MEND Season 3 - Episode 56

Any One of Us with Caterina Kein & Vanessa Vrtiak

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Awhile back ago, you may remember, I got to speak to my good friend - poet & mother - Therese Fitzmaurice - who is one half of the spoken word collective “A Reason to Listen”, a grass-roots, Humboldt grown poetry collective.  

This month, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with the other half of this force for good in the Universe - ms. Vanessa Vrtiak.  Vanessa is a poet, social worker, and activist. She has self published 5 books of poetry, and is co-founder of A Reason to Listen. She has a MA in Public Sociology, and her thesis is titled: Reintegration in a Rural Community: Strengths, Barriers, and Recommendations for Reentry in Humboldt County.


In the weeks to come, Vanessa will be directing a play here locally on the North Coast.  Her 6th one in total, penned by the prodigious Eve Ensler - this one entitled - Any One Of Us - Words from Women in Prison.  

This play is a a collection of stories from formerly and currently incarcerated women from across the nation whose aim is toward healing, understanding, and change with the goal of using their writing and voices to impact policy, laws and treatment of incarcerated women. Together these writings reveal the deep connection between women in prison and the violence that often brings them there.

I sat down to speak with both Vanessa - and the lovely and articulate Caterina Kein - who has a background in criminal justice and works as part of the philanthropy program at St. Joseph’s hospital in Eureka, CA - and is also one of the actors for this production.  

Together, we spent about an hour talking about the sytemic issues women face both in and outside the system.  The culturall biases and hurdles they face when they go to re-enter society.

And - perhaps - most importantly - what we can do - inside our small, daily actions - to shine a light - and shift the landscape inside this portion of the world.  

We talked about the bridge between Art & Action.

And overcoming & dismantling the narratives we’ve inherited & creating new ones not only for ourselves - but for those who have been caught inside, penalized and degraded by a system - whose aim on paper is said to be that of Rehabilitation.  

But in actuality, can often be anything but.

I urge you to sit with these wise women.

To take a moment to invite their stories to land isnide your heart.

I invite you to carve out an evening to go see this play and to sit inside the brave space that they’ve created for us all to collectively share for the night.

It is inside these spaces we glimpse what is possible.

It is inside these moments, we catch a spark of what can be.  

We open ourselves to new possibilities.

We allow ourselves to be broken open so that something new can be born.

I want to thank these two powerful women for sitting and talking with me for an hour - and for the wonderful work they are doing in our local world.

May these words inspire and hearten you.  

May they do what Art does best - namely - create a catalyst for change first inside your own heart - that fans from there - out into the waking world.