Symbols can help us and haunt us

Symbols can help us and haunt us

Symbols can help us and haunt us

Symbols come and go. Symbols can inspire us and haunt us. Maybe they have power over our memories because they live in the body as senses. 

I had been out of prison for about a year and a half. I was beginning to lose the shuck and jive of an over apologetic felon. The Ex-Con stamp on my head was fading. There were days I did not think about prison at all. But I was still adjusting to being treated with kindness and courtesy by strangers. In a simple human encounter with a waitress, she looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you.”

I stammered out a rusty “Your welcome.”

Symbols can help us and haunt us
Shower Sandals

There were many small things about reentry that awakened memories of prison purposely forgotten and buried. One day at Rite-Aid I saw the plastic sandals I wore in prison. In a flashback, I heard the echo slap in the tomb-like corridor and felt my callused pinched toes grip the slick plastic sandals. I felt Intake-sick all over again. The shame and dread are written on the body and the darkness forces you to relive the horror that it actually happened.

“Excuse me,” a woman’s voice resuscitates me in the shoe section of Rite Aid. She is smiling at me apologetically for her full moon, pregnant belly as she tries to pass.

“Oh! Sorry.” I leaned toward the shelves of miserable sandals. But life pulled me forward.

“Thank you,” she said smiling as she passed.

“You’re welcome!” I nearly shouted as I bubbled back to the present day.

Symbols can help us and haunt us

Symbols can help us and haunt us


While We Breathe We have Hope

While We Breathe We have Hope

While We Breathe We have Hope

Three years into my six-year sentence at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Oregon, Barak Obama was elected President of the United States. I watched the election results and the acceptance speech sitting in a packed dayroom of my unit. The crowd was a cross-section of races, ages, and backgrounds. Together we watched as a father, a husband, a trustworthy leader promised change.

While We Breathe We have Hope

 

“While we breathe, we have hope…We can not turn back…Yes, we can.” 

We sat out of order: Black, Latino, White, Native American. Yes, we were inmates that broke the law but we were still Americans, hoping for change. A black woman sat next to me sat with her hands over her face, tears streaming down,  

“This is a new day. Never did I think, in my time,” she held up her hand, “Here is your beacon Lord, praise you, praise you.”

I looked over at the skin-head section. They were leaning over the short wall and glaring at the celebration. My heart was so full, I blessed them. Touch them, God. 

The officer on duty was a gay woman, near my age. She stood behind us in an official at-ease position for the cameras but did not hide the tears as they streamed down her cheeks. 

Barak Obama, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Cesar Chavez point the way for the next generation of leaders to guide us forward. Yes, we can. 

President Obama Acceptance Speech 2008

While We Breathe We have Hope

While We Breathe We have Hope