On Wednesday November 6, 2013 Northwest Initiative held its 7th annual Prison Poetry Project. The event was hosted by the Advocacy, Re-entry, Resources and Outreach (ARRO) program at the Avenue Café in Lansing. The Prison Poetry Project raises money to support the ex-offender reintegration program. Although it was a free event for the public, 50/50 raffle tickets were sold throughout the night in hopes of raising funds for the project.
The Sea Cruisers opened up the night with their own style of rock and roll music, followed by a greeting from the Peggy Vaughn Payne, the Executive Director of Northwest Initiative, and Monica Jahner, the manager of ARRO. Ms. Jahner highlighted the success of the Prison Poetry Project over the years and particularly talked about the many lives that have been changed by the ARRO program. hopes of raising funds.
The poems were written by prisoners and read by prominent community leaders, including Thomas M. Cooley’s very own Professor Evelyn Calogery. One of the most touching poems was read by Honorable Clinton Canady III, written by Demel X. Dukes entitled One Time, “I had dreams one time, I was in love one time/ One time to throw your life away/One time to be buried alive/I just want one time to get a second chance”.
This, among many other poems, carried the audience into the space where the poetry was written. There were a variety of topics in the poetry, including one entitled New Day by Anthony Bradley that talked about the importance of letting go of anger and hatred, and instead focusing on inner peace. The evening successfully taught the audience, some of which were law students, that there are faces behind the cases we read, and some of them are poets.