Lights, camera, and so much action! The stage was set and the spotlight was on me. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for myself and others to share innovative insights of an uncelebrated and stigmatized population.
This was TEDxPerryvilleCorrections, the first TEDx event ever to be held in an Arizona State Prison.
Thought-provoking speakers and performers, both inmates and community members, were anxiously prepared to impart knowledge and experiences to the public about the misconceptions of institutionalization and the enlightening possibilities from behind the razor wire curtain.
I looked out at the audience filled with state officials, business executives, community leaders, legal advocates and journalists, as well as doting families and friends. Then there sat the real stars of the show – the inmates.
I felt forces of energy and emotion intertwining and flowing throughout the room.
I was in awe of these glowing women of Perryville, and not because of their orange jumpsuits. Individually and collectively, we journeyed through different worlds but came together for this remarkable event. The prick of tears tortured my eyes, ready to spill with pride. I inhaled deeply and began my speech.
On a raised platform, I addressed hundreds of people with ideas of resourcefulness, empowerment and innovation.
Faces were dripping with amazement as I shared my own success story as a businesswoman from behind bars. My words were more than a pitch about the benefits of employing a correctional workforce.
This was about recognizing potential and opportunities in the unexpected parts of society. It was about how we can play a role in creating the change that ripples into our communities.
I never imagined that I would have been involved in such an event, much less be an honorary TEDx speaker! Working for Televerde helped build my confidence to accomplish this feat and to create a better future. Because of this, I know Televerde will continue to champion this mission of transformation.
And this event was just the beginning.
This talk was given at a TEDx event, TEDxPerryvilleCorrectional, using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.