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Visionary speaker at last year's Be. Choose. Cause Global Leaders Conference, Eldra Jackson III, reflects on inviting change in the new year.
Greetings! As this New Year opens up with a wealth of opportunities to grace and shower us all….depending on our individual willingness to step forward and embrace ‘what is’.
My name is Eldra Jackson III, and I currently represent an organization that I hold near and dear to my soul, Inside Circle. When I speak about ‘opportunities’ and ‘individual willingness to embrace ‘what is’...I am coming from a paradigm of knowing that miracles are not only possible, but they are realities that are present in each moment that I make a conscious decision to choose LIFE.
Inside Circle is a not-for-profit organization that was born out of what many would look at as a tragic situation, in an equally tragic environment, and with people that are too often labeled as the dregs of humanity. In 1996 there was a racial riot in a maximum-security prison involving hundreds of men serving sentences of life plus infinity. This riot sparked something larger than violence going on to beget more violence. This episode touched the heart of a convict, Pat Nolan, who made a choice. Pat Nolan, serving life in New Folsom State Prison in California, made a conscious decision to choose LIFE.
Mr. Nolan chose to step forward and invite change. His ability to grow beyond the restraints of himself and invite change within others contributed to the creation of ‘healing circles’ in a California maximum-security prison. These are the circles where I was able to find my personal freedom while serving 24 years of a life sentence. This is where I found the courage to choose LIFE.
As I think about stepping into a New Year, and the idea of resolutions, I learned that 92% of them fall by the wayside. I think about where I have been and where I am today, not physically, but the places that I have been internal. The places that we as humans, all traverse, and I am positive that anything is possible when I choose. What inspires me to continue to choose and to follow a path that may seem to be persistence, is the gift of connection, both to my own humanity and to that which resides in everyone else.
I am not by far, high on some ideology of a Utopia where everyone is holding hands and singing show tunes. What I am very clear about, is that when I embrace what is the beauty of my own humanity, I have a greater capacity to see the humanity in those around me and that creates a space where the genuine connection is possible. Perhaps we do not agree on things from a host of philosophical perspectives, but we can recognize the places where we have more in common than not.
Additionally, I am passionate about growing our pen pal program. The pandemic of 2020 has served to place our caged community into even deeper confinement. I hope to see us be able to connect more people from this side of the wall to those within the confines of physical prison walls to provide more spaces for human connection. COVID-19 has unfortunately been responsible for causing isolation on top of isolation within our prisons. In California alone, nearly 25% of the population has have tested positive., and as of 12/23/2020, 113 have died due to the disease. Now more than ever, the value of the ability to communicate with someone about hopes, dreams, desires, and fears is something we could all use a bit more of.
Learn more here: at https://www.outsidecircle.org/letters
In 2021, I am interested in the chance to continue the work we do at Inside Circle. The chance to continue to not only empower system- impacted people to effect change from within but to grow our capacity to spread this work and create sustainable career opportunities for individuals with a particular lived experience. The chance to be able to not just put food on the table but live a life of fulfillment and purpose that feeds their souls and contributes to healing our world. As grand as this may sound, I know it is possible. The fact that I am not still rotting in a prison cell and addicted to a criminal lifestyle shows me that anything is possible when LIFE is the choice. The fact that we are able to engage with youth in schools, the community at large, and youth prisons, working to disrupt the school to prison pipeline, informs me that miracles are real.
I am excited about the launch of “The Inside Circle Podcast”, slated to debut on January 15, 2021. With it, we hope to introduce an environment that creates an invitation to dive into what transformation looks like and has been, for individuals ranging from convicted murderers and captains of industry to personal growth leaders and individuals who are simply on a personal path to ‘figure it out’. I hope you all engage in the journey with us on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast media.
Inside Circle is a nonprofit organization. The bulk of our work is made possible by grants and donations. The support from folks, like you, who know and believe that personal transformation is a reality is what keeps our little engine chugging along.
I invite you to visit our website, see our mission in action in the critically acclaimed documentary titled “The Work”, and get involved to help us continue to help others choose LIFE.
Eldra Jackson III is a spiritual warrior who lives a passion of "saving lives one circle at a time." After living most of his life devoid of emotions and coming face-to-face with the reality of dying behind bars, he came to a point of self-inquiry, seeking answers as to how his life had spiraled into a mass of destruction set upon self and others. From this point, the space was made to save his life.
Read more about Eldra »