While I was writing my memoir, I became aware of a group called POPS The Club. If you haven't heard of them, they're an organization that supports children and young people who have been impacted by incarceration with art-based community building. I'm not going to lie, when I found out about POPS, I experienced intense envy. I so wish something like this had been available to me and my community when I was a child. I was a member of my local Boys & Girl Club, but that wasn't the same. It's just hard to think of who I might have been, and how I might have felt, if I'd had a safe place to talk about how hard it was being the child of an incarcerated parent. Even better if the person I was speaking to ACTUALLY knew what that was like.
My much more mature second concern was how I could learn more about, and hopefully support the people who support kids like the one I was. I bought a few sweatshirts and t-shirts from their shop, but I wanted to do more. In fact, I felt kind of frantic about it. Like POPS had hired me to fundraise or they'd be shut down in a week. None of that was true, of course. They didn't especially need me, nor do they now, but I felt like I needed them. I needed to know somebody was out there doing work just like this, reminding the rest of the world that these kids exist. That they are loved and deserving of compassion and care. It made me wonder why, in a country so riddled with mass incarceration, it isn't standard to offer services like those offered by POPS.
What do the children owe us for their parent's crimes? A relevant question for anyone who wonders why society should be expected to do anything at all. We know that when a parent or loved on is incarcerated, the children suffer. It seems to me, at some point, we are choosing to allow them to suffer when that isn't the only choice available to us. That worries me, as it concerns our understanding of our own humanity, and the power we wield in one another's lives in big and small ways. Childhood is as formative as we've always been told, but we are only delicate with children in the ways that society demands. Why aren't we demanding better?
I couldn't stop thinking about these things while I read the new anthology, Dear Friend, from POPS The Club members. Here's the last anthology. The emotions in the poems and prose written by these kids were familiar to me, and yet the writing itself was unique to their individual voices and experiences. It blew me away so much, I wanted to share a few of the poems here:
Thank you for spending a little time with the thoughts of these kids. They deserve your attention.