Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
~ Margaret Mead
Truth Be Told has reached a significant milestone.
This post is to thank you for your support and to share a few years of reflection. We are 10 years 0ld as a non-profit, and we have just ended our thirteenth year of programs Behind and Beyond Bars. We invite you to take a walk down memory lane with us. And if you love words as much as we do, we hope you will go and visit our brand new website www.truth-be-told.
We thank you for your support, which has taken us from graduating 15 women in the spring of 2000 to our current day of graduating over 1,000 women in two prisons and serving countless others in the TCCC Del Valle Jail. We have gone from One Woman’s Journey to now having 14 certified facilitators. We look forward to what’s next in 2014.
Let’s hear from our co-founders.
Carol Waid, Truth Be Told co-founder and Director of TBT Programs:
The question that I ask myself is “What keeps you going back after 13+ years?” The simple yet complex answer for me is that it’s the most rewarding work I have ever done. I will tell you that it’s also hard, daunting, sad, and at times despairing. The human spirit is an amazing thing. And to witness and experience, again and again, the complexity of life behind bars has been a crucial growing time for me.
The world has changed a lot in the last 13 years, and I have worked with hundreds of women in these years. The faces are different, but the stories have a theme that hasn’t changed. There is still much suffering, violence, abuse, and insanity that goes on behind front doors in our neighborhoods, in our side streets, in places that are close to us, but not seen.
What keeps me coming back is that I know there is a need for love, community, caring, and connection. The story below, about T. was shared in the second Talk to Me class, in the Autumn of 2000, and, 13 years later, we heard a similar story in our last graduating class on November 21, 2013.
Nathalie Sorrell, Truth Be Told co-founder, facilitator, and the one who took the courage and initiative to begin the work Behind Bars in February of 2000, wrote this piece for Truth Be Told’s 2007 newsletter:
T stood in front of our second ever Talk to Me Class on the day she was to tell her story. It was autumn of 2000. Tightly built and pretty, with long dark blonde hair and blazing blue eyes, she said,
“I hate men. If I don’t get rid of my anger, I’m gonna kill me one when I get out of here.”
No one laughed. Her hatred was palpable in the room. Then she told us of parents who owned a nudist colony, and men who used her as their sexual play-thing while she was a toddler; the mother who accidentally shot her when she was aiming at T’s brother; the 34-year-old man who offered to protect her after she’d run away from home at 14, then beat her so severely he eventually broke every bone except for her legs so she’d still be able to dance in topless bars and earn money to turn over to him. By the end of her story, we were all shaking. No one was the same.
T was the first speaker. That class, triggered by her example, spoke their secrets and shame-filled stories until the last shy woman left was blue-lipped and trembling, knowing she too would have to match T’s courage and re-live her personal horror. We all swam in graphic memories spilled out, flooding a prison classroom with dark nightmares that they had lived.
After each woman spoke her piece, we saw that we could not move onward through the classes without guidance. Carol and I were not trained counselors. We were afraid these women would break, psychologically, and we’d have taken them deeper into trouble instead of helping them out.
The day after our last woman spoke, I walked into Magnolia Cafe and saw Barbara, a friend I’ve loved since our now-grown sons were two-year olds in Sunday school together. Her face lit up and she beamed: “We were just talking about you!” She introduced me to Margaret, who had been her Bible Study Fellowship instructor. Margaret looked up at me, laughing, “I have 5 minutes – tell me everything about your prison work!”
I laughed, sat down, and breathed a prayer for brevity. Then I spoke of the situation, and the fears we were drowning in. Margaret said, “You need a prayer team. I will start it. Find people who do e-mail and we’ll get it going right now.” She wrote her e-mail address on a napkin and I took it home.
That was Wednesday. At Saturday’s UT football game, I ran into another friend from a church we neither attended anymore. She and I stood in line in the stadium women’s room, and by the time we finished talking about our prison work – it was an hour later and the game was two-thirds over. She informed me of her Women’s Bible study that met on Tuesdays during the hours we were at the prison. They would hold us up weekly as they met and prayed.
When I emailed Margaret, she said,
“That was my first prayer request – God provide a prayer group for the day you’re there.”
I get goose bumps on my legs telling this story, every time! We have grown, changed, come far, done a lot – not one thing has been done without prayer, and God’s spirit guiding and supporting this work, including our decision to be a service organization, instead of a faith-based organization.
I hope you’ll come up to me and say, “I am one of the Prison Pray- ers.” I’d so love to thank you and hug you – you have been bridging the gap between prison and the free world with us for seven years now!
This piece was written in 2007, and like Carol’s statement above, faces have changed but our focus and our intentions remain the same, as we continue to grow and strengthen our programs.
Suzanne Armistead, the third founder of Truth Be Told, attended a graduation as a respectful witness and when it came time for the Circle of Response she danced her acknowledgement of the powerful gift the women who told their stories had given her. S’Zan returned the next semester to lead an Exploring Creativity workshop and soon after trained to be a facilitator by attending the TTM (Talk to Me) Speaking class; then supported Carol to start the TTM Circle class; then became the TTM Movement class creator and facilitator.
All along using words but mostly by example, she was teaching Carol and Nathalie the utter necessity for all women (including facilitators) to become tuned in to and active within our bodies and movement. She constantly lightened heavy feelings and intense meetings by jumping up and “playing” with a topic instead of discussing it. S’Zan showed us an entirely new way to get free from our own resistance and heaviness.
At this time, we had not organized or become Truth Be Told. Carol hadn’t yet given us this name. At the prison, we were simply volunteers who created the TTM (Talk to Me) classes and the Exploring Creativity workshops and who loved what we were participating in.
The story of how TBT became a non-profit service organization in November of 2003 is too long to tell here, but it wouldn’t have happened if Suzanne Armistead hadn’t joined Carol and Nathalie in 2002.
Thank you for participating in helping to change the world, we could not have come to this milestone without you.