Thursday, December 17, 2009

Garry Mendez' Words of Wisdom

On December 10, 2009, Garry Mendez and his wife Juanita shared their experience and perspective working with long-term prisoners. Garry's goal is to build a community of incarcerated leaders who can work with their peers. He believes that unless African American men take responsibility for their families and their communities, the trend will continue until one in three African American men are incarcerated.

One of Garry's thought provoking comments is "Forget about changing the system. It takes too long. Focus on changing people."

In his work with the National Trust for the Development of African American Men, Garry wastes no time negotiating for the right room, time slot, number of participants, funding, or anything else. Work with what the terms the prison administration dictates and get down to business.

And, above all, don't do for the men who participate in your programs. They are resourceful and must make their own plans. They can find ways to father their children from prison, find a place to live and a job in anticipation of release, and can give back to the community they have wronged. You are there to help them if they want help, share how things are done in the rest of the world, and cheer them on. But the program, as well as their individual plans, have to be their own.

But, to start them on that road, you have to listen to their stories. Many of them have never had the opportunity to talk about the whys and hows of their lives. We all need that opportunity; that's where change begins.

Thanks Garry and Juanita for a wonderful conversation.

No comments:

Post a Comment