“I passed Bilal while rushing into Berkeley Bowl today (I really really had to pee). He said something about supporting re-entry jobs in gardening and permaculture for the formerly incarcerated, and fighting recidivism — my ears + heart perked up. “I’ll catch you on my way out!”
When I walked out, Bilal asked if he could tell me his story. I felt immediate tenderness and love for him. “Yes, please.”
He told me it was his 72nd day as a free man. He’d been incarcerated for 20 years, beginning at age 17. 17. So. young. His (beautiful) Planting Justice script fell away as we stood looking teary eyed at one another. He told me the world felt like a whole different place than when he’d last seen it – that emerging was like time traveling or going to another planet.
I asked how his heart was feeling. He told me he’s not bitter, but grateful for the opportunity to be part of this world, and to be a light in it. His sweetness cracked my heart open.
I believe in him, and am so grateful that organizations like Planting Justice, which has been his employing him for 71 days, exist to support the incredibly difficult transition he’s experiencing in such a holistic and loving way. Planting Justice is one of many reasons I absolutely love living in the bay.”