Introduction

Yvonne/Hamdiya Cooks
It is with great honor and privilege that I introduce myself to you as the new Executive Director of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. I am very proud to represent an organization that has historically supported the interests of women prisoners for 10 years. I spent 20 years behind prison gates, bars and fences. I personally understand what you go through.
The prison system is designed to break our bodies and our spirits, but I am here to humbly express and witness the miracle that hope and faith can bring into being. I am a God fearing person, I am a Muslim and I respect all humanity.
I urge you to stay in communication with your CCWP sisters outside who are prepared to follow your lead as we move this work forward. Those of you still inside represent the core of CCWP, our volunteers outside represent the other part. Working together we can and will change some of the conditions women suffer in prison.
My promise to you is that I will never forget where I came from; I won?t make you any promises I can?t fulfill, and I won?t promise anything on your behalf that you haven?t authorized. Remember, you are respected and you do have power.
I am going to leave you with a poem written by Marianne Williamson. The poem is most remembered from a speech delivered by Nelson Mandela. ?Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.?
In solidarity and love,
Your sister,
Yvonne/Hamdiya Cooks