by Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson
Carolyn Esparza (on the left), shown with conference attendees (right).
On Friday morning, January 27, 2023, we lost one of our incredible advocates for social justice and families and support of the incarcerated. While Carolyn may have transitioned, our beloved friend leaves a legacy and roadmap for advocates to follow.
Carolyn was 80 years young when she passed. Right up to the end point, she was right there adding her ideas and input about how families could be supported through resources, policy, and legislation that promotes holistic healing for families who were physically separated due to incarceration. She inspired DC Project Connect to focus on the big picture while keeping our eyes on the importance of meeting each family where they are. She instilled her advocacy focus and inspiration by assigning Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson, as the Advocacy In Action Coalition (AIAC) in 2015. She wanted all organizations as well as individuals to have a voice and not just a voice, but a sense of agency, knowing that they had self-empowerment.
Carolyn's social worker background influenced and reminded us that to understand the well-being of the family is to understand the uniqueness of each family unit, yet recognize that all families impacted by incarceration were likely experiencing some commonalities. Those common attributes are grief, possible hidden shame, feeling powerless, and dealing with hurt.
Carolyn has passed the torch. We must now light the way for other advocates to forge ahead full speed ahead by focusing on the rights and privilege of being treated with dignity and respect, honoring that most people have experienced some level of adversity long before incarceration devastates their family unit.
We invite you to contact us if you need support. We can make referrals to our partner organizations who are trusted, reliable, and understand your plight. Moreover, if you need to discuss incarceration with your children, contact us, we have resources (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Finally, my friends, as we consider our own legacy and what we plan to do in support of others, let us plan and live according to our desires to leave the world a better place than what we found when we each entered as infants. Truly, in the final analysis, it is not what you can get from the world, but rather what you can give.
Be well, my friends. The road ahead is long, zig-zagged, and not always straight. Just know that the key to learning is in the winding roads' bends and twists. That is where we gain wisdom and growth. Give generously your talent.
I wish you all the best as we travel this road together.
Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson, DC Project Connect, BiblioMethods.