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Archive for the ‘Harmonious collaborations’ Category

Music. Singing. Rap. Ex-prisoners. Heart-rending and heart-warming stories. At a bank? Yes, last night at OneCalifornia Bank, the kick-off party for Insight Out—an innovative idea from the Insight Prison Project—offered an unusual mix.

I’ve been a branding and marketing consultant for OneCal Bank since before its launch in 2007, so I attend their events as a member of the OneCal family. Last night, as a group of ex-offenders was welcomed into the fold, I stood with wine glass in hand, tears welling, listening to the four men and one woman tell their stories. They have all experienced violence and been the perpetrators of it, and they’ve all “sat in the fire” of the process brought to them by the Insight Prison Project and Jacques Verduin, IPP’s Executive Director. 

Their work with IPP in violence prevention and other programs while incarcerated enables them, once released, to give back to and help break the cycle of violence in their communities. The woman told her story of being raped at 11, raising the son she bore, and, when he was killed at 15, wanting to hurt others as much as she was hurting. She said she’d done things she shouldn’t have and was imprisoned for them. Over the years, she’s also lost a brother and nephews to street violence. Through IPP, she experienced her pain—sat in the fire of it instead of lashing out to others. This kind of deep healing extends to us all—across gender, race, class, and culture. One of the men, who while in prison had lost a son to street violence, thanked the 140 or so gathered for being there. He said that most people don’t want to be in the company of ex-offenders. He has turned his rage and regret for all he’s done into a passion for helping young men veer from the path to prison that their fathers took, that his father and grandfather took. 

The stories, music, singing, and rapping by Oakland artists, and a revised rendition of a 60s-era anthem sung by Kat Taylor, OneCal Bank co-founder and IPP board member, echo now as I write this post. Sing along loudly…”I’m going to pick my heavy burden up, down by the riverside, down by the riverside, down by the riverside…” 

Doesn’t it feel good? The load seems lighter when we pick it up together. Kat and Jacques asked that people get involved with Insight Out and give in any way they can. 

From the event announcement: Insight Out is a bold new initiative that amplifies a select team of ex-offenders to be gainfully employed to work with youth to prevent crime and promote healing. They function as Change Agents in the community, giving back to the places they once took from. All of them have been trained by the Insight Prison Project during their incarceration in San Quentin State Prison. Some are former life sentenced men, some shorter sentenced, many of them worked with youth while inside, all are uniquely talented and motivated human beings. Their expertise is in transforming those negative habit patterns that sabotage a person’s efforts to live a productive and soulful life, no matter the academic achievement or being employed.

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