The caged bird sings

Over the next several weeks, many American prisoners will be on strike. You can read the reactions on Twitter, and quickly see how personal biases, snap judgments gets in the way of seeking truth.

As Catherine Hoke has pointed out, in her critical work with Defy Ventures, most people who go to prison, will get out of prison. They serve their time, pay their debt to society, and yet…

And yet, their punishment doesn’t end once released from prison. It’s difficult to find a job if your last 20 years of experience has been in prison. (Try putting that on a resume.) If you can’t find a job, it’s difficult find a place to live. You can see how circumstances spiral out of control rather quickly and this cycle of shame that hangs like an anchor.

We don’t live in a culture of second chances. Dignity, opportunity and respect are not reserved for the elect. Everyone deserves a second (and third…) chance, but for many, because of the environment they were born into, they’re still looking for their first.

If you were born into similar circumstances, were taught how someone else was taught, lived the way someone else lived, you would probably make the same decisions someone else would make.

How else can we build a culture that we can all be proud of if we won’t stop and listen or be a voice a voiceless?

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings.

—Paul Laurence Dunbar