One of our supporters in the Bay Area, Hannah Moore, shared with us a reflection that she wrote earlier this year. It touches us on many of the themes, patterns and reasons why we created The Ride or Die Project and we are honoured that she gave us permission to share it with you…
Check out the direct Facebook link to it here:
Late night Reflections of a time past….
March 2, 2013 at 11:30pm
You had to arrive at least 2 and a half to 3 hours in advance, because that’s how long you’d have to wait if you even wanted to make it in. When you finally made it out there after the long drive you had to go up to the front and get a pass from the sheriff on duty. Then slowly but surely the line would start to form, and grow down the long ramp. You better hope it’s not summer time because it gets HOT waiting in that line. Some people would bring folding chairs and umbrellas, but I never did. Once you’ve been going for a few months, making your weekly or bi-weekly visits (depending on your level of commitment to the whole situation) you start to know the other regulars. Half smiles and head nods are exchanged. Sometimes phone numbers are exchanged, so you have an emergency carpool back up plan, or for when you just don’t feel like making that drive. Sometimes you see each other on the street or at the store and stop to think, where do I know her from?
Every visit there are two women going to see the same person, it never fails. Normally lip curls and eyes cut real low are shot from one woman to another, joined with disrespectful words spit back and forth. Sometimes rage would bubble over and one woman will lunge with her hands to her (sistahs) throat, and end up getting tackled by the sheriffs with cuffs slapped on around their wrists.
None of us wanted to be there really, we were just all trying to be seen. Made visible to those with their eyes closed. We were not all lovers, wives, or girlfriends; we were daughters, mothers, sisters, loved ones and family. I was 17, but the ages varied from newborn up to, damn, probably 80 or 90.
When you finally made it to the top of the line you better pray you don’t have a warrant or nothing is faulty with your ID, or you’re not getting a visit and even worse you’re getting locked up too.
Visiting use to be in the gym, before it was moved ‘behind the glass’. The line would wind down the stair way leading to the huge gym, bleachers folded up on the wall. A horse shoe shape was made with tables and chairs. Everyone on the inside of the horse shoe wearing blue or orange pants and shirts, with slippers and socks. Everyone on the outside of the horseshoe wearing their best outfit, hair done, sometimes bouncing babies on their knee’s or dragging toddlers by their wrists.
Then I turn a corner in my mind and suddenly saw a young women sitting hunched over trying to cover her face. Her thick curly black hair falling down past her shoulders and her smooth black skin covered in tears as they rolled down her face. She wore beams of tears beneath her eyes as if they were big golden suns, suns that she could not see. I want to go over and wipe her tears and ask her what was wrong.
“Leave her be!” I was stopped by a deep husky voice from behind me.
“She knew better.”
“Her father’s a deadbeat.”
“She shouldn’t have got knocked up,”
“She shouldn’t have been walking down that street.”
“Oh that one, it’s her brother, yea he’s a real lowlife.”
But below those deep bellows of hate and oppression I hear a quivering voice trying to catch her breath.
“I told him not to go out that night.”
“I loved him and he loved me, we loved each other. It wasn’t always like this.”
“Pop’s worked from 9-9 every day because when mama got sick he had to be mama too, man do I miss him.”
And then a scream- “NOOOO! Stop! Get away from me!…… please…. get away from me!”
I can hear the displacement in her voice and see the injustice in her eyes.
After at least 2 hours of waiting, visits were 15 minutes.
When they were in the gym it was loud, people would lean in close trying to hear, but not so close that a Sherriff would come over and end your visit. Laughs, cry’s, shouts and even the whispers bounced off the walls. Then they moved the visits ‘behind the glass’, downstairs. Little 3 foot by 3 foot rooms with yellow plastic phones on the wall. Then on the other side of the glass the door would open and finally you’re able to look into his eyes, to see what was being hidden.
Hidden from you, hidden from me, hidden away…….out of our view.
That’s where we got married. Yup, right there on that phone. I mean that’s where we exchanged vows and the preacher pronounced us man and wife. But we were officially married after I sat in the County recorder clerk’s office with all my paper work filled out and my $99 dollars for the marriage certificate. We weren’t the only ones. In fact we got the number to the pastor from a friend who had also tried to build love from behind thick glass and cold metal.
The ends of the visit were always the hardest time, every time. Knowing that once you hung that phone back on the wall you would have to wait at least a week to do it all over again. Only able to hear his voice on the other end of the ‘burnt out’ phone line you had connected in your house. Or read his words from the stale stripped letters that arrived in beautifully detailed envelopes.
And then again next weekend….. you had to arrive at least 2 and a half to 3 hours in advance, because that’s how long you’d have to wait if you even wanted to make it in…..