Friendships from Around the World in Prison

When I became incarcerated I had limited involvement with people outside of my race. I had such a narrow perspective of the world that it never crossed my mind that there were communities beyond the limits of my environment. I never had the opportunity to travel, visit other states, or see the world.

Interestingly, once I was sent to the Federal Penitentiary I met women from various states, and countries from all walks of life. I was intrigued to learn that so many women were incarcerated and that they were from so many different nationalities.

I met women from Cuba, Africa, and Denmark. I was blessed to develop friendships with women who did not speak my language or share my culture.

I learned so much about humanity during this experience. We were more alike than different, and we shared a common bond that connected us. We were incarcerated, away from our families, and all we had was each other.

Some of my fondest memories are of my Nigerian roommate. She would often share Nigerian dishes with me that she prepared in the microwave. I remember she told me once that it is customary for Nigerians to eat with their fingers at times to get a good taste of the food. I imagined myself sitting on a luxurious rug in a fabulous Nigerian castle eating deliciously flavored, collard greens with my fingers.

Check out: Women missing traditions while in prison.

I had another roommate from Columbia who did not speak a lick of English. We got along amazingly well. Communication is not just about language. That woman was one of the nicest people I ever met. She would cook Columbian dishes and I would eat until I felt like I would explode. That was my best attempt at learning Spanish. My roommate taught me basics like how to greet, ask for food, and say thank you.

The diverse women I met in prison opened my eyes to a world of possibilities and helped squash some stereotypes and myths I had developed.

I used to think that all Spanish-speaking people were of the same nationality. I never thought I would meet a dark skinned Hispanic person. Some of the women in Federal Prison were Haitian, and Panamanian. They were beautiful, vibrant and so much fun to be around.

Two of my best friends were from the islands of Cuba and Jamaica. Who would have ever thought? My friend from Jamaica made the best dumplings, but they could not top the dumplings from my Ghanaian associate. These women could burn in that  microwave.

Women tend to show love by feeding one another, and prison was no different. I’m so grateful to have access to Facebook and to be able to maintain communication with my friends from abroad. I miss them dearly. It’s a blessing to see them prospering and re-connecting with their families.

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About Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

Lashonia Etheridge-Bey is a Public Speaker who can candidly and articulately speak to the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration and the challenges of reentry into society. Read Lashonia's Full BIO Here 

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