Monday, October 12, 2015

Connecticut bound!

This past Saturday, Dara came over to my house, and we rehearsed in my living room for the last time. Tomorrow at 2 pm ET, we will give a 90-minute presentation at the Annual Adult and Juvenile Female Offenders Conference in Hartford, CT. It's the only conference focused exclusively on women and girls in the criminal justice system.

This year's conference, with the theme "New Paths to Resiliency," will draw professionals from federal, state and local correctional systems, as well as treatment providers and researchers from the United States, Canada and other countries. Dara and I are going to talk about the tools and programs that Truth Be Told offers women during and after their incarceration. Our presentation is unique because the audience will hear about these things through the eyes of a program graduate (Dara) and a volunteer program facilitator (me).

Before we started our final rehearsal, I asked if Dara would join me in some dump writing, which is an expressive writing tool I use in my prison work, as well as in my workshops out here in the free world. Essentially, you set the timer and then keep your pen moving for the allotted amount of time -- no censoring or filtering -- just a free-flowing of thoughts and feelings onto the page, getting rid of any and every thought that is cluttering your mind, so you can be present and grounded for the task ahead. I asked that Dara and I write specifically on how we wanted to feel as we were presenting up there in Connecticut and how we wanted to feel afterwards. I put on some soft music, and our pens got to moving. The words seemed to come easily for both of us. We wrote for the length of two songs before I suggested that we find a natural ending to our thoughts.

Below is what Dara wrote and she gave me permission to share it with you.

As I write this, I am two hours away from heading to the airport to catch my flight. Dara is already there. She texted me 30 minutes ago, an image of the plane's wing sweeping over red, orange and green treetops as the jet was coming in for a landing.

I ask for all your thoughts, prayers and gratuitous good vibes as we step up there tomorrow. Dara is sharing her life story and how things have changed so dramatically in the past five years because she has chosen to stop running from her story and to own it — and therefore, own her life. I cannot wait to see her shine and to see the inspiration she evokes in the people who have come to listen. I am honored to be supporting her in this way.

A synopsis of our workshop:

The Road to Recovery Using the 4 Cs

From a shattered childhood and multiple incarcerations to receiving the Presidential Student Achievement Award at Austin Community College, Dara Musick is the very definition of resiliency. Her transformation didn’t come easily, nor did it come overnight. It took tremendous personal fortitude, numerous false starts, and a community of people who believed in the change that Dara ultimately wanted to see in her life.

After spending more than 25 years living in her addiction and drifting in and out of the Texas criminal justice system from age 15 to 37, Dara set herself on the road to recovery by learning to tell her life story and earnestly practicing the 4 Cs — Community Building, Communication, Creativity and Caring for Self — skills she learned through Truth Be Told, a nonprofit that provides personal growth programs to incarcerated women.
Dara will share her inspiring story and be joined by volunteer Truth Be Told facilitator Katie Ford, who teaches and engages in the same curriculum Dara experienced while incarcerated. Together, Dara and Katie will illustrate how their experiences in prison — learning to tell their life stories and practicing the 4 Cs — have forever changed their lives in ways they could not have imagined. Under the auspices of Truth Be Told, volunteer facilitators and incarcerated women are embarking on the journey of personal transformation together. It’s a holistic approach to prison programming that allows the participants to recognize each other first and foremost as fellow human beings — each of us with a truth worth sharing and a life worth living.