â€œEveryone has their own story,â€ Gloria Killian, founder of ACWIP said after the event. â€œ Whether itâ€™s a woman in prison or a woman with Parkinsonâ€™s both stories tend to get overlooked but tonight each personâ€™s story was resembled through dance.â€
Lineage Dance Company hosted a benefit for the Action Committee for Women in Prison (ACWIP) at their studio. Hilary Thomas, artistic director at Lineage danceâ€”a nonprofit that raises funds for other nonprofitsâ€”took us on a journey of stories told by dance. The first two dances of the night were inspired by Hilaryâ€™s first meeting with Gloria.
â€œEssentially the show that were doing, I wanted to highlight the strength of women and one of the pieces is about the anger I imagine she was feelingâ€¦ I heard her story and thought it would embody what I would imagine she experiencedâ€ Hilary said.
Gloria Killian has devoted her life to helping women who are incarcerated, either fairly or unfairly. She was wrongfully arrested and charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison for a crime she did not commit. She spent 17 years in prison as an innocent person and only managed to get out thousands of dollars later. She has now been out for about 10 years.
â€œAnd Iâ€™m really one of the lucky ones, I mean there are people who will really never get out,â€ Gloria said.
The proceeds of the night, ACWIPâ€™s first official fundraiser, will go to the general fund of ACWIP, but particularly to advocate for two women who may be close to getting out of prison. One of these women is Glenda Virgil, a woman who has been diagnosed with stage four cancer and has been denied permission to leave prison to pass away in her own home among family.
The stories like hers are unending. The ten percent of people in prison who are violent are the ones everyone hears about on the news and seem to â€œdeserveâ€ a jail sentence. However, the other ninety percent of women and men in prison are nonviolent and do not pose a serious threat to society, according to board member Beth Brown.
â€œYou have no idea how much time, effort, and money we are wasting on locking up practically everybody in the state of California.â€
Linda Lee Smith Barkmanâ€”an event attendeeâ€”was in prison for 30 years and was released about two years ago because of the hard work of her dear friend Gloria. Since she has been out of prison, she says that â€œLife just gets better and better.â€
Linda is just one of the success stories of ACWIP. She recently got her masterâ€™s of theology at Fuller Seminary where she met the love of her life: John Barkman. Their very first date was to lineage dance studio so this night had brought their relationship full circle. They will be celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary in march. John laughed saying â€œIts easy to take her on a good date, it doesnâ€™t take much to impress her.â€
Besides directly advocating for women in prison, the organization thinks of ways to lift the spirits of the women in prison. They send about 2000 Christmas packages each year.
â€œAnother life goes on behind those prison walls. This is just something I can do and enjoy doing it.â€ Board member and event coordinator Carole Babcock said.
The entire night was full of stunning performances, but Maryanne Moses and Austin Ray danced a truly unforgettable number to Unforgettable by Nat King Cole.Â Maryanne participates in the dance class created for people like her with Parkinsonâ€™s at the Lineage Dance Studio.Â Austin Ray is a dance instructor who is still in high school and helps at the class that takes place on Wednesdays.
Maryanne simply dazzled the crowd as she danced with a joyful sparkle in her eyes with grace and agility. The duoâ€™s deeply moving performance brought a tear to every eye in the audience.
Tune into Gloriaâ€™s Blog Talk Radio called â€œFor Justice Nowâ€ on Tuesdays or check out her book Full Circle: A true story of Murder, Lies and Vindication for more information. You could also visit their website acwip.net.
One way for women to get involved with ACWIP is to join their pen pal operation by befriending women in prison through anonymous or identified letters. Board member Jeanne Pieper has 42 women from five prisons around the U.S. waiting for a pen pal. Even women from overseas take part in encouraging 639 incarcerated women. Only women over the age of 18 can participate. For more information email Jeanne@pieper.com.
For more information about lineage dance go to http://www.lineagedance.org.