For those folks who haven’t heard the story of how Christmas Caroling at the Gates: C.C.W.F. And Christmas Caroling at the Gates: C.I.W. got started this is for you:
Last year was challenging. The last 2 years have been challenging. Ok the last 8 years have been challenging. I was released from CCWF in August of 2013. I came home and felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I was lonely, I felt disconnected, confused, I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to be out here and I just wanted to talk to my roommates. I thought if I was struggling so much it’s going to be hell for the women who have done decades. I wanted to do whatever I could to prevent anyone else from feeling lost like I did. Thoughts are fleeting and life goes on, but it was always in the back of my mind. More women I know and love some I didn’t know but now love, started coming home and I understood that familiarity is a key part in a successful transition from prison to the free world. Safe and healthy familiarity. The good parts of prison. That’s what I wanted to create. That’s when I finally founded Woman II Woman at the very same time the Department of Corrections began implementing a policy that allows gender self ID and it pulled me in a different direction than I planned. I was getting messages from every yard everyday that were filled with hopelessness and the agony of being erased. I started to absorb it and it started impacting me mentally as if I was still inside. I couldn’t complete any assignments or even a thought. I was in the shower, crying, worse than usual and I asked God, “what am I supposed to do? I can’t help anyone like this what am I supposed to do? I can’t think I can’t function. Should I just stop?” I wasn’t expecting a response, at least not an immediate one, but it hit me like lightening YOU CAN FINISH A SONG. YOU CAN FOCUS LONG ENOUGH TO FINISH A SONG FOR THEM...and that’s what we did and that’s what we will continue to do until we’re given different directions.
Last year, my heart was so heavy. There was a woman I’d been corresponding with, but never met, and she was really starting to open up and have these amazing self realizations, and then, she found out her ex,who was on death row in the mens prison, had transitioned and was on their way to Chowchilla to integrate into the general population with the women. I desperately wanted her to know she wasn’t alone and that she matters and is loved and has value. We were about ready to call it a day when Blanca, founder of Brianna's Closet 916, suggested we change locations. That’s when we started to see flashes of light. Little lights. Book lights flashing on and off. The woman I was particularly hurting for knew we were there. That was our first lil miracle.
This year wasn’t short of miracles at CCWF either. I have been very quick to judge in the past and very ugly when I have absolutely no right to be that way to anyone. We’re called to love our enemies and God loves us while we are still sinners, so who am I to do any different? This year I went up there for every person in that prison. I went for my friends, I went for the women I don’t know, for the officers, for the people driving by, and I went for the people who transfered in from the mens prison too. I went for all of them. Anyway, thanks for reading this far. Hopefully, I’ll see you this Saturday at CIW. We’ll also be live-streaming with the help of someone who knows how to do that so for anyone who can’t make the trip please know we’re doing all we can to make it possible for you to still be a part of this. https://youtu.be/CxowP7rekFc