Not a Goodbye, a Change in Responsibilities

October 23, 2008
This letter is to my CCWP Family, our volunteers outside and our dear sisters and trans people inside.
Dear Family,
I resigned as the Director of CCWP effective September 1, 2008. I?ve been on a fantastic journey since my release from prison in June 2002 and my accepting the position as Director of CCWP in April 2005. Both CCWP and I are continuing to grow and move forward. My satisfaction comes from knowing that I?m leaving CCWP stronger and more prepared to tackle the goals we have set together.
As most of you know, I was incarcerated for 20 years in the federal prison system. Getting out of prison was certainly an incredible and gratifying experience for me, although bittersweet. Knowing how many people are still behind those walls and inside those cages continues to leave me incomplete. As long as there are women behind bars, part of me will always be inside. I think of you everyday of my life. I grieve over not being able to ?do? as much as I know needs to be done.
Working in an environment that understands and supports incarcerated people has contributed to making my life outside worth living. I am humbled and honored to have worked for the California Coalition for Women Prisoners as well as to be a voice expressing your thoughts and feelings on this side of the prison wall. I have accepted the responsibility to represent CCWP as the Advisory Board chairperson. I do believe we all deserve opportunities to live healthy, prosperous lives. I?ve been told that I?m a bit too optimistic at times, but without my belief, I would not be sitting here writing you. Please, hold on to your beliefs and be true to yourselves.
CCWP has a rich history that embodies the relationship between volunteers outside and those still behind the walls. Our dear founding member Charisse Shumate described our relationship like no other could: ?When I could not hear my mother?s voice or be a voice to my son, it?s people like you that have helped me believe that I?m not lost, forgotten or a walking dead.? Her words ring true for me, even to this day. Outside volunteers helped me live my life while inside and also prepared me to live again outside of prison. I could not have done that without them. We worked together on programs and projects and I always felt respected as a human being with value. Our collaborative work is critical to the success of our lives inside and out.
CCWP has brought on two incredible women who I?m sure will continue to uphold the tradition that CCWP stands on. Hafsah Al-Amin is our new Development Coordinator and Nia Sykes is our new Outreach Coordinator. Please welcome them with loving arms and your ideas about the direction of our work together in these critical times. I want to thank you for allowing me to represent this remarkable organization. Keep your spirits strong and your life will follow.
Peace & Blessings,
Hamdiya Cooks
Former CCWP Director