BrownTown sits down with Dyanna Winchester, Decarceration Organizer with Live Free Illinois. In Part Two of the "We Are More" series, BrownTown and Dyanna discuss organizing against and within institutions to disrupt dangerous policy, addressing intracommunal violence with interpersonal relationships, supporting re-entry after being incarcerated, and more. Watch the micro-docs, listen to the series, and take action at SoapBoxPO.com/We-Are-More and IllinoisPrisonProject.org.
BrownTown sits down with Dyanna Winchester, Decarceration Organizer with Live Free Illinois. In Part Two of the "We Are More" series, BrownTown and Dyanna discuss organizing against and within institutions to disrupt dangerous policy, addressing intracommunal violence with interpersonal relationships, supporting re-entry after being incarcerated, and more. Watch the micro-docs, listen to the series, and take action at SoapBoxPO.com/We-Are-More and IllinoisPrisonProject.org.
Dyanna's shares her experience with incarceration before the team delves into policy-driven factors like the Truth in Sentencing Act and the barriers folks formerly incarcerated folks face upon re-integrating into society after being released. They also touch on the nuances and history of faith-based organizing, particularly in the Black community, as well as Live Free's full free campaign and clean state initiative. What does freedom really look like? Here's their take.
Full Transcription Here!
Dyanna Winchester is a Chicago-born, formerly incarcerated organizer and mother of two boys, one of whom was tragically killed from gun violence within the city. She received her associates degree in Liberal arts from Lakeland College and is currently studying to get her Bachelor of Science in Business Management. Dyanna spent 20 years in the prison system and has worn many hats of employment while facing barriers to financial stability due to being system-impacted. Her most influential roles have been a Community Navigator/Case Manager/Career Coach at Howard Area Community Center. Now, she is passionate about her new role as Decarceration Organizer with Live Free Illinois where she can bring forth change both in our communities and at the policy level to help deliver the liberty and dignity we all deserve. When not in her Live Free Illinois role, she enjoys loving on her family, playing with dogs, exercising, and helping others.
ILLINOIS PRISON PROJECT (IPP)
Through advocacy, public education, and direct representation, the Illinois Prison Project brings hope to and fight in community with incarcerated people and their loved ones for a brighter, more humane, more just system for us all. Learn more about the IPP on their site; follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.
CREDITS: Intro soundbite from Michael Penny of the "We Are More" micro-doc series and outro soundbite from Dyanna Winchester. Audio engineered by Kiera Battles. This series is sponsored by the Illinois Prison Project.
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Ep. 82 - “We Are More” Pt. 2: Transforming Systems & Community Organizing after Incarceration ft. Dyanna Winchester
BrownTown sits down with Dyanna Winchester, Decarceration Organizer with Live Free Illinois. In Part Two of the "We Are More" series, BrownTown and Dyanna discuss organizing against and within institutions to disrupt dangerous policy, addressing intracommunal violence with interpersonal relationships, supporting re-entry after being incarcerated, and more. Watch the micro-docs, listen to the series, and take action at SoapBoxPO.com/We-Are-More and IllinoisPrisonProject.org
From “We Are More: Michael's Story”
[00:00:00] Michael Penny: "This situation created the person I am today. I was given the opportunity and I'm taking total advantage of it. I hope that the next person in my situation, they get the opportunity to do the same."
BODY OF EPISODE
[00:00:13] David: I wanna welcome everyone to another installment of Bourbon 'n Browntown. I am your co-host David. Out here with my boy Caullen, in a studio. Bro, Caullen, other than the studio part, how you feeling?
[00:00:24] Caullen: The studio's got me feeling great. I can gesticulate. I can talk without hitting Nabeel's clothes, shoutout Nabeel. What's up y'all?! I am- you know, it's been a week, it's been a month, it's been a summer, but I'm doing decent. Happy to be here with my peoples, my old peoples, my new peoples. So I'm just trying to channel the good vibes energy cause it's been a very stressful week. But stressful in a good way. Doing big things. We're doing cool things. Things I'm excited for; projects I'm excited for. So, gotta keep that in mind. How are you doing?
[00:00:59] David: My god, I'm literally too stressed to be blessed. you feel what I'm saying? I'm so dead. I thought about that earlier today. It's just like- and you're right- I think it's important to sometimes center ourselves when it's like, not that everything goes wrong, but you know, you plan for shit and then shit goes sideways. And then we're like, all right, well, my job is to find a solution. What's the solution? And then more problems arise. You know what I'm saying? Cause you know, the CIA doesn't make it easy for us. Not that that's our only enemy. But it's been fun. I'm really excited to be able to get into this conversation. I know the "We Are More" campaign has been kicking off for some time now, and were able to listen, if you have not heard the first one- but a little bit before that, to clarify; the "We Are More" campaign centers the experiences of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, and pushes back against fear-mongering "tough on crime" rhetoric resurging in the 2022 election season. In that, we need more pathways out of prison, not new ones into it. Through advocacy, public education, and direct representation the Illinois Prison Project -shoutout to the homies- brings hopes to and fight in community with incarcerated people and their loved ones for a brighter, more humane, more just system for all. And shoutout to everyone at IPP for helping us be a part of it. Shoutout to the gentleman who were sharing the stories, and then shoutout to everyone who have been participating in our podcast episode, man. And especially now that we've been doing the series and shit, it's just so much fun, cause there is sometimes so much shit to talk about just one thing, you know what I'm saying? And the perspective sometimes is necessary to be able to understand the true spectrum of a conversation; specifically one like this, which is, "We Are More" .
[00:02:41] Caullen: Yeah. Cause it's so- part of the reason we do these series that are building upon a micro-doc is that, when the micro-doc is five minutes long we can't get the entire breadth of the situation, of the issue, of the people, what have you. So we do the podcast to talk a little more deeply about more nuance, but then even doing multiple episodes still isn't enough to capture the little bit. So how do we talk about something that is so macro, so systemic, and so generational; but also boil it down to someone's experience, and their life, and interpersonal stuff, which we can do on a daily basis and isn't the whole- the totality of it. So dealing with all those levels, I think is really important. And I like what you said about why we're both so stressed now and then like, we have to find solutions to everything. And like, that's how it is.
And I feel like in part one, we talked a lot about diagnosing the problem, especially with women's incarceration doubling men's in the past several years- especially Black women. And with Sandra, we talked a lot about the root causes of it, as well as root solutions. And it felt very good and systemic, but I feel like now we're gonna kind of shift a little bit and move into how we collectively organize around that through organizations, crisis organizations, through other institutions, through interpersonal relationships- so we're talking about it a little differently, how we get those root solutions or holistic solutions, rather, in a more institutional kind of way, I feel like.
So with that, I want to introduce our guest Dyanna Winchester. For y'all that don't know, Dyanna is a Chicago-born, formerly incarcerated organizer and mother of two boys, one of whom was tragically killed from gun violence within the city. She received her Associate's degree in Liberal Arts from Lakeland College and is currently studying to get her Bachelor of Science in Business Management. Dyanna spent 20 years in the prison system and has worn many hats of employment while facing barriers to financial stability due to being system-impacted. Her most influential roles have been a Community Navigator/Case Manager/Career Coach at Howard Area Community Center. Now, she is passionate about her new role as Decarceration Organizer with Live Free Illinois, where she can bring forth change both in our communities and at the policy level to help deliver the liberty and dignity we all deserve. When not in her Live Free Illinois role, she enjoys loving on her family, playing with dogs, exercising- *gang*, and helping others. Let's go! Dyanna, what's going on?
[00:05:17] David: How you doing?
[00:05:18] Dyanna: Hey, how y'all doing? Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here, and I'm excited about this opportunity to come and share in the conversation today. So thank you for having me.
[00:05:31] David: Yeah. Bet. What kind of dogs you got? Just curious.
[00:05:33] Dyanna: Oh, well, I might not wanna share all that cause I'm still on parole, so, but they're both very cute girls. Actually, I only have one dog and the other one is one that we took in because her owners might have gon- take her down- put her down. But my boyfriend brought her in, and been taking care of her, trying to get her weight up and stuff like that. But I think the owners may be coming back to get her this weekend, so. But they're both cute and lovable. Very clingy, I should say, but it's good because I like to sleep cuddly anyway, so yeah, they're great dogs though.
[00:06:12] Caullen: Are you the big spoon or little spoon? Or both? You ain't gotta choose one.
[00:06:16] Dyanna: Well, explain what that means to me.
[00:06:20] Caullen: Like, are you holding the dog? Or is the dog behind you kind of holding you?
[00:06:23] Dyanna: Oh yeah. A little bit of both! Yeah, a little bit of both.
[00:06:27] Caullen: I love, I mean, I love being a big spoon for sure, but I love being a little spoon. I like being held. I like being held too.
[00:06:31] Dyanna: My dog, she likes to do the little, like tuck herself right up under me.
[00:06:37] David: Tuck her tail.
[00:06:37] Dyanna: Yeah. But I'll sleep with my arm around her too, cause I love her. Yeah, definitely.
[00:06:44] David: I mean we're really grateful for you to be in this space with us. And I think you can definitely bring into this conversation things that we cannot, and so to help ground us a little bit- you know, definitely tell us as little or as much as you'd like, but I think it'd be helpful for some of our listeners to maybe hear a little bit about your experience with the carceral system. And then the work since being released. And however you want to take that.
[00:07:07] Dyanna: Okay. Well, 2001 was when I entered into the carceral system. I was charged with aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder. And I was actually sentenced to first degree murder, felony murder. And I was sentenced to 20 years. I did six years in the jail, like where you're just detained until you're actually sentenced. And I went into the prison in 2007, April. And so during my time of incarceration, my attorney advised me to stay busy, so that's a lot of what I did. I worked and went to school, stayed active as far as helping with family services, reentry, stayed in school majority of the time that I was there. Did some recovery work, because I did learn that I had some addictive personality traits and things like that, so I worked on that while I was there. Took some counseling to kinda work on myself, because the question I asked myself in that was, what happened? You know, what got me here? Those type of things.
I was exposed to a lot of individuals there that were working on their cases, and that's what kind of got me into the laws, and some of the policy things and stuff like that. And I actually stayed so busy, but I seen other people doing it. And so that's how I was exposed to it. And so that is kinda what draws my passion a little bit, because I had those individuals trying to help me write encouraging the clemency, the habeas corpus, or post convictions and things like that. Because I was settled in doing my time because I knew I had committed the crime. You know what I mean? I wasn't one of those ones that sat there and said, oh, I'm innocent. And things like that. I had a conviction within myself that I know, it wasn't really an issue for me to do my time.
But I had people in there was fighting, like going back and forth to court, writing post convictions, habeas corpus, and still to this day fighting. Like the Truth in Sentencing Bill that came into play in '98, where if you were convicted of a violent crime, you have to do 100% of your time. Whereas individuals before that only had 50% of that time. And so that's something that is, we feel very strongly about, because we feel like it's unjust. You know, if you have the same crime, and just because a period of time changed, now you have a longer lengthier sentence versus somebody who committed the crime before that. And so you have people that's free now at home living their lives, but you still have people sitting in prison who had this similar crime, same charge, but doing all of their time when somebody did half of it. So that's something that in my role as a Decarceration Organizer I would like to challenge, and be a voice for those ladies that's still inside to be able to get their freedom. Even if it's just a change in a percentage. Cause I have to do 100% of my time, there is no way to earn a day. Because they have it now where individuals that have violent crimes, if they're under a certain percentage, can get days. But those ones that have 100% cannot get a day, they just taking action to better themselves, but it's all sitting in a file saying, well, if you're ever able to earn it, then you can get it. But at 100% they can't get it. So they're just sitting there, you know? And so the hope is that we can talk about that and get some changes there.
Inside again, I stayed active, and since I've been home I've been very active in the reentry circle. So I make sure that I connect with most every organization, but one in particular was Live Free Illinois. And I was embraced by them when I came home, and given a t-shirt. It was like, you're involved. Then I was like, yeah.
[00:11:31] Caullen: It's a good shirt. I hate seeing grassroots orgs that are doing dope work, and they have shitty websites and shitty t-shirts. I'm like, oh, I wanna support you all, but like, I can't rock that shirt, ahh, I'm sorry, I can't.
[00:11:39] David: This motherfucker. Listen to this guy here.
[00:11:41] Caullen: I'm just playing. Kind of.
[00:11:45] Dyanna: So Live Free Illinois embraced me when I came home. One- a few particulars like Ms. Willette, her and I- Willette Benford-Tidwell is her name actually, she's the new reentry director for Chicago. Her and I were friends inside. She was like a leader, mentor inside the prison. And so our relationship continued as we were out here, she had this decarceration fellowship called Cost of Dignity. And so I was involved in that. And one of the things that Live Free Illinois does is try to build up leaders. And so I would consider myself a leader, and had always been spoken into me of my leadership potential. Even at my prior job at Howard Area, I would always hear "you have great leadership potential". And so that is something that Live Free Illinois has shaped and continued to mold me in is my leadership potential. And so another person was Gregory Chambers, he's a lead policy organizer for Live Free Illinois. He was the first person that I encountered with Live Free Illinois. He took me to a rally outside of Cook County where a woman goes there every week because her husband was killed inside of Cook County. And she's a voice or a representation of acknowledging there's something going wrong in these institutions where her husband was killed. And so she goes out there to acknowledge that, and wants her voice to be heard because COVID or not, individuals shouldn't be dying in a prison. They need to have better systems where if something happens like that, if y'all doing watches or whatever, that man's voice should have been heard. And so I went out there with Greg and we rallied for justice for that man's life, and all the other injustices that are going on inside these institutions. And so Greg brought me in, he the one that gave me my first t-shirt and was like, Hey, you're a part of us. And so I continue to get emails, and texts, and calls. Artinese is another-
[00:14:00] Caullen: Shouout Artinese.
[00:14:01] Dyanna: Yeah, definitely, very strong organizer. Her and I was out canvasing today for the Black census and for voters registration, because that is the season. We want people to get out and vote, because, again, that's another way to get our voices heard about some of the injustices and the things that we wanna see come to pass in our communities: gun violence, mass incarceration, policies that we want to be changed. That's how our voice will be heard, if you get out and vote. Also, the Black census is just another way for our voices and our opinions to be known- how we feel about what's happening. And so anyway, we was out canvasing today. We talked to a few people, got them signed up and it was awesome. And so Artinese would call me up and say, Hey, we want you to come. And that's the great part of Live Free is they invite you out to make sure that you know that you belong, and they want you to be a part of a movement so that we can just fight for our rights. You know what I mean? For so long it's been all these- what do you call it- inequalities that have been going on. And, you know, Martin Luther King did his part, other leaders have done their part. I feel like Live Free illinois is just that other channel now to continue the work that has been going on from our past leaders, and things like that, to get what we want is freedom. Freedom from the slavery of the past, freedom from what is now-
[00:15:32] Caullen: slavery of the current.
[00:15:33] Dyanna: Yeah! These institutions is another form of slavery. And we are just wanting to have our freedom, and them not to be masqueraded by penalties for a crime that you committed, you know? So back to Live Free Illinois- and then you have Ciera Bates-Chamberlain, who is the co-founder. And the last event that I was invited to I actually met her. We had been social media friends, and I had seen her on the virtuals, and I actually met her in person. And she thought I lived in Rockford and I didn't. I said, no I'm in Chicago, but you know, it was just because we hadn't physically met each other. And I went in and just did what I was supposed- not supposed to, but just what was natural to me; helping them fold shirts, and being a part of the conversation, and she saw my leadership potential. So when Ms. Willette's position became available they encouraged me to apply. Went through their hiring process interviewed. And here I am, the now decarceration organizer for Live Free.
The position is something that is unique, I would say for me. And when I say unique, it means kind of foreign. But I know that my passion, because I've been system-impacted, directly impacted by gun violence, because as you said in my bio, my son was killed to gun violence. I also had a cousin, while I was incarcerated, that was killed right in front of my grandmother house. And when I was inside, I always had this stirring on the inside of me like, I wanna get out there and get involved in that type of stuff. When the police brutality with George Floyd, that was his name, when I saw that type of stuff happen, the inside of me it was just stirring up like I wanna be involved. But I didn't know the channels. I didn't understand that- or know that Live Free Illinois was that channel. So now that I'm a part of it, it's like, yes! I finally got an opportunity to do those things that I felt so strongly about on the inside, but just didn't know how. I didn't even know that you could work for Live Free when I was volunteering for it. Had a conversation coming back from Ms. Willette's wedding with Gregory, and he was like- no, no, no, it wasn't that- I asked the secretary for her name is Ryan- where do you work? And she say, I work for Live Free. I was like, what?
[00:17:57] Caullen: "Yeah. Yeah. But where do you work though?"
[00:17:58] Dyanna: Yeah!
[00:17:59] Caullen: "Where get your paycheck from."
[00:18:00] Dyanna: Seriously. That part. And so I was like, are you serious? I had no idea. I thought Live Free Illinois was just individuals that were formerly incarcerated, getting together for a cause, and going hard for it. I had no idea that you could work for them. So when I found out, I was like, what?! And then when the position became available and I applied, I was like, wow! That was amazing to me. So I'm just like really excited about the opportunity. The number one, being a voice for the ladies that's still incarcerated, cause I still talk to a lot of them.
And when it comes down to gun violence in the communities, I am going to be a voice- I had already been a voice, but now being a part of an organization that has that as a cause that they fighting for, like, I am definitely on board with everything. Talking to all the men, trying to get this gun violence prevention ordinance signed by them, and passed. Because we need prevention to gun violence in our community. We need some strategic ways to change what is happening: if it's in the household, learn behaviors, cognitive thinking, whatever it is that needs to be challenged. If we have to go and talk to the brothers that's standing on the corners in the neighborhoods and just be gentle and persuasive with them, encourage them to come in and kinda do something different. I know it's like, how is that gonna happen? But it can. People have to know how much you care. They don't wanna know just what you know. But show somebody that you care and they may not know that, I have a chance to be different. But when they know these things and see the community coming together to have this thing done, it can work. But we have to have people willing to help us get this done, it's not just within us and our passion for it. Help us. Everybody want- you watch the news-
[00:20:05] David: I don't.
[00:20:06] Dyanna: You see all this stuff happening, everybody has a comment and shaking their head. But what are we gonna do about it? When you presented with the opportunity, what is the challenge?
[00:20:17] Caullen: Thank you for all of that. I have a better idea of what it's like to work there, and to be part of Live Free. And what I've seen- what I've heard from what you've said just now, and from what I know of Artinese, and from what I've seen on the website- which is beautiful by the way, not one of the organizations that have shitty websites- very beautiful website. It's tragic that's part of how I look into organizations. But, it's holistic in your approach, right?
[00:20:45] Dyanna: Yeah, definitely. We're faith-based.
[00:20:47] Caullen: And I- I'm very curious about that too. But-
[00:20:50] David: I have questions.
[00:20:51] Caullen: Anything faith-based. But you keep talking about voting, and then electeds, people are elected, aldermen, to the white house on the, I guess, civics kind of model. Which I think it's part of this, right? But also that's not- that's one part of it.
[00:21:06] Dyanna: Yeah, definitely.
[00:21:08] Caullen: Another part is community-based: talking to each other, talking to people on the corner, talking to whoever, and having those interpersonal relationships, which I think is, I think is important. I think it personally is almost more important. But it seems like y'all tackle a lot of different aspects of all of this. And interconnected issues. You mentioned George Floyd being killed and, you know, a national/ a global uprising happening because of that, and everything else that surrounded it. But also your own situation. And also folks you know who are still incarcerated, talking to them and stuff. And not seeing those as separate, but kind of one in the same. This apparatus that breeds violence in a certain way.
And the policy thing is interesting to me, cause it's like, well, you mentioned the Truth in Sentencing Act, you know, someone's incarcerated a week after this bill was passed, their trajectory of their life is completely different because someone signed a pen and piece of paper. Like quite literally, right. I think of everyone who's incarcerated now on any kind of marijuana possession, or any kind of marijuana charge, who if that happened now, maybe they could start a business, you know what I'm saying? It's like totally different. And we're like, Hey, why is people still locked up? It's like, oh, because they should have known then. It's like, John Boehner is making how much money off of corporate marijuana sales now? And he's a piece of shit. So I'm like, I just struggle with that all the time. And I feel like organizations like Live Free and other orgs that are working to like, Hey, this bill- we realize this shit was wrong now, let's be retroactive in signing everything. Biden, talking to you, stroke your pin, everyone who you got locked up cause of the '94 crime bill- you can change that right now, Mr. Biden! Why aren't you doing nothing? So, yeah, I just, I wrestle with that. Especially cause it's so easy to actually change that.
If we're looking at policy and stuff, then also we have to do our own internal, but also community based work, which I think, again, is more important. Cause I feel like- I personally feel like policy and voting and all that will get us somewhere, and I think the only time that's been done in our favor is because of the grassroots changing policy- or changing minds, and changing how people think about these things on a mass level to make the people in power do it, right? It's never- it never comes from them, like they wake up like, "oh I should sign this bill cause it's right." No, we made them do it, cause if nothing else, you know, something worse would happen, arguably. So I appreciate that about Live Free, and from the context, and the ecosystem in which y'all operate.
[00:23:43] David: It's important for folks to sometimes hear different shit. Hearing everything you had just mentioned to me, outside of certain spaces that isn't a conversation, that isn't part of people's worlds. Not only is there levels of accountability that haven't been spoken, too, which I would- that's a whole other podcast episode, right? A level of growth education, all of these things that are a result of something. And, to me, what's always really interesting is- because there is a lack of these voices- what is it or how is it that we can continue to do our job to make sure to encourage other folks? As you were mentioning, folks have been coming to you and speaking that I refer to as like a don of leadership. And so, how can we continue to also encourage our people to take up those mantles as well? Because this fight is for the long haul. And so we get tired real quick, we get burned out real quick. And so it's like to your point, how is it that we want to continue to incorporate community? And I think that's something that's really cool.
You did mention that y'all were faith based, could you explain a little bit what that means?
[00:25:02] Dyanna: Well, our co-founder is a Reverend. Reverend Ciera Bates-Chamberlain. And so "faith-based" to me would be that we believe in a higher power, or Jesus Christ. And our foundation is that. Some are on our website, you would see that we have scriptures and things like that. So our foundation is God, and that's the best that I can explain it. Because I can't speak on behalf of how that is, but I know for me personally, I am a believer in God. And so when I hear "faith-based", I believe that we believe that God is our source, he gives us our strength. And we move and we act in ways that exemplify and imitate him.
[00:25:53] Caullen: Is that through a Christian lens? Or is that just all of the- an interfaith kind thing?
[00:25:57] Dyanna: I would say Christian. But we respect all religions. We don't shun, or discuss, or argue religion, cause that's not something that we do. And I can't choose your God for you, but I can say, I believe that we are a Christian-based.
[00:26:15] David: And I mean, and I think that's a conversation that probably isn't had as often as it could be. I think the only other example I have of that, and for our B'nB listeners, would probably be Pearl. Pearl also finds a lot of energy- she's not necessarily an organizer, but it's all through a faith lens as well, of finding that balance. And it's- there are a lot of us who are skeptical of any type of organization predating 1776. But, I think it's important- go ahead, go ahead, please.
[00:26:51] Caullen: That's- ah, man. I'm thinking about, you mentioned MLK and the Black church like then and now, and the differences behind organizing, at least in my/ our experience on the defunding/abolition in Chicago and abroad- and other issues that are intersecting with that, which I- in my view is everything. But looking at the Black church back many decades ago, and how organizing kind of centered around that. For better or for worse, right? And the figure always being, you know, a male charismatic figure or whatever, doing things, and how that, what we normally think of when we think about organizing- especially Black organizing. Black organizing now is very, very different. A lot of times it's younger, and lots of times it's not faith-based. Lots of times there's a Black queer woman, lots of times it's, you know, and I think it's all for the better. Not that there are- not that, I know a lot of faith-based organizers who are super dope and super radical, and just that vanguards has changed so much. And we've been able to kind of call out some of the -isms, and the harm that was done back in the day- not that harm isn't happening now in movement communities at all, but calling those out and working in a more non-hierarchical level, or within a community that's more diverse in general. Outside faith, outside gender, outside sexual orientation, what have you- just those vanguards are so different.
And when I think about the Black church, what it was back in the day, was it was an organizing tool, that's like, primarily what it was. Right? And the state knew that, and that's why they targeted them so much. And not saying that they still aren't, right? Georgia and other Southern states are passing laws so that, you know, going to the polls on Sundays was a big thing in the Black churches. South of the Mason Dixon line, if we're being honest about it, they're making policies so they can't go vote. They're very strategic policies. So I'm not saying that that's not happening anymore, both on the organizing level, and the state cracking down level. But when I think about certain folks who are electeds or propped up for different levels of office and things, in my view, they tend to be kind of centrists, or kind of basing their politices off of the vanguard of the democratic party doing things; very centrist in what they actually want to do, and not radical enough for me. Not wanting transformation-
[00:29:23] David: you mean Willie Wilson ain't it, bro? You mean Willie Wilson ain't it?! You know what I'm saying?
[00:29:27] Caullen: *laughing* oh God Willie. Willie, that's a different- that's a series in itself.
[00:29:30] David: We talked about it before, so it's fine.
[00:29:32] Caullen: But I guess, I'll try to sum this up. I think the Black church is a fascinating model from pre-enslavement times to now, as far as how we're actually seeing freedom, like you say, seeing liberation, and then how we're eating at the sides of making things a little bit better and what I view as incrementalism. And how I've been radicalized from my youth to now is thinking much pass beyond incrementalism. And yeah, I don't know. I'm curious about the folks you're in spaces with now, and how they see the issues you talk about; ie: policing, prisons, health and food access, if that's even part of, which I think is like all this and how root causes are in there or not. And also I think it's a generational thing too. I think that's brought up a lot as far as like, "oh, older Black folks want this, young Black folks want this." I think that's a binary; it's not true- we're learning from ancestors. But I think that definitely is there a little bit too. So I'm curious if that's a thing you've seen at all in your experience?
[00:30:48] Dyanna: I come from South Park Baptist church, 37th and King Drive. And that's the church I know. I don't know much about any other churches, and this work I have just begun. But what I know about that church is more traditional. It's a family church. And so we go there, people have their clubs, groups, the choir sings their song, the Reverend Pastors. I have seen them do homeless giveaways, hygiene products, things like that. They have youth Bible studies, all that type of stuff. But I am personally trying to get with my Pastor to see what you're doing in a community. Because when it comes down to gun violence, I don't know that that's happening. I've talked to him about prison ministry and he was open to the conversation. So I'm waiting to hear back from him now. And my supervisor told me that she wanted to be with me because I'm new at this, and wanted to be kinda like the lead in it so that we have the right understanding of what we are trying to do within the churches. So we'll see how that goes. And I'm just kind of giving you a visual of what I know of my church, and what I know may not be going on that- I'm trying to get when it comes down to the- there's people in your congregation, me, myself, been incarcerated, you know what I mean? So what is being done to support that?
[00:32:29] David: How is that conversation being had?
[00:32:32] Dyanna: Yeah.
[00:32:33] David: Go ahead. Go ahead.
[00:32:35] Dyanna: Does the person inside of the church feel like they can come to the church and get that support? Now, when I came home, my aunt called them, made sure that they knew I was home. And as long as I attended the church, he was reaching out to me. So they did try to support me, but I'm talking about as a whole, like what other people have been incarcerated and what is going on to kinda cultivate them and make sure that they are okay. I get it individually, but like as a community- what about in the community is individuals like me? And so I want individuals like me to know that they have some place to go. They can go to South Park and get the support that they need.
There's gun violence going on in the community. And so let's be a part of the movement. I think most of- all the churches should be. But we reaching out to y'all saying, "Hey, maybe if the local church get together, community centers get together, these places that people have, let's get out on the streets and have a conversation let's get together". But where the people can go: the schools, the churches, the community centers- those places where people in the community go to, let's get together so that we can create some resources for people. But that's what I can tell you. Artinese is a good organizer in the churches. She got her whole lists of churches she did reached out to. You got some churches on board. And I'm not, by far, knocking my church, but sometimes you don't know until you're made to know.
[00:34:17] Caullen: Wooo, bars!
[00:34:20] Dyanna: And so maybe I've been that vessel chosen to have had the experience, so that we can bring it to the forefront and say, "Reverend Craig, we need this to happen in our church", you know, or "we would like this to happen in our church. Would you be willing-"
[00:34:35] David: or "should be happening in our church?"
[00:34:37] Dyanna: Yeah.
[00:34:37] David: And I'm curious, cause I think I kind of hear where Caullen was going with it, and I was curious- no, no, no. But I was curious about, so with that, as you are coming into this space and truly leading these conversations, the questions and the qualms and the concerns that folks who may not be of faith. Cause I'm thinking about, I know that there's a church, like a couple blocks from me, but I'm not attending because I'm not 1) I'm not- I don't hold that faith. But 2) I feel like I feel a politician, you know what I'm saying? He's gonna just say the right things, do the right moves to try to get me to, whatever-type scenario. And so I guess what I'm curious with is how do you, with that faith and heart, cause you come in with everybody like that, what kind of conversations have you been having with- not the Reverends, but like individuals when you like, "yo, this is what needs to happen". What are some of the- and not to, we're not trying to flame nobody. I mean, if you want to, by all means.
(talking over, joking)
but I think to your point, I think you naming some incredibly important things about like, let's talk about it. And so to me, it's like, why haven't we talked about it? But I'm also not the one going to talk to the churches. That's not- but that's also not my purpose. And so like, we fighting it. So what's some of those conversations you having with folks?
[00:35:51] Dyanna: Okay, so what we utilize in Live Free Illinois is what's considered a one-on-one. So one-on-ones are something that we are instructed to do. It's part of our job. Like, I need to have 100 done in 90 days. And so we first utilize our internal base of people, but we reach out to core leaders and individuals who are open. So we begin by saying who we are, giving them some foundation of us. We get to know them. And in that conversation, if there is that opening to if they've been system impacted or directly impacted by gun violence; or have not, but still have an opinion about it, what do you wanna do about it? It don't matter if you're a believer or not. So if you would like to see something, if you have an opinion, you would like to see something changed, or have a voice in something, come join us. Come here. Give me your email and your telephone number, we gonna put you on our call log, you gonna be invited in. Come to some of these spaces and learn about what we do and become a part of it so your voice can be heard too. You have one, just like we all do, and there'll be opportunities to grow up as a leader. So that's how we deal with other people.
[00:37:18] Caullen: Those one-on-ones are important.
[00:37:20] David: The patient's prudence for that. Cause you're saying you gotta do 100 in 90 days. I'm like, you know-
[00:37:25] Caullen: 100 in 90 days?
[00:37:26] Dyanna: 100 one-on-ones in 90 days.
[00:37:29] Caullen: How?
[00:37:30] Dyanna: Yeah, that means more than one a day.
[00:37:32] Caullen: Yeah!
[00:37:33] Dyanna: But our one-on-ones is just like 30 minutes.
[00:37:35] Caullen: It's just like a check-
[00:37:36] Dyanna: Yeah, it's a check in. But in that you get to know people. You get to know people, you know what I'm saying? And you give them the opportunity to share who they are, what their thoughts are, and invite them in. Let them know they got somewhere to come.
[00:37:52] David: Yeah. And so in that though, how often do you encounter folks who are of the mindset- as you mentioned, not everyone knows that you have been incarcerated or your situation, what have you- what happens when you get folks who are like very either pro-police or very like, "I don't wanna create no waves. I'm in my lane". How do- what are some of the things, I mean-
[00:38:16] Dyanna: If- we don't wanna be too pushy. Like when we go canvasing and people just be like, "no thank you". That's just one person, you know what I mean? But we have several to go. And we encounter great leaders, and produce and develop great leaders. So if some people choose not to, the world is just what it is. Some people choose not to. But those people, I would encourage- when you see something on the news that you disapprove of, have no complaint. Because you can't complain about what you permit.
[00:38:59] Caullen: Oooh, the bars today!
[00:39:02] Dyanna: You can't complain about what you permit. So all day you wanna say, all that's a shame, all those killings, oh, that's a shame. How many people locked up? What are we doing about it? And I think fear- cause when we was walking today, they applauded us cause they was like, y'all so courageous to be doing what y'all doing- somebody gotta do it.
[00:39:29] Caullen: That, and also this should be normal. Y'all should- don't applaud me, join me.
[00:39:32] Dyanna: Plenty of people got- what do they call it- something "watch" in the window. What they call that?
[00:39:38] Caullen: Oh, the neighborhood watch?
[00:39:39] Dyanna: Neighborhood watch!
[00:39:42] Caullen: That's like the Black version of "we believe" liberals. Who live in like, Oak Park and shit.
[00:39:46] Dyanna: Neighborhood watch- what we watching? People killing each other and being okay with it?
[00:39:50] Caullen: Like, don't watch; relate to folks.
[00:39:52] Dyanna: Yeah! I think that term, "if it ain't your- mind your own business", this has gone too far. And it is dangerous out here, don't get me wrong. But that's when our faith come in. We have to be out here like fearless- protective, but fearless at the same time. There's boundaries, like you ain't gonna cross nobody's boundaries, if you choose. But we gonna encourage, we're going to encourage. Because somebody had to encourage me. Somebody had to talk to me, I didn't get here because I just got here. I had people who believed in me. They talked to me. I've lost my way before too. I'm not sitting here perfect. But people were there. How many times did we say, "oh, I didn't have nobody"? We coming to talk to you. You have somebody, voices that wanna give you some answers to the things that you see. And you wanna do something, but you may not have the vehicle. I didn't have the vehicle- besides my own opportunities to speak about things, but now that I'm with Live Free I can speak about being fully free. I think individuals that come and be a part of Live Free have the opportunity to be part of a movement to see this change come about. And so, I just feel like we are growing, moving, and the things that we want- would like to see to come pass, will; with each other, not by ourselves.
[00:41:27] Caullen: One thing we propped up on this podcast, and I think what David and I have learned just in our personal lives, as well as just organizing and things via Soapbox, is how important relationships are with all of this. And when I think about like, I'm not an RJ, Restorative Justice practitioner, by any means, but I've studied it for a couple years now, I've definitely dove into a lot this year. And when I think about how- you mentioned prevention earlier, right? And it's like, conflict harm is going to happen because we're, I don't wanna say humans, we're animals, we're living beings in the earth. And so-
[00:42:05] David: on a space rock.
[00:42:05] Caullen: When it happens- on a space rock. One of the many. It's so big, y'all -
when it happens, what have we established already that helps deal with these things in the first place? So when I think of neighborhood watch programs, which are tied to police, like very not even- this isn't like one of my weird tin foil hat theories- very much tied to policing, it just is, so just know that. So when you're saying like, "yeah, defund!" and it's like, nah, you're trying to do the whole thing. These programs are very much tied to a carceral, violent institution that exists for violence, anti-Blackness, and all the things we know, what that's the antithesis of is building relationships on the forefront. And I think that takes time and energy. And like you said, sometimes it's like, "Hey, it cannot be replaced with a boundary you shouldn't cross for your own safety, for very obvious reasons'', which is totally understandable. But when it comes to if I know my neighbor, we don't have to be super tight, but if I know my neighbor and I hear a commotion next door or something: for one, I'm gonna be more apt to knock and be like, "Hey, y'all good?" if I know them prior to, and also I'm gonna feel like they're less likely to harm me if I know them prior to. And it's like, they'll listen to me- or, and more likely listen to me as well. And so that's a very micro micro example for these things. And I think that prevention has to do with relationships and building the ecosystem of that, of care on the forefront so when things happen, we can deal with that.
And one thing I'm- I don't know if I'm curious about as far as how y'all organize, or other institutions organize, or the Black church organizes and generally certain congregations- but I think we can do what we can do in our communities through relationships and what have you, but it's like this shit is all top down. We were redlined, there was redlines decades ago, we're still having the effects of them. We talk about, obviously violence now is different than it was 10, 20, 30 years ago, and it was more organized and what have you, but it's like, that changed because of policy. Because they made decisions that we were not a part of that affected our areas in ways that we're seeing the detriments of now. So yeah, I guess it's not really a question, but I'm just like, we organize from the ground up, and these things are macro, and top-level and have been for generations long, so it's like, we have to understand those dynamics as well and how that happened, as well as talking to shorties. And I think we see the "put the guns down" signs a lot and it's like, I don't- like what's his name- Furious Styles said in Boyz n the Hood?
(movie clip: Well how you think the crack rock gets into the country? We don't own any planes. We don't own no ships. We are not the people who are flying and floating that shit in here. I know every time you turn on a TV that's what you see. Black people selling the rock, pushing the rock, pushing the rock. Yeah, I know, but that wasn't a problem as long as it was here. Wasn't a problem until it was in Iowa, and it showed up on Wall Street where there are hardly any Black people. Now, if you want to talk about guns, why is it that there's a gun shop on almost every corner in this community? Why? I'll tell you why, For the same reason that there's a liquor store on almost every corner in the Black community, why? They want us to kill ourselves.)
[00:45:23] Caullen: Police sell and give guns to shorties. That's a documented thing that happens. They'll pick you up and put you in different neighborhood with a rival gang. They still do that. They've been doing that for years. So yeah, so we need- so how are we talking to the folks who we know are kind of involved with some of this stuff? Because we need that response immediately, but also in order for this to be sustainable, we have to understand how that happened in the first place and how we need resources and care, and that that mindset change. Which is tough.
[00:46:05] Dyanna: Now, I have seen some organizations, when I was at Howard Area, cause I met a lot of people that would come in and say, "well, we work with the person who shot the gun, the victim's family of the people that they shot", and they try to work with it. The whole thing.
[00:46:31] Caullen: That's work.
[00:46:32] Dyanna: Yeah. And so, that is a preventive measure. And I used to be like, whoa, okay! Because, say for instance with the individual who killed my son, would I like to see him in prison? Him or her? Not necessarily. That's not my heart because I've been incarcerated, so I know what it's like to sit there. And that's like, what?! Yeah, and that's the truth! The conversation is what I want to have. And I was just watching a movie the other night, like people wanna know the truth or have answers, but they really don't wanna have the answers. But mine for me would be the "why?". "What did he do to you necessarily?" Or, "what was the thought process behind what you did?" cause me, it's just some understanding. Will it clear up my grief? Probably not, only time will do that as I allow myself to go through that process. But that is a prevention.
Individuals have to, number one, be willing to surrender that nature that they've adapted to to have that as the initial thought. You know, I do safe neighborhood meetings every Thursday for individuals who are coming home from prison with gun charges, and they have the policing side, then they have the community side. So this is a prevention, right? And so they come in, they tell them, "well, this is what's gonna happen to you if you do this again" and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. And so we come in with the opportunities, we are offering this and that, and then I come in with my story of my son to discourage. And I try to let them know that we have to stop victimizing each other and being victims. Because how is our community gonna change? And let them know that they have an opportunity before they walk out the door to make a difference. No longer be the predator, now you can be the leader. That you can go out there and tell the youth, "man, you know not to", or "you can have another decision besides that decision", or maybe, "yeah, I may have set this example, but I wanna show you something different now". But you have to do the work within yourself first, and be willing to.
You know, when we sitting in the prison system, for myself, I wanted to come out and make a difference in some young girl's life. And I'm not somebody that doesn't deal with men or anything like that, but I am passionate about women. I went to all girls schools when I was in grammar school, and I was in prison with women for 20 years, so. Some of the issues that I've had: child molestation, drug addiction, having babies in prison, or just at a young age, coming from dysfunction, you know what I mean? I can help a woman with that. Coming from doing 20 years in prison, and then that transition from coming in there to coming home. So those are the areas that I can talk with women on, my experience. And so, also being somebody that's been guilty of taking somebody's life before. That's a humbling thing to say that I was wrong for the decision I made when I was 19 years old. I had no idea what my feelings was, and got myself caught up in a situation that I had no control over besides trying to fix it when it was already messed up. And so I think that it just takes a person to have a change of heart, a change of mind, but it takes that. And how do we get there though? Cause we can talk all day- cause I bet you they grandmama and they mama been talking to them in the house like, "y'all need to change". Some of the examples that they had probably wasn't the best, so as community people that we are out here trying to have a conversation.
And I'm the type of person, before Live Free I was more so like, when the opportunity presents itself. Now I try to make the opportunity in conversation. And so, I don't know all the answers, and I just always pray and ask God to give me words of wisdom, or just trust that he will when I'm talking with people. But I know it's, again, a change of heart, and a change of mind, relearning certain habits and behaviors- like, forget everything you learned and saw, just forget it all! Don't respond; because how many times do we have to continue to fill up these cemeteries? Funeral homes? And I just, I never fathom a day- oh my God, that I would lose my son. I'm still like, this is just a bad nightmare. That's how I cope, seriously. Cause the reality of the situation is like, who can sit in that reality and be okay? So I kind of have to tweak my thinking a little bit and just be like, "Hey, I'll see him again one day", you know that facade? And I'm not talking against faith when I say that cause in faith I know I will see him again. But sometimes the reality of that is like, I wanna see him right now, you know?
And so, it just goes back to, a willing person that has that life altering- or just "man, I'm tired", of having this effect. And sometimes it seems like, can this really happen? But it can. I'm a prime example of somebody who should be dead, could be dead; but 20 years, unfortunately, gave me enough time to say, okay, enough is enough. I choose not to do drugs because I know they were a part of my decision-making back then. And I try my best not to surround myself with toxic people so that I would even be tempted to be involved in those behaviors, but thankfully to mentors and people who cared enough about me to talk to me. So if that same effect happened to me, it can happen to that next person that is still, we can have it in our community. But it takes somebody to care enough. Don't give up on people. I don't know. All we can do. All we can do is try, all we can do is try.
And so as my coworker Greg would say, he would spend the rest of his life doing this work. And even after I retire, I'm still gonna have the conversations though. Cause they to be had. Until we see a change in those percentages, in those numbers, and our people come home, and the system is worked out. If it's gonna exist, let it exist for the right reasons; not because somebody getting rich from it, not because this pandemic I would call it- or epidemic to keep us enslaved is going to continue on. You don't no longer have slavery where you can put us on a boat, handcuff us, bring us over; now it's put us in these warehouses and figure it out, what you're gonna do with yourself. But I would encourage individuals that's in there to realize what you're involved in, and make a difference. Get educated, stand your ground, fight your case- don't give up and just let them give you anything and just deal with it, continue to fight. But do something to better yourself while you in there, because there's gonna be things that are set up so that you can prove yourself. So don't just get in there and just play cards and watch TV all day. Nah.
So, I wanna talk a little bit about the Fully Free campaign and the Clean Slate campaign. And those are two active, growing things inside of Live Free Illinois. Fully Free campaign is to get rid of permanent punishment. We talked a lot about what's going on in the institutions; you come home, you work hard to get there and it's like, "oh, I'm free!", but are we really free? Good question, right? Because you come home and you're, hopefully, blessed to have somebody that you can come home to, or you have your own home or transitional housing- and some people that works for, some people that don't. But then you have to fill out the job application, and the housing application, and the educational forms- and they like, "have you had a felon?". So Fully Free is working to get rid of those barriers, because when I come home I should look- stand next to somebody that has never had a conviction, and be an equal; because I served my time.
[00:56:02] Caullen: Right. What else is it there for?
[00:56:03] Dyanna: Right, but now you wanna look at me as what I did, but not who I am. And I am Dyanna Tiffany Winchester, not some number, not what happened 20 years ago. If I show behavior of that then deal with me accordingly; charge me, send me back in there. But not continually charge me while I'm out here when I've shown you that I can keep a job, that I would like to continue my education, and that I need housing. If I don't have housing, if I don't have a job, if I don't get educated, then what's the set up? Back to prison, right? So what are the barriers for? You want me to be rehabilitated, and then what? Come home and can't get a job? Come home and can't have housing, and can't further my education? And that's just the foundation.
Let's talk about when Marlon Chamberlain does the presentation, cause he's the founder of Fully Free. I cannot play BINGO. Like, seriously! I'm at a bingo game, if they look too far into it, they not gonna give me my witness cause I can't play bingo.
[00:57:21] Caullen: Wait, what?!
[00:57:23] Dyanna: Yes! You need to check out the Fully Free presentation! The little components that they have there. Then your estate, Marlon gives testimony of this, his father left him his estate. When he came home he could not get it; because as a felon, if somebody passes away, you cannot get the estate because you're a felon. So they have to work around it somehow. I was just on the phone with somebody formally system- not formally, excuse me- system-impacted couldn't get life insurance because he's a felon. What?! So now that's another issue; if something was to happen to him, your family gotta pay for your funeral, cremation, or cemetery burial because you couldn't get life insurance to take care of your own stuff. This stuff is a problem. Why am I still penalized when I just served 20 years or plus, you know what I mean?
It's just terrible. And so, trying to get Fully Free to come to pass. We also have the Clean Slate Initiative, which is an automatic sealing and expungement for the crimes that you have committed. So after you finish your prison sentence and MSR, which is the Mandatory Supervised Release- which they call parole- you'll have an automatic sealing and then lead to expungement so that these barriers that exist because you've been incarcerated, you will be able to get your record sealed. So when the employer, or the housing, or the educational people review your background, they can't see it. That's something that we are working on to try to better our survival out here, so to speak. Or livelihood, which is what it should be because, again, when I stand up next to somebody that has not been incarcerated and I've been system-impacted, I should look the same because I've served my time, as they say, paid my debt to society. And I understand how they feel like they need to protect or- what they call it- social responsibility and things like that.
[00:59:36] David: Ooofff. But like is it, though? Once again, you started out speaking about accountability, and the way you came in there's a level of understanding, but when we're thinking on the other side, I was just like, this whole tough on crime.... politics... they're not backing down, they're not taking time to think or empathize with the realities. And I think oftentimes that's the case, cause they're not exposed to it. I think that's something you mentioned. But yeah man, it's-
[01:00:11] Dyanna: they're not trying to take the time out. They just quick to-
[01:00:14] David: or it doesn't benefit them. I think you mentioned that as like, maybe they're the ones who are making money off of these prisons. Cause it's also something I was curious- we may not have time- but the towns that are literally prison towns. The way in which the system works is like, this prison is here and everyone who lives around there gets employed by that. We're over here trying to free them all, "oh, but if you take this prison, what are we gonna do for work?" So it's- that's a whole...
[01:00:37] Caullen: and that's-. Several several years ago when I was first- I don't know what they call it, but- what do they call them, like private prisons like, "oh, shouldn't be making money off prisons", it's like, "ah, boo private prisons", which is facts, but also prisons shouldn't, in general-
[01:00:55] David: public prisons?!
[01:00:56] Caullen: Public prisons are also making money off of it. And those prison towns- we talked about this before on B'nB- but if I live in this town, which is normally a rural white town, where this prison exists and I, maybe I don't work there, but my partner works there or something or whatever, and it's like, if this town moves away, then the economic ability of the town will diminish because this cash cow is here. And I'm just like, living on whatever- fuck my politics, that's- if I can't eat because of that, that's real. But also, number 1), this death making institution, an institution that has legalized slavery, needs to go. We can figure everything else out in the interim.
[01:01:31] Dyanna: Yeah, move to another place.
[01:01:32] Caullen: But also, number 2 is like, that feeling is real. And I'm not gonna equate and call them both enslavement, but it's like, if you *have* to have this little death making institution, this thing that is surrounded by harm and violence exists in order for you to survive, you are also oppressed because of this. And this other system of economics and what have you, in your geographic area where you live in, if you're enslaved to live a certain way, then that's a problem and you're also being oppressed. Can you get some UBI until we figure something else out? Yeah, you should be able to get that! They got enough resources; there's enough money out there! You should be good until we figure something else out. I figure you got some kind of transferable skills we should figure out in the interim.
[01:02:15] Dyanna: Care more about others than just yourself.
[01:02:17] Caullen: Yeah. But I just wanna say, I understand that sentiment initially of, how am I going to eat cause I- me and my partner are both prison guards at this thing? It's like, all right, we're gonna take away this prison, we're gonna literally just give you bread, and we're gonna figure out something else in the meantime, but this can't stand. We're not like, "oh, the gestapo officers, what's gonna happen when the third reich falls, what are they gonna do to eat?" We're not asking those questions. This needs to fall! But I do wanna center that feeling of economic anxiety cause I think with- we talk about that situation and other folks, a lot of times with economic anxiety we talk about rural white folks- it's coded racism- a lot of times it is, I ain't gonna lie. But sometimes it's like, no, you are also part of this. If we know prisons, and police, and carceral institutions are part of anti-Blackness and white supremacy- white supremacy hurts white folks. Especially poor white folks. This is bigger than that. Capitalism hurts all of us. As much as these struggles are centered around racism, and certain things are targeting certain groups- it's hurting all of us. And so there is some class solidarity we need to think about when we engage in these conversations, and engage in this work to uproot, burn down, and make something more; make these systems of care that are fully funded and prevalent and sustainable.
[01:03:38] Dyanna: Definitely. And being intentional, cause that's the one thing that we are trying to keep up front. Because you know, a lot of things have come and gone, fought for, but then died off. And it's like, you get people's hopes up for stuff and then you wonder why there's not much interest, cause they fought for many things and what has come to pass in those things? And I talked to my coworkers, I'm like, "we won't be like Abraham still waiting on things to happen". And your ancestors, and then came 20 times since the one thing that you promised. And we got people relying on this hope; and we need to see, and be relieved of what we've been experiencing for a long time. Like Martin Luther King... We've been fighting for this equality for a long time... that has kind of evolved into this, and being masqueraded as that, and we still see right through everything that's happening.
I've had to be awakening to some things. My mother raised me very diverse so that I would make sure that I was used to different cultures and races and things like that. But I still came from the hood. And I still was segregated, so to speak, in Chicago. Blacks here, Mexicans here, the Caucasians here in the suburbs. And here goes these big towers that they put us in that looks just like the prisons, right?
[01:05:08] Caullen: Whoo-whooo, come with it!!
[01:05:11] Dyanna: The floors, the gates, but you wonder why we ended up there, because this is what we was used to, or immune to.... desensitized... It's nothing to me to be on a tile floor with a sink and toilet connected to- and my trays because I ate Chokes downstairs on 4 2, right? So... system... yeah, systems created for the continual system that we involved in, but we have to be able to see through it and not get drunk off beer and alcohol and drugs so that we won't feel or see the reality of the situation, you know? And that's the real truth.
[01:05:56] Caullen: As I take my last sip of bourbon.. (laughter) I see what you doing!
[01:06:01] Dyanna: No, no, no! But what I'm saying is-
[01:06:04] Caullen: Naw, I'm just playing.
[01:06:04] Dyanna: It's stuff that's given... and that's- it's okay to drink socially, but when I'm drinking my sorrows, because this-
[01:06:14] Caullen: yeah when you're self medicating your traumas, it's like, what are we doing...
[01:06:18] Dyanna: Yeah. Ask the question: why am I doing it? And I'm doing it because I'm celebrating, or this is because I've had so much pain in my life and struggle that this is what makes my life sensible for me. Every day.
[01:06:31] David: Yeah, it's wild. There's so many levels, man. But
[01:06:33] Dyanna: Yeah, it is.
[01:06:33] David: No, we definitely appreciate you coming in and being able to share some of these stories. I think especially with this type of- with this type of project, the "We Are More", I think, we've constantly, at Soapbox and Bourbon 'n BrownTown, talk about creating content and media to educate, uplift, and create an empathy in folk to understand these stories. And I think you do it with yourself, and 100 of these in 90 days, apparently. (Laughter) So I think it's so wonderful that we have different opportunities and everyone is playing a role that they gotta play. Definitely shout out to that. Shout out to Live Free.
Oftentimes I've asked myself- and we've had, for example, other people of faith who have come in and spoken how they find power and strength- whether that's Judaism, or Islam, or you know what I'm saying- yeah, yeah, Buddhism like [BnB alum] Quinn. And so in that I think that there's definitely power. But I think it's this constant understanding that, to your point, we gotta challenge all the people who are around us. And to your other point, which I think it's like, not everyone's gonna be with it, but I think we going to- to me, I think of the Bible verse, when Moses tells them, you gotta kill all these people because they ain't gonna come to the promised land with us cause they ain't thinking about it. They want to go pray to this- kill them, all of them. And that's the move. I'm not trying to say we're gonna kill them, or they'll do that to us. But if the Israelites did that in order to get to the promised land, what else is expected of us? Of within our own people?
[01:08:17] Caullen: Get down in these precincts..
[01:08:19] Dyanna: That part! You know what I'm saying?
[01:08:24] David: But on that note-
[01:08:25] Caullen: Chad, our CIA guy listening. These are jokes, Chad. These are jokes.
[01:08:30] David: These are jokes. These are the intents and thoughts of our persons, not our entities. But once again, thank you so much for coming in with us. I think this conversation will continue to happen. You'll continue to have these conversations. And we're really excited to see you back in here, you're gonna continue growing, doing your thing. And I can only imagine, like, we've been fortunate to be able to do this with this group here for a few years now, and now I just feel like I'm getting comfortable. You, it seems like you just came in, you already comfortable. So it's really exciting to see what's gonna happen with everybody. I do wanna give you an opportunity, you wanna give a shot out to anybody out there?
[01:09:01] Dyanna: Definitely. Can I get about two minutes?
[01:09:04] David: Oh, okay. Let's go!
[01:09:05] Caullen: 90 seconds!
[01:09:08] Dyanna: Number one, thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to be a vessel used for the purpose that he intended for this world. My mother, Diane Dennis. I would like to thank Live Free for the opportunity to be used and work with them on the causes that we have, which again is the Fully Free campaign and the Clean Slate campaign, stopping gun violence with the gun violence ordinance for gun violence prevention. And thank you to Howard Area Community Center for the start in reentry. Being able to case manage over there. I would like to thank Charles Perry, who is my mentor. Elizabeth Cruz, who is my advocate. Sierra Bates-Chamberlain for giving me the opportunity to be a part of Live Free. Miss Willette Benford-Tidwell, she's a mentor of mine as well. And for everybody and they're support. My family, my two cousins Carmise and Cassandra, my aunties, and my uncles, my puppies, my boyfriend. Hey, Lamont!
[01:10:22] Dyanna: I'm trying to make sure I don't miss anybody cause I'll be like, ahhh oh my God.
[01:10:29] Caullen: You know who you are.
[01:10:30] Dyanna: Charles Harwick, Kevin- Jason Kaiser, Mark Ersfeld, I always say his name wrong- Ersfeld- he'll know. He gonna be like "Dyanna!". Yeah, for the whole staff at Howard Area. For everybody that gives me opportunity and sees my worth. Sometimes seeing me better than I see myself. Because sometimes I get in positions and I'd be like, woo, are you serious? But I'm thankful for the support from everybody to be able to do this work. And I just hope and pray that I fulfill 100% and plus, more than I should. I wanna see some things come to pass and I'm ready for the win. Like yes!!!! Yes, we did that! It came to pass! That's what I'm waiting for. And that's what I'm fighting for every day.
[01:11:25] David: And then as always for our listeners, all of this information will be available on the episode notes, so make sure you check those out. As we get to this space, Dyanna, thank you so much for being in this space.
[01:11:34] Dyanna: Thank you, thank you so much.
[01:11:35] David: Shoutout to all the homies continuing staying through. And as always, from Bourbon 'n BrownTown, stay Black, stay Brown, stay queer,
[01:11:41] Caullen: stay tuned, stay turnt.
[01:11:43] David: And we'll see you for number three!
Dyanna: What does we are more mean to you?
[01:11:50] Dyanna: I thought about this question cause I saw it. So I would say, we are more than any bad decision that we've made. We are more than what your thought process is towards us, whatever that may be. We are more than a dollar sign. We are more than what you think so highly about yourself. And we are more than a number.