Epiphany hosts RMV-KIN for the fourth year
Circles of Support invited us to host Raising My Voice-Kin this fall – the fourth year and due to COVID, the first time on Zoom! The program is a leadership and skills training for individuals whose loved ones are currently or have been incarcerated. Some participants have also been incarcerated.
The program teaches participants how to tell their stories in a safe, supportive space so that they may share them with schools, community centers and churches and the many elements of the justice system.
As volunteer coaches, we always learn something new about the trials and tribulations of the families we are privileged to help. This year was no different. From law enforcement to the prison environment, from the foster care system to local legislation, this year’s participants enlightened us once again, shining a light on issues that need changing. Here in brief are their stories.
What happens to a boy of 16 when he is arrested? Is he treated humanely, because he is so young and vulnerable? Or with disdain, barely fed, put in a cold cell without blanket or pillow? Allowed to wait for hours and hours, not knowing his fate? If you guessed the latter, you would be right. From the very beginning of this boy’s experience, he could have been shown a better way of correcting his mistake. With wisdom and understanding that adolescents often make bad choices, perhaps his journey to post incarceration might have been easier.
What happens when an accomplished, professional woman, a social worker, becomes homeless because her order of protection against her domestic violent partner actually protects him and allows him to remain in their
NYCHA apartment. In her words, once she was very visible in the outside world, and now she is invisible. Once she was an advocate for people in need. Now, there is no one to advocate for her as she fights for her rights to obtain fair housing.
Foster care is another challenge. When she was two months old, one of our participants was turned over to a foster care family, where she stayed until she was 17. She was very close to her foster mother until the mother became ill. At that point, with little warning, her foster father turned her out. Life after that became very difficult, involving street life and drugs. How does a young girl advocate for herself? What are the laws about foster care and why didn’t anyone notice she wasn’t part of that family anymore?
What happens when a young girl returns home from school to find her father had been arrested? No one is telling her anything. She doesn’t know how to get information about him. Where are the networks to help kids in similar circumstances get the information they need so that they can, at the very least, correspond with their loved one.
And finally, there are the stories about what takes place in prison. The women so faithful to their husbands, visiting often but not allowed any contact. Even a hug of encouragement. One woman’s story is especially heartbreaking. Her husband was arrested at a very young age and spent 26 years – important formative years, behind bars. Released this spring, he is not prepared to follow his dream of living in another state. He is unable to make decisions, because for 26 years decisions were made for him. All those wasted years that could have been spent educating and preparing him for the future. But her story leaves us with a call to action. An opportunity to support the Post Traumatic Prison Disorder Shawanna W76337 bill. If you would like to support this bill and live in New York State, please write or call Senator Brian Benjamin's office. You can also visit these websites for more information:
As Christians, we are called to help “build the beloved community” by taking care of the sick, the poor, the lonely. By fostering justice where there is injustice. By fighting racism. One way we can do this is by listening to the stories and then sharing them with others. In this way, knowledge of these injustices can spread and solutions found. We must do this if we are going to help change the world.
We will be hosting another round of RMV-Kin sessions via Zoom on the following dates:
Wednesday evenings. 7:00-8:30
November 11, 18, 25, December 2, 9
Graduation: December 16
If you are interested in volunteering for at least 2 sessions, please contact Carron Donohue, 646-226-1306. [email protected].