Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Inspired.


Yesterday I met some people I will never forget.

Some of you know about Voice of Witness, the book series spearheaded by Dave Eggers, which confronts contemporary human rights crises through oral history. There are currently four books in the series: one about people who were wrongfully convicted and exonerated from prison, one about those displaced during and after Hurricane Katrina, one about undocumented workers in the U.S., and one about Sudanese refugees. All of which are full of extremely powerful narratives from those most directly affected.

A few months ago, my friend Mimi (who is Executive Director of Voice of Witness) contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in helping work on their fifth book, which will hopefully come out next year, focusing on the abuse and neglect that many women suffer when they are incarcerated. Of course, I agreed.

Yesterday I got up at 5 am and drove to Montgomery, Alabama to meet with two women at the AIM (Aid for Inmate Mothers) center downtown. I prepared my (incredibly futuristic) audio recorder and sat down with the first woman I was to interview. To say that she silenced me with her strength, resilience, and grace would be a drastic understatement.

The same thing happened with the next woman I interviewed. And then I drove to Birmingham, and was once again stunned by the story that came forth from this woman. All three of them had spirits & bodies that had been crushed, and all three of them were humble, gracious, and so unbelievably brave.

After I left the last woman's hot, humid living room in Birmingham, where we sat together swatting flies and in the loud hum of her fan, I drove to a Cracker Barrel and had dinner by myself in rural Alabama (sweet tea, fried okra, macaroni & cheese, and red skin potatoes). How's that for country? I figured I could use the time to sit alone and think about my new heroes.

Man, are most of us so, so lucky.

15 comments:

Miss Caitlin S. said...

Wow, what an opportunity. I would love to do something like that and I think it's so cool that you are doing that!! I love the last paragraph here - gave me a great mental image.

Meghan said...

That is such an incredible opportunity! It must feel amazing to be a part of something so powerful. You will have to let us know when the book comes out - I would LOVE to read it!

Everton Terrace said...

That's a lot to process. I agree, most of us are so, so lucky indeed.

Michelle Kendrick Hartney said...

What an incredible project! You are so lucky to be part of it!!

Faiza said...

Love your passion for educating us around criminal justice issues. Would love to get your book too!

Diana Mieczan said...

We really are very lucky...this made me so emotional...Its amazing to hear that people who had to go thru so much, still can smile and be powerful...Those are heros for sure! Thank you sweetie for reminding me that I am so lucky...and I should never forget that....I adore that you are part of the project and I cant wait to read it!
Have a great Thursday my darling :)

Heather Taylor said...

This sounds like a once in a lifetime opportunity, and while we are very lucky to have not gone through these circumstances, we're even more lucky to have such brave women speak honestly and candidly about them for the rest of the world to read about.

drollgirl said...

you are so lucky to be part of such an amazing and inspiring project. sometimes meeting people that have overcome some of the worst in humanity makes us gain perspective on our own lives.

Cynthia said...

I couldn't agree with you more, we are lucky and sadly take it for granted I know I do(working on it though), It's so amazing that you get to be apart of this!

btw Thanks for following my little corner of the web. It means so much when I see that people actually read what I write :)

hope you have a great weekend!

Annie Cristina said...

We truly are so blessed and we take our blessings for granted. It's sad. I'm so happy you had this wonderful opportunity to be a part of something so meaningful.

shari @ little blue deer said...

Good for you. That is so inspiring, and gives me great cause for gratitude today. Thank you!

Heather said...

what a beautiful opportunity, claire! i'm touched even hearing about your experience. and further inspired by you. xox.

g e o r g i a said...

Hi Miss Claire! Hey, I hope I didn't confuse you on the giveaway, it is not mine! Go see Trish at Preppy Pink Lily Lover! She is wonderful!
Hope you are having a wonderful weekend :)

Bumpkin on a Swing said...

Heroes can be found in the most unlikely places in our lives. It's because you too are a hero with your open mind, and accepting thoughts, and lack of judgement (meaning not judging anyone).

this free bird said...

This is fascinating. Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for this journey with you - but now one of the swatted thank you very much. Very inspiring. I am familiar with the Sudanese stories of VOW.