Originally published in: Hoy Los Angeles
The dark and isolated days away from people destroyed her; and a mass of people still drives her crazy, but little by little this is changing, as she sees what she has accomplished.
Lily González, who was born in Los Angeles, became a blogger by accident, in fact, when she entered the university she had trouble with her essays. However, her writings on different sites are serving her to encourage others
At 33 years old, the young woman says “It is easy to judge people” on the stigmas involving ex-convicts, a situation which she experienced first hand between 2008 and 2011, but warns that the time spent behind the bars of a cold cell are too heartbreaking to keep dwelling on.
They explained the importance of graduating to me, so that people like me could be represented in university institutions. “– Lily González, a young woman who became a blogger by accident,
When she was 18, Gonzalez forged her mother’s signature, whom she had stopped seeing since childhood. After seven years, they found her guilty of fraud and the sentence was for four years.
“I read it all, even though there were hardly any books” she recalls. In the 23 hours of daily confinement, the works of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende passed through her hands, among other books that her relatives sent to her.
The dark cell turned into torture. The time she spent isolated, caused her, once she regained her freedom, to have trouble retaining information and find it difficult to socialize. “I can’t stand being where there are lots of people, I get frustrated” she assured.
According to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, there are 128,643 people in prison, in California. According to Gonzalez, what the institution least fulfills is the rehabilitation of people nor do they prepare them to walk free.
Due to her background, it was difficult for her to find work. Nevertheless, by knocking on doors, she found help at nonprofit organizations, where she was encouraged to continue her education.
“They explained to me, the importance of graduating, so that people like me could be represented in university institutions”, she commented on the support that La comadre gave to her, an entity based in Monterey Park that assists people to navigate the educational system.
At Homeboy Industries, they also, gave her a job, regardless of her prison record and they provided her with a counselor. In 2016 she graduated with a degree in Chicano Studies, where she counted on the help of Professor Gabriel Gutierrez, who became a mentor.
“One can do it with support, one can not do it alone” she said, regarding the degree she earned at California State University Northridge (CSUN), which served her as inspiration.
Entering college, she was transformed into a window, she said. The ability she developed to write, she used to post on a blog. And so, emerging new texts she wrote, became a catharsis, because in her academic environment she still kept the subject a secret.
“The way in which I was able to pay for my studies was to write” she revealed, indicating that a blog seems simple for her because it flows naturally, but she still has difficulty with her academic essays. “Its funny that I struggled with writing and became a writer” she said, laughing.
Before obtaining her diploma, she said that one day, she stood in a class and told classmates of her experience in prison. Instead of rejection, she found support. And to her surprise, she realized that other people were struggling with the same stigmas as her.
On graduation day, she could not celebrate as was required because of the trauma, she recalls. Today in her first year of her master’s, the words from people close to her have opened her eyes to reach the goals set forth.
“I was afraid [of happiness], but I grabbed life by the horns” she said in colloquial tone.
Due to her experience, she believes we need to break the stigmas placed on people who have been in prison; and instead of criticizing, we should help.
“I’m sharing my testimony because there are people who feel desperate like I felt, and when you look at someone like you, it just helps; It’s not about me graduating from college, but about seeing how a person who was imprisoned can overcome” she concluded.
We are all in this together with you. We want to be a resource for you and for all of the children you love. Whether you need some info or you have info to share, you know where to go…LA Comadre.