Our Voices Within: Healing from the Inside Out

by Andrea Bible and Diana Block
Cheryl, Janisha, Gloria, Marva, and Juliette at the eventOn October 12, 2003, nearly 200 community members joined Free Battered Women for the second annual “Our Voices Within” event – an inspiring afternoon celebrating the release of three survivors of domestic violence from prison and supporting the healing of their sisters inside.
Survivors Marva Wallace, Susan Deering, and Cheryl Sellers each shared their amazing journeys to freedom. Marva Wallace was the first woman to be released through the help of the Habeas Project* after serving 17 years of her sentence. Susan Deering was also released through the Habeas Project after serving 22 years in prison and Cheryl Sellers is one of the very few people to be paroled by Governor Davis. Former prisoner Gloria Killian who was released in 2002 when her conviction was overturned was also present and reflected on the many forms of injustice which women prisoners face.
African Canadian lesbian singer-songwriter Faith Nolan roused the crowd with songs of social justice and her humor. The all-woman, multi-racial dance collective Dancers Without Borders amazed everyone with their compelling performance, which reflected both the anguish and the strength of women who survive.
Friends and family members read poetry from women inside, and the audience bid on the remarkable artwork of incarcerated women in a silent auction. During the open mike time, family members and friends shared their feelings about the impact of their loved one’s incarceration on their lives. All together the event raised $2,900 for the work of Free Battered Women!
The people attending were clearly moved by the strength and talents of currently and formerly incarcerated survivors and they committed to carry on the work to gain the release of those who remain inside.
Commemorative books of survivors’ writing and artwork created for the event are available for $15 by contacting Free Battered Women. Free Battered Women is always looking for artwork, poetry and testimony for our website and next year’s Our Voices Within.
*The Habeas Project was established by a coalition of groups, including Free Battered Women, to assist battered women in California state prisons to seek retrials or reduced sentences under Penal Code 1473.5 effective January 1, 2002.