DTBF was invited to Nebraska’s Correctional Center for Women (NCCW) to speak on stage at the first EVER live streamed Tedx Talk in prison – ( Link Here. ) I shared the stage with 7 women serving life sentences. Again, my assumptions about what these women must be experiencing were wrong; I thought they must want to die, feel smothered in shame, lost and in total despair. One woman said, “What if my purpose was to be in prison?” Another challenged the use of life sentences, while another talked about how to help the women she meets during her 70 year sentence.
HOW DO THESE WOMEN GET OUT OF BED?
I have been asking myself this question since 2015 when I started meeting women with painfully long or life sentences. I always said, “These are the women who should be giving inspirational talks!” And, here I was listening to each of them making the best out of pain, loss, guilt and remorse.
Part of me judged them for being in denial, especially when they talked about turning their life over to Jesus. I have such a fast response to anyone who mentions Jesus – as being brainwashed to comfort themselves from the groundlessness of reality. I went to Naropa University after all, where the Buddha is ALL about groundlessness!
Moment where I am thanking the Warden Denise Davidson of NCCW for all of her support as she leads one of the most progressive women’s prisons in the country!
But! As I read more and more from Anne Lamott and Glennon Doyle, I’m reminded of what a political rebel JC was! He would be right here with us – dancing with the forgotten and condemned! Jesus said, “You’ll find God in those who are suffering and broken” and I’ve seen that with these women from every culture and area of the country. They are humble, grateful, broken, defended, shy, angry and some are deeply shut down. Some are shell shocked due to the onslaught of trauma they’ve endured.
One inmate started a fight right after finishing our training and I was so disappointed – I wanted to yell at her, “You are representing DTBF!!”
At the same time, an inmate leading a DTBF class in Arkansas’ max facility, was jumped while teaching – she chose to not hit her back.
At the same time, one of the correctional officers at NCCW rushed over to me before the Ted Talk and said, “It’s great to see you! I’ve been showing your YouTube interviews to our new hires!”
What?!! He said it’s changed the way the correctional officers view the inmates – they see the women as more human.
At the same time, one of our star pupils, who has led classes since our 2016 training – has been repeatedly written up. She lost her job with the Rec Dir and wasn’t allowed to come to the gym for a few months. She was set to meet with the parole board on June 12th and got into trouble during our training in May! She is jeopardizing going home to her 4 kids.
I again, wanted to yell, “You are representing DTBF, you have kids – what is going on?!” But! This path is not linear and this path is not about me. Healing will look how it is going to look. This work is heavy. Trauma is complex. If you knew that her Mother set her Father on fire – and at the age of 11 she had to rush to help put the flames out – would you come to a different conclusion? Maybe she doesn’t want to go home? Maybe her nervous system is fried? Maybe there is no answer.
At the same time, I won’t stop dancing with hope and hopelessness, healing and regression, with light and dark!