Thursday, March 5, 2009
Tonight I went over to Interaction/Transition, an ex-offender re-entry program up in the CD, to hear Khalil Osiris, a man who earned two degrees from Boston University during his twenty years of incarceration in Ohio and went on to be one of the nations leading experts on prisoner re-entry and education. He's an amazing presence. A soul-driven soldier of the dispossessed. Brilliant, charismatic, operating from a place of love, and real as a block of granite.
I didn't go as a reporter, but I reached into my wallet twice to scrawl on the back of a bank slip. The first was in response to a question about compassion fatigue in the helping professions. After the usual advice about self-care, he said something brilliant. Listen to people, he said. Really listen. Listen deeply, listen intuitively, and then ask this. "Given that the situation is exactly as you have described, what is the best thing you can do for yourself, and how can I help you." You could see this hit people around the room like lightening. Powerful..
The other highlight was when he described human dignity as a force against reaction and repression. People who truly possess their own humanity, he said, will win. Then he walked over to a re-entry client standing near the wall, took him by the shoulders, and said "I believe in your worth and capacity for good more than I believe in the system's capacity to treat you with dignity." There's a sentence that you can sit with for awhile.
I/T Director Scott Washington and Osiris have a long history of working together, and he gets to Seattle a lot. Next time, I'm organizing him an audience and getting it on video. It's my damn mission. Anyone this good needs to be seriously seen and heard, and the two brief clips I found on Youtube just don't do him justice. I'm there for this guy, anytime.