“For me it’s about the kids”. Say’s Mary Carey, an Art Lending Facilitator at BCLALC. “It’s always about the kids to me, almost everything I do is pretty much for kids. When I hear the stories from the inmates, a lot of them will mention that they didn’t even know they had the talent until they went to jail. I don’t want our kids to get locked up for them to know that they have a talent.”
She’s speaking about the Prism Project, an art movement curated by ALF Mary Carey and inmate Richard Guy who, for obvious reasons, spoke through his cousin Jodi Guy.
It all started brewing way before we as Art Lending Facilitators even knew it was an idea. Richard Guy, a lifer in Sci Fayette state prison, has the spirit to organize and lead to the extent that triumph defeats his uncanny position. He simply wanted to REACH OUT from WITHIN, and what better way to reach out to people then through art! And so was born the Prism Project.
Now on our end, as art enthusiasts, it really didn’t take too much debating, the moment Mary told us about the Prism Project she was talking to open ears. We just couldn’t wait to see the results! Nobody knew what to expect BUT I knew it was going to be off the charts!
Richard, apparently didn’t know what to expect either. “I wanted to do something like 10 pieces from 10 artists, but once word got around that we were collaborating to collect art I couldn’t stop the submissions.” Jodi Guy read from Richards letter. “ I can imagine the look on Mary’s face when I sent in the first 60+ submissions with a promise that there was plenty more to come!”
On November 16, we celebrated the 60+ final art works submitted with an opening dinner. All of the 65 guests were connected to the prison system in some way: relatives of someone incarcerated or someone who fights for prison injustices or service providers, we felt this was a good way to connect with the messages the SCI Fayette prisoners wanted to share with us. This was also a great time to reach out to people of a like mind and participate in a powerful movement.
“Don’t take this moment for granted!” I spoke “there are barriers between we and them and some of those barriers had to be torn down in order for this gathering to happen. I’ve been there on the other side of that barrier and I know for a fact that they would be rejoicing to be able to witness this moment because this just does not happen.” I explained
And dare I ask for more? I literally wish we could of marched our way to SCI Fayette with our chefs and decorations and partied and ate with the inmates themselves but even I know that is impossible so I was happy with what we had, yet I couldn’t help but ask for more. For everyone to walk away from this gathering and not make one small connection would have probably hurt me on a personal level just because I feel such a bond with inmates. I know the turmoil they face and today was a very seldom had victory and I am assured that connections were indeed made.
The passion I personally have for inmates, most people believe is because I was incarnated myself but that is not completely true. I was always concerned about the lifestyle of the kids in my community. I had this need to understand why it was so unusual to them that I was me, and why I was a laughing stock for the traits I carried. Proper talking wasn’t praised, being humble wasn’t praised, and neither was getting good grades. The enormous difference between my peers and I led to me not being too popular at least in my own neighborhood. I still loved them. I didn’t feel like the differences meant we should be enemies but there were plenty of foundational values that led to all of us feeling uncomfortable. I mean if you sell drugs and I’m against it and you take that position offensively then obviously we can’t go much farther.
And well, we both ended up in jail! Two completely different types of people in the same exact situation. Thing was, I knew that when I got home I wanted to live my life better, I had that kind of built in conscience. The others from my neighborhood, I wasn’t to sure about. I came to the conclusion that I can talk to these guys, but talking to them isn’t going to be of much help if I can’t take it a step farther. So my helpful spirit became more defined. I don’t just want to become a social worker, I want to create a program that works with local government to come up with a different way than the way the legal system currently handles adolescent cases. This program would at some point get involved with the young person to talk about the barriers that keep them from seeing things in a different light. It would define the lifestyle they live and where it stemmed from, how it functions and how it can hurt them and try to find ways to build a new foundation.
I know that this is not the only reason the kids Mary was referring to would end up in jail and discovering their talents for the first time. Core things like parenting, lack of community/school resources and public figures all play a role in how a child sets foundational boundaries. We all come from different walks in life, and to decrease the high jail rate and low education rate in poor communities would take an impeccable will and a separate individual concern for each and every person we come across.
How do we achieve that?