Bees Keeping Freedom is the committed partnership between Bees Keeping Bees and members of the larger community consisting of formerly incarcerated people, advocates, activists & organizers intended to interrupt the wasteful warehousing of human potential in prisons and to end mass incarceration.
We recognize that all people have gifts to offer their community. Gifts which are often wounded. We will endeavor to receive the gifts of the wounded with a loving awareness of the dimension of healing which opens when we do so.
The hum of the bees on the inside tending and keeping themselves is business-like and purposeful. They feed us with their generative efforts and in turn we strengthen their link to life by creating pathways for their relocation back into our communities in closing off other pathways which become the pipeline feeding prisons.
We understand the importance of developing our capacity to struggle with each other and we must be committed to learning new skill sets.
This portion of the website is meant to be an interactive dialogue between bees inside prisons and bees out in the free world to engage around the powerful idea of building a restorative and regenerative community.
In the Empowerment Manual by Starhawk it talks about when we are allowed the space to express our concerns, we talk ourselves into addressing them. When we give voice to our visions, we identify the destinations we want to move towards. And by describing the steps we can take, we prepare ourselves for action.
Interactive prompts to read through while envisioning the community you want to create and live in.
I would like to provide space that looks like:
My positive vision for what I'd like to see in this community is...
Steps I can take to help make this happen include…
What are some of the things I care about most deeply?
What are the qualities/values which are most important to me?
What does safety look, feel, taste like to you?
Tiny House Community
The tiny house community actualizes our vision of a world without prisons.
A vision created between women serving life and long sentences and bees keeping freedom.
When you click on the tiny house community button, you will find affordable, efficient housing in an environment where women who were once sentenced to die in prison can come and share their gifts and skills with the larger community. The tiny house community focuses on life affirming practices instead of isolating and invisibilizing people who once did harm.
When you click on a woman’s face/house sign, the tiny house will open for you to find the stories of the amazing women who make up bees keeping bees.
Why we must be visionary:
Too often we become stuck in the status quo. We let our imaginations grind to a halt because what we have come to accept as normal ways of doing things blanket our hearts and minds. Punishment through out of sight/out of mind structures (prisons and jails) is an easy way to wash the harm and violence that takes place in our communities and is rooted to our shared legacies of trauma and harm off our bodies and out of our heads. We become complicit in doling out agony to others because it is a simple sweeping away and scapegoating of problems and histories we are too scared to confront.
Until… We decide collectively we are not going to remain silent any more.
“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.” Audre Lorde, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action
Even if the dreams seem too big for now, if we do not vision it and engage in conversation, we cannot build a better tomorrow. It is from a backdrop of human suffering, made worse by a pandemic that ravaged people in prisons, that a vision for a community built on love, reconciliation, hope, regeneration, and struggle, emerged from a collaboration of outside and inside prison thinking.
For our readers: When I think of Tiny House Communities developed for women having served life and long sentences who were released due to resentencing/commutations...the questions and/or concerns I have include...
In 2021, Washtenaw County is home to nearly 370,000 people. Many Washtenaw residents are dedicated to building deeper bonds across differences and building community. People have expressed interest in expanding restorative practices and meaningfully defunding the police while investing in community infrastructure that creates more resources for historically under-resourced people and in turn leads to visionary models of safety and thriving for all.
The Tiny House Community is our practical vision for the type of change we are seeking.
In praxis such an investment by local and state governments and philanthropic foundations would reflect the following:
building the infrastructure for at least 25 tiny houses with a central homestead house for community dinners, meetings, and transitional beds.
25 inside prison participants who have served long-time and who are trained in various skills--mediation, conflict resolution, cooking, construction, financial literacy, teaching, midwifery, etc--would be guaranteed parole or commutations and live within or outside of, but still nearby, the village. These women would be tasked with helping the community root, be built, run, and thrive.
15 more women would be identified who might need more assistance to get to thriving and would become residents within the community. They would be elderly people, more rooted to one place people, and people in need of more care and support.
The community would interface with the larger community of Washtenaw County and serve as a hub for exploring, developing, and utilizing transformative practices.
Vision for Tiny House Community:
Life affirming economy
Diffuse and address conflict within our community utilizing formerly incarcerated people in collaboration with harm reduction professionals with the least reliance on policing and prisons.
Challenge societal conditioning that tells us policing and prisons make us safer.
Build alternatives to 911
Engage with people who have different politics than we do.
Build trust/build relationships.
Implement harm reduction practices.
Implement mental health care that works to heal and curtail the pathologizing of symptoms related to trauma responses.
Provide mentoring and loving wisdom for young folks in Washtenaw county.
Work the land to feed bodies and spirits.
Feed all the bellies and spirits of the community and work to feed partners in the community and those in need.
If you have a loved one inside or have done time and want to share your reflections, ideas, or stories with us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Other projects of Bees Keeping Freedom:
Any and all mutual aid and connection work:
This includes writing, visiting, answering phone calls from women in prison. You can get involved in the American Friends Service Committee’s Good Neighbor Project (contact Demetrius Titus at Dtitus@afsc.org)
It also includes providing monetary support through commissary and secure pak.
Supporting in prison book clubs, the Bees Keeping Bees start clubs in units regularly, through book donations.
Supporting political work:
Showing up to support rallies, protests, local and state policy forums.
Investing your time in learning more about how mass imprisonment works in Michigan and how we can work together against it--this means study and praxis.
Forming Freedom Teams to get women free from the beast. We are standing by ready to talk you through this process while remembering it is organic and each team will have a different focus.
Supporting reintegration work:
Formerly incarcerated people leading support work for people coming out of prison.
Community members joining together with intensive love and moral & financial support for people returning to our communities.