THE VISUAL LETTER COLLECTION

Developing Emotional Awareness and Intelligence

Written and Narrated by Clifton Gibson
Animated and Directed by Brittany Barrerae

About Clifton:
 
Hi my name is Clifton, graduate of CSULA, now in the social justice non-profit industry. Writing the piece for the animation project was a journey of catharsis and trauma reminding. It feels painful when I talk about the abuse that I suffered but cathartic to release its grip from my heart. Brene Brown wrote that shame is like a fungus only living in darkness, I feel the same way about my painful and shameful moments. When I talk about them they not only help release me from the attachment and hopefully they encourage others to free themselves from their own.

From Letters to Visits in Prison: A Past Relationship Becomes Present Again

Written and Narrated by Thaisan Nguon
Animated and Directed by Nathaniel Trias

About Thaisan Nguon:
My name is Thaisan Nguon and I am 40 years old. I was born in Cambodia and came to America when I was about a year old, give or take a few months. My family and I came to America to escape the Cambodian genocide and although we arrived here with nothing but our names, we carried a lot of baggage. I myself did not experience the horrors of the genocide the same way my parents and older sister did; nonetheless I experienced it in ways that their trauma has manifested through them into me. As the years passed by and they learned how to mask/suppress/deal with their trauma, I was left alone to negotiate a new iteration of the genocide’s trauma. The most vivid impression I have felt from this phenomenon was… not being wanted. This feeling had haunted me my whole life as I trekked down many wrong roads in pursuit of changing the narrative. I wanted to be accepted… I wanted to be valued… I wanted to be embraced… I WANTED TO BE LOVED. That is what inspired me to share my story about rekindled love. Yes, on the surface of the story, it is about me getting back with my ex-girlfriend, but metaphorically, the story represents something bigger than that event. It speaks to the presence of something always being within reach, no matter how many wrong turns were made or obstacles there were to overcome. Whether it be love (romantic or otherwise), reconciliation (with a friend or family), or freedom (be it psychological or physical) our agency as human beings will set us up for that success. It is my great hope that those who view my spoken words will come away with a new lens that will strengthen the optimism and hope that already resides in them. When I wrote this story about rekindled love, my parents and I were years into a dialogue that explored the generational trauma left on us by the genocide; reconciliation was in progress. A year or so after writing this story, the psychological freedom that I possessed through higher education and self-rehabilitation was matched with the Governor’s grant of commuting my life without parole sentence; physical freedom is right around the corner for now. So again, let me say, something is always within reach.

A Lost Child Amongst Lost People

Written and Narrated by Dara Yin
Animated and Directed by Marco Moncada

About Dara Yin:
Dara Yin is a 38 year old Cal State Los Angeles Student. He committed his crime at the age of 18 and is serving a Life without Parole sentence. For the last five years he has been working with youth through a youth diversion program at Lancaster Prison. He is also a dog trainer with Paws For Life. He facilitates various programs to help the incarcerated men find change. Programs such as C.R.T (Community Restoration Training), A.V.P (Alternative to Violence Project), and G.O.G.I (Getting Out By Going In). Embodying change and helping others is how he chooses to live his life new.

I’m Sensory Overload Behind Bars

Written and Narrated by Risala Rose-Aminifu
Animated and Directed by Jazmin Cabrera

About Risala Rose-Aminifu
 
Written and narrated by “Risala Rose-Aminifu”, a 47-year-old African-American undergraduate at California State University Los Angeles, Lancaster campus. This story describes what I sensed at a particular moment inside my cell. I attempted to give the viewer a brief glimpse into my sensory overload within the confines of prison. It depicts what I saw, smelled, and heard at that time. I am a former inmate sentenced to life without the possibility of parole who received commutation in 2018. I am looking forward to finishing up my bachelor’s degree on campus and regaining my freedom in the summer of 2021.

The Three Jewels: My Path to Balance Behind Bars

Written and Narrated by Ninh Nguyen
Animated and Directed by Sheila Lopez and Zoe Kim

About Ninh Nguyen:
I was born in Vietnam. My family fled the country just before the Vietnam War ended. Eventually, my family settled in Orange County, California, where I grew up in the late 70s and early 80s when the community was mostly white. Currently, I’m a student at Cal State LA majoring in communication through the Prison Bachelor College Program.

Growing up I was teased for being Asian and I felt embarrassed of my culture. I don’t feel the same way anymore. Now, I’m proud of my ethnic and cultural heritage. As a member of the silent minority, I think it’s important for people to hear from the voiceless and break the myth of Asian as “The model minority”.

In sharing my story, I feel nervous and excited at the same time. For the first time I feel like I have a voice.

Being Reasonable About Unreasonable Decisions

Written and Narrated by Justin Hong
Animated and Directed by Stephann Lalanne

About Justin Hong:
 
I am a 32-year-old Korean-American born in Los Angeles and have been incarcerated since I was 18 years old. I’m a proud student of Cal State Los Angeles with the passion to help and positively impact others through education and art. I believe in the human capacity to change and that we are not defined by our worst moments.

I was denied parole during the time I was enrolled in Dr. Afary’s class. I was still processing my emotions and my denial when Dr. Afary gave us assignments to journal, according to the week’s chapter. Writing this story was a way for me to cope with the difficult situation and to find peace.

My story represents the redemption process, the good, the bad, and the ugly. While there are many of us who have changed from the person we were when we committed our crimes, it does not mean that we are not still held accountable for all our actions. My story shows the resilience of those who fail when faced with obstacles yet continue to live positive and productive lives while incarcerated.

Sharing such a vulnerable experience was a scary idea. I actually had second thoughts about if I wanted to share this story with the public. However, seeing the effort and care the students took to create and bring my story to life was inspiring. I’m grateful to be a part of this project and to share my story.

Love’s Many Forms

Written and Narrated by Dara Yin
Animated and Directed by Ma.Nadeschka Estocado

About Dara Yin:
 
Dara Yin is a 38 year old Cal State Los Angeles Student. He committed his crime at the age of 18 and is serving a Life without Parole sentence. For the last five years he has been working with youth through a youth diversion program at Lancaster Prison. He is also a dog trainer with Paws For Life. He facilitates various programs to help the incarcerated men find change. Programs such as C.R.T (Community Restoration Training), A.V.P (Alternative to Violence Project), and G.O.G.I (Getting Out By Going In). Embodying change and helping others is how he chooses to live his life new.

Family Views

Written and Narrated by Andrew Kicking Horse
Directed and Animated by Curtis Young

About Andrew “Kicking Horse” McCarter:
Written and narrated by Andrew ”Kicking Horse” McCarter, a 64-year-old Native American undergraduate of the California State University Los Angeles, Lancaster campus.

This narrative describes the turmoil of growing up in the 1960s in East Texas as an economically poor child of color, experiencing the effects of alcoholism in a one-parent family with two other siblings.

Communicating Through Nonverbals and Emotions

Written and Narrated by Duncan Martinez
Animated and Directed by Sandra Delgado

About Duncan Martinez:
 
Duncan Martinez is 50 years old and has spent more than half his life in prison. Despite this, he speaks as frequently as possible, and believes that every voice needs to be heard. About to graduate from Cal State LA, he has never used a cell-phone , and still holds unabashedly to the belief that digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

Finding Common Ground on Prison Grounds

Written and Narrated by Deon Whitmore
Animated and Directed by Stephanie Salas and Vanessa Salas

About Deon Whitmore:
 
Written and narrated by “Risala Rose-Aminifu”, a 47-year-old African-American undergraduate at California State University Los Angeles, Lancaster campus. This story describes what I sensed at a particular moment inside my cell. I attempted to give the viewer a brief glimpse into my sensory overload within the confines of prison. It depicts what I saw, smelled, and heard at that time. I am a former inmate sentenced to life without the possibility of parole who received commutation in 2018. I am looking forward to finishing up my bachelor’s degree on campus and regaining my freedom in the summer of 2021.

Healing Inside Prison: Shedding Negative Feeling About Myself

Written and Narrated by Jeff Ayers
Animated and Directed by Chris Ramirez

About Jeff Ayers:
 
Aside from being a proud member of Cal State LA and the second cohort here at California State Prison, Los Angeles County. I am also the self proclaimed Alpha Nerd (and proud of it!) and diehard Green Bay Packers fan.

I have wanted to be many things in my life, but university student was never on the list. That is ,until 2017, when I seized the opportunity to be part of this groundbreaking Bachelor Degree program. With this part of my academic journey nearly over, I cannot wait to see what the next leg has in store.

Prison Horseplay: A Harassment Issue

Written and Narrated by Larry L. Torres
Animated and Directed by Sofia Roman-Lopez

About Larry Luis Torres:
 
My name is Larry Luis Torres and I'm 37 years old. I live my life in prison training rescue dogs, working towards my BA from Cal State LA and connecting with loved ones. I am learning to be happy finding moments of joy through education, meditation, and being of service to others. After prison, I plan to work with my father, help my mom, hang out with my sisters, and reconnect with my son.

Does Interethnic Communication Apprehension Cause Racism in Prison? A Study of Prison Communication Behaviors

Written and Narrated by Jimmie L. Gilmer Jr.
Animated and Directed by Vanessa Perez

About Jimmie L. Gilmer Jr.:
I was born in Los Angeles, and grew up in the late 70s and early 80s. These decades were the bad times during the drug epidemic that gripped the gang lands of L.A....I grew up between LA and Compton; I had a speech impediment so I did not talk much. Nevertheless, I was an excellent athlete and because of that I was able to stay out of the gang life. I was not a great student. My speech impediment, along with my dyslexia, slowed me considerably. Kids can be cruel. I grew up with both my parents, a rarity in Compton and in LA. I worked with my father. We own a company called G and Sons. A bus charter company, mainly our routes went to Las Vegas, and around the State of California. If I could turn back the clock, I would open up my ears and never close them to what my parents were trying to teach me. Because, if I had listened to mom and dad, I would not have woke up in prison one day, and I would not have been waking up here for the last 30 years. However, even in adversity, I turned it around. I have earned three Associate of Art Degrees, and I am now one semester away from obtaining my Bachelor Degree in Organizational Communication. I am a member of the Leadership Legacy Counsel, a group of men in the prison who actively raise funds for charities and needy organizations within our local communities.   

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