Mothers Behind Bars: The Parent Puzzle, a benefit event, Sunday, October 27, 2013, 3-5 p.m. at Hillsides, 940 Avenue 64, in Pasadena will raise funds to support the nonprofit organization, Talk About Parenting with Shirlee Smith’s Parent Puzzle classes at California Institution for Women (CIW) in Chino.
In 2010, California State Senator Carol Liu suggested to Smith that her organization take their parenting classes to incarcerated moms. Smith worked with her friend and former inmate Gloria Barrios to redesign the classes the non-profit organization had been offering to the general public for over fifteen years, adapting them to fit the needs of mothers behind bars.
Talk About Parenting classes are in their third year at CIW and are completely filled. In fact, there are over 100 mothers on the wait list.
The event is honoring Marguerite D. Downing, Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court Dependency Division, with the Humanitarian Award. Smith, founder and CEO of the non-profit organization, says the selection of Downing as the honoree, while based in part on the judge’s
impressive contributions and achievements, really came down to learning that in her very powerful position of ruling on a parent’s ability to manage his or her children, she remembers well from where she’s come, and she has the ability to have and display a high level of respect for those families who come into her courtroom.
Downing, founder of the Incarcerated Parents Working Group says, “I am able to separate what these parents have done from who they are.”
Having attended Catholic Schools, Downing credits that experience (she is not Catholic) to her foundation of accepting differences in people and says those teachings have resonated throughout her life. With that religious perspective, coupled with being raised by a single mom who didn’t accept mediocrity, Downing was destined for the important and often life-changing decisions her gavel in Courtroom 407 dispenses.
A graduate of West Los Angeles School of Law and a former public defender, Downing was appointed to the bench in 2007.She is past president of The California Association of Black Lawyers and past president of the California Women Lawyers; she is a member of Black Women Lawyers Association; she also serves as American Bar Association Commissioner.
This prestigious side of her life doesn’t take center stage in an interview. She didn’t mention any of her affiliations when asked what’s gone wrong for children.
She might have answered, as some credentialed folk are known to do, “When exchanging viewpoint with my colleagues blah, blah, blah. . .”
Instead of the above, Downing answered, “They weren’t raised by my mother!”
Speakers for the event include:
- Gloria Barrios, mother and former inmate,
- State Senator, Carol Liu;
- Los Angeles County Supervisor, Michael D. Antonovich;
- CIW Warden (A), Kimberly Hughes and
- Sidney Clifton, Emmy-nominated producer and daughter of acclaimed poet, Lucile Clifton.
Sidney Clifton, known for her work in television and film that reflects her commitment to the standards and philosophies of her parents: telling the truth, empowering the voiceless and being of service, will provide readings from the book written by her late mother, Lucille Clifton, ”The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010,”
Sidney Clifton is president of Sanctuary Enterprises, a Los Angeles-based content development and production company and is currently a production executive with Bento Box Entertainment. She says about parenting: “Give children the tools for navigating a sometimes challenging world which, as parents, needs to be done with honesty, courage, and grace.”
Smith says: “Clifton’s support and interest in sharing her family’s philosophy expressed though her mothers award winning poetry gives this event the same “each one teach one” point of view our Parent puzzle classes are built upon.
Barrios who worked with Smith on the development of the prison classes will share her story of being brought up in foster care, becoming a runaway, incarceration and choices she had to make regarding her children.
Jaylene Moseley, President of Flintridge Center in Pasadena, has been named Honorary Chairperson.
To attend, please rsvp at the organization’s website at www.talkabout parenting.org Or RSVP by mailing $60 donation to Talk About Parenting with Shirlee Smith, P.O. Box 40547, Pasadena Ca. 91114. For further information call 626-296-2777.