Now What?

by Jessie Mabrey
June 2008


Fifteen years in a war zone. Watching my back, watching what I say, watching what I do. Constantly on alert. Suspicion and mistrust became my main survival skills, the only ones I can count on. Drastically changing my way of thinking and reacting to the point where I don’t know who I am anymore.

Who are these people around me? Eventually, there is no desire to even question who they are. I no longer care. I must survive by any means necessary. I can’t feel anything. Am I still in shock? Is this a nightmare? What does traffic sound like? I can’t remember. Do we still have phones? What’s a blackberry? Is anyone gonna teach me how to use one? Do I still turn the ignition on a car, or push a button? What do you mean toilets flush by themselves?

Now you wanna let me go, right? The person that left the free world is not the person returning to it. How’s my family being prepared for that? When does the deprogramming begin? Or does it? Fifteen years in a war zone, less than one year to the parole board.

Now what?


Tell Me Where it Hurts
by Jessie Mabrey
June 2008

“When the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the pain of change, change will come.”

I always wondered what that quote meant. How could change come from overwhelming pain inflicted and endured? I’ve spent my entire life believing pain is to be endured, just “suck it up” and keep it moving.

The pain of being a “colored” subservient woman became the pain of being a “black” liberated woman and then the pain of being an African-American incarcerated woman. Each decade the title changed, yet I remained the same confused little dark girl trying to “get in where I fit in,” according to what decade it was. I was fighting and scratching my way out of a hole dug by generation after generation of black and white men.

If a black man couldn’t find his place in the world, how in God’s name was I supposed to be comfortable with the fact that I had found mine?

A no-win situation. Insurmountable odds and incredible pain, guilt for being able to make it, pain from not knowing what I would become, and changing in spite of it.


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