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I am a mommy, scribe, and middle-school English teacher. I am trying to cope with being separated from my beloved. DoUWantMore? email me: theprisonerswife@gmail.com

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Solitary Art

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Solitary Art

"On Friday night, more than 500 people had jammed into a gallery in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, to assess 25 of Donny Johnson's small, intense works. There was sangria, as well as big bowls of M&M's. By evening's end, six of the postcard paintings had sold, for $500 each.

"They are made with these chocolate pigments," said Adolfo Caballero, an owner of the gallery. "He has really created a new kind of technique, because he doesn't have access to conventional materials."

Most prison art, the kind created in crafts classes and sold in gift shops, tends toward kitsch and caricature. But there are no classes or art supplies where Mr. Johnson is held, and his powerful, largely abstract paintings are something different. They reflect the sensory deprivation and diminished depth perception of someone held in a windowless cell for almost two decades." (read entire article)

these types of stories always bring up interesting debates: should prisoners have rights?

there are a lot of people who believe that inmates shouldn't be allowed to do anything, no school, no social programs, no tv. i'm sure you've heard the argument before: "they're in prison, not on vacation." but then there is the other side that insists that inmates be able to better themselves--get an education, learn a trade, and yes, watch a little TV--especially if they will be released back into society.

i never really thought much about this debate until beloved became locked up. sure, there were a few people in my family who had been to prison, but they were always "the bad cousins" of the family. it was expected. they were never into school, never wanted to go to college, never really held a job; so i guess i wrote them off as career criminals who would forever cycle in and out of the system because they couldn't give up the block. but now, as beloved waits in jail all sorts of questions have run through my mind.

how will he be viewed when he gets out?
will he be able to get a job?
if he has to go to prison, will he be able to take classes while he's in?
what will people think of me? what will they say about our son?

before beloved got locked up he was in college working toward a degree in computer programming, now, after waiting for almost a year for trial, he is unable to take any college courses, unable to advance his education, he is basically wasting a year of his life. stuck on pause, unable to move forward. each day we talk i can hear more and more frustration in his voice. sometimes he apologizes to me, to our son, for putting us through this. sometimes he says he would understand if i left him. and other times he is angry...at everything.

although prison is a place of punishment, it can also be a place for transformation, hence the name "department of correction". in recent studies that measured the effects of educational programs at prisons, it was found that those who completed an educational program while incarcerated were less like to return to prison.

"A study at Folsom Prison in California showed that none of the inmates who earned a bachelor's degree recidivated, compared with the 55% recidivism rate of the rest of the inmates released. A study authored by female inmates at New York's Bedford Hills Correctional Facility indicates that women who attended college while incarcerated recidivated at a rate of 7.7% as opposed to the 29.9% return rate of women who did not attend. Post-secondary education in prison can help reduce crime on the street" (read entire article)

there is definitely a stigma attached to those who have been to prison, as well as those who have supported their love one through prison. and it's not ok. with so many of our loved ones locked up, we are all affected and shouldn't be made to feel like social outcasts. if we commit to educating those who seek it, providing job placement and housing support to those that are willing to turn their lives around, our country would be much better off. and maybe, just maybe we wouldn't have so many of our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and daughters behind the walls.

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Posted by the prisoner's wife On 10:15 AM 12 comments

the block is hot

Monday, July 24, 2006

the block is hot

as i'm writing this is it 3:51pm. i'm sitting here bored at work, avoiding whatever it is i'm supposed to be doing right now. it should not be this hot right now. not at almost 4pm. last night, around 11pm i flipped on the weather channel and it said it was currently 91 degrees & the air was thick with 95% humidity. are you kidding me? when i left new york i thought i'd left the humidity behind, but here it is...stalking me.

my son has it the worst. for the past two nights he's been stripped down to his huggies. at first i was worried, like...maybe he would get cold in the middle of the night, but then i realized, there is no air. there is no breeze. the air is stale and hot and oppressive. and he sweats more than i do. so he's been going sans clothes when we're at home. poor chile. i made a pallet for him on the floor yesterday afternoon and he slept there, directly under the fan, in front of the open sliding glass door, and he still managed to sweat so much he left a puddle on the comforter. what's a mom to do?

two hours from now i'll be leaving work and will be thrust into the afternoon annoyance of traffic. this morning i tried to decide whether to burn up my over-priced gas by using the AC, or suffer, be cheap, sweat it out and roll down my windows. even though it pains me to spend $30 on gas and not even get totally FULL (and i drive a corolla!), i decided to splurge and treat myself to some AC. at least (i reasoned) i wouldn't be totally aggravated on the drive to work.

all of this heat has me REALLY wondering about global warming. how big of an impact does all of our pollution really have on our environment? are we killing ourselves? lots of people dismiss global warming as a tree-hugging cause, but there just might be something to this. pollution is everywhere. i don't want to take my son to the beach cuz who knows what's floating in there. and if you have asthma....forgetaboutit.

at lunch my co-workers and i joked about how everyone, all conspiracy theorist that is, are claiming this is the end of the world. the weather is crazy, the middle-east is in chaos, and the amount of consumption seems to be moving into overdrive. i'm not ready to say this is the end just yet, but best believe i'll be praying for some cooler temps and lower gas prices.

i never thought i'd say this, but i'm SO over summer!

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 3:54 PM 4 comments

Cos, he said so

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cos, he said so

"You have to seriously see yourselves not as the old women where the men stood in front and you all stood behind, because the men, most of them are in prison."

In the 1980s, we watched Bill Cosby glamorize the black family through "The Cosby Show." For me, I wanted to be a Huxtable. Growing up in South-Central Los Angeles, I saw myself and my family as somewhat of a 'hood Huxtables. My parents, while not doctors or lawyers, made enough money to keep my brother and I in private schools, go out to fancy restaurants, and take trips to Vegas, Cleveland, Florida, and New York. I thought we were rich. I was the first kid on my block to own a pair of rollerblades and one of the few to have ever been on a airplane. Then it all fell apart. My mother was laid off from her well-paying job with aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, my parents divorced, and my mother, brother and I moved into my grandparents house. Our lifestyle completely shifted. No more trips, no more Friday night dinners out, my father became distant, and my mother was left to struggle to pay my tuition, our rent, and keep us afloat. She effectively became both mother and father, playing both roles fairly well, while somehow able to keep it all together.

At this year's commencement speech at Spellman college, Bill Cosby warned the graduates of the all-women’s college that they will have to be the ones to lead the race because black men are lagging behind. Cosby went on to tell the graduating class that "it is time for you to pick up the pace and lead because the men are not there. They're not there and every one of you young women know it.”

I know I am late to this issues and his comments, but this quote was posted in this month's Essence magazine, and so it got me to thinking. When I was in college, we (black women) would have these discussion amongst ourselves about brothas not being on our level. We noticed that we outnumbered our black male counterparts in nearly every class, major, and every dorm. We wondered who would we marry after we got grown, got our education, and had established ourselves in the world.

Lately there has been a string of articles and special reports about the plight of the black male in America. While I am torn by Mr. Cosby's comments, I think there is a bit of truth in his words. Unfortunately, black women are making greater and faster strides in corporate/academic America than black men. Because of this we do bear a certain amount of responsibility to be leaders in our communities to help facilitate success for the next generation of black youth. However, Mr. Cosby's comments rubbed me slightly the wrong way because, to me, they seem to call for the abandonment of black men. He seems to be saying that black women must lead, without trying to simultaneously help our brothas succeed. If that were the case I would not be with beloved. I have two degrees (BA/MFA), a well-paying job, and am about to return for more schooling. Beloved, on the other hand, was working toward his BA and is currently incarcerated. He has a great heart and a determined work ethic, but he is not on my "level" academically or economically. If I were to overlook him because of these things, I would have missed out on someone who loves and cares for me unconditionally.

If we write off our brothas and abandon them, how can we rise as a people? We can't. While I applaud Mr. Cosby for bringing these issues to light and begining a dialogue, I am skeptical at the message he is sending our young women. We cannot rise and succeed as a collective without ALL of our members performing their duties. Instead of merely claiming our place as leaders, we need to figure out ways to help our entire community to succeed.

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Posted by the prisoner's wife On 12:01 PM 9 comments

beathe and stop

Sunday, July 16, 2006

beathe and stop

last night, as i do most weekends, i settled in to my saturday night ritual of watching one of my netflix selections. this week's feature was MANITO. Manito is a award-wining, independent drama about a young teen, Manny, with a promising future who ends up blowing his chance at attending college (and his scholarship) by falling in the same cycle of prison as his older brother, Junior. set in the bronx, this film was a loud, riveting, salsa-driven family drama that showcased the complexities and challenges of growing up. it highlights the effects of the choices we make on our futures. while watching i found myself laughing, almost crying, and yelling, "DUMB ASS!" at the screen when Manny decided to make the wrong choice. this movie is definitely one of those films that doesn't make up your mind for you. it allows you to enter the world of its characters and make up your own mind as to what could or should happen.

i love taking chances on indie films such as this one. it just so happens that this DVD is a part of the Film Movement series, which is subscription service that sends it's users a new, award-winning independent film per month. if i weren't already a netflx member, i might consider this, because it's sounds like a good way to stay up on new films. one cool thing about Film Movement DVDs is that each feature film is accompanied by a short film. The Manito DVD featured a short film called MORNING BREATH.

MORNING BREATH is a 15 minute short film that depicts a typical, working-class brooklyn cat (Lord Jamar) as he traverses the streets, interacts with his boys, and falls in love. Sounds very predictable right? Wrong! The film is devoid of dialogue, but is instead driven by a 15 minute (straight dope) poem by Mums, of Def Poetry/Oz fame. While watching this film, not only was i taken in by the amazingly fresh poetry and cinematography, but i found myself hypnotized by Lord Jamar. For him, I would run this film back 30 times in a row just to catch his beautiful screwface (can you tell i was feelin it?). you see, i've always had this thing for slightly rugged, coca, new york brothas (brooklyn!)--all accent and swagger--with long & freshly lined lox (and goatees). Amen.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 8:11 PM 4 comments

no rest for the weary

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

no rest for the weary

i have been sorta mia lately, coasting day to day, not keeping up with posting. i haven't been writing at all lately. my letters to beloved have decreased from 7 a week (one each day), to maybe 3. i am not inspired. i am tired, i am bored at work, and i miss beloved more than anything else. and it hurts.

these past few weeks i have been OVERLY emotional, crying at random movies, tv shows and songs (god, i'm cliche). i've been having dreams of beloved, the munchkin and i at the park or in our home or at the beach, just living as any other family lives. i want that so bad i can feel it everywhere.

on the 4th of july i went to ikea to buy the little one a dresser and when i started to see all of the furniture that we decorated our apartment with in bklyn...it was just too much. i couldn't even bring myself to buy the dresser. i just walked from display to display and took note of what we once owned. it is so hard doing this on my own. i never wanted to be a single mother, but i think it's even harder to be a non-single, single mom. the responsibility of raising a child, while trying to make his life--our life--as normal as possible and include beloved is so hard. i feel like i am on a constant state of pause....and i just wish i could push play.

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 10:01 PM 14 comments