To my peers and fellow MOVErs:
I want to give you all an update on activities going on across the state, and within the MOVE-NC Community. It’s been a busy 2015. Throughout the state, members have been very involved in attending various awareness-raising activities.

In 2015, we reached approximately 1200 young adults directly through training, workshops, outreach at conferences. We also had an increase of views or “likes” on Facebook and visits to our page on the NC Families United website. We were in contact with over 15,000 adult allies and support persons within agencies and organizations through the same channels.

We would like more involvement at the statewide Collaborative on Children Youth and Families Meetings. These meetings are held every 2nd and 4th Friday of the month (10-12) in Morrisville (near Raleigh). Your participation helps adult allies and providers learn more about some of the things that we experience, and make changes to the way that this state handles the systems that we are involved in. These topics range from mental health services to education. Members of the statewide Collaborative really want our input from the people who deal with them regularly. If you can’t make it to the statewide meeting, many of you have a local collaborative meeting in your area. To find out call North Carolina Families United at: 336-395-8828  to connect you with your local System of Care collaborative meeting. We look forward to you joining us and talk about the progress of our chapters within their communities, and support each other as members.

Search for New Board Members:
We will also be accepting nominations for new Board members. There are plenty of positions to be filled and predecessors to succeed. So if you’re interested in becoming a board member, come out to our next statewide meeting on Saturday, February 27th from 12pm until 4pm. The meeting will be hosted by the Alliance of Disability Advocates located at: 505 Oberlin Road, Raleigh, NC 27605. Lunch will be provided and you’ll be given the chance to apply to be on the Executive Board of Youth M.O.V.E. NC. You could even replace me as the President!! Call/text Damie at: 336-215-6422 if you’re interested in participating on our Board.

My last message is: No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

Me, Jimmy C, I am filled with hope, but, for context try this below:

Five important facts about homeless youth:
When it comes to sex work, homeless youth are being coerced and manipulated, and participate out ofdesperation. Homeless youth are particularly vulnerable to being coerced into the commercial underground sex economy. In a 2008 study in New York City, a great majority of sexually exploited children expressed a desire to change their circumstances, but felt that they were doing what they had to do to survive.

Here’s another groovy resource in the Recovery Oriented System of Care way of viewing the world. NC State has opened an (off campus) Community Counseling Center with a low-cost sliding scale fee system. Developed out of the Dept. of Counselor Education, the school does research, doctoral student counselors get well-supervised training and practice and the public gets free/low-cost services!! Win-win-win, the way I like it.

It’s located at 714 St. Mary’s Street Raleigh, NC 27605 and there’s a flyer here with all the info. If you see my buddy Michael Englert over there tell him, I said Hi.

For me, music and culture are far more than entertainment and aesthetics, they’re ways that humans speak to one another and form communities and, having done that, advance toward something better. Hence I feel compelled to say a few words on the arts, starting with the death of David Bowie. I did get to work with him, indirectly, on his Let’s Dance tour. That was a “comeback” for him, having wrestled through horrific cocaine addiction (and real artistic detours), emerging into recovery to stay there for many years. I must say I try to avoid the word comeback; it’s insulting to artists. Just because somebody steps away from the spotlight is not necessarily a bad thing.  There are many reasons to take breaks, some personal or health related, some culturally / commercially imposed. Recharging our batteries is a good thing we want to embrace.

As noted before, I worked for a concert promotion company; small office, four people, and we got a piece of his Let’s Dance Detroit dates and got to meet him backstage and he made a point of talking to us and presented as genuinely sweet and engaging. Hugely popular, that show brought me more requests for tickets, from anyone I ever knew, than any show ever. I was never what you’d call a fan but he was a pioneer and truly an artist and I did enjoy his musical homages to soul/r&b music that appeared periodically.  I loved his work with a band who played my high school, Ypsilanti, MI’s own, Iggy Pop. More importantly, fan or not, it is a milestone when someone with the disease of addiction dies, in recovery.  It’s profound because if we stay drug-free and if we have recovery in our lives then anything is possible. What happens, what we do, in our lives is between ourselves and Higher Power but with drug-free recovery, medical issues aside, it’s a victory. It might sound rough or odd to say, but the goal is to die drug-free and he did.  And the guys output was amazing. Here is David discussing his recovery.

Now, it’s on to the telly. It has occurred to me that my favorite binges on my beloved Netflix have all been European police or political dramas/thrillers, sometimes both in one show. The canard is that theatre movies have gone to hades; all special effects, explosions, super heroes and sequels. True enough but there are plenty of “smaller” movies that are lovely.  And me I grew up on Marvel Comics so I (mostly) love them. But I agree the really great film is now cable series, where they can take the time to stretch out and develop characters and tell a story.  Going back a bit, to The Sopranos (which had an addiction/recovery story line in it) and moving thru Breaking Bad (likewise) and then Netflix exploding with the Presidential drama House of Cards, the real stories are there.  My favorites have been from Europe.  At this minute we are watching Occupied, set in Norway, a bit into the future, about politics and energy (as in oil vs nuclear) and Russia, similar to what’s in the news this minute. There’s Borgen, with politics from Denmark, featuring the countries first female Prime Minister.  Instructive as to the ins and outs of coalition building. These do not shrink from controversial or painful topics but show restraint and artistic talent in the telling and feel truthful. No gratuitous violence in my opinion.  Other political winners include; Dicte, told from the perspective of a strong woman journalist, Legends, fairly more violent and paranoid, The Code, Salamander, Witnesses and, from Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist (and top Soprano Lieutenant Silvio Dante) Miami Steve Van Zandt, the mobster witness protection comedy, Lillehammer. On the more police show side I just finished Broadchurch, set in England, satisfyingly, even beautifully done, dealing with the unpleasant subject of child abuse (a child is murdered), it is worth viewing.  A treatise on media and much more. The most potent police series I’ve seen is River, set in London, featuring superb acting from Stellan Skarsgard with an interesting mental health twist. Highly recommended to all the mental health advocates out there.

Cop shows set in America with high production values and gripping stories include the corrupt police story, Low Winter Sun, set in my beloved Detroit, The Killing, again involving a death of a teen, with an addiction/recovery sub-plot, Gotham, the backstory to Batman, rougher (maybe the most violent of the list, but compelling), and a great western/sheriff tale, set in Wyoming, Longmire, that includes a superb turn in a native role from Lou Diamond Phillips. There is clear respect and insight in the Native stories, both dark and light, this show tells.  Any wrong turns Lou has made career-wise have been amended with this great character.

Next, I’m going to take a left-turn; it’s already out of the news-cycle, better off forgotten, but I have to weigh in.

  1. Sean Penn is, in my humble opinion, the best actor of his generation. He brings real skill, finesse and art to his craft. Have you seen I am Sam? Man, I loved that movie.
  2. He never should have done that interview with the cartel thug El Chapo and thank God he knows/admitted it quickly. Such an ill-fated idea, whoever let that happen?!  Penn needs to listen to his management next time!

I should not be surprised by any of this but one of the more disturbing revelations to come out of that sad affair was; the genesis had to do with serious Hollywood negotiations that had been in the works between “his (Chapo’s) people” and “their (Hollywood’s) people” to get the rights to Chapo’s “life story”. Sheesh, don’t get me started.

Penn stated that he wanted to get dialogue started on the folly of our War on Drugs. That impulse I appreciate.

First we had a Correction and now we’ll discuss Corrections.
Our legal and prison system woes warrant a full book or rather many books, rather than an essay on some blog but I say:

All we need is to go back and study the history of our Penitentiaries. A wonderful tale, that grew from The Penitents, who were a movement to support rehabilitation, restoration even transformation.

This grows into an understanding woven through all recovery. It operates from a principal of mercy and love, that goodness resides at our core and that anyone can have redemption. Not redemption as some sort of religious doctrine but in the nature of “I was lost and now I am found.”  Grace. Those who have ever been addicted and then found recovery know what I mean.  Recovery is about transformation!  Not a means to an end, but a means to a beginning. That can actually become a foundational tenet of our legal system, and reportedly was during the late 1800’s.

If all we want is punishment have at it, but it becomes an ever-widening pit. Our legal and penal systems are almost entirely based on this retributive form of so-called justice.  What we are looking for is restorative. I’m not against consequences. In some ways, with some circumstances, more consequences seem appropriate, but what is our goal?  To degrade only or to uplift?  This gets to our core belief structures, some unconscious. For those of us who have gotten the Grace of recovery we know hearts can be transformed.

We’re talking about building esteem, based on teaching values/work/career/living skills/recovery and more.  I was not aware, I just learned; this state has 100’s of contracts with businesses to train and hire prisoners as employees.  There are prisoners becoming chefs and leaving prison into full time jobs, including management. Here are 4/2/15  UNC-CH Daily Tar Heel articles on just such services. Scroll down to page 6, “Easing the Transition”

Here’s a link to the Resource Fair for Individuals with a Criminal Record staged by the Capital Area Reentry Council.

NC has resources, and we need to trumpet them. We need to tie them all together and then we can spot what’s missing, filling in the cracks.

Lest this sound “naive” let me state; I’ve been locked up and I went back in and did treatment work in prisons and it’s not easy.  It can be painful. We have dug a deep hole and it seems hard to climb out now, so if you are dubious I understand better than you might know. But this is more than just possible, this is necessary. Our growing prison systems, private and public, are failing us.  Even conservative politicians agree. Here’s a fascinating article on prison reform led by a former law-and-order conservative congressman (who happened to get some prison time) that’s getting major traction.

This is about widening the influence and wisdom of a Recovery Oriented System of Care to include the legal system. This is about win-win scenarios. Our culturally trained dualistic, win-lose outlooks need challenging, which threatens the ego.  It takes courage to forge this better path. It takes courage to constantly orient ourselves towards the truth.

Sufi proverb say, “The heart is the ocean, the body is the beach”.

Thanks for staying open out there,