I recently had the pleasure of meeting Linda Scott, the Executive Director & Case Manager at The STAR Project, an organization that works with incarcerated people to help them have a successful transition and reentry after their time in prison. The STAR Project was named 2023 Nonprofit of the Year by the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce. Linda says her favorite thing about the organization is getting to be “a part of the lives of people who are making positive changes for themselves, their families and ultimately the community.”
Linda shared with me the first edition of the local Black Prisoners Caucus (BPC) publication from the Washington State Penitentiary, called The Sankofa Migration. The BPC’s logo is the West African Sankofa bird.
The Caucus has various committees working to better the lives of prisoners and their families by helping them with education, investing in transportation for visitations, and much, much more. With their permission, I will share some of the poems from their publication here with you.
Eye of the Beholder
What’s really important?
It all depends on who askin,
R u in it for good times? Or a longtime?
Is your legacy Amazing? Or will it be Everlasting?
Is your cup Half-empty or Half-full?
Do you even know the difference?
Outside looking in, or inside looking out,
Who do you think would bear better witness?
A rose by any other name is just as sweet,
So if you ask me, If I’m the beholder,
Everything they always told me was less than,
Is everything I always wanted to be.
Men and Women and even the children,
The world and all that lives in it
Bring forth your fruit and let it be filling,
Bring forth your love to heal a whole village,
Stand up and shine with the light that was given,
Freedom is calling freedom is living.
— Abel Linares-Montejo
Caged inside of my own brain
Is a wave of tsunami proportions,
As I ride with only the thrill to stay alive
With fear of my consumption
Deep endz, to deep thoughts,
Even the shallowest waters
Can cause maximum misfortune
So I stay balanced like still water,
But even lake Erie can have you haunted
Taunted by doubt has my vision not quite clear.
So as I see through my eyes
It’s like a blind man leading the way,
In-tune with only intuition
But even Stevie Wonder couldn’t play the keys to this composition,
Composure has me sane
Like the old man on the porch with his cane
That hasn’t never seen or set foot on a plane,
Does that mean I’m headed nowhere?
But this life that I’m livin’
Has driven my drive,
To want to go from a hooptie to a Mercedes-Benz,
But does it really matter the ride,
cuz if there is no gas in the car
I guess I’m already trippin’.
So I go to tie my shoes
But these Velcros remind me I’m trapped in prison,
As I wait for release like cuffs for the keys,
Bus tickets, 40 dollars,
Only then I feel relief,
But the only way out is a man who has faith to see,
That as he thinketh
Only then can he believe
— Stephen Boone #889089
Forever my grace
You’ve healed me in points I felt ceased to my knowing.
Your intentions forever pure.
Curious to why you did,
But never concerned.
You wanted me to be deep,
So I gave you my mind,
Eternally grateful for giving me a new breath to experience.
Your existence constantly giving me purpose.
Impacts on me greater than a religion,
Love greater than a new birth.
Expressing your worth to me,
Forever my grace
— Love, Mitchell Heng
Positive News in the House of Blues
No cheers for un-celebratory tears,
How many years, til I can rejoin my peers,
It appears, we’re waiting til the path clears…
But until then, while my environment is sin,
I’ll shine as if a gem, and on my face I’ll wear a grin…
Are you confused, to hear positive news,
from the house of blues, you thought we were all fools…
At this moment of momentary momentum,
I want my congratulatory mentions, take a pause…
suspension, listen, I’m content with my agenda.
dehumanized & petrified,
conditional precursors to a revolutionary suicide,
now or never, do or die,
fortified identities cause where I’m at isn’t who am I,
fortified my amenities to distract myself from the pain inside,
woke up early just to show up late, like my watch on colored people time,
a road to hell paved w good intentions, tryna push opinions that’s color blind,
maybe freedom's being numb inside,
or not havin to take a gun inside,
not thinkin bout the otherside, the alternative, no tears to cry,
maybe it's havin abundant time,
or not movin when u kno its time,
maybe it's havin no regrets, no remorse, havin no respect,
never a coulda, shoulda, woulda, never thinkin in retrospect...
maybe it’s all of the above, or maybe none at all,
right when u think u got it figured out, u slip n start to fall,
confusing liberty for freedom from the other side of the wall,
where the grass is always greener, and the cups are always half full.
Freedom aint free,
and it never has been, so if you ask me,
revolution is the action, I just wanna be,
coastin without crashin, why can’t they let us be,
you won’t know until you ask them, but why show courtesy,
when they always pass me,
in the driver’s seat, hoping they don’t thrash me,
how could we ever be,
any less than everlasting?