Prison, as you can imagine, does not offer many opportunities to smile, laugh, and be joyous. But everything that transpired tonight offered just that – and more!
I am on the board as secretary of the Weusi Umoja club – an African-American-based club at the prison in which I reside that focuses on empowering and educating its members, community involvement and giving back. Tonight was our annual Social (a banquet-style event) where we and our club members (roughly 65 inmates of all races and backgrounds) were able to invite a visitor to join in the festivities of a fun-filled night that resembled nothing like our everyday existence.
I spent tonight with my twin brother. The atmosphere was relaxed and positive as the visiting room was reassembled just for this event. We were able to sit next to, instead of across from, our visitors; what a difference that made in our interaction and closeness with our visitors. We were all able to get up, walk around, meet and mingle with our peers and their visitors, take pictures, and all the while not have to be worried about being yelled at by overzealous officers. The officers that work these events (each club has one per year) understand we are allowed to enjoy a more lax, free-flowing evening with our loved ones. I cannot express how much these three hours meant to me – to all of us.
The food we ate was reminiscent of homestyle meals I would eat in the presence of my families and friends. My club stayed true to its cultural origins and prepared barbecue ribs, chicken, baked beans, corn bread, mac & cheese, and salad; this was followed by stiped cheese cake and ice cream. What a joy it was to share in this meal with my brother, joking and laughing throughout, just as we would have done if I were out and attending a family event during holidays; just as we’d done when I was out 15 years ago.
In keeping with my club’s tradition, we used our event to honor another African-American icon. Last year it was Dr. King (Dr. King Speech); this year it was Rosa Parks. (Rosa Parks Speech) I was called upon to recite my 8-minute speech on Rosa Parks’ legacy to the audience of 150, and the enormous praise that I received from our guests afterward gave me an overwhelming sense of gratitude and humility. To have been given a platform to pay homage to these iconic figures who have paved the way for our society was truly my honor, and I hope to have done their legacies justice.
We then followed the speech with a spirit-filled, all-inclusive raffle that offered free gifts to our loved ones. These gifts included many handmade crafts (i.e. jewelry boxes, jewelry, and picture frames), books, and other small trinkets. The raffle was festive, fun, and full of energy and excitement. Indeed, this was a rare mix of emotions that we seldom experience in this situation.
The rest of the evening was spent listening to music, taking pictures, and presenting certificates to some of our members for their fundraising efforts, donations of the gifts they make in the institution’s hobby shop, and their overall generosity and contributions to the club. We couldn’t do what we do without our members’ efforts and commitment.
I am more than grateful to have been able to spend a rare fun and quality time with my twin. We have been separated for 15 years now, so our visits mean more than words can say; but this evening went beyond that. It afforded us an opportunity to simply enjoy one another’s company, almost just as we would if I were not confined. This was truly a joy and a night that will keep me comforted for a long time. I will never forget it.
Categories: Martin Lockett