CHOWCHILLA VALLEY STATE PRISON (12/07/09)
Chowchilla Valley State Prison for Women celebrated their Spirituality Event and invited some of us, Bay Area Advocates, to join them in their celebration and address them. This was my fourth trip to Chowchilla State Valley Prison for Women. The event was held December 7, 2009.
Some of us were there to celebrate Peace Day, some weeks ago, with over four thousand women and the support employees in the large prison yard. This was not too long ago. And now once again we had to venture to go in behind the walls to meet and address the women, many of whom are from San Francisco and of course all over California.
Lucky for some of us that have clearance the authorities do not give us a hard time. Many will tell you the authorities really do not support such activities and visiting the women in the classrooms, having them listen to the spoken word. Some of our artist singers - singing to them and of course our key note speakers address the pressing issues of the times.
This Spirituality Event was fast tracked by the Polynesians and the First People incarcerated. Earlier, both these group had organized a Cultural Event to highlight the cultural awareness of the First People and the Polynesians. I addressed the women present and they thought the information I gave them was very informing. With this in mind they invited me this time to do the same but to focus on Spirituality - the First People and the Polynesians.
There has been a lot happening outside the wall the unveiling of the last permanent MURAL at the San Francisco State University on the walls of the Cesar Chavez Student building. Closer to home we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the take-over of the Alcatraz Island by some First People belonging to various tribes.
We are in the year 2009 and it is a shame nothing much has changed when fellow human beings incarcerate other fellow human beings and make money off them. Today, this is the contemporary Slave Plantation. It is a shame how thousands of our women are incarcerated and no one really cares for them.
At this time Spirituality is one element that can keep the HOPES of the incarcerated women alive. Many of the incarcerated women will come to me and speak of their trials and tribulations. Others, write to me and so there is a pipe-line of concerns that some attorneys are trying to resolve and help the women incarcerated at Chowchilla Valley Prison for Women.
In the interim, as if the women have not endured enough - the State of California and our inept Legislators have failed to ensure that our incarcerated men and women get all the help to fight the drug habit that landed them in jail in the first place - with drug rehabilitation. Also, the State of California has targeted teachers and wants to do away with all the classes taught that help the incarcerated - in the many prisons.
The United States of America incarcerates so many people and has the largest prison population in the entire world. One in every six American Citizens has undergone jail time and eighty percent of that number has spent years in jail - many for more then ten years.
The Spiritual Event as far as the First People were concerned had many rituals and this was good. Sage really cannot be burned inside so some of us were taken outside and had the blessings given and the sage smoke and other herbal medicines - smudged all over our beings. This ritual of cleansing is important and sends the right signal to the Great Spirit.
The Polynesians women performed the traditional dances and it was all good.
Chowchilla State Valley Prison for Women encourages us to come and visit the incarcerated women and give them HOPE. It is 160 miles away from San Francisco. Many relatives find it difficult to go and visit their loved ones - so when these women see us they feel - good.
Some of you can Google the address and write to the prisoners. They would love to hear from you all. Others, may have other ideas you can share them with the Superintendent of the Chowchilla State Valley Prison for women.
We were not permitted to take any photographs. I however was given two drawings and have used them as the center piece to make a collage and share some photographs of some of the events I have mentioned in this article.
Here are some photographs:
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