Saturday, December 9, was Family Day: A Celebration of Freedom & New Beginnings, an event intended to raise up and nourish all those personally touched by incarceration and working to reacclimate and restore balance in their lives.
Center for Council / Beyond Us & Them hosted this second installment of our annual event with the intention of resourcing hearts, minds and bodies. After a successful event last year, this year’s Family Day provided even more opportunities for fun, good cheer and appreciation.
The sun shone brightly as scores of participants arrived at the beautiful LA River Center, serenaded by the dulcet tones of our friend Ronnie McQueen (of the original Steel Pulse) and his band, INTENT. A tasty breakfast was provided by our friends at Homegirl Café, followed by a delicious lunch.
With the intention of fostering social connection and engagement, participants were invited to engage in 14 dynamic activities designed and offered by reentry service providers and tailored to all ages in attendance. Sessions and workshops included:
A workshop on diverse art-based methods for self-discovery, emotional well-being, and social connection offered by Creative Acts.
A session exploring the uncomfortable aspects of our success and ways we can support each other in fully stepping into our power, wisdom and contribution offered by Sharp Circle.
A jubilant dance party and opportunity for “moving and grooving” facilitated by CONTRA-TIEMPO, rooted in radical joy to promote community engagement.
A digital literacy workshop revealing and exploring some amazing and helpful technological secrets embedded in our smartphones, and how to use them, led by Raise Up.
PS Arts offered an art workshop in creating colorful Moss Landscapes and Wreaths
Creative Acts provided a taste of their amazing Virtual Reality experience designed to prepare incarcerated individuals for the complexities of modern life after prison.
Council circles were also offered to all by veteran council trainers Irasha Talifero and Taylor Morgan, exploring storytelling, bearing witness, connecting to our authentic selves and allowing ourselves to receive the regard of others.
After these group activities, a Resource Fair featuring 26 reentry providers empowered attendees with information about the many local resources available to them.
Then it was time for Santa, who arrived with a bounty of holiday cheer. To extend the appreciation and generosity in real ways, this event facilitated the gifting to our community of 225 toys, 100+ book, 75 gift cards, eight tablets and a mobile phone.
Los Angeles is the most populous city in California and is host to the largest number of individuals returning from state prison. There are so many barriers that formerly incarcerated individuals must navigate upon release, including finding housing and employment, the stigma of being an “ex-offender” and the repair and renewal of supportive and healthy relationships with families and friends.
Formerly incarcerated individuals returning home after serving a sentence in state prison -- and their families -- face enormous obstacles in the challenging journey of reentry and must overcome a number of complex challenges as they work to reintegrate into society. We are so very proud and appreciative of our rich reentry service provider community!
We are thrilled to serve as hosts of Family Day, a beautiful celebration of freedom, community and a toast to fresh starts. This heartwarming, festive occasion created lasting memories and opened up the doors for networking opportunities and relationship building.
Here's a brief snippet of sights and sounds from the day:
Read more comments from participants below:
"I really loved that the event was a day of celebration for reentering individuals and their families! So many events for the reentry community are focused primarily on providing resources, building skills, making goals, etc.--while that is great and very much needed, we also need events that celebrate the day-to-day beauty of being together with family, friends, and community. For people who were separated from their families and communities for years and even decades, it's important to slow down, take a breath, and have the chance to enjoy the simple gift of being in each others' presence. We need each other as humans, we need connections and to feel like we belong. That is the gift that Family Day offers."
"In one of the groups that I participated in, a family was there to support a family member who had been released only the day before. The fact that they were taking the time to attend Family Day so soon after his release made it clear how valuable they found the event. In the group, they had the opportunity to share their stories and feelings with each other. It was an amazing experience to see how Family Day created space for them to speak deeply with each other and connect in a way that they had not been able to connect for years. They had so much love for each other and it was really beautiful to witness."
"I really appreciate the mixture of different events and offerings. Having things like free food and free childcare are so important to making this event accessible for all to attend. The fact that there were so many different resources available and so many different kinds of activities to attend was also great! The Family Day organizers clearly put a lot of thought into what the reentry community needs and the diversity of the individuals that they are serving. It gave me a lot of hope for our community--with these kinds of events and organizations, there's a bright future in which reintegration into the community is possible for every individual returning home."
We hope to see you at next year’s event!