Over a year ago I began planning a cycling event where I would ride my bike from Albuquerque to Baltimore to raise funds for and awareness of programs to help those released from prisons live successful lives.
In 2016, I spent the first few months training, then tending to a loved one's illness and then finally heading out on April 2nd. I arrived in Baltimore on June 1st and if anyone wishes to read details about the journey, here's a link to that blog, one that I write separately in order to specifically focus on social justice issues.
I actually put just about 1400 miles on the bike on the trip, raised a bit over $4000 that was divided among 4 nonprofits that have good reentry programs, and proved to myself I could do it (despite at times bad roads, bad weather, the occasional chasing dog, an injury, and more bridges than I ever expected-we need major work on infrastructure in this country).
Getting back into my daily routine was tough since I left so many of my personal projects on hold while I traveled.
Photography takes a lot of time in and of itself, so I had to "catch up," if you will, with my work at the Albuquerque Photographers' Gallery, adding some new imagery to freshen up my display.
My work with two prison ministries was also awaiting me upon return. In one, we spent the fall reading and discussing Bryan Stephenson's "Just Mercy," his perspective on death row inmates, the difficulty of getting the innocent released (one out of nine), and the horrors of the lives of those facing this sentence. We also got to hear a speaker tell his story at UNM - he had been wrongfully convicted of a murder and was on death row, much of it in solitary, for decades.
The other ministry with which I am involved spent two days recently in Las Cruces at a men's facility where we unite family members and especially the children with the inmates in a day of joy, thanks, music, craft-making and sharing.
There were high hopes that mass incarceration and the collateral damage to our society would finally be addressed since it was a topic of discussion among several politicians. Bernie seemed to address it most honestly but a number of others pledged to deal with this issue. Until we effectively handle the racial and class disparities regarding incarceration - and offer positive programming and social supports both in and out of prisons - we are failing as a society. I'm not sure how this will end now that election results are in. I do not have high hopes.
I have been working on a number of writing projects, keeping in touch with family who have had to face health difficulties, and working with someone for whom I am a mentor of sorts to help him get his life on a good track, which it is.
I'll try to keep this blog more active now that the gargantuan amount of work needed for last year's event has concluded.
I'll end with quotes by renowned writers:
Dostoevsky: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
Nelson Mandela: "“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”