Incarcerated almost 7 years over 2 sentences
Free since February 2009
Describe your life today.
Oh goodness! My life is so full! And although it’s stressful, it’s a very beautiful thing. I have four little humans that I have been given the opportunity to parent. They are truly my teachers. Each one of them is so amazing and unique! I am also a wife. Who would have thought I would ever settle down? But he is the balance in my life. We own two businesses. My main focus is a little vape and herb shop. We host meditation groups and essential oil and herbal medicine classes. This expansion to my community has been a huge blessing.
Although most of my days are spent running the kids to football, track, gymnastics or cheer, I also find time to lift weights or other fitness-related activities that help keep me sane. In addition to my immediate family, God continues to bring women into my life whom I am able to share my experience and hope with.
What are you most proud of since you’ve been free?
Well, a part of me wants to say getting accepted into The University of Texas, but I think I just want to brag a little. I didn’t even end up going to school long. I think I recognized that my motives for going were more about the pressures and ideals of society and less about my true passions and dreams.
Honestly, I would have to say I am most proud of the fact that we delivered our last baby at home with a midwife. I say “we,” because my entire family got to be a part of it. It was the most magical experience of my life! (Don’t worry. I’m not going to give any details.)
How does your past incarceration still affect your life today — negatively and/or positively?
I am grateful for all of my experiences because they have given me grounds to speak to others of overcoming obstacles. I am able to relate to people and share stories of hope. I was blessed to have family support when I was released; my mom let me live with her and even helped me get a job. Not everyone has that opportunity. I know countless people who are released from prison with nothing and no one to help them. Getting a job and a home are near impossible with a felony, unless you have some sort of connection.
What Truth Be Told program did you experience while incarcerated, and what did you gain from that experience?
When I was first introduced to Truth Be Told, I knew instantly that I wanted to be a part of their Talk to Me Movement program. It was really a no-brainer for me. I have always been a mover, but, up until recently, I didn’t know that it was a part of my spiritual connection.
I started taking dance classes at age 3 and continued into my early teenage years. I think I might even regret quitting dance more than going to prison. It was my outlet. It was my “voice.” However, Talk to Me Movement was my first exposure to authentic movement, where there is no music or choreography. Despite my nerves, I learned so much about my secrets and how they still hold space in my body. I discovered just how connected I am to the hidden emotions and energies of other women as well.
My fondest memory is when I was asked to move to my dear friend Jennifer’s life story. (Hold on. I am filled with emotion as I write, because she is not with us anymore.) She was one of the most loving human beings I have ever known. It’s amazing what your body can translate if you just listen. Since then, I have engaged in more body practices. I attend other ecstatic movement groups where I am able to move through stuck emotions and learn more about what is driving me.
How does Truth Be Told continue to influence your life?
Before I engaged in Truth Be Told, I struggled to connect with women. I oscillated between insecurity and arrogance when relating to women. But now I can see the common ground. I thrive more within my sister tribe. We are constantly growing together. I am all about building my community.
Why is Truth Be Told important and worth supporting?
Truth Be Told is unlike any other prison program I have come across. It’s the real deal. There are no catches. It is truly about personal healing, and the women who lead the program exemplify this practice in their own lives. Truth Be Told doesn’t try to convince you or scare you into some sort of belief system. They share principles and practices that shine light on our own beliefs and create a space where we can remember who we really are.
Because of Truth Be Told, I have discovered how beautiful all of my messes have been. I have found that I am a strong, loving, wild woman, and I deserve happiness and joy! I have connected with my own experience of God and that alone has answered so many questions. It is even more amazing that with presence and practice, I am able to embrace and reflect others in this same light.
This type of healing is monumental in a society that breeds fear and shame. With a movement like Truth Be Told, we can break the stigma of struggle and embrace it as an opportunity to connect and heal.
Describe the women you met in prison.
Oh man! It was like a little family in there! I had my “sisters,” the dorm “mom” and even a sweet “grandma” we all cared for. I made some pretty deep bonds with a few of the women and still connect with them today. Some of my best memories were the extravagant birthday parties we would throw for one another. We made the absolute best with what we had. We laughed together, and we cried together. I consider those relationships very sacred.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the correctional system, what would you change and why?
Most definitely, the way the C.O.s (correctional officers) talked to us. I remember being in county jail, waiting anxiously to pull chain to TDC (transfer to prison), thinking that I would be much happier once I got there. But on the first day, I had to change into my whites and walk down the corridor, listening to the C.O.s yell at us.
Get in line!
What are you looking at, little girl?
Your momma’s not here now!
Oh, they are going to eat your skinny ass up!
I just felt so alone and full of shame. I wish with my whole heart that the correctional system would view us as wounded women instead of bad people. I wish they could see our struggles and, instead of tearing us down, try to lift us up. A little love and compassion can have a huge ripple effect.
Favorite prison recipe?
This makes my stomach turn just thinking about it, but I did try my best to eat healthy in there. I would trade my bread and dessert for the vegetables — mostly steamed spinach or carrots. My hands and feet literally turned orange from all the carotene! I would put all the spinach in a big bowl and mix in crushed cheese puffs and ramen noodle seasoning. Voila! Spinach casserole!
Honor Brandi by helping Truth Be Told raise $30,000 in 10 Days between September 16-25. All gifts made during this 10-day campaign will DOUBLE in size, thanks to a matching pledge of up to $30,000! Your gift will ensure that Truth Be Told continues to provide safe community and healing programs to nearly 1,000 justice-involved women every year! Click on $30,000 in 10 Days to make your gift today!
Click on photos to see full images.