I was in high school…
I was arrested and it was my senior year. It was the last month of school. And I was very, very, very scared that I wasn't going to be able to finish high school because of the days I was missing. That was at the forefront of my mind not being able to graduate high school. So that was pretty scary.
Well, um, so I was living with my family, and my laptop was stolen by a family member's significant other. She was 40 years old, and she just kind of broke into--she wasn't living with us, she broke into my room and stole my laptop. And I decided to go get it back from her house. And when I arrived, she let me in, but it like, just turned into an altercation where she was choking me and just trying to...Mind you, she's like, six foot. I'm like, five four. So, and like, she's very heavy. And it was just like a very scary situation. So I tried to defend myself as best as I could. But physically, I could not get this woman off of her. And at some point, she was choking me. So I pepper sprayed her and I left without my laptop, without my stolen property. And I guess she called the police after that. And I didn't know she had called the police. She didn't tell anyone. I moved out of my family's house because of, because I wanted my own independence.
But a few months after that, I was riding in a car with my friend. And he got pulled over. He was a white man. He got pulled over, they didn't ask for his information at all. He got pulled over for tinted windows. But I was sitting in the passenger seat. And they asked for my ID. And I didn't know my rights at the time and produced it. And they ran it. And they found four warrants, very, very exaggerated, warrants. Like two felonies, two misdemeanors. And I was crying so much because I didn't...again, like my priority, at that time I was a senior in high school, it was like the last month. I had, like, studied for all of my tests and everything. And I was like, just prepared to, like, get out of high school and go to college. But they ran my ID and they like took me away. And it felt like kidnapping. Which it essentially is. Like the police kidnap you and bring you to this place where they have a bunch of other people kidnapped. But they weren't trying to hear me out. It was weird. I was like, you know, in movies, they tell you that you should ask for a lawyer, you know, be silent, or your words will be used against you. So I was like, "Where's my lawyer? Where's my lawyer? Like, what is..."
I was 18. So like, five, five days passed until I got an arraignment. I think that's what it's called. And posted bail, but I did not talk to... I talked to my lawyer on the same day that I had the arraignment which was ridiculous. Public defenders... it's been over a year since this has happened, but public defenders are so stressed out, overworked, and they are much less funded than the DA, the District Attorney's Office, it's, it's there's an imbalance. I'm aware of that now. But at the time, it just felt very unfair that I had just like a couple of minutes to talk to my public defender, which is what I could afford. So yeah, after that, I paid my senior fees, like my school fees. I graduated high school, walked across the stage, I graduated Bard Early College, which I was also involved in. It's a early college program where you get like, college skills. And yeah, so I was in that program for two years. And I graduated that as well. And I just started applying to colleges. And it was strange going back to school. I only had like, a few weeks left, but it was just very, like, strange to like, get reacquainted with everything because I just felt like I had gone through a serious violation. And I had like lost in just a few days, everything that I knew. And it just felt like I was like, disgusting. I felt, like, horrible about myself just for ending up in that place. So I did start applying to, like, colleges. Well, I had already, but I like I kept like the application process and kept going to court dates and started attending the University of New Orleans in January of this year. 2018. And well, during the time I was also working on a film called "Station 15". It's on PBS right now. But I didn't, I just started working on it with my director. And I did not want her to know, but she had noticed that I had disappeared for like five days. As everyone did. Everyone was worried sick about me. And it's really like... that moment, like, really hits you hard that people, the people that are around you, like care about you very much so that they care. Like when you're missing. Yeah, that just felt good. Because I didn't like have family to fall back on to like, care about me. It's not like, "Oh, my mom's gonna miss me". It's like this. My mentors, my friends, my teachers, my professors, they're all going to like, worry if I disappear. So, they all showed up. Like my professors, my teachers, my mentors. I just had this big group of like, mostly Caucasian people, which was like, weird, no one else's, like, people were like, there for them, like, at the arraignment, which is totally a problem. It's probably very inaccessible to get to and some people like had bail that was like, $300, and they just couldn't afford to pay it. Which is like, horrifying. Poverty is such an issue. I know, people that only have...And this is after working, you know, am I providing for myself, that I understand that, like, $300 is not much money or $1,000 is not like a lot of money if you like, put that in perspective of like, rent and like bills and stuff like that. But they just still can't afford to pay it. I didn't like pay out of pocket for me to get out of jail. I had like these adults that are part of programs like Bard Early College, or like, just like, huge, like programs. Like, luckily for me, I just networked enough and like, made good impressions on enough people that they cared about me and showed up when I needed them the most. But had I been any other person in that situation, that would not have been true.
Even if you're innocent. That's the thing about bail. You're just buying your freedom.
Which should not be the way things are set up. Just because, you know, just because, like a rich person and a poor person, you know, both get arrested, the rich person shouldn't be able to, like, post bail, you know, just because they have, like, the resources in order to do that. But I have a lot of problems...
I mean, I... I think it all comes back to the colonial era. And this was a slave state and according to the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights or something like that, slavery is perfectly legal if you are incarcerated, if you are put in jail.
Yeah. So prisons are, like, just Louisiana's way of, like, legalizing slavery and, like, bringing money out of like New Orleans, into a prison. Into, like, a prison in Ruston, Louisiana, you know, like a small town, that's how they like distribute the money. And while they're doing that, while they're taking, you know, black men, young black men. While they're taking like young black men and bringing them to small towns like Ruston, or even like OPP, while they're like taking that resource out of like black families, they're also disenfranchising the families that are dependent sadly, because we live in a patriarchal kind of, like, place. They're taking that resource of an able bodied young man to provide for, like said family. So I think it all just comes back to racism. In one way or another.
Yeah, you literally have to explain to someone who has done a background check on you why you have done such and such. And if you have a felony, you have to explain that for the rest of your life. Even if you get it expunged. Someone can still dig it up and find it.
Well, the thing about jail or prison, or any kind of like governmental detainment, it's not meant to rehabilitate anybody. It's just something that the government uses to punish slash profit, extract resources out of people. So it doesn't really surprise me that even after this person gets out of jail, has served their time for whatever they did, that they will continue... that there will be laws to continue oppressing them and disenfranchising them. And you know, if a person can't go to school, if a person can't get a job, if a person can't function, vote, or function, like a normal citizen would be able to, even after serving their time or even after being like, innocent... Like, it's like, where are they going to go? They're more than likely going to end up right back in prison, just because this society is set up to put them right back where they were. And I've been fighting that as hard as I can. And I know that, like, I'm very aware that like, I'm in a position that's very different from other people that have been incarcerated. And not everyone has, like a support system that's like, very strong. And I try to...I don't know, I'm just... I think I'm naturally like, not a horrible person. But yeah, there are things that I won't even participate in, just because like, this whole thing is going on, like, I won't go to a protest. I won't even, like, risk because people get arrested at them, or people, like, get beaten by police at them. And it's like, I can't even if I want to stand up for like, something I believe in. I just cannot do it. You know, it's something I won't do, especially while this court case is going on.
Yeah, I am a part of young women with a vision. I'm still 19, you know, doing all these things. Yeah, I am a part of Women With a Vision. I'm also a part of Ripple Effect, which is more of like an environmental kind of advocacy group. I've spoken on their committee to city council one time. And yeah, as far as activism goes, there's so many levels. There are organizers, and then there're like, people that take to the streets. There are people that pass the laws or like, rally to get the laws passed, or lobby, you know. There's just so many ways to enter the work. And I'm still not sure which way exactly that I want to enter the work. It's definitely not going to be like, protesting, though. I don't think that's my cup of tea. I don't like being outside. It's really hot out here, it's New Orleans. But yeah.
Yeah, I'm in my second semester as a freshman.
I'm studying film and philosophy. So right now, I'm taking a sociology class. My sociology teacher is going to be very interesting.
do have chosen family that I surround myself with. And they're people that I care immensely about, like, their value to me, is invaluable. And yeah, I don't, I don't think just, like, because I don't interact with my blood family, that the people that I love and that I surround myself with aren't as much of as my family as... I love them to be.
Yeah, um, I wouldn't be in college without my support system. I wouldn't have my movie on PBS, I wouldn't be going to San Francisco to talk to the United Nations. And in September I wouldn't have my movie in the New Orleans African American Museum in New York. Did I say New Orleans? Well, I wouldn't have, like, all the opportunities to, like, even do it. And I know I'm not naming names. And that's because I don't know if they want to named.
It's called Station 15. It's about water in New Orleans. And also me finding my voice. It's a documentary though. So it, like, actually happened. Yeah, I mean, it's like 15 minutes. You can find it on PBS.
I think the food was terrible. Luckily, I wasn't my period that week. But I heard that you only get, like, pads. And it's like, a certain amount. And like, some women were stealing them. That was the thing. I don't know much about it, obviously. I wasn't there very long. But yeah, I didn't, like, eat the food much. But you know when I gave my, like, food to someone... There was a moment that like, someone asked for my milk, like while I was like, not eating. And they werre just like, "are you suicidal? Why aren't you eating this?" and I'm like, "I won't be here long". I didn't even know that. But I was just like, "I want to leave!". But there was like, um, it was like a very human moment in a very, that took place in a very inhuman, like place. Orleans Parish in particular is like, so gross and dirty. And compare it to black men's, like, ...Prison is hard. I mean, jail is horrible either way, but like Plaquemines Parish was like really clean like, the food was like decent. The you get...got to like keep your shoes. In Orleans Parish, they give you like these like Crocs, but they're not even crocs. They're like slipper Crocs. And like, they've... mine in particular was so used and so gross, and dirty. And they...it... I didn't even want to wear it, but like the alternative was walking on the floor, which was filthy. And, um, there's this like, waiting area and over and over again, they play this video of "if you get raped, you need to report it to the... if you get raped by the police, you need to report it to the police," which I thought was like so ridiculous. Because what are they going to do except put you in isolation, which is another form of punishing you. So that was weird. But I did hear after I was released that rape in Orleans Parish is like prominent. It's such a thing and they do it for more food or more commissarry. Or even just to, like, get a better cell or like, yeah. Um, I also heard from a former incarcerated man. He had spent five years in jail for something he didn't even do. He was proven innocent for it. But I did hear that Orleans Parish Sheriffs sneak drugs in. Like, and sell it to prisoners. And sexual violence against female prisoners, when, like, women that are incarcerated, is like the majority of like, how they sell it to them. And it doesn't really happen, like on the male side, which is like...If it happens on the male side it's more like, it's more of like, an intimidation thing. Rather than like a sexual thing. Even though like rape is not like really sexual to me. But that's just me. That's just politics.
They were very disrespectful. And always they called me, like...No one said my name the whole time. He called me a number. Which, like, literally made me feel like a statistic. And I know, I knew that I wasn't, and I know that I'm not. And it's just, they were just like, and also for...Like, most of the, like, prison guards were like African American people, but they did like, seem to just show preference or favoritism or just were very lenient towards like, white women that were incarcerated. And like, you could literally just see the interaction like go from polite to just like degrading, like, versus like, like, what skin color, and that's just like, from my short perspective, I don't know if that's an outlier or not, but it just was very grotesque. And, um, yeah, so I spent a lot of time if I was interacting with guards talking about the prison industrial complex, and why this place is, like, horrible. So maybe I was just getting on everyone's bad side by talking about how messed up the system that I'm in is. Yeah, none of them liked that. They were just....one of the guards had previously been in prison. And I was just like, "how can you even do this after experiencing it?" And he's like, he said something along the lines of "either you're one of them, or you're one of us." Like, either you're prisoner or you're a guard. And it's just, it's just horrible. Um, yeah. I noticed that. Like, when I got arrested, I was wearing a crop top, because I'm a teenager, and I noticed that, like, on the drive over like, one of like, the driver, not the driver, the police officer was just, like, a lot nicer to me. Like, he let me like, have a phone call, which like, helped immensely, but I noticed that like, I think it was because like, I was half dressed. And like, once you put on like, the jumpsuit, like treatment, just plummets. Like there's like, no politeness or anything. I feel like, sadly, my youth and like, I had my hair done. Like, my attractiveness was also an element of me being treated like just a tiny bit more humane. Which is sad, but like it was necessary.
Yeah, there's no makeup or anything. Um, I didn't really see the commissary at Orleans Parish. I did see it at Plaquemines and like a radio was like $50. Like it was ridiculous. There were some ridiculous prices, and, like, you only got like it delivered like every two weeks. So and they also had tampons, which were like five times more expensive than pads. Like a pad was like $1.
Yeah. And like $6 for a tampon. So even being in jail, if you're rich, it's gonna be a lot more comfortable than if you're poor. Just for women. Yeah, but honey buns for like, $3. It was, it was crazy.
Prices were ridiculous. Yeah. And like paying for like a phone call. Weird. You only got one free phone call. And then it's only when they allow you to have a phone call. So restricting my communication to the outside world was also a thing, but they record your phone calls anyway. So I don't think I would want to like talk to anyone. So it's a very isolating place to be in as well.
I only had one phone call. There was a moment in transport that an officer let me like, use my personal phone to contact my friend. But that wasn't, like, officially, like, a thing. I was just like, I don't know, I thought it was like my youth and my girlhood that allowed me to, like, have that moment and it like, I don't know, that was probably like a key thing that also helped. Like, people organize and show up to the arraignment.
I was in Plaquemines, and they tried to give me a tuberculosis shot.
Yeah, yeah. They were just like... Like, someone tricked me. I was like, I was I was...All day. I was so annoying, probably. But I was just like, "when are you taking me to Orleans? To New Orleans? I want to go home. I don't want to be in Plaquemines Parish. I don't even know where I am. I don't even know how I got here!" And, yeah, so someone tricked me and got me up. And I was like," Are we going to New Orleans? If not, I don't want to go with you. We're not going anywhere". And like, she was like, "yeah, we're about to transport you". Then she brought me to like the doctor's office, and the doctor had a needle in hand, and I'm like, "I do not consent. And I will report you. Like, if you like, stick me with this, I swear. Like, you will lose your job". And like, she was like, "well, we can't, we can't process her now". Like, I think like after you get the tuberculosis shot, like they'd send you to like before a judge, which would have been like horrible for me to, like, have been processed in Plaquemines Parish where they wouldn't even have like the evidence. Or like I wouldn't be even, like close to like, my house or my like group of people. So they tried to like stick me with a needle and process me over there. So but I refused and they, then they sent me to, like a psych lady, a psychologist or something. But I wasn't having that either. Because, like they were trying to make me comfortable. And like that was like a key thing that I was not going to do.
Be comfortable in jail? Who does that? I was just like, "you will not tell me how to feel, what I feel. You will never know how I feel. I don't want to talk to you. You will never know my experience". And she was just like "da da da da da". I don't remember what she said, but she was just... she did not want to talk to me nor my blackness at that point. And yeah, they just like got like, I was soon just sent to Orleans Parish. And like, while I was an hour before, like, I was getting dressed and like putting on like, my normal clothes. And like someone in a cell like right across from me, like a few yards away from me. He said, "I've been in here waiting to go to Orleans Parish for like, three months". And I was like, "Oh, my God. Like, they don't, we haven't even like... he didn't even see a judge, hasn't hasn't talked to his lawyer. And here I am. It's like, my second day here. And I'm already like, going back to New Orleans". And it just felt like, so unfair that... it felt unfair that he didn't have... he wasn't going with me. Like, he wasn't coming to New Orleans with me, you know.
Yeah. And it's just like, they don't even explain to you that like, they need to stick you in order to like, you know, go through with like, the process, the railroad and like, yeah. So they did stick me at, like, Orleans Parish. They were just like, "we can't start your trial unless you do this". So I don't know if like, I would have went to a different court had I not taken the needle or if I would have just been sitting there. So they did stick me there. And like, my arm turned red, which was like, weird, like, in a circle, like, it just turned red there. And they were like, "you don't have tuberculosis". And I was like....I don't, I don't even, I didn't even trust, like, the doctor. Which was like, weird, okay, like, and then that that like, little red thing sat on my arm for like a while and that was scary. I didn't... I don't know what that was. To this day. I just, he was like, "this is a serum, it'll turn this color if you have it". And I was just like, "okay". I also remember signing something that says... it said a bunch of things that were like relinquishing my rights and whatnot. But like one of them was just like, "you consent to having a tracker on you, like, at all times" and I don't know what that means. I don't know if my phone gets tapped. I try not to be paranoid about this type of thing. Because like, how am I gonna go to college and like, accomplish all of my dreams if I'm worried about like, being tracked by the government. But it's like just something that's in my head. So...
Yeah. I should be able to like, talk about what I want. But that's fine, I guess, I don't know. So, like, I don't really talk about weird things on the phone. Another reason I don't really, like, participate in activism. Because sadly, their actions can be criminalized in one way or another. And, you know, you have the right to assembly, but you still have to play by the government's rules.
I actually didn't see any men besides like, when I was like, checking in. There were like two men that were just waiting in the front, which is weird. Um, another weird thing that happened was like, one of like, the female guards tried to make me like, get naked and change into, like, the jumpsuit in front of these men, which was like, super duper messed up to me, like... I refused and I don't know, things just took a little bit longer.
And if I don't show up, like the worst will happen. And I've been showing up for over a year now to these court cases, which is just so ridiculous. Like, it's part of the like, the railroad like process, but it's just so often and so long. Like, if I don't show up--if I get sick, or like, if I go into a coma, like, I think that the worst of the worst is going to happen. And this is just another way that they're like, putting strings on the floor, trying to trip me up into like, going back. And I'm in Louisiana's adult diversion program, even though like even though like what had happened was like, done when I was 17. At 17, you're legally an adult in Louisiana.
Yeah, I'm doing it. I'm trying. That's what I tell everyone. I don't know. I don't really tell people that I was incarcerated. Just because there's so much stigma around it. But most people would never guess that that's something that I'm going through. And like, it just... I just hate telling people. So I don't want them to think all sudden, like that I'm not the person that they've come to know and love. Like, I don't want to be made to be like a criminal or Boogie woman or like just an all around violent person. Because that does not define who I am. Something that I did when I was a teenager does not define who I am as a human being. And I don't let that stop me from pursuing things that I'm interested in, like writing or poetry or film. So like, while this is like such a pain in the butt to deal with, like going to these court dates, it hasn't... It hasn't slowed down the um...It hasn't slowed me down much. Much. I guess. I guess I could be like, more... I could be farther along in, like, my very young career, but like, it's not gonna... it's not gonna stop me, 'cuz I'm not gonna let it...Like, I have no time to let it...I have so much time on my hands.
Um, I guess, like, remembering that you are a survivor. And if you're a woman, you're a warrior princess, for even getting out on the other side and breathing free air again, and touching the ground. Like, touching like, the ground something for me, as soon as I got out of OPP and like, I was like, waiting for, like, one of my mentors on Broad and Tulane Street to like, come and pick me up. And just being like, like touching fresh air again...I hadn't happened in so long. It was only like, a couple of days but like, it felt like forever and, like, that just, like, felt like a literal moment of freedom. It's just the taste and just knowing that the government and what it does to you in the ways that it criminalizes you doesn't define who you are. You define who you are. And it's all up to you and there are people that love you and care about you and the world is not such a dark, dark place as, like, people try to make it to be. Also, you can like create your own story. It's all up to you. But maybe these are just things that like relate to me. This is just my experience. And, yeah, not letting it to define you is something that I have to say to myself every day. Not every day, but I do think about it every day. Ever since I got out of jail, though, I thought...I've thought about, like, my skin color every day. Just because I saw, like, preference was given to people with lighter skin tones.