Last year, when one of my classmates distributed a flyer in class and encouraged us all to see the talented women from Voices From Inside, I wrote it my calendar for one big reason: to support her. I thought that it would be nice to participate in something that she was organizing. But once there, my motives quickly changed.
Each poem, each word, and each sound revived a flame in me that I simply could not deny. Through their stories, these women brought back to consciousness the need to fight for justice, the necessity to read between the lines and the fine print that disguise many truths. These women reminded me that the books and articles I read in class are only part of the story, a story they know all too well because it is about them, against them, and for them at the same time; only they never get to read it the way I did. They live it.
The women spoke, I did listen. As part of my commitment to their truths, that night, I decided that I had to be part of that life changing experience. Fortunately, I had just the right people and adequate resources at Mount Holyoke to do the things I needed to. CBL helped me do just that. As a CBL fellow for VFI, I have the chance to be part of the magic, interact, and learn from many women on a weekly basis. When I walk out of the Western Massachusetts Women Correctional Center, though I feel for the women whose lives are forever impacted by the criminal justice system, I do feel as though I grow wings. The stories that I get to hear and the words I am fortunate enough to put in print empower me to fight for social justice. Thanks to these women and what they have taught me, each day I acknowledge my privileges and I renew my commitment to help make the world a better place.
By Catheleen Heyliger ’16