It’s finally here a booklet of stories told by women in our women’s support group look for it soon on line!
My life has been pretty much a roller coaster ride,the ups and downs unexpected turns and terrifying drops. I’ve shed many tears and a whole lot of smiles long store short I’ve been to hell and back.
Completing the sisters that been there program has taken my life and swerved it into the right direction I’m moving onto better things for my self and for my family.
I hesitated when friends told me to watch Orange is the New Black. Being that that I’ve spent the last 17 years of my life behind the walls, I figured unless it was different than all the other prison shows that never got it right, I could wait. It wasn’t until a good friend told me, “Yo like foreal, you need to watch this, it hella reminds me of you,” that I actually sat down and watched it.
I automatically understood the show from the women I saw in the introduction. I saw the faces of all the different types of women that go in and out — some have piercings, some have scars from the street life or drug abuse, some are clear eyed and clear faced, some are dirty, some skinny, some bigger. I could immediately relate to the main character, Piper (who is based on Piper Kerman who wrote a book about her incarceration), while thinking of all my trips to the big house — having to turn yourself in and the thoughts about the choices, the wanting to change the past and turn the clock back.
I was completely hooked on the show when I saw Piper sitting on her toilet and sobbing the night before she had to turn herself in. I felt like God was telling my secrets as I sat there with tears running down my face, remembering that feeling and reliving a similar moment.
It is really those subtle scenes that tell the normally unshared truth of being incarcerated. Like when Piper shares how the shower is her happy place, a place to be honest. The shower in prison was the only time I felt free, not only that it’s the only place one can really have a good cry, but because I will always remember how when I first got to prison I sobbed in silence under the running water. The shower became my safe place, and is still to this day — that place I go to when I need to wash away the pains of life.
Those were like the first 15 minutes of the show. I could go on and on about the impact Piper’s truth is going to have on women who haven’t even gotten out yet. It’s like a secret society, and as the show points out, some don’t even make it to the outside, or start taking meds and don’t come out the same way they went in.
All these stories are real, and Piper is my hero for being brave enough for advocating for those women telling their stories. That’s exactly what I get to do now as a career, my purpose in life, through a program I dreamed up while inside and made real when I got out called Sister’s That Been There – a support group for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. I am so proud of Piper to be the one to come out and gives life to these women’s stories, some who will never get out to get there credibility back.
And even the scenes that seem improbable, really do happen in prison. The first that comes to mind is a scam the women play during a scared straight session. Piper says to the young woman, Dina, “I was someone before I came in here. I was somebody with a life that I chose for my self. And now its just about getting through the day with out crying, and I’m scared, I’m still scared, I’m scared that I’m not myself in here, and I’m scared that I am.”
I can remember that exact moment in my own journey. Now that I’m free, I often ask myself: how did I even make it out in my right mind? Prison life is not a joke, it’s a spirituals war zone between self and the walls that close you in, cutting you off from the world on the other side.
I really liked how they shed light on the recidivism with the character Tasty. The one conversation that still occurs between women who were locked up together no matter how much time passes is, “who is locked up?” And the phrase, “guess who’s back” is always a start of that conversation. It’s never really a shock, but sometimes, most times, it hurts to hear those names. We all hope the best for the individual that gets released, but when they come back in we have a wide range of emotions – disappointment for sure, and then we rejoice because at least we have each other. It’s crazy but true, we are a family, and when one of us succeeds we all succeed. And when one of us fails, we all fail. That level of support is how I’ve made it to where I am at now.
This show is valuable because it tells our truth about the relationships we have with one another. It is exactly why I am driven to keep those same connections we had on the inside here on the outs. Women come together on the inside and support one another, but then they get out and loose those connections and fail in rehabilitation.
That’s why I was so bothered by some of the backlash on Orange is the New Black, particularly from people who have never been behind the walls. In The Nation Magazine, an article called “White is the New White,” knocked the show, but the author Aura Bogado makes no mention she herself has ever experienced prison. As such, maybe she couldn’t handle the episodes, and at one point even says that the women depicted in the show wouldn’t appreciate the stories being told. I didn’t get the point of the article. It seemed contradictory because the writer is talking about racism and money and yet she has chosen to talk about something she has no experience in. I don’t know, but women who are behind bars love the success of their fellow inmates. I’m proof.
Reading Bogado’s critique, I felt a need to protect our truth from people who might not understand us. It’s nothing new that we aren’t understood, it’s why we go where we go. So to make it clear, back up off Orange is the New Black — we don’t need you to understand us, the way we think, and the life we’ve lived. Life behind the walls is its own world, and Piper has nailed it, she fuckin’ nailed it.
That’s why Piper is a hero to sisters that been there, so the public should just enjoy her bravery to open up. A lot of us don’t do stuff like this because we carry a lot of fear when it comes to society. That adds extra pressure to those of us who do speak out. For the women inside, when people have not yet found their voice, I become that voice. In fact, Orange is the New Black will be a great teaching tool for the women in my program.
This is written for all my girls behind the walls. They would have written this if they had access to internet, but because I know that I’m free, I live for those that live for me, because through me they too are free.
Walk a mile in our shoes I guarantee you’ll feel the blues and get a gimps of the battle your bound to loose
walk a mile in our shoes and time will drag people on the outs are destined to lag
walk a mile in our shoes feel the importance of mail feel the way it warm’s up even the coldest cell
walk a mile in our shoes you will see the unseen you will find your self walking in the land of lost dreams
walk a miles in our shoes and you will come to a stop you find a sisterhood that will take you to the top
walk a mile in our shoe and your destined to win your destined to have the chance to never go back in
walk a mile in our shoes you wouldn’t change a thing take the shoes your wearing and then start comparing
similarity of the women that walked in those shoes are indeed the same women that felt that same exact blues
walk a mile in our shoes you’ll see the time that dragged is the same time we all had and those people that lagged
were the only people any of us had and the importance of mail is why we can’t fail the warmth of that cell is what keeps us from jail
the unseen remains the same no need to take on all that shame
that land of lost dreams no longer serves the rehabilitating team
we are on our way to the top because we hold the keys to our own locks
destined to win as long as we don’t run in old circles again
walk a mile in our shoe — sisters that been there.
By Steeda McGruder
“I am always in quest of being open to what the universe will bring me.”
– Jill Bolte Taylor
How willing are you to learn something new? How open are you to new perspectives?
When we are open, we are willing to move to places we’ve never been before. We are willing to continually review our belief systems so we can test out new ideas….
Be open to seeing things:
- from another’s point of view,
- from a higher and more inclusive perspective
- with a beginner’s attitude of wonder.
I believe that we can make a difference by doing the unseen things that it takes for situations to change. I decided to stop in at the Chowchilla Prison for women to send the ladies love through prayer and meditation. They will never know I was there but I know and by doing this I keep my dream a living reality.
I felt connected to a power greater than me and felt like my vison was cleared, my soul desire this journey. I could have stayed there a whole day and night, I almost fell asleep there. I remember watching dances with the wolves as a little girl and I can remember how people felt connected to certain lands as if their soul belonged there and if they felt this they would claim the land as there own.
This is my reality when it comes to my work with these gifted women, I am claiming the land because my soul has chosen this land, “Land of lost dreams” I’m most clear headed when i’m on the grounds of a institution that holds souls that have lost there way and there dreams there is a peace about the stillness of this land. After all, this is where I got the greatest idea of my life Sisters That Been There!
Recently attended the annual women rising night of empowerment and served as a panelist I was able to tell attendees how Stbt got started and where it comes from a great opportunity to receive feed back from you all and I must say I had a great time.
I was asked if I had three demands or wishes for the community what would they be.. my first thoughts were crazy wild and extreme but my heart spoke up and said TELL THE TRUTH!
Demand #1 was, I demand that you all love the next person you meet that has been recently released weather you think they want it or no I gave full permission for you all to love the next person you meet that has been released. And demanded you do so no matter how much fear fills you we want it and need it.
Demand #2: I demand that all you managers and business owners out there hire the next felon that has the balls to walk into your establishment and ask you for a job. Because if they find the courage to do something so uncomfortable to us than I can tell you on there behalf that they really want it so please fucken hire them and put there fears of rejection to rest!
Wish#1 My wish is to have a house just like the one where the event was held at” BackWater Arts Gallery” to have a drop inn center for women recently released. The home would serve has a home base for the women to help navigate them through their rehabilitation period we would hire women that had the familiar back ground and we would run nightly groups that would provide a family atoms fear for women alike.
The food was great, the creativity was high and energy was pure and women were gifted if you didn’t make it this year theirs always next year. Thank you again to the committee for having me!