Visiting Angola Rodeo was definitely a memorable experience. Before this event I never had the opportunity to attend. I loved the atmosphere, especially viewing the inmates artwork (very talented) and talking to them because it made me realize that going to jail is definitely a chance for rehabilitation and everyone should have a second chance. I also enjoyed the rodeo, because it was also something I never witnessed, it was not as gruesome as I expected, but I still questioned why would someone ever want to participate! lol But, this was definitely an enjoyable & memorable trip (except the three hour ride home).
I can’t believe what I saw until I really got there. Before going, I can’t help being worried about inmates’ mood and our safety. However, I was shocked by what appeared in front of my eyes as soon as we entered the Angola prison region. Everything is so organized under the specific leadership. The performance, festival and even art business! It is not only a special prison. It is completely a new society!
People, although gifted or somewhat innocent due to being at a young age or some specific reasons, made mistakes and that happens nowadays in such a complex society. Neither taking away their rights without any forgiveness nor letting them go back to our society as if nothing had happened, they created a specific society for them to still communicate with our society, express the other side of their characteristics and realize their dreams and gifts. We can see an innovative leadership and operationalization behind everything. What an impressive trip we did!
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.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the Angola Rodeo and had never even heard of it before helping to plan this trip. Prisoners putting on a craft fair and rodeo is definitely a concept unique to the Louisiana State Penitentiary. My mother asked me if I felt scared or intimidated on my visit-oddly, I didn’t, even though I made friends with a convicted murderer. My biggest take away is that I think it’s easy for people to dehumanize criminals, but we can’t forget that people do change and as the media representative told us, “there is redemption at Angola.”
Yesterday, a group of 8 enthusiastic LSU students and staff traveled to Angola, Louisiana to visit the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola (LSP). We left the main LSU campus in Baton Rouge bright and early at 7:45 am on Sunday morning and arrived at Angola Prison just before the gates opened for the Rodeo and Arts & Crafts festival at 9:00 AM. Students met with Gary Young, Media Relations for LSP where they learned more about the inmate population and the significance of the Rodeo and hobby craft sales. From there, we explored the Arts & Crafts area with a keen eye on speaking with inmates about their talents and hobbies. Students were challenged to think more globally about leadership and how leaders emerge in cultural situations. They were also challenged to consider the juxtapositions of the criminal behavior versus re-entry or rehabilitation. In the afternoon, we tried delicious festival eats like Fried Coke, slushies, catfish, hot pretzals and lemonade before meeting Wardon Burl Cain. Believe it or not, we were luck enough to be a large part of the press conference about the Rodeo! From there, we took our seats for the “Wildest Show in the South” and truly began to understand the draw of rodeo. Although it was a long, very hot day…that ended with over 3 hours of traffic…we all agreed that a wonderful time and great learning experience was had by all!