In the short film “Beyond this Place,” poet Clint Smith talks about his time teaching prisoners creative writing and literature. These forms of expression help these men–almost half of whom are African American–express themselves as individuals, and allow them to eloquently dismantle the preconceived, pejorative notions of inmates.
By Taryn Finley at Huffpost Black Voices:
“Our entire lives, we’re inundated with media and messaging that tells us that to be incarcerated is to be criminal and to be criminal is to be a bad person,” Smith told The Huffington Post. “And then [inmates] have the totality of [their] personhood defined by this single act.”
In the video, Smith admitted that he’d been socialized to view incarcerated men in a very specific way. “We don’t remember that they’re people worth remembering,” he recites from a poem in the film, titled “Beyond This Place.” He carried his biases as he first walked into the prison, he told HuffPost. This was something he was “proactive and very purposeful” in learning to move away from. Though he held these biases, the reality of people going to prison was all around him growing up.
“It’s always been a part of my world, even when I didn’t necessarily understand it to be,” he said.
This story was originally published on August 4th, 2015.