Jessie Mabrey

The Audacity of Hope: A Poem
August 2009

I am no longer an African-American
America has spoken
Although the world has grown without me
I have the audacity of hope
The American vote reverberates throughout
The “inside,” creating faith where there was none
America has spoken
I have the audacity of hope
To realize in my lifetime how far we’ve come
To witness history from inside
I’m not an African-American anymore
I am validated as a person of color
Thank you America
I have the audacity of hope
Today I’m an American
A Memorandum
May 2009

TO: All Clergymen
FROM: J.M. Reporting from the Inside
RE: “No Community Member Left Behind”

Purpose: No member of a community should be left behind. This is a critical concept. The time has come to unify the community. Ministers, church lay persons: start with members of your congregation who are in need; start with families that live within the community surrounding your house of worship, and eventually spread out to help your entire community.

How? By asking all who are skilled within the congregation (electricians, drywall specialists, plumbers, painters, and other laborers and those with true skills) to “pay it forward” to a member of the community.

Create a community Home Improvement Committee. Adopt a family to keep those family members from becoming homeless or separated.

If every house of worship adopted one family within the community, an entire community could come together (see the Book of Acts, 2:44 and 4:33 – 35).

We, as people, must come together and help ourselves preserve the community in which we live.  Show Christ’s love for every human being (see Ephesians 4:1-16).

We must unify. It can be done. May God’s blessing be upon you.

This is J.M. reporting from the inside a message from the Most High.


On the occasion of the 2008 Presidential election
January 2009
Hello, outside world!

This is J.M. reporting from the inside.

God woke me up this morning through his grace and mercy to give me a choice against the odds and to have a blessed day.

Today is history in the making. People in the outside world are voting for our next President of the United States.

On the inside, we are praying for our next President of the United States.

Just as our incoming President will make conscious decisions for the American people and the economy, I choose to make a conscious decision to put one positive foot in front of the other foot and through adversity.

Every day is a challenge met and overcome. Some see lemons: the strife of incarceration. I see lemonade: the success of “working” on me and on others in a positive way. Coping Skills group was wonderful today! Tonight is choir practice. Tomorrow is a church service to sing God praises, and we see the gift of a new President-elect.

So, from the inside this is J.M. saying, “Think Green!”


Woman’s Day
September 2008

You were a beautiful child. From the time you were four-years old watching The Cosby Show with me. I promised you that when you had your first menstrual cycle we would celebrate.

We talked often over the next seven years, planning what we would do, where we would go, and how much fun we would have celebrating your first step into womanhood. I wanted to create a lasting memory of an important milestone in your life. A memory you could pass to your own daughter one day.

A promise lost, a memory replaced with a nightmare reality. Our Woman’s Day, where was it spent? On a phone in the county jail, looking at each other through a plate glass window, you asked me, “Why?” I had no answer, only tears and sorrow for hurting my precious baby.

Fourteen years have passed and though we can touch each other now, it’s only allowed at the beginning and end of our visits. You’re a woman now and a mother. So many lasting memories are lost. I can’t it back, can I?

You want no more promises from me. I don’t blame you. I’m humbled by your forgiveness. You are a beautiful woman.


Now What?
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
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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