Creative Corner: ‘Searching’ by Jeremy Smith

Illustration via The Advocacy Project

Spending all my time,
I’m looking for that perfection;
I dare not stop for anything less…

Spending all my time,
traveling the world for reflection;
I dare not pause for anything else…

I’m looking for that perfect book,
the one with the perfect rhyme;
I’m looking for that perfect look,
the complete and the sublime…

Spending all my time,
I’m looking for the perfect smile;
the one to fill my heart…

Spending all my time,
looking for beauty worthwhile,
a face defined as art…

I’m looking for that perfect song,
the one with the perfect tune;
I’ve been looking for you all along,
the perfect woman to swoon…

I’ve spent all my time,
all my time, looking blue,
But I still have a lot more left,
to spend with silly little you…

Won’t you spend yours as well searching?
Let’s get to know each other;
let’s ride across the universe,
from one star to another…

Let’s spend all our time
together as much as we can.
Even as sunshine falls and stars appear,
we shall dance, we shall dance…Searching

Jeremy Smith is currently incarcerated at Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola).

If you or someone you know is a currently or formerly incarcerated person with creative content to offer, please submit your materials to [email protected] and we’ll be in touch! We’ll share the content on social media and always give credit to the artist(s) involved. Any type of submission–whether stories, poems, illustrations, music, videos or something else–are welcome!

‘We’re the most trusted person.’ : Introducing Our Community Health Worker Team

Danielle Metz (L) and Haki Sekou (R) are VOTE’s new community health worker team.

In prison, the average cost of a doctor’s visit is $3. The average wage of an incarcerated worker, however, is a mere two cents per hour. That means in order for someone to access basic health needs while in prison, they have to work 150 hours first. Even the best paid workers, who make 20 cents per hour, still have to work 15 hours to get medical help. If that doesn’t dissuade incarcerated people from exercising their medical rights, a long list of other reasons–including provider negligence, ineffective medications, and a resistance to the money-making scheme between institutions and Big Pharma–will. As an antidote to this, VOTE began a partnership with the Tulane School of Medicine in 2015. Together we established the Formerly Incarcerated Transitions (FIT) Clinic, a place where returning citizens can go to get access to quality, affordable and safe medical treatment. Now, five years later, we’ve brought two community health workers, Danielle Metz and Haki Sekou, on board. As formerly incarcerated leaders, both have experienced these medical injustices firsthand, and as such have big visions for where VOTE and Tulane will be taking this work. Check out what they have to say.

Continue reading ‘We’re the most trusted person.’ : Introducing Our Community Health Worker Team

Until We Are a Protected Class, MLK’s Legacy Will Not Be Realized

Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 91 this week. He left behind a lasting legacy of how to fight for justice. He graced countless freedom fights with his words, which have since become guiding of our movement. One of his many lessons is that “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” As an ever-growing local, state, and national network of formerly incarcerated leaders, we can’t stay silent. Instead, we help people from all walks of life understand our experience, especially as public support for justice reform grows.

MLK is the reason we have classes of people that are protected against housing discrimination today. In 1968, one week after MLK was assassinated, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Federal Fair Housing Act into law. This made it unlawful for any private or public landlord to discriminate on the basis of: color, disability, familial status (i.e., having children under 18 in a household, including pregnant women), national origin, race, religion, or sex. While this has had a tremendously positive impact in ensuring the human rights of many, the fruits of MLK’s labor have not yet been fully realized. These laws have not included people with convictions like us. 

Because we are not yet considered a protected class, the 7 million Americans with a record can be legally denied housing based on their conviction history.

Continue reading Until We Are a Protected Class, MLK’s Legacy Will Not Be Realized

Envisioning the Year 2419

Today is the first day of the year 2020. Last year–2019–marked 400 years since the arrival of the first slave ship to what we now know as the Americas. With the new year comes new beginnings, but as the old African symbol of the Sankofa bird reminds us, we can’t see where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been.

Mass incarceration is a direct result of the transatlantic slave trade. Because the festering wounds from this collective trauma went unhealed, over the past 400 years we’ve seen the progression from slavery, to Jim Crow, to a public health crisis so severe that it affects one in every two American families. 

Continue reading Envisioning the Year 2419