By Kathleen Littlepage, Truth Be Told Interim Executive Director
Right now, we are filling spaces in the last two spring graduations: Talk To Me and Discovery at Hilltop Unit in Gatesville is May 16, and Discovery at GEO Lockhart Unit is May 23. We need about two weeks to process the prison paperwork for the attendees, so please let us know as soon as possible that you want to attend. For more information, contact Carol Waid at carol (at) truth-be-told.org or (512) 292-6200.
On Friday April 4, a group of about 20 from Austin met up at Kreuz Market in Lockhart, but it wasn’t all about the barbecue. After lunch and some visiting, Katie Ford, a Truth Be Told facilitator, prepared us for the short trip we were about to make to the GEO Lockhart Unit for a graduation. It was routine for the TBT facilitators but a completely new experience for a journalism graduate student, a school counselor, a psychiatric nurse, a stay-at-home mom, a former DPS officer, a UT professor, and the rest of the assembled. We listened carefully as Katie described how we would be processed into the prison and what the event would be like.
The three spring Talk To Me classes were ready to graduate 31 women. They had all spent eight weeks learning how to tell their life stories— not the stories of their convictions but the larger stories of how they became who they are.
The women had all chosen one of the three Talk To Me formats, speaking, writing, or movement. Many of the women had never participated in a graduation, although a few had some higher education, but the occasion marked completion of an intense personal journey of discovery for all. We were there to be respectful listeners to enlarge the safe communities they had built in class.
In the auditorium, the guests and graduates mingled and sat together while waiting for the ceremony to begin. This was my third graduation, but it had been several years since the last one. Ginger McGilvray’s movement class began with a group performance to a rendition of Motherless Child, and I remembered how deep these women go and that I was about to go on that journey with them. Three women from the speaking class and three from the writing class told their stories. I heard about a father who was a drug dealer, a mother who left, a brother who took her innocence, a girl who knew she was pretty, a child who died mysteriously, bad choices, and struggles with addiction. Pain, loss, mistakes, hopes, and redemption all tumbled out together. When Donna Snyder began calling the names of her 12 students in the speaking class, I was so thankful and ready for the upbeat mood of the women celebrating their accomplishments. After some guests chose to share their thoughts in the closing circle, we ended with laughter as we each said our name, a one word feeling, and a gesture that the entire group then repeated.
I agreed with the guest who said, “I am comforted to know that some of the people that we incarcerate have access to moments that will make a difference in their lives.” And I wanted to add, “…and make a difference in our lives.”
Kay Rosenkranz, who was released from prison in 2013, wrote about her experience with three Truth Be Told classes, “Graduation day was so special for me. I became an emotional basket case that day too. I was so surprised to see that people from the ‘free world’ were inspired to tears by what we did that day and the stories we shared. More surprising was learning how many other women had stories to tell and how those stories impacted their lives. I found hope in learning I had so much in common with these women. I remember thinking that if only we could harness this goodwill, this human commonality, and this energy, what a world we could then create!”
Gone For Good Supports Truth Be Told
On April 1, Gone For Good presented Truth Be Told with a $2,500 grant award at a lovely luncheon at Chez Nous. Kathleen Littlepage and Carol Waid were there to accept the check from the three founders, Retta Van Auken, Gail Miller, and Sandy Rotman.
Gone For Good is a nonprofit with a simple but clever model to help other nonprofits. Individuals donate items of value that they no longer want. Gone for Good sells the items and donates the proceeds, less a handling fee, to the charity chosen by the individual, who in turn gets a tax deduction. Gone For Good has a booth at the Antique Marketplace, and they sell items online. They also organize and manage estate sales.
Gone For Good was started three years ago by these three Austin women and has made over $150,000 in cash and in-kind donations. For the first time this year, Gone For Good used some accumulated funds to award grants to five small local nonprofits, and Truth Be Told is fortunate to be in that group. We are grateful to Gone For Good for their hard work and generosity and for choosing to support Truth Be Told.
Please keep Gone For Good in mind as new way to support Truth Be Told next time you want to give some items a new home. We love playing a part in their mission to sell worldly treasures to do a world of good.