison reform discussions and policies, is that there has to be a critical look at how a system such as Federal Bureau of Prisons can be made responsible for my being successful in re-entering when its whole existence is to imprison me? One of my favorite writers, Aurde Lorde wrote, “You can not use the MASTERS tools to dismantle the MASTERS house!”. The issues of Re-entry have to be addressed at the legislative level and not be placed on the FBOP. There has to be mechanisms and organizations at the grass roots level to make sure that re-entry is a priority. The FBOP is a system that systemically feeds itself. I see it so clearly now. And I honestly do not blame FBOP they are doing what they are being paid to do, and that is to warehouse individuals who were deemed unsafe to be free in society….and they’re doing it for a WHOLE LOT of money. We truly have to rethink this process, and now that there are many financial motivations for United States to do so, I hope that many advocacy groups and individuals are preparing to address the many issues that will assist with successful re-entry and reduced recidivism. Otherwise the system will continue to fund the FBOP when honestly many of us could be home working, taking care of our children, and serving our communities.

I want to be an active participant in some, well, many of these discussions. Mainly because if we can get a hold on this system I am sure that we can also assist with minimizing the number of young people that are in foster care. The issues of re-entry go far beyond a place to live and a job. We are talking about how to renew individuals who have endured this process and have lost their human dignity, human possibilities and their human worth.

I am thankful that at 50 years old I can still Dream of a World, and I can also see my next and all of its possibilities. I also know that no one can define who I am and they never will. I just want to find a way to assist others in my position to feel the same way.  That is truly the only way I will completely be FREE!!! It is not all just about me, I have always felt that way but over the past 14 months if I have not learned anything else, I have become aware of my own true PURPOSE and I am thankful for that.

Felonious Ph.D. 12/2014

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James Baldwin’s Eyes…………………………. 90 years old!

Those eyes-I can see what you feel

and I feel the same

Attempting with all that I am to utilize

the power of words

to liberate my crying soul.

 

Those eyes-Will never allow me to relinquish my power

as an artist

They bestow on me the promise

to dispell my truths

good and bad

at whatever cost

to my self.

 

Those eyes-Are familiar eyes

the ones that I saw as a child

that spoke without speaking

and searched without seeking

only having to stop, listen and be true

to self.

 

Those eyes-Captivate, motivate,

stimulate and galvanize

my inner being

to move past these atrocious moments with

grace, dignity and an intellectual

soul.

 

Those eyes-Articulate excactly what I am enduring

and

provide me with a road map to

securing my own

freedom.

 

Those eyes-embody the power to extract

every last drop

of this experience

no matter if it is

bitter or sweet.

 

James Bladwin’s eyes-Are my mirror, my hope, my dreams,

my history, my present, my future

My Destiny!

 

Aug 2014

the felonious phd.

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