• Rhonda Craven

Life Out Of Lemons

On February 21, 2016 AHHAH hosted a community event called, "Letters to My Younger Self." Jayne Thompson (editor of the book) and Christopher R.W.M. led the workshop. The book was conceived and created by the men in the 2011 Prision Literacy Program Creative Writing Class as Grateford Prision as a way to share their stores and experience with youth. Christopher spent over 30 years in prision and was recently released. He shared his powerful story and writings with the community. This generated a community dialouge on transforming the criminal justive system into a restorative justice system. This was one of the most powerful and touching events that we have hosted yet. We are so greatful to Christopher and Jayne for sharing this with us. The following are some reactions of the community to the event:

“I am in awe of Chris’s strength. How can he be so gentle after experiencing so much trauma? Not many people have that kind of strength.”

“Look at how much Chris has given us tonight. He has been restored to us!”

“How can a man who was locked up for 30+ years have so much love in his heart. My current stress is being confined to my house for 2 days this weekend and this man only exudes positive energy. Talk about making life out of lemons!”

“I’m feeling good.” “Happy” “Good” “Empathetic and moved” “My uncle inspires me”

“Inspiration, Chris, although I’m just coming to know you over the last few months, I can truly say that I am so happy to call myself your cousin. We are connected by blood from your father and my grandfather. They were brothers. The poems that I’ve heard from you have given me hope. You have a cousin who also hopes to write, but has limited time to do so because of his hob. I’ve heard an audio of a poem you wrote and am so inspired by you to continue to write.”

“Feelings: Yay for the man you are, Tears for your journey, Hope for your future, Proud”

“Restorative Justice: Education – Guidance/Counseling + Being our brother’s keeper”

“The Shackles of Life”

“Inspired, motivated, moved, empathetic. Restorative justice would include rehab in prison, including job skills, goal setting. When the person comes out of prison, make sure it’s to a rehabilitated community/society which includes irraticating institutional racism and lower expectations and opportunities for minorities. Jobs need to be offered regardless of past charges or we’re setting people up for failure to do illegal things like petty theft, to get by.”

“Impressed, story of determination. Allowing wounds to heal in order to heal others.”

Did you miss this event? Not to worry, this was so powerful and resonated so much with the community that we are planning a second workshop with Christopher and Jayne!