• John & Vivett Dukes

Speak Ya Truth Celebrates Two-Year Anniversary With Self-Care Drive For Returning Citizens

I can hardly believe it’s been two years since I stood before all of you in Times Square and announced the launch of John’s and my grassroots organization, Speak Ya Truth. Do you remember that? I remember it like it was yesterday. Since that time two years ago, Speak Ya Truth grown our online blog subscribers to 440 contacts, our Facebook community to 473 strong, and have spoken at over two dozen local/national conferences on behalf of those impacted by incarceration, directly and indirectly. We thank God for our growth and we are encouraged by the way in which this ministry has been received by each of you. For that we thank you and Happy Anniversary to us! Even with the awareness of the plight of those living with mass incarceration on the inside and the outside that Speak Ya Truth has helped bring to the forefront, John and I both knew that we needed to do more. This desire was propelled once John was released from prison in October of 2018 and we immediately began to experience the harsh realities that 20 years of separation from mainstream society were and continue to present to us daily. The reentry process is no joke — and that’s putting it mildly. We knew we weren’t the only ones going through this. We knew we had to do something besides speak. Action was needed. John and I prayed about our desire to do more with Speak Ya Truth to help our community and we were led to give to other men returning home after being in prison and, like John, simply trying to reestablish themselves. That requires starting with the basics needed for feeling and looking their best. In those first few days that John was home, one of the things we spent time doing was buying the basic toiletries he needed. In all my preparation for his arrival, I didn’t even think about that beyond getting him a few shower gels from Bath & Body Works’ men’s line. It sounds trivial, but it wasn’t.  

I remember John being behind the wall and sharing with me that a colleague of his willingly accepted a ticket and being placed in confinement for having a Victoria’s Secret eau de toilette spray in his possession (contraband because it contains alcohol). I naively asked why he would put so much at risk just for that. John asked him and his reply was that that smell of that spray was the closest thing he had to experiencing a woman and home. That shook me to my core. I thought about how much smelling juniper and gardenia scented perfumes reminds me of my mother (RIP). I cry just thinking about those smells because they embody her smell. John’s insight added another layer to how much prison aims to strips a person of their Divine personhood. Regaining that by coming home to self-care items that make one smell and in turn feel good is necessary before formerly incarcerated people can accelerate to obtaining the other things that are often required by their parole officer, their family, and themselves to have like steady employment, stable housing, and increased education. It was with this knowledge and experience that Speak Ya Truth began our first ever drive for the collection of self-care toiletries for men who were formerly incarcerated who are now reentering society at the beginning of this month. We are giving all donations to a local community organization named Man in the Mirror who supports this very population and who’ve been instrumental in embracing John since he’s been home.  

We are pleased to share that the donations and collections for the drive have been a success. We received two boxes of everything from organic soaps to hair gel to lotion for the guys from people neither John nor I know personally! They follow our ministry and felt compelled to support. Talk about the positive power of social media! We have also received $205 in monetary donations via $CashApp for which we matched the first $100 for a total of $305 to purchase more self-care items for those in need. This doesn’t include the bags of donations we picked up over the last few days from four generous supporters of Speak Ya Truth! Folks, this is amazing and we know that we could not do any of this without your help. John and I thank you so much for catching our vision and running with it alongside us. This evening we will deliver all that’s been donated to the men of Man in the Mirror. We plan to go live and video stream how everything goes just like we went live two years ago to announce our organization’s inception. Please join us. Please continue to uplift us as we continue to share with you the impact that incarceration is having on us and all too likely the millions of others who experience the painstaking backlash of prison. Here’s to many more anniversaries, Speak Ya Truth! Two down and a lifetime to go! #speakyatruth🗣💯 #happyanniversary #thedukes #johnandvivett #selfcaredrive #reentry #communityactivism #bethechange #lendahelpinghand 

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