OTHER BKB PROJECTS
Bees keeping bees is a non-political prisoner organization established to provide a space for its members, sponsors and volunteers to co-create collaborative efforts toward:
Raising awareness and acceptance for cultural diversity;
Building teams for uniting on common social / community service actions;
Expanding mental, emotional and spiritual insights through exposure to an exploration of new philosophies, customs, rituals and practices toward;
Supporting and demonstrating cohesive community organizing while on the inside to facilitate more freedom;
Living with personal and collective accountability for self and each other.
Women serving Life and Long sentences in the state of Michigan have always had to gather their collective energies to carve their own path toward healing, recovering and transforming themselves into pillars of strength, courage and wisdom to remain viable contributing forces for others to emulate. The prison system does not offer state funded programming to long serving people, so all programs are provided by volunteers and people in prisons themselves.
Some women were afforded the opportunity to participate in already existing Prisoner Organizations (founded by male prisoners within the state) such as the National Lifers of America, Inc. (NLA) and Chance for Life (CFL) to develop leadership, organizational, critical thinking, effective communication and conflict resolution skills.
Other women have developed their own vision of the necessary building blocks to establish freedom with personal accountability.
Here, we would like to highlight some of the ways in which Real Bees Keep Bees....
Below are two solid examples of women self-organizing and leading change work inside.
Julia Wigley, who served several terms as the Vice President, then President of the National Lifers of America, Inc. developed a Prisoner Program Proposal and named it the Empowerment Workshop. Wigley's proposal was accepted by the Director of Programs at WHV and implemented for women serving life and long sentences.
This program highlighted the importance of personal accountability and self forgiveness for the harms we have caused in order for the women to begin transforming their sense of self into the potential beyond the labels of Lifer, Murderer, Convicted Felon. The program also helped women prepare for the practical aspects of freedom: Parole board interview preparation & public hearing preparation.
Hear from some of the women who completed Julia's class and went on to seek and obtain their freedom. These women have since been returned to their communities and are demonstrating the BKF model keeping the path to freedom open for others working to follow in their example.
Other projects Bees Keeping Bees projects currently happening but not limited to the following:
1. Community Meetings strategizing outreach to cause a shift in prison culture from criminal and punitive models to restorative, healing, harm reducing freedom with personal accountability.
2. Book Clubs. We have had weeking book club discussions reading such books as Kindred and Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. By popular demand we will be beginning a new session of readings with self help books geared toward personal development.
3. Collaborative Efforts with the Good Neighbor Project of Michigan's American Friends Service Committee to build community from the inside out.
4. Grief and Loss support teams.
5. Mother's Empowering Mothers support groups for women struggling with the challenges involved with continuing to parent from prison.
These are just a few of the projects we are currently working on. We will continue to keep you informed as to how you can help.
Beexit Us is a BKB publication intended to help build community among the women housed in WHV through the sharing of the written word. Some of the articles that have gone out in our two additions are:
Lesbian Does Not Mean Predator (or Victim)
Remembering People We’ve Lost
The History of the Life Doing Bitch
Progressive Prosecutors Push for Reform
#FreeAshley: A Trans Conversation
LIFE MENTORING PROPOSAL
In 2009, Tashiena Combs submitted a proposal to WHV administration, along with Stephanie Covington who authored several self help recovery programs for women.
Tashiena named her proposal The Life Mentoring and Release Project. The "Project" outlined a strategy for "reprogramming" the thinking and emotions of women serving life and long sentences through therapeutic approaches focused on recovering and healing from past traumas.
The goals of this proposed program were three fold:
1. To provide the space and techniques necessary to assist the women serving life and LIDs in developing new insights and tools to successfully navigate life beyond the triggers from the past in order to,
2. Become mentors and peer educators to the remaining population of women serving shorter sentences to assist in their successful transition back home and disrupt their recidivism patterns and
3. Provide the Governor evidence based confidence in releasing more women sentenced to life and LIDs safely back into the community.
While Tashiena's proposal did not result in the implementation of an entire housing unit dedicated to the transformation of the entire Lifer and Lid population at WHV, The Life Mentoring and Release Project did pave the way for 10 women serving life sentences to participate in the RSAT (Residential Substance Abuse Treatment) program.
Each woman selected successfully completed one year of the program, as a client, then went on to mentor the other short termed women in the program. These women also helped to develop the structural context of the Therapeutic Community which helped to hold each participant accountable for their behaviors in relation to other members of the community.
“Some of the most amazing people in this world out here today are people like you and me who took a life or experienced life altering situations that landed us in incarceration. You learn many things about yourself when placed in an isolated environment.I was in your position before trust me I know EXACTLY how you feel and your perspective on life. Your not a monster you made one mistake. Forgive yourself first heal from the inside out and continue to live your truth. Don't lose hope and watch the Man up stairs move mountains for you. We praying for you Ms.Combs.”
“Tashiena , you may have committed a crime that caused much pain… but you are far from someone to be embarrassed by. You are one of the smartest, strongest, intriguing, intellectual woman I’ve ever met. And I think everyone else who’s ever spoken to you or met you would say the same exact thing. You will move mountains with that humble heart of yours. I love you dearly. Keep on keepin on sis.”
“I miss talking to you and you always amazed me with your insight and wisdom. We are a broken world. It is not guns that is the problem . It is broken people. Broken families. Broken spirits. A broken nation. You have changed more hearts than I can imagine with your service work in that. Done ever forget, by learning coping skills and rational thinking and problem solving, and sharing your knowledge with others who are receiving paroles....you also participated in saving lives. You are important and a valuable asset to society, and I hope to see you out here someday. The world needs you.”
“Tashiena single handedly helped me SURVIVE that dreadful place...I think you ..I love you & you are 1 of the most beautiful souls I have ever met... Prayers to you& your team to FREE YOU... YOU DESERVE IT IN REAL LIFE”
I would like you to use the language of some of the women whom have posted comments on my fb page about how i helped them when they were here. those are some of the women who were in the rsat program when i was a mentor.