Guest Blog: Jameelah Lewis

Battle Ground by Jameelah Lewis

Battle ground.

My mom aint never raised no punk, so why would I run?

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared.

The subtle patterns of people running away to catch their breath.

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared.

As the smoke in the sky pollutes our lungs and steals our air.

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared.

We stand in solidarity against police brutality.

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared.

They bring out the snipers and set the stage to make us flea.

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared.

“Move back, Move back, Move back they chant and chant.”

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared. 

Running from the monsters chasing us with batons.

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared.

“It’s our first amendment right to be here.”

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared.

“Go home or we will be forced to remove you.”

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared.

Helicopters circle above us.

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared.

The SWAT trucks start to roll in.

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared. 

Police pull up in busses to haul us off.

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared. 

Ripping people out of their cars.

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared. 

Driving through crowds of people.

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared. 

“Grab anyone! Grab anyone!”

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared. 

“Stop let him go!”

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared.

“Leave us alone please, I’m sorry I’m sorry.”

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared. 

“Stop fucking resisting!”

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared. 

“Grab my sign!”

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared. 

“Let her go and leave her alone.”

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared. 

“Go ahead and shoot me, I’m willing to die.”

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared. 

“I just want my mom!!!!”

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared.

And still this rings in my head.

I’m not afraid, I’m not scared; I’m not afraid, I’m not scared; I’m not afraid, I’m not scared. 

This is my arrest experience.This is not all of it and I am still coping. This is not singular to me. It is okay to be scared, to be worried, to cry! In this time I know I am not the only person working through the trauma of being arrested, of being terrorized and being degraded. There is a community of us and you reading this are not alone. You are not a punk and it is okay to mourn an amerikkka that has already claimed you as dead.


Screen Shot 2020-08-21 at 1.50.32 PMJameelah Lewis is one of the newest members of The RCC team and The PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) Coordinator/ Advocate. Jameelah started with The RCC in December 2019, with a passion to make an impact on the criminal justice system and her community. After graduating in 2018 from UNLV with her BA in Criminal Justice, she wrote that her passions lie in communal restoration and transformative justice work. Thus, having the ability to work in the capacity in which she does is a dream come true. In fact, 2 years ago, Jameelah wrote a note in her cellphone underling what her dream job would be, and today she actually gets to do it. Jameelah has committed herself to this work and commitment to liberate Black people. In these efforts to fight for liberty, Jameelah was arrested May 29th by Las Vegas Metro Police Department. For the first time ever Jameelah saw and experienced what her clients go through, and it was through this experience that her newest vision developed.

Through her involvement with The Justice Arts Coalition, Jameelah is now developing a six week program for survivors of sexual abuse and manipulation to share their experiences through a variety of art projects. 

The piece shared today is personal, highlighting the moments before her abduction, and will be used to encourage others to share their truths as well. You can keep up with her by following The Rape Crisis Center Las Vegas.

“By Heart: Poetry, Prison and Two Lives”

We are thrilled that By Heart, a two-person memoir written by Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson will be out this April.   Congratulations, Judith and Spoon, on what is sure to be a powerful and beautiful work!

Learn about the authors here: http://www.dieselbookstore.com/event/oakland-judith-tannenbaum-discusses-and-signs-heart

Watch the book trailer by Michel Wenzer here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8684AjtFYU

Here are a couple of reviews:

“A boy with no one to listen becomes a man in prison for life and discovers his mind can be free. A woman enters prison to teach and becomes his first listener. And so begins a twenty-five year friendship between two gifted writers and poets. The result is By Heart — a book that will anger you, give you hope, and break your heart.” Gloria Steinem

“A portrait of prison and of the pursuit of art. An amazing combo, a compelling read. . . years later, acting in [Waiting for] Godot on Broadway, I see how much the San Quentin production has meant to my view of the play.” –Bill Irwin, TONY winning actor, appeared in the Broadway revival of Waiting for Godot

“This is a book about poetry, about struggle, about freedom and incarceration, and most of all about heart. It is a wonderful read.” -devorah major, San Francisco Poet Laureate 2002-2005

See more reviews and order the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Poetry-Prison-Two-Lives/dp/0981559352/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_4

Bookstore readings:

Thursday April 8, 2010 7 PM Diesel, a Bookstore 5433 College Avenue, Oakland, CA

Sunday April 11, 2010 4 PM Booksmith 1644 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA

Wednesday April 14, 2010  7:30 PM Tattered Cover Book Store 1628 16th Street, Denver, CO

Monday May 10, 2010, 7:30 PM Capitola Book Cafe 1475 41st Avenue, Capitola, CA

Thursday May 13, 2010 7 PM Diesel, A Bookstore in Brentwood, Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St., Santa Monica, CA

Wednesday August 4, 2010 6 PM Sacramento Poetry Center @ Central Library 828 I Street, Sacramento, CA

The Poetic Justice Project

nudebyjshiavronBy Deborah Tobola

(“Robin” by John Schiavron, pastel)

While I was working as an artist/facilitator with California’s Arts in Corrections program, I often wished there were a reentry arts program that I could refer paroling inmates to, a place where they could find a creative community and continue on a path many of them had begun only after coming to prison. About four years ago, I got a call from a parole agent who suggested I go to the local theater. When I arrived, the play’s director told me that John, a former student who’d paroled four months earlier, had presented himself, saying he had a background in designing and painting sets, but it was all at prison.

John had spent most of his adult life behind bars. Before he paroled, he told me that until he began working in a collaborative creative environment, he’d never thought of himself as anything but a criminal. But while he was still in prison, he began to imagine a different sort of life, a life that included art and theater and a commitment to his community. Within a year of paroling, John showed his work at a local gallery. He went from decades in prison to an artist’s reception, from criminal to community theater volunteer.  This is what John says about his art education in prison:  “It would prove to be a life saving experience. I became involved in many aspects of Art. Poetry, painting, drawing, writing, acting, singing. I learned how to collaborate with others. I was learning a new lifestyle and it gave me a good feeling to be doing something different with my life. I learned that I could do something besides being a prisoner. I started feeling confident. I started feeling proud of this transition that was taking place in me. The experience for me was dramatic. When I paroled, I knew it would be different for me. I am changed. I am off of parole now and continue to be involved with productive projects to continue my transformation.”

One of his colleagues, Cliff, a writer, says:  “I can testify that the single most challenging aspect of my incarceration, as well as my release, was a sense of belonging. While incarcerated I got involved in Arts In Corrections. In the program we wrote and produced theater plays with fellow inmates. Our first play, Blue Train, about a father and son who meet for the first time in prison, turned out to be a life-changing experience. Inmates who were usually separated by race, gang affiliation and social status worked together for the first time. While producing Blue Train, I watched hard men become like children again. That is when I knew the power of art. That is when I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”

Jorge, a gifted young poet, writes about his first encounters with literature: “I began to read and write while I was in a juvenile detention camp, and this habit went with me to prison when I became an adult. First I would read novels and fiction and even from these novels and fictions books I would learn a few things from, soon after I began reading other books like self-help and books I can learn from, my eyes opened to a new world to the real world, I realized that the small world where I was a small legend where a lot of other small and limited people came from was just a grain of sand compared to the giant world that really existed.”

John and Cliff and Jorge are just a few of the men whose talent and determination to succeed inspired me to leave the Arts in Corrections program and begin a new path myself, as program director of the William James Association’s Poetic Justice Project. The Poetic Justice Project helps ex-offenders come back into their communities through engagement in the arts, including workshops, mentorship and public performances. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.