This past sunday I attended the LEAD Louisiana trip to Angola. This was not my first time to go but it had been quite a while since my last visit to the state penitentiary rodeo. This time my experience was enhanced and my outlook on why I was there. This trip was completely different than any of my other visits. We were there to find leadership! It was everywhere! From the public relations director, to the warden, and the inmates, leadership was clear.
These men have more to their life than lockdown. They are able to express their thoughts feelings and emotion in their artwork. I am an artist myself and it was amazing to see what these men can do! One art that caught my eye was painted turkey feathers! I asked how he painted on the turkey feathers with out them separating. He said ” thats a special secret, if I say how everyone will end up trying to copy me”. Their art is something they prize and finding something unique is a very hard task to tackle, much less keeping it unique to themself.
It was also touching to see the prisoners be able to interact with their family. I saw everything from a prisoner with his mother walking hand and hand smiling and laughing and another walking around with a small child that looked to be his grandchild. These men have hope and that means everything for them.
My favorite part of the day was the rodeo itself. Pictured above is their prayer circle. Before they began the rodeo they pray together. This has been a tradition that was started at the very first rodeo. The rodeo expresses the raw sport that gives them a reason to live. When they fell off their horse or failed to complete their challenge you could see their disappointment in not succeeding. They volunteer to do this and love what they do!
This rodeo and crafts fair is the prisoners chance to support themselves, support their families, give back to society, and leave their mark on the world. It was a fantastic event that taught me that there is leadership in he darkest parts of life.