We had the good fortune of connecting with Katie Turner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katie, alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Poetic Justice is a nonprofit organization that offers restorative writing and creative arts programs for women who are incarcerated in the US, including Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in San Diego. The aim of Poetic Justice is to rewrite the narrative about women who are incarcerated, by equipping them with the tools for healing from trauma that show the world their inherent worth, as agents of change. Over 95% of women who are incarcerated are trauma survivors, but because the carceral system was designed for men (by men), women are often triggered by systemic procedures, like handcuffing, strip searching, and isolation.
Poetic Justice works with women in this system, offering pathways to discover their own voices so that they may begin to experience hope, which ultimately leads to change. Our weekly classes aim to create an inclusive community of women. We use meditation and stress reduction techniques, as well as poetry and art exercises to explore voice, to manage the stressors of incarceration, and to look forward to the future with hope.
During the pandemic, Poetic Justice has responded to the needs of our students by offering distance learning classes. Each week, writing partners on the outside and women on the inside engage in journaling and meditation. They then share their experiences with one another through written reflection in a way that continues to foster that sense of community and human interaction taken away by incarceration and coronavirus.
Please tell us more about your art. How did you get to where you are today professionally. What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Our art is expressed in the language of hope. We are made of the voices of women who cannot be heard. We want the world to know that there are human beings in cells who are capable, funny, honest, compassionate, and creative. These are their words: Wild thing With spray paint right in front of me. I think I could change colors, hide from everything. Wild thing. ~ Estefania
My Brother – My Brother How can you eat at a time like this? How can you sleep in this hour of terror? The world is blind My hope is MUTE. They bleed blue We bleed red, after They shoot. The air in his lungs was invisible as the wind. “I can’t BREATHE” He screams. Why did his life have to end? His oppressor applied pressure, to the Black of his neck Kneeling and rolling to feel the power, held in his threat. ~ B. Ship
Quien dice que los días fluyen al igual que las noches pasan Solamente el tiempo Quien dice que nuestra mente aguarda por lo que nuestro corazón anhela Solamente el tiempo… Quien dice que mi fecha de salida se avecina En esta celda ladina Solamente el tiempo ~ Acosta
I’m more than the blues I wear. If only you could see me out There. The side of me- that is free. ~ Brandi C.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
San Diego is well known for its sunny beaches, but Poetic Justice works with many women who represent the economically marginalized parts of our city, that, according to our student Rey Rey, “they don’t put on post cards because they don’t want you to see.”
So, in celebration of their underrepresented community pride and joy, that’s where we’ll start… Head to Lincoln Park to check out the Tubman-Chavez Center, the Malcolm X Library and Performing Arts Center, and the Urban Collective Project’s astounding murals. Then drive west down Imperial Avenue, marveling as communities transform and overflow into one another. Eat at El Salvadoreno before heading to Chicano Park in Barrio Logan.
Take a Chicano art and history tour and give your spending money to the local shops. While you’re at it, check out a good list of Black-owned restaurants too: https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2020/jun/02/feast-five-black-owned-restaurants-try-san-diego/ Then head up I-5 to the World Beat Center, celebrating indigenous cultures of the African Diaspora, and the African American World History Museum.
Drive down to Imperial Beach, and hike out into the Tijuana River Estuary until you get to the beach at the border. Pause quietly in Friendship Park, which straddles the US and Mexico. Originally the park was an open space where families could meet with one foot in San Diego and the other in TJ, but in 1994 a fence was installed to separate families from one another. Cross the border and walk along the wall. There, you’ll find a memorial to migrants lost in the California deserts.
Each cross has a name, the age of the person at the time of death, and the village where they are from. Head to Casa del Migrante and share a meal with men who have been deported to Mexico from the United States. Wait 3-5 hours in the border line and once you’ve crossed back into the US, drive out to the East County where, among the hills and valleys, you’ll find horse pastures, hiking trails, and breathtaking vistas of the setting sun. We cannot possibly cover each neighborhood, restaurant, or activity that represents women who are incarcerated or on house arrest, but these spots would make for important experiences in and with our community.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We here at Poetic Justice in San Diego have received an incredible amount of encouragement and support from the original team in Oklahoma, including our Executive Director, Ellen Stackable, Board President and Volunteer Coordinator Hanna Al-Jibouri, board members Karen Workun and Liz Collaja, and Director of Development and Finance, Alyssa Doty. Their kindness, generosity of spirit, and mentorship has benefitted our growth in countless ways.
We are also thankful for the trust given to us by the reentry staff at Las Colinas, including Bridget Wright and Tyowanda Harvey-Amoke. Their care and concern for the rehabilitation and wellbeing of women experiencing incarceration has made it possible for organizations like ours to do what we do. Our collaboration is the reason we are successful.
To the fearless advocates for human dignity and social justice, we are guided by you: Paulo Freire, Bryan Stevenson, Brene Brown, folks at the Marshall Project, the Vera Institute, the Sentencing Project, the Prison Policy Initiative, Mary Oliver, Maya Angelou, Joy Harjo, and countless others who show us the way. To our volunteers! We would be nothing without you- Kathleen, Stephanie, Judy, Eileen, Sophia, Lisa, Karen, Katie, Valentine, and Lesley- you each possess a tireless willingness to show up, adapt, and sit with our students in their traumatic time of need.
Finally, Poetic Justice is most grateful to the many women who have graced our classes. They are our truest guides, teaching us their humanity, their dignity, and their courage.
Other: SHOP: https://www.etsy.com/shop/poeticjusticeok DONATE: https://www.eleoonline.net/Pages/WebForms/Mobile/ShowFormMobile.aspx?id=dba54bff-ae4a-402f-a3c5-5a74a59cac92&linkto=704
Tyowanda Harvey-Amoke – group shots of students in class Stephanie Lavender – Student’s Poetry Anthologies Katie Turner – All other images