Liberating Incarcerated Minds with Healthy Haiku

When I first approached the County Jail system it was a good will gesture to offer to conduct one Healthy Haiku workshop for women in lock up. As a result of our first meeting they quickly learned the value of my workshops and officials offered me the opportunity to participate in a new program for inmates by conducting two workshops a week for 8 weeks at a time.  Upon learning  approximately 83% of the women in lock up at this facility were there pre-hearing and pre-sentencing because they did not have the money to make bail, I was even more motivated to share these empowering workshops with the women.  Hence the poverty connection to who sits in jail and who does not.  Most, but not all are young and African American. They have children and families. They have dreams and ambitions – many of which have been subdued and subjugated to another space and time “maybe in my next life.” My mission – and I do choose to accept it – is to wake up those dreams – re-ignite their passions and goals and reasons for being! Encouraging them to be the best that they can be! No easy task for this population. Haiku – an ancient 17th Century Japanese form of poetry that uses 17 syllables to tell a huge story with few words – becomes the gateway for giving them everything I’ve got for building self-esteem, self-love, trust, radical forgiveness, creativity and the return of their voices. Healthy Haiku workshops, originally created for children – I soon learned that parents in general, and women in particular needed to learn this information as they are the primary nurturers – builders or destroyers of self-esteem and the ones that shop for the household (more often than not!)

I waited until after the second set of workshops before sharing on this Blog.  My waiting pales in comparison with the waiting of these women. Most are very young – waiting: waiting in jail for their hearings,  waiting to be united with their children, husbands, other family and friends. Some are awaiting sentencing.   My goal is to help to build them up – mind, body and spirit – to help them to find their voices through discussions and poetry writing about health and wellness. Imagine women who can’t wait to start taking wheat-grass juice and alkaline water on a regular basis!  Just eating healthy food on a daily basis is something to look forward to upon their release.  I  remind them that this “station” in life is temporary and that better life, better days filled by better mindsets, self-esteem and passion for making their lives better – is in their future!

During the workshops we do individual and group exercises, brainstorming and writing. Each participant presents her original poetry to the group, once encouraged to stand straight, speak up, articulate and clearly enunciate.  Communication skills are key to  their effectiveness in negotiating a system that has very low expectations of them based on past interactions. Fueling their new skills and attitudes are Dr. Marianne Williamson’s “Our Deepest Fear (is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure!”) and other positive words and works.

I write this blog because they asked and because it becomes a link between them and the outside world. It is a way to share their words and their hearts. I feel breakthroughs!  Some tears -which I remind them is part of the releasing and healing process – and lots of laughter.  I celebrate their little steps.  When they recite their poetry with the group, I introduce them as ” the Fabulous (and their name). I want for this Blog to be about them – not about me. Their poetry speaks volumes of who they are and of their potential!

I’m in Love with Self

No…I’m not conceited,

Just not going to be Defeated!

 

Now Eye love myself

Before that was a hard task

Where did my love go?

 

If you love your kids

Tell them as much as you can

Let them know you care!

 

Don’t neglect yourself.

Fall in love with who you are.

Fall in love with you!

 

Flying high above the sky

Looking over my life that I’ve deprived

Flopping wings seeking my dreams!

 

Us against the world, My baby

I’ll never abandon you.I’ll always love you

God is within us, Never against us!

 

Happiness you are…

My breath, my life, my shinning star

My dream com true…You~

 

A Grandfather’s Love (my Title) next 3 poems by some person

I loved you when you were here

I missed you now that you’re gone

I wish you could be near to guide me!

 

I have a son that

Needs me more than ever

He’s a ton but I am a proud mother!

I wish he could have met you

So tiny and fragile~

I know you would have loved him too.

I even gave him your middle name, Michael!

 

Whom am I? – Some say I am just a Lady

Some say  I’m a daughter.

And others say I’m a Child of God.

But I tell you I’m all of the above!

Beautiful Black Woman!

 

Why try to hurt me?

That disrespectful tongue of yours.

You would know, or would you?

 

What’s a second chance?

If you’re leaving with no plan?

Time to prove to the man

That we’re worth a second chance!

 

Many  positive comments from the participants:

This class was very pleasant. It made me step out of the negative…if only for a moment!

I always enjoy this class. It lets me realize how much joy is in me!

Love this class!

Lots more to share……next time!  Namaste! The Divine in me Greets the Divine in You! (My greetings as they leave the class!)

(Please check out my most recent book: Healthy Haiku 3: How to Fight Childhood Obesity One Poem at a Time!   a resource for the entire family…On Amazon.)

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