In honor of Women’s History Month, check out this excerpt from Inside this Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons edited by Ayelet Waldman and Robin Levi (Voice of Witness, 2011).
Imra Rodriquez, 45, currently imprisoned
I’m in my early forties and have spent more than half my life in prison or on parole. One of the first things I remember was when I was five years old. This big blue car pulled up to the trailer where I lived with my mom, and a lady with a big old hat came and put me in the car. She was from Children’s Services and she took me away with her. Later I found out that someone had called Children’s Services because of my stepfather, Manuel. He never molested me, never touched me. But he was a heroin addict. I remember always smelling burnt matches all the time as a kid. I hate that smell.
One time when he went out to cop some dope, he left me alone in the trailer with the outside of the trailer door tied shut. A lady in another trailer saw that and called the police. Manuel was just getting home when the police arrived, and I’ll never forget that feeling. I was so scared that they were going to arrest him, that they were there because of me, and they were going to take me away. And of course they did. Children’s Services took me to court, and the judge didn’t let any of my family have me. I remember screaming but it didn’t matter. I went back and forth between my grandparents and my godparents for a while, but finally the court agreed to let me live permanently with my grandparents.
Communication Arts and Sciences at Berkeley High School, 1980 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA 94703
For directions, visit: http://bhs.berkeleyschools.net/
June 23 – 26
9:30 am – 4:30 pm
This unique 4-day training will highlight the power of personal narrative and provide educators with the tools to conduct oral history projects in their classrooms and communities. Workshop participants will engage in…
Say It Forward: The Voice of Witness Community Guide to Oral History
Call for Submissions
The Voice of Witness Education Program needs your help developing our new book, Say it Forward. This book is intended to be a “report from the field” of social…
The Voice of Witness Education Program is seeking a part-time intern from January – June 2014. If you have the availability and are interested in gaining skills related to oral history and education, we encourage you to apply!
The Education Program…
Dear Friends & Supporters,
In Haiti at the time of the earthquake, nearly one in three Haitians were living in and around Port-au-Prince. The Haitian capital dominates the nation in a way few principal cities do—demographically, economically, politically, and also in terms of outsiders’ impressions of the country.
Prior to the earthquake on January 12, 2010, Port-au-Prince was swollen from decades of growth. Since the disaster, significant attention has been paid to the crumbled buildings and general lack of infrastructure in the city. But the stories of the people themselves—the people who built those buildings with little more than hope—are already being lost.
We hope our forthcoming book, Hunger of the Soul: Voices from Post-Earthquake Haiti, will work against this terrible loss.
So far we’ve sat with Haitian men and women—the narrators of this book—as they’ve described their daily lives, their hopes and dreams, and as they’ve dug deep into the paths their lives have taken from birth until now. The Haitians we met shared generously from their lives and experiences, telling us remarkable stories that could not come from anywhere else.
At Voice of Witness, we believe there’s nothing more powerful than stories in understanding the most crucial human rights issues of our time. And for the men and women of Haiti, the chance to share their experiences in their own words goes some way toward reclaiming a sense of identity and dignity.
None of this work would be possible without your support. Your generosity ensures that we can hire professional translators and spend enough time with our narrators to make sure we do their stories justice.
Please help us continue amplifying the voices from post-earthquake Haiti by making a tax-deductible donation to our end-of-year campaign today. Your donations will allow us to return to Port-au-Prince in early 2014 to learn more of their stories, meet new storytellers, and help share the Haitian voices that still go unheard.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Wishing you a happy holiday season,
Editors, Voice of Witness
(mimi lok, Luke Gerwe, Peter Orner, Evan Lyon)
All donations are tax deductible. You can donate online or mail a check to Voice of Witness at 849 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.
Dear Friends & Supporters,
Sixty-five years ago today, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created to enshrine the fundamental human rights to which all are entitled. Every year on this day, people all over the world commemorate this occasion in various ways, ranging from sit-ins and concerts to rallies and public readings.
Voice of Witness would like to take a moment to highlight International Human Rights Day, and this year’s theme “WORKING FOR YOUR RIGHTS,” by paying tribute to our friends and allies: those whose voices have been silenced and who struggle to be heard; and to frontline human rights defenders working to promote and protect the rights and dignity of all people everywhere. From activists and exiled journalists to doctors and human rights attorneys, their courage, trust, and partnership allow us to continue our work: bringing unheard stories of injustice to light, and providing educational materials that foster awareness, engagement, and compassionate dialogue. We are truly proud to work alongside them, and to further their efforts—Voice of Witness narratives and educational resources have been used in advocacy campaigns, trainings and human rights studies throughout the U.S. and abroad.
At Voice of Witness, we believe that in order to understand the most crucial human rights of our time, we need to listen to those most closely affected by them. In 2004, we created an oral history book series with the mission of amplifying these unheard stories. Since then, Voice of Witness has grown into a thriving nonprofit organization. We’ve published eleven acclaimed books that have included the stories of wrongfully convicted Americans, undocumented immigrants, incarcerated women, and of those affected by rights violations in Burma, Sudan, and Colombia. The Voice of Witness Education Program connects schools and impacted communities with these stories and issues, and with oral history curriculum and training that promotes empathy, critical thinking, and social engagement.
Over the years, hundreds of individuals in the U.S. and around the world have shared their stories with Voice of Witness and, through this process, recovered a sense of their dignity and identity. Through our education program, we impacted almost 10,000 students and educators in this past year.
Today, nine years after Voice of Witness first came to be, we mark International Human Rights Day by pledging to continue our mission. And today, we ask you—our community of supporters, readers, and volunteers—to support us in this work. By joining our end-of-year campaign and making a donation, you’re helping us to amplify unheard stories and amplify the efforts of those working to increase rights for themselves and for their entire communities.
You can donate online or mail a check to Voice of Witness at 849 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.
Our warmest thanks to you,
mimi lok | Executive Director, Executive Editor, Voice of Witness
[Pictured above: Voice of Witness editor Peter Orner interviewing Lyonel Trouillot in Haiti for a forthcoming VOW book]
We hope to raise $10,000 by Dec. 31st, 2013 and need your help to make this happen! Your support will help us achieve these 2 main goals:
TO ALL OUR PAST AND CURRENT SUPPORTERS, THANK YOU FOR MAKING 2013 AN INCREDIBLE YEAR FOR VOICE OF WITNESS.
We released an acclaimed new book, High Rise Stories, which has reinvigorated the national conversation about public housing. For upcoming book projects, we interviewed earthquake survivors in Haiti, garment activists in Bangladesh, and people living in the West Bank and Gaza, to name a few. Our education program connected thousands of students and educators across the U.S. with these stories and issues, and supported student oral history projects. We also launched a new VOW Learning Community in Chicago. Finally, we received an amazing recognition for our work—Voice of Witness is the 2013 recipient of the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for Social Progress.
WHY WE DO THIS WORK
The people we interview for our books are essentially people who’ve not had the opportunity to share their narrative or worse had their narrative taken away from them. Sharing their story goes some way to restoring a sense of dignity, agency, and healing, and raises awareness and dialogue around under-reported issues. The Voice of Witness Education Program connects students and impacted communities with these stories, issues, and oral history resources.
Dear friends, readers, educators, and supporters,
Today marks day 1 of our annual End of Year fundraising campaign. By Dec. 31st, we hope to raise $10,000 to support 2 main goals for 2014:
HAITI – Voice of Witness hopes to complete an interview mission in January to conduct follow-ups and additional research for our book “Hunger of the Soul.”
EDUCATION – our Education staff hopes to develop a resource guide for starting your own community-based oral history projects to share with educators, community leaders, and the general public.
Voice of Witness is a 501(c)(3) registered non-profit and we depend on a mix of grants, a small amount of revenue from book sales, and most importantly from direct contributions from individuals like you. If you value empathetic listening, amplifying unheard stories, social justice, and education, we hope you’ll support us by making a donation today.
Please click the link below to learn more and make a tax-deductible donation. Shares and likes also appreciated. We are grateful for all your support this year and beyond! Thank you.
The Voice of Witness team:
Mimi, Cliff, Claire, Mana, Luke, Alyson, & Juliana