We read this at the jail

We went around... and each woman read a stanza. Some whispering, some broken. One woman settling into it more and more with each word, like sleeves she slipped her bare arms through.   And I could hear her wonderment, the revelation as she went on.


You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.


Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.


Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.


Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops.

Weakened by my soulful cries.


Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own back yard.


You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.


Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?


Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

-Maya Angelou


How do we find inner peace? I'm doing this as a unit at the Del Valle Jail- it is my honor and privilege to witness these women with their great wisdom, their great hardships. Their violence and grief, and guilt.  I am beside myself with awe as we study together.  As our lives and paths intermingle- me with my stories, and theirs. 

Inner peace as a building block, the root note of the chord we are vibrating... vibrating.

Pain as our teacher. Shame humbling us.  Nobility of the soul, setting us free. In the darkest of places. Fenced in by circumstance.  Liberated by ineffable light... in the mind.  In the heart.

True wisdom dawning at the rocky bottom of loss.. women alone in a jail cell, finding themselves and each other.

I'm here... I offer my eyes. I let the rebelliousness and tensions roll off of me like water, and I laugh with them.  I offer my heart, and my sincere unknowing. My dedication to our mutual illumination. 

Next week our class will be on humility and how to develop a sincere sense of good will for all.  We may dance, we may sing.  We may write each other notes... we will change the way we think.  Instead of looking for what's wrong, we will look for what's right. And in a place where your neighbor is a potentially vicious stranger, we'll pass an hour as friends.



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