I have always grounded myself through writing. It is one of the first things that my beloved mentor, John Horace Bell, figured out about me when we were launching Philadelphia FIGHT’s prison programs more than a decade ago. His journey to this work through ACT UP Philly is so beautifully captured in this oral history interview. As soon as we began our journey together, John started pushing me to document the truths we were discovering in our work. I was slower to put words to the transformation that was happening to me.
John, and all of the people we had the privilege of working with, changed my life. They are my friends, my teachers, and my family. They taught me what it means to fight for the world I want to live in. Everyday working with them, I saw this world take shape.
On this one year anniversary of John’s home going, I am remembering that honoring John means honoring the people he fought for us to become. It is with both humility and respect that I share this series of reflections that John loved so much, which I was prompted to write in 2007 while working with a group of seminary students and congregations who were providing mentoring support to incarcerated men and women in Massachusetts’ College Behind Bars program.
Please click here to download a PDF of “Why Are You Here?: Challenging the Prison System, Challenging Ourselves.”
This is amazing. I am deeply sorry for your loss, but jubilant regarding all you’ve gained and shared. Thank you.
Thank you for your words and for taking time to leave a comment. It means so much to know how this piece touches those who read it, to have a sense of how far John’s life and lessons are spreading!