July 28, 2013

Write To Connect residency at Girls Academy, a facility for girls in the juvenile system


I don't really like the word "juvenile". "Justice", post-Treyvon Martin, is just a concept. I certainly don't believe in the "system" all that much. That being said, I find myself doing a 10-week Write To Connect series at a high-security prison for girls in Tampa, FL.

The facility is imposing and bleak. It is what it is, a kind of jail--but I am wondering also, if it is not a refuge. Inside, the staff are warm and the girls laugh and joke with them. The girls--well, I hardly feel like I've earned their instant enthusiasm.  There were requests for hugs before the first class was even over. Since I am small, older, somewhat delicate--looking, the girls seem to like me right away. The tallest one wants to stand beside me so that everyone can be thrilled by variety. We talk about disability, in that it is a story, a set of experiences, my experience with difference and limit, that I can bring in and set down beside their experience of difference (court says "emotionally disturbed", "pathological liar", "behaviorally-imapired") and limit (some of them have been in the facility for over a year.).

I have never gotten to run such a  long w2C, so I am very excited. There is much I will want to share, i am sure, but I will have to be creative about it, as anonymity is important.

This residency is made possible by the Florida chapter of VSA, a national organization that promotes the work of teaching artists with disabilities.