The Forum ‘rises’ with stories of legal hardship

A young mother is standing with her son Anthony. Already running late, she rushes him into the car and drives him off to school. On the way, he asks when his daddy will be coming home.

“Pretty soon,” his mother Josie says. “Daddy will be home soon and we will all be one big happy family again.”

After dropping Anthony off, Josie calls his father.

“Anthony asked about you today,” she says. “He misses you. I do, too.”

Josie breaks down into tears. She gets a call from her boss, who yells at her for being late. She promises to rush. Josie must pull herself together through the tears and get to work. There is so much to do, and no time to break down now.

Finally, she makes it to work.

She stands center stage. “And that is just one morning,” she says.

This was just one of the scenes portrayed on Tuesday night in the McCarthy Center forum when Framingham State hosted “And Still We Rise.”

As part of Framingham State University’s Arts & Ideas program, the production was brought to the campus to show the realities of life after incarceration through dramatizations of personal experiences and informative talks. While only one of the women on the cast had actually been in jail before, the other members face the reality of living a life with a loved one behind bars.

The program manages to take personal, gripping stories about accepting the realities of incarceration, and portrays them in a meaningful manner to the audience. It brings theater and reality together to try and shine a light on the corruption of the legal system and spark a change.

“Right now, there are over 11,000 people locked up – men, women and children,” said Kimberly Smith, one of the women on stage and assistant director of the production.

Lois Frazier was another one of the women who shared her story with the audience. She started her story by reenacting a phone call from her daughter, who told her that her estranged son had been arrested. Devastated and in a panic, Frazier explained how she had to go shopping for a nice outfit for court for a son who she had not seen in years.

“I had to remember to not take the tags off, because I knew they were only going to be worn once,” she said. “I felt like I was buying clothes for a corpse.”

Her son was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Reenacting a visit to her son in jail later on, she explained her disgust in having to be searched and examined just to see her own family. Inside, the visit went no better.

Instead of excitement to see his mother, her son began asking her for money.

“I need you to do me a favor,” she said, mimicking her son’s voice. “There’s this guy and I owe him money.”

In complete outrage that she had not seen her son in months and here he was asking for money, she stood up and left him, feeling sad and empty, she explained.

Smith spent three years sitting behind bars at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution, located here in Framingham.

“Some people are criminals and some people are just straight up bad, but some people just made a bad choice. The system is not just,” she said. “There needs to be a difference in how these people are treated, and there needs to be change.”

Sophomore Brendan Fay said, “It was a good performance. They did a really good job, and it was cool to hear their stories.”

Senior major Brittany Allard said, “I was actually pretty surprise by the performance. The ladies in the group did an awesome job portraying all these different stories, and it almost wasn’t as if they were acting at all. It was a pretty powerful performance overall.”

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