Thursday, November 24, 2011

15th Anniversary of The Fire Inside

As co-host, I couldn't take notes like I wanted to, but here are photos from the event, courtesy of Scott Braley. As you can tell, the event was well-attended. The community came out to support our sisters, the formally incarcerated and those still inside whose internal fire remains lit.

Melanie DeMore shared a song with us that spoke to how important it is to stand with someone, even when we can't change her circumstances. It was a beautiful moment singing "I will stand by you . . . " as we watched Melanie hold Patricia Wright's photo in her hand. Slowly, many people in the audience stood until everyone who was able seemed to be on his or her feet.

Melanie came on after Angela Y. Davis's inspiring talk about women in the prison system and how so little has changed for women especially when we look at gender equity and the potential for sexual violence, in addition to racial violence. She spoke about how little attention had been paid to the plight of incarcerated women and what turned her attention to such.

So many people forget that Dr. Davis is a former political prisoner and as a scholar, she brings both a theoretical and practical experience to the discussion on prison abolition. She was proceeded by women who were recently released. It was just so wonderful to see women whom I'd visited when they were behind bars, now free.

It just puts everything in an entirely different perspective. Just as freeways cut up communities and allow citizens to bypass and skirt and skip and ignore entire populations or constituencies, so does prison remove from the public discourse important participants in the national dialogue. If this is a democracy then everyone's voice is important, especially those voices artificially silenced by imprisonment.

It is like a timeout, only we are not children.

This is our house.

Take Patricia Wright, Carletha Stuart, Debbie Peagler's stories and multiply them 1000 times and perhaps the roar will deafen you as the voices we can't hear become audible. This is what The Fire Inside newsletter published by formerly incarcerated and incarcerated women does, it gives these women a platform to speak and get heard. Visit


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