I Taught Playwriting in a Prison & My Life Will Never be the Same: Documentation of Millennial African/Brown Griots
The audacity of this title is the impetus for the article you are reading. My limited experience teaching caged African/Brown men (ages 18-21) in prison is the why but not the what I am writing about. Yes, no free man with a conscience will enter a prison filled with his peers and exit guilt free. Nor will he leave without interrogating the too common socio-economic inner-city to prison pipeline. That said, my intent is to document my experience/reflection and hopefully bridge the gap betwixt 21st century American prison and the reader while offering a solution to this problem.
The first thing to note is how many minorities are employed by the prison system. This is a twisted business working to feed and oppress families of color. Therefore, to shut down the American prison system is to provide and prevent opportunities for minorities. One family will get their son OR father back while another will lose an (or the only) income. There are many stakes to secure the future of prison and that is disheartening.
Betwixt shifts I witnessed crowds of African/Brown working class men and women coming and going. This is honest work with pros and cons. The pro is there are African/Brown professionals policing African/Brown inmates. The con is they are caught in a cycle built to maintain the inhumane condition and conditioning of American slavery.
My second observation is the condition of the inmates, who should be home receiving love, but are stuck eating canned vegetables with dinner and passing time in cages playing infantile board games. It is limiting to say the men are bright and bursting with creativity (They ARE); But in navigating the confines of their oppression they follow the inner-city to prison pipeline manufactured to continue the for-profit institution prison has become. Their bodies are commodities and that is too familiar. It is a nostalgic reflection of chattel slavery.
We arrive at dinner and my role is to sit with a select group of inmates in effort to scribe their thoughts into a short play an actor will read for their entertainment. Each group would create a story inspired by a picture prompt of abstract art. We wrote two plays. The plays varied in length and genre; but they both explored the theme of freedom. While one group philosophized the picture the other sought comedy in their interpretation. In essence, these young men are millennial African/Brown griots with the ability to craft story on demand.
When we are searching for the missing pieces in our communities we must remember the prison system holds the key to the cage that binds our gems. Our responsibility on the outside is to speak out against irresponsible sexual activity that leads to the premature conception of bastards who will not be provided the socio-economic resources necessary to escape the inner-city to prison pipeline that has been privatized to maintain the economic profit of supremacists.
There are too many children in our community who, like the biblical character Ishmael, are born into unfavorable circumstances that reduces the chances of their success. We must STOP navigating the inner-city institutions (e.g. school, church, etc.) ignoring and denying the mental illnesses created by the aforementioned behavior; and, like the privileged, give our sons and daughters the opportunity to observe the depression of their existence through education, therapy, and retreat.
No, nothing will start from the bottom. The parent(s) must also do this work in order to secure the success of their children. In effort to dismantle the for-profit inner-city to prison pipeline we MUST stop creating disadvantaged children who will become the products (articles manufactured or refined for SALE) who continue to propel the success of privatized incarceration. This is our role in the matter. These are our children; and the prison is a foster parent who lacks good intention.
If you have information about free/affordable mental healthcare services; OR if you are a mental healthcare provider or youth advocate/mentor post your services below and social share this article and your thoughts on the topic.
Coming into the knowledge of self: Pathway to SOLUTION after molestation CTA (2)
I have written an article examining how victims of molestation cope with their experience by continuing the abuse (CTA) in the form of three behaviors: promiscuity, bragging, and dysfunctional relationships. Like habits, CTA behaviors manifest over time and are not easy to break. When we are practicing CTA we are owning the experience of abuse in order to feel in control and deny the role of victim. This is often a subconscious reaction to child abuse and adult molestation. Whereas the first article seeks to identify behaviors it does not offer solutions to discontinue CTA. We know how we got here. How do we stop?
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing said, people of color should examine everything in the context of racism/white supremacy; especially the conditioning of our minds. Molestation can be defined as: to break in upon and to disorganize in order to displace. For the sake of this article, we will call the above definition ‘The Method of Molestation’(TMOM). When you break down TMOM you understand the same method was used to enslave Africans; the infiltration (break in upon) of African villages in order to separate (disorganize) African families so to change their status of civilization and environment (displace). The result of the success of TMOM waged against Africans who survived American slavery is ignorance of self. Likewise, the result of the success of TMOM waged against victims of sexual abuse is ignorance of sex; and when we do not know the purpose of self or sex we abuse or continue the abuse (CTA) of both. Therefore, victims of slavery and sexual abuse will follow the same path to discover a solution, and this article offers the following steps:
I am not my past.
I am not my thoughts OR
the emotions/behavior they produce.
I AM the consciousness that says, I AM.
Therefore, I am free to exist.
Getting back to the nature of sexuality and self is becoming a student of the knowledge of truth (we were denied) in order to counter the waged war against our body, status of civilization, and identity. We will not know the vast amount of families harmed by TMOM and CTA until we all come out and come forth about our experience and heal. Until then it remains another system of oppression waged against our communities.
Molestation is a term we are comfortable discussing in the area of child abuse. Though we often misunderstand how children who suffer from sexual abuse grow to continue the familiar behavior of their perpetrator. I call this continuing-the-abuse (CTA). It can be further defined as the subconscious practice of maintaining the contaminated realities of your abuse by offering and or accepting the same abusive behavior. CTA is a wildly popular coping mechanism in the black community because many of us are overlooking the relationship betwixt the condition of our mental health and our experiences. Instead of seeking retreat, counseling, and support groups, we indulge in promiscuity, bragging, and a series of dysfunctional relationships that often lead to the premature conception of children, broken/blended families and communities.
The late Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, a black scholar/psychiatrist, offered a solution when she stated: because of this waged war on our community, black men and women should start families betwixt the ages of 30-35. She maintained this premise in the context of racism/white supremacy. I am reinforcing her solution in the context of child abuse/adult molestation; because the exploitation of black marriage, sexuality, and family, in order to breed more laborers to increase the economic profitability of slave-owners during slavery, still wars against us in the area of sexuality and mental health.
Sexuality is natural. The expression of sexuality is learned behavior. If you do not believe in the passing-on of the sins of the father, which include sexual immorality, you might understand how the inhumane practices forced on our enslaved ancestors are the continued patterns of sexual abuse lurking in our communities today. Historically, we can trace this war against our bodies to the antebellum south. Even after submission, there can be no war without retaliation. Retaliation is defense. In this article we are looking at how we defend ourselves against child abuse and adult molestation by owning the abuse when we are practicing the following CTA behaviors:
If you or a partner is struggling with any of the three CTA behaviors go get the help you need. Do not continue the abuse.
Tylie Shider is an award winning Dramatist and Art Educator/Activist.