It must be hard to be shut into a small, bare space. Deprived of your liberty. During the Covid pandemic we all had some experience of what that might be like.
Sorting through papers recently, I came across the programme for the Journey Into Light exhibition held at St. George’s back in December 2019. A display of art works created by people in prison. An exploration and an expression of identity, by people forced to be with themselves in a confined space.
At the service to mark the completion of the exhibition’s journey, we sang these words from Jan Berry’s hymn: “When life’s chances lead to prison and the key turns in the lock……..People lose their sense of meaning, known by number, not by name. But the common spark of living lies beneath the guilt and blame.”
Shaka Senghor was convicted of murder at the age of nineteen. He served nineteen years in prison, including a total of seven years in solitary confinement. At the beginning of his sentence Shaka was angry and violent. But after six years something shifted. Locked in his five feet by seven feet cell, he began meditating, reading, writing a journal and what would eventually become his bestselling memoir, Writing My Wrongs.
His son had written him a letter: “Dear Dad. My mother told me you was in prison for murder. Dear Dad, don’t murder anymore. Jesus watches what you do. Pray to him and he’ll forgive your sins.”
“That was the moment that I decided that I would never go back to the darkness and that I had to find my light. And that I owed it to him to find my light.”