I have so many thoughts about my new job that I haven’t known where to start. This post is going to be all about it and other every day matters– little to no poetics or heart ramblings– so this is your window to sneak away if you’re not into that right now. If you’re just reading to see what I mean about zooming with me– skip to the picture of my face on a flyer towards the end.
Still here? Great, pour yourself a hot drink. We’re celebrating!
On April 4th, I began my job as the Communications Manager for Initiate Justice, a non-profit organization in California that fights to end mass incarceration by activating the power of the people directly impacted by it.
People like me.
We send updates to the prisons. We train organizers inside. We help family members and formerly incarcerated people get trained outside. We create and pass bills. We talk to legislatures. We run an educational program called The Institute of Impacted Leaders that I will be graduating from in June! It’s a 12-week program that educates system-impacted people on how to affect policy change.
My job is basically to storytell how and why all that happens, and since you all know telling true stories is one of my favorite things to do– you can imagine how excited I am by having such a big happy story to tell!
Of course, it isn’t all happylala times. There’s very real resistance to some ideas, and sometimes even resistance to specific legislation. There’s very real, very hard stories being shared in my class, or in social media comments. I wish we could help everyone in every way. I wish we could fix every broken part of the very broken system.
It can be heavy.
I watched my first (broadcast) legislative committee meeting, and cried through pretty much all of it. It wasn’t the people calling in to say that “those inmates” were irredeemable. I think my body holds the idea that some folk believe that without much effort. No, it was the endless streams of calls of support. Some people waited on the phone knowing they wouldn’t be able to say anything beyond I support this bill. The bigness of the system-impacted community. The bigness of our allied community.
It’s really not just me, on the shoulders of all my best beloveds, screaming into a void.
One of my first projects when starting was assembling a six-page full-color magazine that was just recently mailed inside to over 38,000 people. I don’t know how many of you remember, but I used to write a daily newspaper when I was in jail. It was almost always ripped up by the cops. The circle of the journey felt like stitches on an open wound. Painful but healing.
Images above show a handwritten newsletter vs the full color magazine sent out.
In other cycles, I survived another Anniversary of Terrible Things. 7 years since I first walked into a jail. 6 years since Dave died. On the day that I announced my impending incarceration to the world, Kozo sent me this message on facebook. It pops up every year, but it feels different this year.
I know I said I wouldn’t fall into vagaries and poetics, but do you ever think about the space around us? How it’s filled with all the people and ideas and things that we take with us wherever we go? How full the world is? How we move through this world like fish swimming in an ocean of memories?
Anyways. I feel it all lately. I feel like I check into my job– which is BLISSFULLY still a work at home position– with everyone I’ve ever loved in my air. My day to day work is still a lot of getting to know the details. I like the depth of my organization’s work– everything is finely netted so that no one slips through the cracks.
I went to my first legislative visit with other fellows from the Institute of Impacted Leaders. It was shaped within a big townhall that Initiate Justice put together. We were put into rooms with legislatures, and I was with Senator Bob Hertzberg.
He’s historically supportive of our bills, but I was struck by how different these experiences feel when you go in with a team. I know most of y’all live in other states or countries, so for context:
Every state bill has to go through our state assembly and our state senate. So it’s 120 people who decide the vast majority of laws for the state. There were 8 of them at that event. Instead of the usual dynamic where it’s a legislature, and their people, versus the one constituent– we outnumbered them in every room. We had more than a moment of their time, we had their ear.
I was incredibly moved.
Admittedly, I had recently gotten my first vaccine shot, so I also felt like I ate a cloud and fought a gorilla– but when the event was over, I sat on the floor and cried.
Y’all. Look where we got to.
Hertzberg is the senator of a friend from this world, who drove over to me– hours away– and put her hand to mine through plexiglass and told me to not just accept this in this world.
What a circle.
Being a non-profit, fundraising is part of my job. Not doing it so much as making all the graphics and things like that.
I’m participating a little extra this time by teaching a class.
It’s going to be focused on storytelling through poetry, but really mostly on storytelling. Anyone can attend any of the classes with any sized donation. Donny is going to pop in at the beginning and read a poem, which is an experience worth a donation in and of itself.
You can contribute here, even if you can’t make the zoom.
I had 10 bunkies in my time incarcerated. $51 raises the money for the supplies necessary to get someone into the Institute of Impacted Leaders. I’m trying to raise $510. I got an opportunity to really hear their stories when I was inside. No one should be making decisions that affect this entire state without having access to those stories, or stories like it.
My county has the highest incarceration rate in the state with the highest incarceration rate in a country with the highest incarceration rate in the world. People impacted by the system are living closer to the reality of our framework than anyone else. I’m so excited to be a part of a system that platforms them.
Not everyone has Best Beloveds like y’all.
So, to help fund the way for 10 other women, in honor of my bunkies who carried me through– sometimes literally– here’s my fundraiser page.
I hope my class is good! I’m a bit nervous about it because I’ve been more emotion than dinosaur lately.
But good emotion.
Did I miss anything you would want to know?