It’s been a whirlwind.
On January 6th, I turned in my public ministry capstone project, meaning I completed my Master of Arts in Public Ministry, which was a deep dive into McCormick’s program of Liberative Theological Studies at Cook County Jail. My journey to complete my MA was a 5 year long and windy path, full of countless sacrifices, mostly financial, but I finally finished. If it wasn’t for my village of supporters cheering me on, I am not sure I would have made it to completion. I’m grateful for my peeps! I am officially a alumna of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. yay buddy!
On January 7th, I came on board fulltime with McCormick Theological Seminary to live more fully and deeply into their program for liberative Theological Studies at Cook County Jail. I am grateful to be part of this co-creating work and for MTS’s commitment to entering into a relationship of solidary-making with those who are incarcerated.
On January 9th, we started our winter course “Being Made in the Image of God” taught by Barbara Wilson. And, I cannot let another day go by without sharing a little about what we’ve been up to at Division 11 on Thursdays from 4 pm -6 pm. Over the past several weeks, students have considered their personal responsibility in community through spirituality, healthy relationship building, and intentional action with corresponding impact in mind.
We’ve been intentionally using the classroom and syllabus as an opportunity to bridge community and build social capital from the outside to the inside. We invited Marlon Chamberland, Yohance Lacour and Aaron Smith to be a part of our learning community at Division 11. All three of these men are change agents in Chicago, and they also share in the experience of having been incarcerated. Each of these men engaged with course material like bell hooks’ all about love with these questions in mind: 1)How do you connect who you are, your core values, principles for living, etc (being) with what you do/how you live, your attitudes, speaking/actions and build relationships (doing) and what were your disconnects? 2)What changes in your mind, attitudes, behavior were needed for you to move forward in your personal/professional transformation?
With Barbara Wilson’s skillful and insightful facilitation, we as a community of learners engaged in rich, authentic, vulnerable and truth-telling dialogue. It has been a mutually transformative learning environment. Last week, as we wrapped up class with Yohance, one of the students said: “Man, I cannot even begin to tell you how much it means to me that you are here in this classroom with us.” He goes on to say, “I need you. I need guys that have been through what I am going through to show me that it’s possible to overcome. You give me hope.” As you could imagine, it was a tender heartfelt moment.
Last night, as we wrapped up class, one of our students returned from court with the news that he was acquitted. We stopped class to celebrate his freedom and innocence. We lamented in our silence with our friend as we learned that his brother would go on to further incarceration. We ended class in prayer led by two incarcerated learners. We then huddled around and laid hands on our friend who would be returning home very soon. One by one, we each spoke a blessing over his life. We said our goodbyes until next time.
When I reflect on the past month, I cannot help but recall bell hooks poignant words:
“To heal our wounded communities, which are diverse and multilayered, we must return to a love ethic, one that is exemplified by the combined forces of care, respect, knowledge and responsibility.”
#liberativepadogies #teachingtotransgress #prsionabolition #higheredinprison #learningcommunities #blackhistory #liberationtheology #incarceratedlearners