It’s All About Us: How did you survive your time inside?

by Yvonne/Hamdiya Cooks
How did you do it? I am often asked this question referring to the time I spent incarcerated in a federal prison. Although I may seem as if I?ve got it all together, I often answer, ?I?ve been damaged?. Long-term incarceration affects the human mind. There is so much time spent planning life after prison that you can?t possibly accomplish it all.
We try to make up for time spent inside as we emerge into a world replete with advanced technology that encourages and allows us to work without stopping. I often reflect on how I spent my time inside and what was it that allowed me to possess a willingness and desire to succeed after 20 years behind cell doors. It was my spirit that didn?t suffer the damage. God blessed me to retain my soul. The system, no matter how brutal, cannot take your spirit.
I recently read an article that memorialized African Americans whom we lost in 2006. BeBe Moore Campbell was among those I was shocked to read about. Ms. Campbell wanted “to give racism a face” when she told in Your Blues Ain?t Like My Blues, a fictionalized story of a young Chicago-born teenager who was murdered in the South after saying the wrong thing to a white woman. I knew this woman was not that ?old?. It made me truly think about my own mortality and my desire to live the remainder of my days on this earth planting seeds of righteousness. I remember being inside sometimes feeling as if therre was no hope. Reading BeBe Moore Campbell?s inspirational writings in Essence Magazine gave me hope and feeling of empowerment. She was truly a blessed woman I hoped to emulate. Reading my Holy Qur?an and her positive words elevated my spirit and allowed me many times to endure another day. I felt as if she was talking to me and knew what I needed. I pray her family knows how much impact her words had on a young Black woman who sometimes didn?t think she could survive.
Too often women carry burdens that aren?t ours to bear. We weren?t taught how to take care of and nurture ourselves. New Year?s resolutions aren?t something I generally make, but if I were to make one I would make a ?new life resolution? and I would vow to make an honest attempt at taking better care of ?me?. By this I mean to take time to enjoy life as we work through it. I pray my comrades inside those cages would do the same. Let?s begin taking better care of ourselves wherever we are. Love ourselves enough to nurture our spirits as we feed our bodies. As we position ourselves in the world attempting to resolve social justice ills, we must not forget our own needs. Let us continue to remind ourselves that we are worthy of being loved and nurtured as we work to nurture and protect those we love. Let us always remember sistahs like BeBe Moore Campbell who gave so much in her short life to so many of us. Take care and God bless.