Reflections from Fired Up!’s 1 year anniversary celebration

The work we do, to many, appears contentious. “Oh, you work in the jails? With women? What’s that like?” People have trouble understanding. As I’m not always the best at giving appropriate or diplomatic answers, I thought, if I could define our work to people in one way, it would be have been to invite them to our first birthday party. Our small, warm fundraiser last month so clearly showed me how special we are, how evolutionary we are. Joanna’s film emulates so much of what we do in Fired Up!—struggle, cry, grow, collaborate, breathe, enjoy, let things be. Evolve. LaKesha’a story is simultaneously one of the most painful yet inspiring, something that for me, connects so deeply to the work we do in SF County Jail’s E Pod and in our community as a whole. I feel so grateful to LaKesha and Joanna for collaborating and making a riveting piece of political art that we were able to share and keep sharing.

Sharing our work and our hearts with people takes time, takes understanding. I am so grateful to the wide array of folks who came to join us for our celebration and contribute to our movement. I feel especially fortunate to have shared the evening with three members of my family, who all had different experiences but ended with one common thought—how proud they are that they know someone doing “this work.” And that’s all of us, that’s them for coming to support. That’s you, who came to witness, donate, and celebrate! We are in this as a whole. We cannot be cohesive without our diverse mix of experiences, skills, backgrounds, and passions.

Fired Up! is family, plain and simple. Our fundraiser birthday party emulated just that to me—that in Fired Up! we do more than just organize. We do more than political work. We live our lives together, we thrive together. There is no one way to define what we do, and I’m happy with that. Thank you for joining us as we continue to find ourselves—as we all continue to evolve throughout this crazy life! Here’s to another year of resistance, education, movement building, and community. WE FIRED UP!

-Mira Stern, Fired Up! member

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Happy Birthday Fired Up!

Below are photographs from our anniversary party and fundraiser. We celebrated one year of Fired Up! building community across the walls of S.F. county jail with a screening of the film, Still Time, testimonials and appreciations, an incredible cake, and sharing and growing our Fired Up! family with all who came to support.

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Save the date: October 20, 2012 Film screening and 1 year anniversary celebration of Fired Up!

This September marks the 1 year anniversary of Fired Up! and it’s time to come together to celebrate our collective work and continue to nourish our grass roots so they grow strong in, through, and beyond the jail walls. We need your energy as well as life-sustaining and movement building funds!

Join us for a screening of the film Still Time, a discussion with the the central figure in the film and it’s maker, a raffle of Assata Shakur posters, snacks, and report back from our first year.

Still Time, produced by Joanna Sokolowski in collaboration with California Coalition for Women Prisoners, follows the story of LaKeisha Burton, a member of the CCWP. Incarcerated at the age of 15 and released at 35, LaKeisha must start from scratch to rebuild her life, discovering that although being out of prison can be just as unpredictable as life inside, she can still find her way back home.

Saturday, October 20th
Doors at 5:45PM
Program 6 – 8PM
Clean Lounge
1641 LaSalle Avenue in Bayview, San Francisco
$5-20 donation, no one turned away

*Carpool is available from the East Bay and San Francisco. Please RSVP if you’d like a ride. The Clean Lounge is ADA accessible.

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CUAV (Communities United Against Violence) visits Fired Up!

In early September, Maisha and Carolina, members from the organization CUAV or Communities United Against Violence visited Fired Up! and led a workshop for our members inside. CUAV has been around since 1979 and is a fierce organization dedicated to transforming violence and oppression within LGBTQ communities through a focus on safety, liberation and healing. With Maisha and Carolina, we engaged in a discussion about self-determination and used our bodies to communicate our struggles through a Theater of the Oppressed exercise. We are so grateful for their visit and hope to continue to build with CUAV!

Below is a reflection from Carolina and Maisha:

We at CUAV were thrilled to be guests at Fired Up! We felt so welcomed and so comfortable with the group, especially because of the great feeling of warmth between the incarcerated women and the group facilitators. Listening to the women introduce themselves and share a little bit about their lives, we felt how this group offers time and space for each woman to heal and step into her power. Even though we were first-time guests, everyone in the room was very open to us, as if we’d been there all along. They asked questions about our work with LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) survivors of violence, engaged in lively dialogue about what self-determination means to them, and best of all, everyone jumped into the group activity without hesitation, enthusiastically participating in our Theater of the Oppressed game about reflecting on a time when you made a choice. Together, we laughed, remembered our struggles, and explored what it means to lift up our voices and listen to one another by using our bodies, instead of our words. At the end of the group, one of the incarcerated Fired Up! members wowed us with a poem about her survival, and it was really touching to witness the support she received from the other members. Overall, it was a fantastic experience, and we felt honored to be a part of it.

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POWER (People Organized To Win Employment Rights) visits Fired Up!

Members of Fired Up! and POWER outside the San Francisco County jail

Fired Up! is hard at work building with other grassroots social justice organizations in the Bay Area. In August, Three Breazell and Melissa Lemus, two interns from POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) came to our weekly self-empowerment group at the jail. POWER started in 1997 and builds the power of working-class African-American and Latino communities in San Francisco through various campaigns and struggles for economic, environmental, racial and gender justice. During their visit, Three and Melissa shared with our members the organization’s vision, work and opportunities to participate. Together we engaged in a lively discussion about POWER’s “Transit to the People” campaign to make MUNI (San Francisco’s public transportation) free for all youth. We discussed how this campaign is tied to economic and racial justice, whether or not it would have an effect on our member’s day-to-day lives and what is challenging about our neighborhoods. Thank you POWER for building with us!

Below is a reflection from Three Breazell after visiting Fired Up!

There wasn’t a day I had feared more than the day I had to step foot into a jail. They teach us very young that jails and prisons are where all of the “bad” people go. We then grow up seeing our close friends and families being taken and put away like the rest of the demonized “bad” people. We somehow continue on with life blindly believing the saying “You do the crime, you gotta do the time.” And somewhere in sync with that lesson, you then are taught to learn from other’s mistakes and to never disobey the law…or else you, too, will end up in jail cell. I had obviously done a very thorough job of internalizing all the ideas about jails and prisons, and most tragically developing a fear of the brothers and sisters that looked just like me. When the day came that POWER would present to the womyn inside SF County Jail, I was mostly worried about witnessing inhumane conditions much worse than the heart can bare. But surprisingly, what I walked into was a classroom with 9 of the most vibrant womyn I have ever met! The amount of passion, knowledge and strength the womyn have is so refreshing to witness. Not only is it refreshing, but it’s very liberating. It may seem a bit contradictory to use the word liberating to describe 9 womyn in orange jumpsuits inside SF County Jail, but it speaks to the strength of the womyn that Fired Up! is working with. Even while being caged in a facility designed to eliminate freedom in one’s life, the moment we got to discussing real issues, had you been in that room you could hear how liberating it felt for the womyn inside SF County Jail to have an hour to be free to speak from the hurting heart and to connect their hoods’ struggles. I learned so much that day talking to the womyn. I learned about myself. I learned about some of the conditions and struggles of womyn in jail. I learned about the power and importance for organizations like Fired Up! in doing work with social justice organizations like POWER inside of county jail walls. I was reminded of the hundreds of thousands of powerful fighters that are still inside counting down their sentences until the day they are given back their freedom. I was touched by the amount of energy, love and community that I witnessed inside the Womyn’s Pod of SF County Jail and the amount of trust that has been built between the womyn from Fired Up! and the womyn awaiting their freedom. I left that day hoping that I would be able to visit the womyn inside again and build relationships around the familiar foundation of being on a constant search for our freedom from this oppression.

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Alisha Coleman featured on Making Contact National Radio Project

Fired Up! member, Alisha Coleman was featured on the Making Contact National Radio Project show “Prison Crisis: Local Solution?” This show, originally aired on June 26, 2012, was produced by George Lavender and discusses the issue of realignment in California and specifically, the San Francisco County Jail and San Mateo County Jail.

Realignment is a policy aimed at reducing the numbers of people sent into state custody and instead redirects them to county jails to serve their sentences. Alisha calls in from county jail and shares her first hand experience with realignment and its impact on local jails and the livelihood of those inside.

Listen to it here: Prison Crisis: Local Solution?

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Photobooth pictures from Fired Up’s 1st Fundraiser

At our fundraiser on May 5th, we installed a photobooth so our outside members and allies could be photographed holding messages for our members inside. Some of the signs were made by our members inside and others we made the night of the event. To see more, go here: Bianka Bee’s Fired UP Gallery.

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