telling a true story



“I dare you to stop counting and start acting. To stop pleasing and start defying. I dare you to trust what you know. The second wind is beyond data. It is past pain. it is found in the bloodstream and cells of the women and men who purged the poison of their perpetrators, who walked through the cancer, the nightmares. The second wind is coming from your body, it’s in your mouth, it’s in the way you move your hips.” ~ Eve Ensler, In the Body of the World

“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” ~ Chinua Achebe

“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.” ~ bell hooks

After the read around last week, I was excited to get back to our writing group and hear what our writers had to say about their experience. What was their story of the night? Our group’s theme for the night was narrative so it was an easy transition and it also opened the same dialogue we always open: the opportunity for everyone to tell their version of their own story.

What happened surprised me. We had a much smaller group than we usually do right after read arounds and the mood was somber. This happens every now and then – the environment in the prison alters everyone’s feelings and our group experiences some needed quiet. Or the subject matter brings up difficult stories and keeps everyone feeling weighted, their words freighted on the page. I can never tell walking in the door and I can’t touch a majority of their experience.

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an empty truth

All great truths begin as blasphemies.  – G.B. Shaw                            

The pursuit of truth will set you free; even if you never catch up with it. – Clarence Darrow

As we close our unit on truth this month, I leave you with a reflection from one of our women below. In one of the stories we discussed, the narrator speaks of an empty truth. On the surface, the phrase seems like a contradiction, as though such a truth would be meaningless. But our group appreciated the phrase, reflected that such a truth is not meaningless but simple. There is often a plainness or clarity to the truths that endure.

But to achieve these truths and to view them as self-evident is a complex process. It requires engagement, risk, faith, all qualities and experience the women describe as vital to their growth within the walls of the prison. It is a process that must be lived for each truth to be embodied. Each of us almost have to act out the truths in our words and actions to understand them. Here, one of the writers reflects on this process and its role in expression.

Truth Telling

That is being true to yourself, searching, growing, and expressing yourself for you and no one else. If your following the crowd, you get lost and it can lead to soul-sickness. Walking up in a life you never envisioned. Conditions you have to deal with because your choices were not yours.

To be able to do that one must not be afraid. One must be their own spirit detective to find who they are to find meaning, satisfaction, and joy. As Janis Joplin sings “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” is an anthem of being true to one’s self. Continue reading

the struggle for truth

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always. –Mahatma Gandhi

I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t. – Audre Lorde

There is struggle in prison. That comes as a surprise to no one. Even when entering, passing through doors that buzz before they open, electricity clicking them wide and then slamming shut them behind us, people passing through and around, head counts, searches, this is an incontrovertible truth, a reality. This is the kind of tension incarcerated women live with every day.

Since its inception, prison was designed to distance an individual from their identity, giving people numbers and uniforms. Even the fruit punch at chow is served without a color. It’s clear. The space, particularly at CRCF, can have the potential to rehabilitate but on what foundation is this built when women are not given the tools to create and maintain their individual identities? What truths can we gather in such a limited space?

That’s where the writing comes in. The page is meditative space where we are made more free no matter what walls surround us, whether we built them or someone else did, whether they need to come down or provide support for a bit longer. Here is where the digging happens and these women are deeply equal to it, aware of truths that come Continue reading