What I learned on my adventure....
You can build community Anywhere.
Opening your heart and mind changes everything.
Beauty and love can be found in the most unexpected places.
I can write a long string of one liners about my experience but than that's all it is.
I spent last Friday, Saturday and Sunday in prison with 24 male inmates and 3 female outside facilitators. In a program called AVP http://www.avpusa.org Alternatives to Violence Project. In the weeks preparing for going to prison I was excited and nervous. As it got closer I felt fearful, I had knots in my stomach and I could not sleep. I questioned myself why was I going, what did I expect, why would anyone want to give up three days of their lives to go and spend it with criminals?
A good friend of my mine who is an amazing story teller, told me about her experiences doing AVP, she has been doing this for 5 years. One weekend a month. I knew I wanted to do this from the first time I heard her stories- but my life is very busy, I have children, I own a business and I am always working on numerous projects at the same time. But over the course of the past year it has become clearer and clearer to me that this program fit in with all the other things I do...
The experience is person to person, small group to small group talking and listening. One person talks and everyone else listens. We talked about violence. We talked about things we liked to do. What and who we care about. We talked about our experiences, positive and negative. We also played games and than there was lots of laughter. Everyone was open - telling very painful stories of abuse, neglect and violence. People talked about depression and loss and everyone listened. It was a safe and sacred space we were all in. Strangers in prison together.
I am still processing what I learned. I will be going back for the second part of the training in November. Where this is leading I do not know or exactly how it ties into my art. It's still a work in progress. I don't have any answers. I just know talking, listening and being vulnerable are really important.
One of my friends commented that I probably went there just as much for my own healing as anything. This was a painful thing to hear and probably quite true.
This is a piece I made in response to my experience. It's not as simple as black and white.