Prison. It seems to be this recurring theme in my head over the last week. I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful booking reading where the author shared an emotionally wrenching experience of what his former work entailed. Actually, I interpreted the experience that way, he simply shared an experience, but this has stayed with me for a few days and I cannot get this out of my mind. Yesterday, my friends father and I spoke about how he felt to be working back in prison. The subject of prison was brought up again and a new angle was presented. For now, despite my infatuation of cherry blossoms, I frequently find myself thinking of men of color and prison throughout my days. I think of how prisons and its culture are drab and lifeless. I think of how they steal people of who they are and then if the chance comes when men (and women) come out of prison what there lives are like.
My recurring prison thoughts started at this book reading that I attended last week. As the question and answer period started this author, let us call him, John, started to talk about an experience that he had with a client. John, was in the middle of a circle, somewhat relaxed, and a bit timid. John started to pause and it became clear that he had never shared this experience, and at that moment this weight came upon the audience.
John was a case manager at the time at a prison rehabilitation center and he would work with people that were just released from prison. His clients were predominately people of color, but really Black men. On this particular day, a simple request was made. A man asked John to help him get on the bus. This “strong tall, big (Black)*Man” was asking for help to ride the bus. This man was so afraid to get on the bus. I could only imagine how long he was walking around or avoiding use of the bus. I know this seems simple, but this brings tears to my eyes. Prison, or something or someone robbed this man of his confidence (his swagger) what ever you want to call it. He could not get on the bus. He wanted to get on the bus and one day he did, with Johns assistance.
About a week later my friends father, Mr. Mosley and I are talking about his return to working inside of prisons. He realized he had started to feel a bit depressed by simply working inside the facilities. Given the fact, that Mr. Mosley has worked inside prisons and this population for over 20 years, I was a bit surprised. He could see the toll that working inside the facility was having on him. He wonders how much longer he can work inside the drab and lifeless place.
Maybe the reason, Johns story appeals to me are all the possibilities and options that were cut off from this man for a period of time. Maybe this man wanted to travel and see what other parts of his city looked like and what had changed when he was in prison. Yet, he could not because of this fear to get on the bus. Maybe, I am thinking about South Africa and Robben Island. Maybe, I am thinking about Haiti and the prisoners that escaped because of the earthquake. I can go anywhere without any hesitation. I am at liberty to travel and escape freely. This man could not travel despite having his freedom. The cherry blossoms are in bloom all over this city and pollen maybe annoying a lot of people, but we have the liberty to explore and travel without fear or hesitation. Maybe, Johns client is someone I know or maybe Mr. Mosleys’ experience is how I felt at some point. I wish I knew why prison was on my mind for the last week and why it is still here considering where I am in my life. Why do I still think about this man being afraid to get on the bus? Is it possible that I passed him yesterday? Is it possible that now he sits next to me on the train?
* my own words