James, 64

James, 64

Meet James…

She said, “Write, write everyday.” I took her advice and it’s taken me on quite a journey. A year’s worth of my daily journal writing was posted by Cornell University on their website, I have a stack of poetry I’ve written and a couple have even been published.

James, 64
Incarcerated: 15 years
Housed: Corcoran State Prison, California

I don’t even know the person’s name who had a huge impact on my life. I found myself in a prison cell with little more than some writing materials and a book with contact information for colleges and universities from all across the country. I can’t say with any accuracy how many letters I sent out requesting an old text book that may be outdated or getting ready to be discarded. Out of the stacks of letters I sent out, I received one response. It came from someone in the English Department at the University of San Francisco. This person sent me three brand new textbooks on creative writing and poetry. I had written in my requests, that I wanted to turn my prison cell into a classroom. She responded along with the textbooks, with a note saying that she hoped these books would help, and offered her advice… she said, “Write, write everyday.” I took her advice and it’s taken me on quite a journey. A year’s worth of my daily journal writing was posted by Cornell University on their website, I have a stack of poetry I’ve written, a couple have even been published, I’ve been asked to write pieces for a couple prisoner advocacy publications, as well as earning an AA degree in Fine Arts, graduating with highest honors. All this and more developed from the kind heart of someone I don’t even know, almost 15 years ago. Her KWD started me on my journey of recovery and rehabilitation. She changed my life, and I’m continuously thankful to her.

Kenneth’s Gallery

Kenneth’s Gallery

 

Artist Kenneth, 69

Incarcerated: 23 years 
Housed: Stateville Correctional Center, Joliet, Illinois

I express my reality through art and poetry. My biggest regret is failing my son. I take responsibility for him sitting in the cell right above me. Despite all the things that challenge us as black men, I fail him as a father.

My art is born out of the many social injustice issues that we face day to day; such as the school to prison pipeline, protests and to black lives matter. There are proud moments, to man’s call and dependence on something higher than himself.  I paint and write with the purpose and intent to provoke thought and conversation. I ask you for your feedback and suggestions and if it motivates you to get involved in helping the marginalization of the black and brown. We are often forgotten.

Khiem, 41

Khiem, 41

Meet Khiem…

Through art I found a connection to my son. And through drawing I guided him to express his feelings in a positive way.

Incarcerated: 11 years

I have a son named Jason. Being a father who is far away, I needed to find a way to connect to my son. When I got locked up, he was nearly two. On his second birthday, I wanted to send him a card. I told myself I would learn how to draw so I could draw for him and everyone who supports me out there. I found that drawing was not only helping me build our relationship, It was also a way to express my emotions, a productive way to spend my time and it helped me focus and I’ve learned to be patient. It turned into a therapy which took me out of prison. I draw flowers, birds, koi fishes, and Spiderman, my son’s favorite superhero. I am also helping him to express his feelings through art. I could confidently say we finally found a common ground that we can talk about whenever I call home. Today, I would like to share my story and my little drawing. I hope by my sharing, it will help lift people up and help them find peace. I drew for peace in Ukraine, tensions in Southeast Asia, etc. I want to wish the world a peaceful moment. I was the kid who was growing up after the war. I’ve experienced that path and I had to move to a whole different country. I left behind everything and struggled for a new life. So peace is what I wish for, not only in the world, but for all of us incarcerated, who live in a negative environment. The blossom flowers represent a better life, better moments under the moonlight, under the darkest times. Even if the flower could blossom under the moonlight, so do we- right! 

Thank you for asking me to write and thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my feelings. I would say expressing feelings through art is one of the most powerful, positive ways which I wish I could have learned a long time ago (before I committed my crime). Through art I found a connection to my son. And through drawing I guided him to express his feelings in a positive way.

Through drawing I found a connection to my son. And through drawing I guided him to express his feelings in a positive way. He is now 13 and interesting in cooking, I am glad he found something positive to do and help cope with his daily problems.

Saragoza, 43

Saragoza, 43

Meet Saragoza…

If a loved one is not in a good space, I give them positive reinforcement and make them laugh. Then, tell them all the reasons I appreciate them and why they are a rockstar!

Saragoza, 43
Incarcerated: 14 years
Housed: California Men’s Colony, San Luis Obispo, California

My struggle began as a baby when my father was gunned down near where I was born. The judge threw the book at me and sentenced me to 335 years to life. The ultimate kicker, I was charged as an aider and abettor. I know what you’re thinking, and no I was nowhere near the crimes. My son was five months old at the time. I was destined for ten lifetimes in Pelican Bay’s Solitary Housing Unit (SHU). In 2013, we did a big hunger strike to end long term solitary confinement. I lasted a long 18 days and was released. Now I love to read and I have learned to remain positive and how to refocus my thought process to happiness, love, joy and prosperity. I was never a negative person and I was only a social drug and alcohol user. I exercise every day to clear my thoughts. I meditate every morning. I read positive spiritual material. I draw, write and listen to all types of music that takes me away from here 😜 I have become and enjoy being a motivator to those in my life. I’m into building people up in all aspects of life. I want to help them better themselves or their circumstances by giving genuine love and support. I’m happy being able to contribute to their happiness, to me that’s what love is. You know what I do if a loved one is not in a good space: I give them positive reinforcement. Then I make them laugh and tell them all the reasons I appreciate them and why they are a rockstar! As far as romantic love, well my superpower is to fall in love like it’s the first time all over again, every single morning I wake up. Yet, snail mail and 15 minute phone calls can’t compete with social media. So I have to fall in love with my imagination and dream woman. I remain steadfast on my journey to help others stay focused on positive and productive things. Thank you for your attention in reading my story and thoughts. I wish and want the best for everyone. Big love always ~ Santos

Jose, 53

Jose, 53

Meet Jose…

The passage of time has given me the opportunity to mature and become more knowledgeable, empathetic and compassionate. It has taken many years of self-analysis and reflection for me to be able to reach inside to my very soul and reveal my true self.

Jose, 53
Incarcerated: 31 yrs
Housed: Sing Sing State Prison, New York 

Not once, not twice but many times I’ve fallen victim to making bad decisions, mistakes and unwise choices. The errors in the early course of my life led me to many emotional places. I have been to high highs, and to extremely low lows. The way I perceived life was molded by the life style I lived as a young man. It was all about me and my survival. Nothing or anyone mattered. Capitalizing and profiting from others shortcomings and weaknesses was what I thought survival was all about. I did not care if I could make a dollar off of someone else’s misery. Who I hurt in the process did not matter. The blinders were powerful. On the sidelines were families, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters all defenseless against poverty and addiction. In my misconstrued mindset and way of thinking, I’d sugarcoat my actions with phrases “if they don’t get it from me, they’ll get it from someone else.” Families to this day are suffering from my actions. During my incarceration, I have witnessed firsthand the long-lasting effects of being a destroyer of lives. I live this every day. I have met family members of the people I used to sell poison to and met the children of past customers. The stories I have heard are heartbreaking to say the least. I have heard stories about being left alone at home or on the street while a drug addicted mother ran around doing unmentionable things to quench the insatiable thirst for crack. Time has given me the opportunity to mature and gain knowledge, empathetic and compassion. It has taken many years of self-analysis and reflection to be able to reach inside my soul and reveal my true self. My transformation hasn’t been a flick of a switch but a slow and gradual process. I write this with a tear in my eye and in my heart. I am truly sorry and ashamed for the destruction I caused. Continuing on my path to do better and help others do better is not easy. It has been a struggle to stay the course; however, I’ve been blessed to have crossed paths with a person that would help me arrange my thoughts, develop my potential and guide me on this road to redemption.