Shared by Syreeta

Life brings the most amazing battles that make you stronger if your
wise enough to learn from every experience. I learned the lesson of
having a family member in prison starting at a young age. My father
was in gratorford for thirteen years. My mother divorce him shortly
before that so for the years he was there I never got to see my
father. Growing up that affected me in the most great ways good and
bad. A female needs to strength and teachings of her father just as
much as her mother. Who would think that experience would carry me to
my adult life. When I met Salon Smith from first sight I knew I wanted
to be apart of his life.

Five years later I was granted my wish. We
became best friends and it carried on into a marriage. I never forget
the day those detectives came to get him. I couldn’t sleep. I held our
children all night not knowing what to do. I just remembered my
childhood and promised them on that day that I would never allow them
the pain of not having their father at all. What a battle was I in
for. County visits taught me the basics of visits. Gratorford turned
me into a vican. Up at 5am, dressed me and he kids and off to take two
trains and a bus to Gratorford every Saturday for years and years. The
rides up were exciting. Daydreaming of the face of the man I loved for
years. Thinking of seeing the kids run into his arms and how he would
hug me and smile.

We are at the prison. The kids run off the bus and
into the waiting area. The male guards are looking you up and down
like a piece of meat and the female guards are rolling there eyes at
you. We wait an hour sometimes two hearing all the names being called.
My children asking when is it our turn. ” I wanna see Daddy mommy” my
son cries over and over again until they call his name. We all rush to
the search room. A guard says ” those jeans have to many zippers and
buttons, they have no pockets and look like tights, your tee shirt
isn’t long enough, cut the wire out of your bra here are some
scissors”, to my children ” your daughters shorts are long enough they
need to be to her knees”, mind you she had worn the same shorts there
four years. So I go out and change into my extra clothes, had gotten
use to the harassment. No, that won’t do either ” her visit is
terminated”, I start to cry my children start to cry. I ask if I find
more clothes can I please see my husband and was told ok.

I go into
the waiting room embarrassed cause everyone can see and hear the
events. A lady says “I have a old skirt and some scribe in the trunk
of my car”. I take the offer and wrap the size 12 skirt around my six
year old daughter and I put on the scrubs. We look like homeless
people now but the objective is to be with Salon to feel like a
complete family again. They let us down to see him. Mission was
successful. At least on this day. I have experience trauma, emotional
scars but I can talk with hope now. I can laugh at the memory of
hearing a female prison guard saying “that’s what you get for
marrying a criminal”. I can share my methods of stirring the
superintendent hundreds of letters, calling the philadelphia chapter of
the NAACP for help, calling judges, becoming an amateur paralegal.

Being without the one you love because of prison is like making your
family breathe underwater without dying and the way the guards treat
you as a visitor is the as choking that family while their breathing
underwater without dying. But now we can breathe. We can tell our
story and someone is listening. My husband Salon is one of the
strongest men I have ever met. Prison didn’t break him it made him
stronger. It made him a mentor for others to see you can still be
successful and have hope for the future. I always one day we would
help people see and understand what hardships us families and
supporters of our loved ones in prison. It feels good to finally do
it. We are the wives, mothers, children, friends of these inmates. We
are in jail with them mentally, emotionally. Our scars are deep and
making it worse needs to stop. AND IT STARTS WITH THIS MOMENT! (Family

About Eric Okdeh

Eric Okdeh is a Philadelphia based muralist, who has been creating public art since 1998. After receiving his BFA in painting from Tyler School of Art, Eric chose to focus on mural work exclusively. Since 2002, in addition to his commissioned work, Eric has taught mural making classes to children and teens throughout the city as well as inmates at SCI Graterford Prison. The classes exist as leadership, teamwork, and skill building exercises which culminate in major mural projects. In an attempt to capture these significant community collaborations and interactions, Eric has developed this website and mural blog. The projects are journalized and documented in photographs and video clips to lend outside observers insight into the processes by which his murals come about. Eric has over 65 commissions throughout the city of Philadelphia and one in Seville, Spain. He has participated in mural projects in Tucson, Arizona and Los Angeles. His work is featured in four books about public and Mural art.
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