OuttaDeeBox Podcast

Reshaping Perceptions: The Power of Transformation and Empowerment in Incarceration with James Morgen and sepcial guest host Kingson Robertson

November 16, 2023 Dee Star Season 4 Episode 6
Reshaping Perceptions: The Power of Transformation and Empowerment in Incarceration with James Morgen and sepcial guest host Kingson Robertson
OuttaDeeBox Podcast
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OuttaDeeBox Podcast
Reshaping Perceptions: The Power of Transformation and Empowerment in Incarceration with James Morgen and sepcial guest host Kingson Robertson
Nov 16, 2023 Season 4 Episode 6
Dee Star

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What if there was a way to transform the lives of those in correctional institutions? We recently had a riveting conversation with special guest host Kingston Robertson, interviewing James Morgen from Moses, an organization rewriting the narrative around incarceration and post-incarceration life. James, having spent over 24 years behind bars, provides an intimate insight into the importance of treating those incarcerated with dignity and respect. He highlights the significant work Moses does in advocating for legislative changes and their current focus on rectifying the deplorable conditions in Wisconsin's Correctional Institutions.  

Shifting gears, we uncover the power of personal transformation and the unique ways Moses Madison is making an impact. James brings to light their Transformation Celebration event, a heartening ceremony that honors individuals who have made significant life changes. We delve into the power of sharing our transformation journeys and standing firm in our values, principles, and beliefs. This story of personal evolution is set against their drive to raise funds for a youth culinary program, a testament to the organization's dedication to empowerment.

In the final segment, our exploration of self-confidence will move you, the power of voting, and how incarceration affects tax dollar allocation. James illuminates how courage and confidence can often be misunderstood as arrogance and emphasizes the need to set boundaries and embrace unconditional love. We unpack the profound effects of incarceration on the human mind and the importance of a strong mindset in achieving success and making positive changes in our lives. This thought-provoking discussion with James promises to reshape your perceptions of incarceration, transformation, and empowerment. Tune in, engage, and be inspired.

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What if there was a way to transform the lives of those in correctional institutions? We recently had a riveting conversation with special guest host Kingston Robertson, interviewing James Morgen from Moses, an organization rewriting the narrative around incarceration and post-incarceration life. James, having spent over 24 years behind bars, provides an intimate insight into the importance of treating those incarcerated with dignity and respect. He highlights the significant work Moses does in advocating for legislative changes and their current focus on rectifying the deplorable conditions in Wisconsin's Correctional Institutions.  

Shifting gears, we uncover the power of personal transformation and the unique ways Moses Madison is making an impact. James brings to light their Transformation Celebration event, a heartening ceremony that honors individuals who have made significant life changes. We delve into the power of sharing our transformation journeys and standing firm in our values, principles, and beliefs. This story of personal evolution is set against their drive to raise funds for a youth culinary program, a testament to the organization's dedication to empowerment.

In the final segment, our exploration of self-confidence will move you, the power of voting, and how incarceration affects tax dollar allocation. James illuminates how courage and confidence can often be misunderstood as arrogance and emphasizes the need to set boundaries and embrace unconditional love. We unpack the profound effects of incarceration on the human mind and the importance of a strong mindset in achieving success and making positive changes in our lives. This thought-provoking discussion with James promises to reshape your perceptions of incarceration, transformation, and empowerment. Tune in, engage, and be inspired.

Support the Show.

Speaker 1:

Hello everyone. This is Out of the Box podcast and I'm your host, Kingston Robertson, and I'm here with James.

Speaker 2:

Organ. I'm currently the community organization organizer for an organization called Moses.

Speaker 1:

That's great. Could you give us a little insight on what Moses stands for and what you guys are doing for the community.

Speaker 2:

Yeah well, moses stands for Madison, organized and Strength Equity and Solidarity. What we are is an organization that focuses on creating and assisting and changing legislation relative to incarceration, post-incarceration housing, education a number of our members who are really active in all of those areas.

Speaker 1:

How is this created? Where did this come from? Where did Moses start from?

Speaker 2:

Well, moses started in 2010. A number of us, as was Reverend Joe Ewinger out of Milwaukee, myself, jerome Dillard and David Liners, at the behest of a woman by the name of Carol Rubin, who did the necessary research and building of the organization with this member of congregations we had to have 10 member congregations before we could become a part of Wisdom, which is our statewide affiliate under the umbrella of our national organization, which is Gamalio, and those are organizations that train individuals and community activism and community organization.

Speaker 1:

Could you tell us a few things that you guys are doing right now for us with the community? And just giving that understanding of who you are, A lot of people will hear the name. What is the behind the scenes? What are you guys doing in the community in that area that you're targeting at this moment?

Speaker 2:

Well, yeah, you're correct, there's a lot of behind the scenes work.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

What I think people will be familiar with at this particular point is approximately two to three weeks ago the New York Times published an article about the horrific conditions in Walpaw Correctional Institution and Green Bay Correctional Institution here in the state of Wisconsin where individuals have been on what the department calls modified lockdowns or modified movement, but in actuality they are locked down where individuals are in their sales for 22 to 23 hours a day, lack of access to showers, communications with their families and things of that nature. So we've protesting those conditions and seeing what we can do to get the Department of Corrections, as well as the governor, to address those issues that are impacting people in negative ways.

Speaker 1:

And 23,. You said 23 and one. That's a long time to be locked up in a cell and can't come out, and then no showers and things of that nature, Actively right now. Where are you at in creating that change?

Speaker 2:

Well, again, we keep advocating for the change that's needed and necessary, and I will share with someone this morning. You know the Democrats have come out with a bill to address some of those issues, to address some of those issues long term, requiring the Department of Corrections to fulfill those needs, to ensure that people have the opportunity to exercise, that people have the opportunity to shower, to do those things that are needed and necessary so they can maintain their human dignity while they're in that space. You know, how we determine the treatment of individuals in those spaces will determine how they come home. We want them to come home mentally, emotionally and physically well and capable of becoming the fathers and the mothers that they are intended to be. We want them to be able to engage, re-engage, in their families and their communities in healthy ways. You know, we all know those of us who have experienced incarceration. Because I've experienced incarceration, I was incarcerated for 24 and a half years.

Speaker 2:

You want to come home and be able to not just be welcomed, you want to come home and be accepted into a whole community, into a whole family in a way that's beneficial for everyone, Okay, your children, your mother, your wife, your husband, your nieces, your nephews, and you know it is incumbent upon us, you know, to address these things. I know some of us haven't been In those situations, some of us not. You know to shine the light, okay, on these issues is very important.

Speaker 1:

Yes, it is.

Speaker 2:

We need to be the voice, you know, for people who have been made, for all the tests and purposes, silent. We want this issue, we want them to be visible, and particularly in this political arena, where those choices and decisions are made by people who really have no understanding or concept about what those environments do to human beings.

Speaker 1:

Because I also was incarcerated for seven years before. So I kind of got a great understanding of where you're coming from, what you're talking about. But to do 24 years and come out and be as strong as you are and be a part of Moses, how do you come home and get to this point?

Speaker 2:

One of the key components to that is, I got to a point where I understood that there was a greater then in my life and started figuring out, you know, what I needed to do. Number one to survive that experience, okay, and not lose my mind. Yeah, that's important. Okay, I was very active in that environment. I found things that I could spend my time and attention on, that gave me a sense of my humanity, my dignity, my artwork, my reading, my education. You know, went to school, acquired in a associate of our degree.

Speaker 2:

While I was incarcerated I began to figure out the value of communication, the value of language. You know, never really knowing if I would ever step foot outside that environment. But you know, being there, I had to figure out how I could live my best life while I was there, how I could maintain a sense of independence and self-determination, and so acquiring that in there I'm not going to say coming out may be a piece of cake, because there were still issues that I had to figure out, you know, for myself, in consultation with some others who had had similar experiences that I had and who were successful after transitioning out of incarceration.

Speaker 1:

What was that first step of coming home? It's a lot easier to be saying like what we would do while we're in that area, like we're in the box, and be like man. We're going to change our life, we're going to do this different or we're not going to do this anymore. When you got home after doing so much time, what was your first steps of growth and moving forward in the community?

Speaker 2:

Well, the first thing was how to conquer fear.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, fear is important.

Speaker 2:

How to conquer fear. That was my thinking. But then, talking again with some of the individuals that I had been keeping track of other men who had gotten out and been successful in terms of staying out of prison is engaging them in conversations that allowed me to focus on what was happening to me in those situations where I felt uncomfortable, where I felt fearful, where I felt like this is, I've got to go back to all I know.

Speaker 1:

That could come real fast. It could come real fast when them pockets empty, especially when everybody oh he home Right right, right, and that's all they know you for is like whatever it was in the past when you left them where.

Speaker 2:

Okay, and that's not just the guys in the street, that's your family too. Indeed, you know, if you got children, all they know about you is what you left them with, and if there's been a transformation or a transition into you Becoming some one other than the thing that you left them with no list of language. Yeah, it can be challenging and it can be painful, because sometimes you do have to make that decision to separate from on a permanent basis in order to give yourself Opportunity to live a more quality life, a balanced life the word Transformation.

Speaker 1:

You use it strongly because I didn't talk to you and I heard about, like the transformation awards and the events that you guys have to. You know, in honor of those that came home with that mind that you're speaking on and baby, to make Change and progress, you know. Could you give us a little more on that?

Speaker 2:

Well, the foundation for Transformation begins with the individual, or the person and the people that we honor and what we call our gala. Our transformation Celebration, is coming up December 9th. It's at the brass works on Wabisa Avenue here in Madison, wisconsin, and so we have three honorees. Persons can go on our Website, moses Madison dot org, and all that information is right down. You have to do is click on a button. That book will take you to all the information that you need to know about the transformation. So what is it again? Moses Madison dot org? It'll be from 530 to 9, and well, I want to remind people too about this particular celebration. It's that you know part of the proceeds go to a youth culinary program.

Speaker 2:

And that's why we always have this event most at the brass works gets a ticket. I believe that the ticket sales in November 22nd.

Speaker 1:

That's good to know. So yeah, ticket sales in November 22nd Make sure you go get yours. Be a part of this, because there's a lot to come next year and we want to also honor those that's been working behind the scenes that have yet to been noticed, but you guys are making sure that they noticed hey, come, come and support out of the box always, because there's no standard to determine, you know, outside of the person.

Speaker 2:

It's about empowering the individual to the degree that they deem necessary or not To tell us how they've transformed. Maybe in the past I wasn't the type of individual who understood the value of my family how I do. That's a transformation. Okay, I never had a job. Now I possess a work ethic. That's a transformation.

Speaker 2:

Okay so it doesn't have to be. You know, I came home, you know, and coming home I have 50, 50 K, and then I did this and I did that. No, we're looking for those things that are meaningful in your existence, in your life, that you are willing to share, okay, with the people who will come and celebrate with you, and sometimes those people are people who don't even know you but are Inspired by your process of transformation, by you sharing your reality.

Speaker 2:

You know, and what I find fascinating about it you know because I was one of the first recipients of this. What I found so transformative and so eye-opening was that, you know, individuals began to engage with me and having those conversations and sharing with me those times in their lives when transformation was needed and necessary, and how they were able to accomplish those Transformations to a degree that it was satisfactory number one for them, and then for the other individuals that they're connected to. Okay, it's a process. It's like everything in life. It's a process you and I were talking about. You know children and how their stage is a development man Look, I'm 64 years old, 40 years ago.

Speaker 1:

I'll never engage you in that conversation. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

You know there was, there had never been a foundation. Late for that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So for those like coming home and, like you know, trying to, like that, have that same vision that they have yet found, like how do you guys, you know, like how they able to contact you and Get it, get in tune with what's going on? Because I feel like what you guys are doing is important, because, like with me personally Coming home and being able to say that I'm not gonna do what I was once doing which was successful for me, I thought it was successful, you know, even with all the things that come with it. I had the mind state that it was successful when I'm making this money, everybody loving you. But when you, when you don't have nothing, then you know, you, like you know, is no one there. So it's like when you come home and you know you have such a strong transformation takes a lot, you know, like just like even with the founder, because the family goes through it with you like how do we come home from there and find that job or Find that help? Like where is the help?

Speaker 2:

Well, number one, you got to figure out whether or not you are coming home. Does home exist for you out here anymore? Okay, and if it doesn't, how do you develop that? That takes a level of intentionality. It takes being able to say no, I, and have your yes and no have the same power. Okay, in those spaces where you know the yes is acceptable. But then if I come and you have a specific request, will my no be just as acceptable? Okay, no, I'm not gonna engage. You know, I'm man, I'm numb, bro, I'm not going to get high with you, you know. Oh man, you scared, you're a prick. No, but that's a decision that I made. That's in my best interest. Okay, thank you. No, I am no longer that. Okay, I'm not only seeking to become someone else, I am someone else and stand on that. You know. Exercise that courage. Okay, to not be defined outside of who you are, but being able to define who you are from inside.

Speaker 2:

That's that strength, that's what brings that character. Okay, that's what puts others on notice.

Speaker 1:

Something's gonna buy them. Yeah, so they're gonna have to move different with you.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so you know, or even if they don't move with you, let them move without you. You know your purpose is to stand on your values, your principles, your beliefs, your morals, and if other people aren't accepting of that, you know, let the message be. The last time you saw me, I was standing and headed in another direction, and that's transformation. It's that simple. Okay, right, but then again, we are social creatures, so seek those environments where you're gonna have those productive and positive interactions, the support for the transformation that you are in the process of instilling within yourself. Exhibit that to the best of your ability in your external person.

Speaker 1:

You know it takes a lot to have that transformation when there's so many things around you that can bring you back into what you know, which, and I feel, like you know, with the things you guys are doing, the motivation behind being nominated from. You know from that and, like man, you're doing your thing, you working a job, or you came out here you're trying to change the youth life. Things like that are, you know, not seen. So like with Moses, like you guys are bringing it to the table. How do you feel about being a part of that personally? It's a gift.

Speaker 2:

I feel honored. You know there are some criticisms with it. Come along with it and I'm not going to say that it all feels good. But I didn't come into the space with the intentionality of merely feeling good. I knew that it was going to require a certain level of sacrifice, okay. I knew that it was going to be, you know, going to be pushed back, okay. So coming into the space, I prepared myself for that, okay. So you know, it's easy to talk about it. It's another thing to do it. It may sound humorous to some people, or some people may say man, I ain't trying to hear that.

Speaker 2:

But I remember sitting in prison man and I watched this movie and this character in the Batman film said wait, do they get a load of me? I'm not saying that out of a sense of arrogance, but I know what I know. I know what I know, but I also know what I didn't know before then that's very important, and when you just said it, it opened my eyes.

Speaker 1:

It's like everything I didn't know is what was more important than what I did think, because I didn't know much Right.

Speaker 2:

Right, right, and see, we always talking about I need to learn, learn, learn, learn, learn, learn. But I discovered in that environment there was a lot that I had to unlearn. I had to create that space, you know, so that my brain, my brain, could be able to begin to function in a healthy way I ain't gonna say normal, because every brain is different, okay, but it had to be able to function in a way that would allow me to understand you know, the impact of these things that are outside of me and the way that they impact me that the only way for me to be able to even begin to navigate them was I had to unlearn what had been taught to me. Okay, oh man, some of it had to be totally destroyed. Yeah, I get it.

Speaker 2:

You know my generations go back before. There was even a person who looked like me, say. You know, like Malcolm would say you know who, you know the Mayflower. All of these generations understand that genealogy. What happened? Where did I come from? Who am I? Okay, you know understanding things like the. You know the migration of black people from the South trying to escape slavery and Jim Crow, and where were my family and people? And all of that and understanding that, to give it a sense of who I am, you know be people being telling me that I'm I can't be educated because I'm a little black boy.

Speaker 1:

Crazy.

Speaker 2:

Okay, and then going back and understanding that my great grandparents were educators and teachers, you know, and tapping into that source of me, that curiosity, you know why am I always with a book in my hand and reading, discovering those new things about my capacity and my power that had been stripped away from me?

Speaker 2:

Okay, through the culture, through the society, you know, through what I'm seeing here in a lot of places around our country, where our families and our kids and everything else are existing, in these communities of confinement that are being built based on the language yeah, the stealing concrete shows up, but it's based on the language. And who's determining that? Who's designing the maps, on whose vote matters and whose don't, you know. And so you know, let's get back into Moses here for a minute, because those are the things that we focus on, you know the mapping, the gerrymandering of the maps, and whose vote counts and how and why, and why it's important to vote to change our situations and circumstances in these communities and in our neighborhoods. Okay, educating people, you know, understanding that that educational situation of that institution belongs to us and we need to hold people accountable to that.

Speaker 1:

I had just recently learned from going to a few events and being, you know, curious of what's really going on behind the scenes because, like I say, behind the scenes is where most things are being done the right way. A lot of people on probation cannot vote. If you got 20 years of probation, you, your voice, you're not heard. Okay.

Speaker 2:

Well, let me ask you a question quick, just a quick question. While you were incarcerated this was my experience I never had a single individual while I was incarcerated say man, I want to get my right to vote.

Speaker 1:

I mean Me personally didn't care to vote there you go.

Speaker 2:

You know there's a narrative in our community historically that we ain't we have. It is a weed is one and we look at one Timson one All right.

Speaker 2:

But you know resources, resources, man. National elections is one thing, your local elections is something totally different. That's where you get your roles repaired, that's where you get your financing for your schools, housing, all of that you know. So we focus on education, educating people in those areas.

Speaker 2:

You know, if you've got, you know here, particularly here in Madison, you know the people that we got making decisions right now really don't care about none of us Okay, we. You know they got us caught up in this language game about. You know. You know this group of people, that group of people, everybody's looking at everybody else and I'm this and I'm that and at the end of the day, you know they go in there and put us all in one cup of water, call minorities and move on, all right, but those resources become valuable and important. Get in your car and go on the south side of Madison or some of these areas where you don't even want to drive your car because it's all towed up, and then you go on the white on the west side and the streets are real smooth and all that that's voting.

Speaker 2:

Right, that's representation, okay, and and and the part that I really truly don't get. I'm saying I don't get it, but I do because there are people in these spaces who it's all about their self-interest, the population of people who are suffering, not having the information or the understanding Right.

Speaker 1:

What I don't you know, it's not just until recently that I learned that how important our vote is for like those type of things, because when you say vote, people think president, senator, like Republican Democrat, no one thinking about. Oh yeah, well, this part, this helps our roles or this helps our school system, which you know. I feel like it's a lot of work that needs to be done in the school system these days.

Speaker 2:

Everybody in prison right now. If you were in Green Bay, the tax dollars that would normally go to your community to support funding schools in your area and all those things you being in when I was in Green Bay I understood, and even when I was in Tennessee, that being on their voter rolls increases their financial capacity to fund their schools, access to medical care and everything else. So if I'm sitting in prison and my family in Milwaukee, I'm paying for the families up there in Green. Bay. Okay, they're increased tax dollars in Green Bay.

Speaker 1:

But they're in that Okay.

Speaker 2:

So, again, man, understanding and beginning to look at these things and looking at number one, your value, your own personal value and your worth, and what you have the capacity to do to change your situation and transform and in transforming you, you transform your family, your children. Okay, you open the doors for them. Okay, to be able to potentially experience some of the things that we aren't experiencing right now. You know, freedom of choice, freedom of autonomy to be who I am. For me, first, you know, and people are talking about well, everybody's welcome here. Well, you're welcome here, we're welcome in the environment. I don't really want to be welcomed. If acceptance is the goal, then you accept me for who I am and what I bring, not just to the table. Um, most people, when they pull up to a table, there's a chair to sit on right. Don't just give me a spot at the table and I can't have a seat and be part of the decision-making process.

Speaker 2:

All right, you want me to feel good? Ah no, my feel good is something that as a standard within me. I'm going to feel good because I know who I am. I know the foundation for my ideas and my beliefs and my personhood. That's going to make me feel good and you're going to get to experience that when you see me, you'll fit man this is. You know this. This is messaging. I am. You know I don't want to go back to Jesse that I am somebody. I ain't talking to that rhetoric. I'm talking about deeply knowing who you are and what you possess.

Speaker 1:

Before you, before you leave out the door. When you leave out the door, you have to have that confidence because people feel when you ain't confident and you know you become a target for you know grief or disappointment and stuff like that, because you, given that look to the people that's in front of you, versus knowing who you are, and I feel like coming home from you know those places. It's important that we have that confidence and work on that confidence.

Speaker 2:

Confidence and courage, man, but here's, here's, here's one of the things to watch out for in that confidence and courage and people who don't know you will perceive it as arrogance and I've had to address that.

Speaker 2:

You know, with audiences, okay, but that's because I had other people in the room who I was in relationship with, who could say to me after the fact you know, man, I think you came off this way with this particular audience, okay, and being non arrogant, I took the opportunity to go back and reassess, okay, because I definitely don't want to send the wrong message. Okay, you know, I want my message to be clear, you know am I message is one of humanity.

Speaker 2:

Okay, respect, dignity. Okay, love, unconditional love. People talk about it all the time, but they don't know what that is. Boundary setting, so that I know, when I step into a space, that I'm bringing my own safety with you. Yeah, I rely on somebody else to create a space that's safe for me. Okay, and we learn those things when we incarcerated, you know, but I have to do it in a way that's healthy, you know, because a lot of us come home and we're hyper vigilant.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, everybody, you know, like everything, everybody suspect. You figure it out, you know everybody suspect.

Speaker 2:

Okay, but then figuring out, how do I balance?

Speaker 1:

that.

Speaker 2:

How do I find that so that that vigilance is a healthy one? For me that's not a distraction in my life easy.

Speaker 2:

It's not easy because a lot of it happens to us on the subconscious level. That's. You know and I heard me say this before incarceration does different things to different people. And for those who have never experienced incarceration, yeah, I don't feel there's no, you've escaped, because guess what life was different things to different people. So there's a similarity there is to what degree Individual or group of individuals decide to pay attention to it, because that's another thing that's very important it's figuring out and learning how to pay attention here is important because even in in those spaces, like, if you have your mind, you can get a lot further in places, you know.

Speaker 1:

But when that's gone, it's like you know you stuck in wherever you at. I believe a lot of people like for like. When we talk about confidence, it starts up here. You know you, like man, I might not be able to succeed in this and this going on and you know you questioning yourself before you even had the opportunity. Once again, james, we thank you for showing up being a part of this and this is out of the box podcast. I'm your host, kingston Robinson. I.

Moses
Transformation Celebration and Empowering Others
The Importance of Voting and Self-Confidence
The Importance of Mindset and Confidence