Reframing the future

Reframing The Future is a collection of portrait images and narratives from local storytellers in Richmond, VA, Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD  who have returned to their communities following incarceration. The experiences of these African American returning citizens gives voice to the realities of re-entry and the racial injustices that impacted their paths to prison and continues to shape their journeys today. The project is about sharing and shifting perspectives. Unless incarceration has impacted a person’s family, workplace, or community, they probably don’t think about how it is impacting their nation, economically, socially, politically and historically. For as staggering as the statistics are surrounding the mass incarceration of African Americans, likely higher are the numbers of people who remain uneducated about one of our nation’s greatest systemic transgressions. 

James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  By sharing the perspectives of the returning citizens, the project desires to reframe the perspective others in the community have of them, their past and their potential.   This is a personal project in its pilot phase on which I am collaborating with community partners in the three cities. Narratives from the formerly incarcerated storytellers will be added over the coming months. I am asking each of the subjects to answer four questions focusing on challenges during re-entry, how he/she is contributing to the community now, external factors leading to their incarceration and stereotypes and myths they would like to dispel about returning citizens. Excerpts from those conversations accompany their portraits below.  Founding Community Partners include:  Mission: Launch, Boaz & Ruth, Hope in the Cities, Alternative Directions, Inc. and Social Solutions.  Funding has been made possible by the Puffin Foundation. 

Novlette haughton/Baltimore, MD

Manager, Cafe Lorraine & Fulltime Student

Photographed at Cafe Lorraine.

Photographed at Cafe Lorraine.

I was just simply tired of seeing my mother work two jobs just to make ends meet and honestly they never met. Doing it the right way kept her out the house, tired and left me as a latchkey child that had to grow up way before it was necessary, but it was needed for the dynamics in my household to survive.                                                                                                                                                                

stephen Jenkins/richmond, VA

CEO & President of Construction and Development Firm

Photographed on the front porch of the first home he has owned located on historic Church Hill.

Photographed on the front porch of the first home he has owned located on historic Church Hill.

I believe that in the late 70's every classification of minor drug offenses as felony, such as your three strikes rule, has only increased the number of young men, both African-American and white, who find themselves in the grips of institutions. I believe at some point we started treating drug addicts as criminals and attempted to bolster our prison system.  With no treatment and no reentry program we created a system where those who really need treatment are being penalized.                                       

Beatrice Robinson/Richmond, va

Director of First Impressions & Manager, Harvest Thrift, Boaz & Ruth

Photographed at her desk at Boaz & Ruth.

Photographed at her desk at Boaz & Ruth.

The crime can stem from a lack of education and self-worth, if you don't know about (the value of) going to school or working hard. People don't believe that slavery is (written into) in our genes, but I believe that knowing what I've gone through with jobs, with a lack of education. It's in our DNA and mass incarceration is nothing but another form of slavery because they are making money off of the incarcerated laborers. Unicor makes office chairs and makes mattresses, but who is doing the labor? And then you get paid something like .32 cents an hour. Come on.....and you are making millions upon millions nationwide.

Raymond quarles/Richmond, VA

Maintenance Manager, Boaz & Ruth

Photographed outside Boaz & Ruth in the Highland Park neighborhood of Richmond.

Photographed outside Boaz & Ruth in the Highland Park neighborhood of Richmond.

I don't look at incarceration as being locked up; I look at it more as you being in a cocoon. You got all these caterpillars up in there crawling around on top of everybody, but then once you get out of the cocoon you turn into a yellow butterfly and everyone wants to catch you. 'Look at that yellow butterfly!' But you know what, you can be any color butterfly you want to be. For me, I don't know what color butterfly I am, but I know I want to continue to fly as high as I can.

teresa Hodge/Washington, DC

Co-Founder & Director of Strategy and Innovation, Mission: Launch

Photographed at the Rebuilding Re-Entry Hackathon.

Photographed at the Rebuilding Re-Entry Hackathon.

95% of the people who enter prison will return. The one thing we must remember is these are people. We can't loose sight of that - these are people who perhaps were caught in their worst possible decision and in many circumstances punished entirely too harshly.  Most people are seeking a way to return back to society and create a productive and law abiding life going forward. 

 

Bryn D. Phillips/Washington, DC

Director of Communications & Special Projects, Mission: Launch

Photographed at the Rebuilding Re-Entry Hackathon.

Photographed at the Rebuilding Re-Entry Hackathon.

I had to create my own path for re-entry, because I met no one who'd considered the re-entry challenges for a woman who was from an educated, upper middle class background and was sentenced for a white collar, non-violent offense. We tend to fall out of the scope of all discussions and solutions. 

Nakeyia Smith/Baltimore, MD

Technician Trainee, Precision Pipeline Solutions

Photographed at a job site with Precision Pipeline Solutions, a subcontractor of BGE.

Photographed at a job site with Precision Pipeline Solutions, a subcontractor of BGE.

During my incarceration I always used to hear that "long-term prisoners cannot cope when returning to society."  I dispel that myth, because I did a lengthy sentence and it's been four years since my re-entry. I now have my own apartment, vehicle and a stable job. I am living proof that your adaption to life isn't based on how much time you serve; I believe it's solely on the individual and their mentality. My motto is "it's all in how you apply yourself", and that's for every road you travel in life.

 

hasan k. zarif/richmond, va

Re-Entry Specialist, Goodwill Industries

Photographed in the Goodwill donation warehouse. The sale of items supports Hasan's work.

Photographed in the Goodwill donation warehouse. The sale of items supports Hasan's work.

I think one of the pinnacles of getting out of prison is that you definitely want the men inside to know that you have made it and you've made it the right way.  There's a word that they use called rehabilitation. And rehabilitation means to go 360 degrees around, so that means that puts you right back in the same spot.  I believe in habilitation which is a 180 degree turn. The word would be that a person needs to be reformed, but you need to turn completely away from your past behavior.