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Daddy's Calling

Life of a Daughter with an Incarcerated Dad

Samog-J Lemon

I didn't have a horrible childhood full of traumatic crazy stuff but it's one of those things that could've been way better with this one thing. If you knew my life like I do it's arguable that things happen for a reason but sometimes you can't help but feel like you know what's best for your [own] life. This thinking will have you in thick sadness. I know not to play with it now. It's better to think more positively or better yet believe and know god helps at times. To be honest, my faith in him coming home was better in my prime youth—7-13 years old—but again we are all human and birthdays and Christmases fourth of Julys pass and you can't help but to wish you can stop time press pause on it all so he doesn't miss anything else. I remember when I was a freshman in high school praying one night and my faith and prayer life were booming then I asked god to bring him home before I graduate so he can see me walk the stage and for a while, I believed that and then I was full of doubt because it's like he's been in there my whole life kinda and it would seem like a miracle and my faith levels went from 100 to 0 in 2 weeks.

I remember my mom picking me up from work one day at 8:00 my feet were pounding and my back was hurting too and my mom said that she had a surprise my mind immediately went to whether my dad was at the house or if I was getting a jeep my heart flustered and I felt happy at that moment I wish I could have squeezed more in but it passed and I was filled with skepticism all I wanted was for it to be true I could almost taste it but we pulled up and I knew he wasn't in the house and I obviously didn't get a new car. As I'm walking up the stairs I was still hoping my dad would be on the other side of my door but its one of those my heart says yes but my brain says no situations and when I open the door and I put my bag down and turn around someone hugs me from behind a woman with a familiar voice my heart can relax and I turn around I see it was Britney my mom's high school friend I hug her and play off my mere disappointment and go on with my evening and didn't think much of it after.

But another part of you will go through this raging madness of what was he doing. Why did he have to go there in the first place and you think its all his own fault and when he calls you pass the phone right to your sister and go start on your homework instead or when he emails you through the cool app they had at the time you leave his paragraphs of sorriness un read you think you're doing the punishing but when you are thinking more clearer you realize he's locked up with nothing but time to think about why he's in their whos fault it is and how he's making everyone feel being in there so I got over that because life's too short and when you finally read his messages you tear up and forgive because god said. Then next day or so you forgive him for real and you take a deep breath and you go on living your little life because time stops for no one.

You talk to him on the phone and hate it when your mom is always right there and asks you dumb questions like do you love your dad or do you want him to come home. You get so mad and annoyed you tear up just enough to feel it but not enough for anyone to see and say “yea of course” or ask the same question back.

The only times I would argue that all things happen for a reason is that they are a couple and couples fight and they get into screaming matches and when my mom gets mad she sees red and or goes black and she forgets you your mother and her uncle. I never heard my dad's side of an argument but I know that he probably gets just as mad. She blocks him and unblocks but I know they will always make up no matter what. I had faith in that more than anything. 

There were some close calls and life ain't over yet but my mother and father have been through everything together and I'm no therapist but I feel like their relationship is stuck in highschool sometimes. But that's neither here nor there.

There is lots of pain that comes with this life I was gifted he's not dead or away on business and my parents aren't split up I talk to him once every two-weeks minimum and it's one of those things I'm embarrassed about because one kids are mean and my mom has never told me or my baby sister what he did to get in there or to go back yes you read right to go back and two it's kinda stereotypical and ghetto but at the same time I'm none of those I’m what my cousins call whitewashed and you can tell by my voice and lingo and mannerisms and there's nothing wrong with those things. Some will say oh you can't act a color but I'm just trying to simplify things here and you know exactly what I mean whether it's sad or not where we are as a society but anyways back to me. I grew up in a majority Mexican part of anaheim for preschool through 5th grade and 6th through 12 in lake forest where it was majority white and that's how I became to be but either way, it's embarrassing, and I never really got asked about my dad by anyone anyway but only talking about my mom. I'm sure they had their assumptions and I told a few of my friends I only tell people who ask or I feel the closest to.

[I’m] currently struggling with my faith right now [because] it has been so long since I've seen him in person and gotten a hug and a kiss from my father [and] it’s hard graduating and going through life getting my first car or my license or even my permit he missed it all everything even though I tend not to dwell on these things like how I can't just scream from my room for him to come here or ask him a quick question I don't dwell but it'll hit you like a ton of bricks when you watch a daddy-daughter movie or see someone at the coffee shop a dad with his daughter whether she is 4 or 24 its brings sadness to me to see and at night I ask for mercy because this is the part where it seems like it is your fault you did something so bad or maybe you were going to do something. You rack your brain to sleep and your face starts to rain but you do so quietly because if your mother knew it would tear her up more than you know.

My single mother, she calls herself a single mother and I didn't get it when I was younger since she wasn't single.She never denied my dad but she acknowledged that he's not physically here to do the raising of me and my sister makes her a single mom. My dad had a say in whether we could get a second hole pierced or hang out that weekend and my dad would always say yes. She did that to make him feel included.

The single mother is the backbone of black society. I don't know if it takes a village but it definitely takes a strong-minded woman even with limited resources and little to no help. She gets on the county she takes the bus with an infant in a car seat instead of a whole stroller in case she gets a ride she gets a job she cares for nothing but this little seemingly ungrateful human. Milk ain't cheap and neither are diapers but she is a good saver.Family helps but she is determined to be independent. She has a plan she couch surfs till the tide cools down and it is nice and neat jingle jingle she got keys to her new apartment and the little human asks if she gets her own room it's me I’m a little human. She cries tears of joy and tells me yea not realizing that I too knew we were couch surfing.Next a car. Now she after an education and a better job, my single mother. Although nobody is perfect I'm glad I was gifted her she’ll never know how many times I stop and think like wow mom could've been a bum or we could've and still could be on the streets. I’ll never understand the woman with so much against her the system included trials and tribulations we all go through some are just stronger than others and think of things differently enough to get themselves through it and on top of it. Not many actually overcome their demons and stuff but I know my single mom made it about me for so long that she never finished her healing. My single mom raised me not in a Gilmore girls kind of way but I am an independent black body with a good strong mindset that is always positive. She also made sure I knew Jesus, the king of all kings.

My single mother I know she loves me but I hope she knows I love her too because in my madness there was a cloud over me the ugliest and heaviest cloud you'd ever seen I went through my own little thing too and for a while she was my scapegoat. Why would she stay I asked why she picked him have she no self-worth but then the rain must stop for the light and the storm is over now I can see clearly now that the rain is gone and I'm happy she stays and continues to show me what real commitment is and what love is and what a real wife is you are your husband's second rock and you have to try to be as solid as his first which is god of course.

I choose not to believe that I the product of a single black mom am not as valuable as anybody else in society I know I'm biased and only have one eye open on this one but it's true and it's how I feel. Everyone she meets touches on how strong she is they are amazed wondering what else she’ll pull out her hat “these are your daughters” they exclaim! she laughs and smiles like she hasn't heard it all before “I thought yall was sisters!” “I can't believe your mom!” yeah me neither she says modestly. The older we got the more they almost didn't believe it or at least that's what they said. When it gets to your so strong I don't know how you do it. That's when I catch a glimpse of her reaction she almost can't believe it herself and in her cornea, I see despair that’s wrapped up in a nice box with a red bow that seemed like you'd want to open it if it were tangible but it wasn't. It had the opposite effect on you a box you didn't want to open to save anyone this box was like a setup. It was very adam and eveie with the snake in the garden the box being the forbidden fruit only eve didn't open or dream of opening it. It was scary and it made me sad. My single mom had to be both mom and dad my whole life robbed of being the mom she probably dreamed of and forced me to take on that dad role. She knew she couldn't fall short this wasn't the phone bill that she forgot she would have to sacrifice this month. Single black moms sometimes get the femininity sucked out of them against their will they forget or they never get a chance to be such it all depends but without that balance it's hard. My single mom made sure that I never had to worry about the behind-the-scenes but she also made sure I knew it wasn't easy out here. We all are gifted with life and behind the gift is a purpose big or small it's all about perception whether it's to solve world hunger or heal others or just bring glory to the king of kings it's all for a reason bigger than us.

Alberto Lule

Alberto Lule uses readymades, mixed media installations, video, performance, and
tools used by agencies of authority to examine and critique the prison industrial
complex in the United States, particularly the California carceral state. Using his
own experiences, he aims to tie the prison industrial complex to other American
political issues such as immigration, homelessness, drug addiction, and mental
health. Lule creates artworks that explore institutional roles as gatekeepers of
knowledge, authorities of culture, administrators of discipline, and executors of
punishment. He is the recipient of the Public Impact Fellowship, Claire Trevor
School of the Arts, UC Irvine, 2022-2023. The 2020 Kay Nielsen Memorial
Drawing Award, The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Alberto received a BA in Art
from The University of California Los Angeles, and is currently pursuing his MFA
from the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at UC Irvine.

Cassandra Flores

Hello! My name is Cassandra Flores and I was raised in South El Monte after my parents’ immigrated from Nayarit, México to East LA. I spent my summers in high school exploring politics and multicultural literature. This is where I began to dissect my own cultural identity through the works of writers like Gloria Anzaldúa and Oscar Zeta Acosta. I find power in vulnerability and confrontation in all types of writing, including music. The lyricism of artists such as Clairo, Natalia Lafourcade, and Lorde foster an intimacy I hope to capture in my own writing. Things that bring me joy include my cat, Kiwi, dancing, concerts, and crafts that stimulate my creativity! As a student at UC Irvine, I study Social Policy and Public Service and I’ve been dancing with Ballet Folklorico de UCI for two years. My favorite poet at the moment is Yesika Salgado. I resonate with her experiences, the bilingualism in her writing, and aim to one day publish my own poetry book.

Tatyana Hazelwood

Tatyana grew up as a low-income, first-gen, African-American, Panamanian and Mexican student in both Orange County and San Diego, CA. She works as a System-Impacted Peer Mentor and an intern for the LIFTED Program. At UC Irvine, she is a Psychological Science (B.A.) and Criminology, Law & Society (B.A.) double major. Being a system-impacted student herself, she had a difficult upbringing and strives to find healing through success in education to end generational sacrifices. She began writing personal poems in her creative writing course in high school but often felt restricted to the conventional rules of poetry. Her works shared in Issue 4 are her most personal and meaningful poems.

Janellee Hernandez

Hello! My name is Janellee and I am a first-generation college student who was raised in a Guatemalan household. I have always loved how art has been a medium (in any form) that allows people to say something without actually speaking. Whether it’s to communicate a deeper meaning or is just there to simply exist. Photography has been something that I have always enjoyed and found that it is my way of self expression.

John Dayot

John Silvan Dayot is a rising senior at UCI studying English. He recently became an alumni of the award-winning nonprofit program Ghetto Film School (GFS). With a background in film, John wants to grow as a storyteller and develop projects with his community of talented friends. He believes art is always growing and is currently inspired by visual arts and capturing real life/people.

Daniel Le

Daniel Le is a third year student studying psychology with a minor in digital arts. Originally from Cerritos, CA, he enjoys exploring new things with friends, making spotify playlists, getting tattoos, and immersing himself in his Vietnamese culture.

Dontaye Henderson

Dontaye Henderson was raised in Atlanta Georgia and now resides in San Diego, California. He attends UCI studying to earn his BA degree in Sociology. His inspiration comes from his children and loving mother. He desires to use his education to help aid the struggling youth in society as a mentor. He enjoys writing poetry, reading, drawing, and cooking. He is grateful for this opportunity with furthering his education with UCI and plans to be the best version of himself towards everyone he meets.

Victor Lopez

My name is Victor Lopez. I am an incarcerated student at Richard J. Donovan State Prison. Serving a life sentence does not give a father much room to be a positive role model. Educating myself to motivate my daughter Arriana was the best that I could do. My past actions does not define who I am, with or without my freedom, I will contrive to be a better man.

Martha Trujillo

Martha Coral Trujillo is a 28-year-old currently attending Fullerton College to obtain a Paralegal Certificate after having completed a Master's Degree in Criminology, Law and Society. Martha's goal is to become a Criminal Lawyer and to continue to work with supporting youth at risk. Martha continues to write in journals and is currently working on Journal 33. Martha's passion for assisting and serving underrepresented youth has been the motivation for her to continue to reach higher and do more in the Justice System.

Patrick Acuña

Patrick was born in San Gabriel, California but was raised by the carceral system. After three decades of incarceration, he is the first member of UCI’s LIFTED (Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Educational Degrees) to transition to campus as a first-generation senior with an emphasis in Psychological Science and Criminology, Law, and Society. When Patrick isn’t on campus, he volunteers with Guide Dogs of America where he trains dogs for children on the autism spectrum and veterans managing PTSD and/or overcoming combat related mobility impairment. His other passions include backcountry hiking, working out, and traveling. He’s recently returned from a 30-day cross country road trip where he slept on the sidewalk of New York’s Time Square, a back-alley doorway in DC, and the parking lot of a Las Vegas Cracker Barrel.

Yuzhou Michael Ju

Yuzhou Michael Ju, a second-year Sociology major at UCI, is an international student who was born and raised in Chongqing, China. He completed his entire K-12 education in China before coming to the U.S. for college. Yuzhou is particularly interested in immigration studies, with a focus on Chinese Americans. Whenever he visits a Chinatown, he feels curious about the people there: what motivates them to move to a distant place, and how do they establish new homes in an unfamiliar country? First-generation immigrants, in particular, must have made significant commitments to their entire families in order to support the future of their offspring. In his free time, Yuzhou dedicates most of his time to volunteering as a tour guide at art exhibitions or historical relics museums in Chongqing. He guides visitors through exhibitions showcasing Dunhuang Buddhist murals and shares the history of Chongqing's role as the War Capital of China during WWII.

Feliz Aguilar

Feliz is a disabled, non-binary, first-generation, Latinx creator proudly hailing from the East Side of Salinas, CA. They recently graduated from UC Irvine in June 2023, double majoring in Literary Journalism and International Studies. Their passion for learning and experiences as a first-generation student inspired them to question the accessibility of post-undergraduate higher education, leading to the piece featured in this issue. The people fighting injustice around the world are their greatest inspiration, and they hope to continue standing in solidarity with those resisting oppression globally — whether in writing or on the ground.

Helena San Roque

My name is Helena San Roque. I’m a third year Literary Journalism major at UCI. I wrote my piece “Azat Artsakh, Free Us All'' as a nod to my Armenian heritage. However, it’s more than that— it wasn’t until college that I learned about the broad anti-imperialist struggle across various nations in Latin America, Palestine, Armenia, the Philippines, India, etc… In this piece, I talk about Armenia and Palestine: in 2020 the Artsakh war broke out after a decades long armistice between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Israel, which has committed grave atrocities against Palestine, continued to support Azerbaijan in their unjust war against Armenia, resulting in capturing Armenian territory in a trial of human rights abuses. But when your father’s homeland is attacked, what can I, an “American” college student, do? For me, to truly help emancipate my people, the answer was to get educated and organize.

Guadalupe Parra

Guadalupe is a first-generation student majoring in History with the goal of becoming a teacher. She was born in a tiny town in Jalisco, Mexico, and moved to the US with her parents when she was three. She grew up in the San Fernando Valley, surrounded by Mexican culture, and uses that as inspiration in her poetry.

Mariah Rosario

My name is Mariah Rosario and I am a UCI 2022 graduate and alumni. The following portfolio I submitted is my college senior thesis I submitted for my final. It depicts my story of self-emancipation and finding myself through independence and trauma.

Makyla McLeod

Makyla is a Black, first-generation student born and raised in North Carolina. She is currently entering her 3rd year in undergrad with a double major in International Studies and Literary Journalism. As the author of "I Educate", Makyla looked to voice not only her personal experience as the oldest child in a southern Black household looking to further her education, but to also pay homage and express gratitude to the village that continues to help her get there. In her free time, besides writing, she enjoys listening to music, reading, playing video games, and watching horror movies.

Serenity Thu Ritchey

Serenity is a third-year English major from Garden Grove, CA. She has a soft spot for poetry, among other things, like honeycombs, and the color green. She thinks words are pretty sweet and wants to believe in them. (Sometimes she does).

Josie Bitnes

Originally from Washington, Josie is a second year criminology, law, and society major seeking a literary journalism minor. She plans on attending law school to become a criminal defense attorney. In her free time, she skis with UCI’s Ski and Snowboard club and enjoys playing guitar, reading, and being outside in nature.

Corbin Li

Corbin is a first-generation college student studying Civil Engineering at UC Irvine. Growing up in California, they fell in love alongside Pacific air, late night guitar, and bonfires at the beach. Corbin’s passions lie in the intersection between engineering, art, and society, and they look forward to further exploring these topics in future years.

Erik Perez

First and foremost my name is Erik Perez and I am 20 years young. I am an artistic expressionist and Chicano artist. I’m from Southern California where we dream big and plant seeds for the world to flourish.

Francisco Vazquez

My name is Francisco Vazquez and I am 20 years old from the city of Santa Ana–that’s the place I call home. I’ve been in and out of the Orange County Juvenile Hall since the age of 14. I’m on my way to prison and I’m in a different mindset than the one I had 2 years ago when I first got here. In here I like to read, draw, and work out. I got a hidden talent which is to sing and I would like to pursue that upon release. I attend college here and I try to be a role model for my peers. In the future I hope to give back to my community, which I used to terrorize at some point.

Helen Barahona

Helen Barahona recently graduated from the University of California, Irvine (‘23). She double-majored in Political Science (Honors) & Sociology and over the summer she interned in DC with the Shadow Topics team as a research intern at the Political Violence Lab. Prior to working with the lab she served as a student assistant at the UCI Basic Needs Center, and as the managing editor for LUCID through the Dream Project Fellowship. During her free-time she likes to read, write, paint, rate movies on letterboxd and go bike-riding!

Jaaziel de la Luz

I am from Veracruz, Mexico and currently a second year math PhD student at UCI. I enjoy writing, reading philosophy, skateboarding, learning languages, traveling, hiking, jogging, sketching, and doing research. I am passionate about community building and exploring the world.

Juan Jimenez

My name is juan jimenez. 
I’ve been incarcerated for 
just about 5 yrs. In the 
midst of this quest, I’ve 
developed a hobby!
             I’m a writer 
from the ghetto! Don’t you 
disregard my message . . .
Told them all that made me 
feel like I was less than: 
             Here’s a little bout my story. Not a boy. I know 
             I’m destined

Pablo Ramirez

My name is Pablo. They also call me Pablito. At this moment Im placed in JH. In here I’ve learned many things about myself and my surroundings. I’ve learned how the brain works and how trauma affects your thinking. Right now I’m going to high school at the moment. Ima graduate in December. Im excited because I want to go to college. I used to be wild. I didn’t care about life Itself. All I cared about was putting in work for my hood and shit like that. that was me out there. In here Im more calm kick back. I’m changing. This change Im doing is mostly for my family. They need me out there to support them emotionally and financially. I [used to be] the man of the house. At a young age I would work hard and pay my jefa for rent. [My mom] would struggle and that bummed me out, but there were also times where I shit where I slept. Now Im focused on getting my education and learning new stuff every day. Im more open minded. When I get out me voy a poner las pellas to work hard to buy a house for my lil family. I want to be a welder. I wanna learn the art of welding. Im a hands on person. Im thankful for everything I’ve been through. It taught me a lot.

Samog-J Lemon

I am a current student at Irvine Valley College and I'm majoring in communicative disorders. I was born in Anaheim. I love spending time with family and friends; as I got older I realized how important that was. I am a Christian and go to church with my great grandma every Sunday. I like to write poems on the beach; it’s my new way of clearing my mind. I actually do write now to clear my head, something I would’ve never knew I liked but I find therapeutic.

Allan Plata

Born in City of Orange, Ca., my family and I have moved from room to room. Eventually my mother was able to afford an apartment of her own. I always lived in rural areas in the same city then eventually I would get involved with the people in my environment. Father was in and out the picture due to negative habits and mother was either busy or would put her priorities before her own children. My sister was a second mother and also a friend that would try to guide me to do better things for myself, though I was stubborn and didn’t want to listen to what others had to say.

Rachael Collins

Rachael has been an educator and teacher of writing in the California Community College system and at UCI since 2005. A proud homeschooled student, CCC transfer and UC graduate twice over with a PhD in early modern poetry, Rachael is committed to curriculum design that focuses on providing high quality, innovative, and democratically-centered writing instruction to disadvantaged learners, including those who are limited to online learning environments. Drawing upon the multidisciplinary, multimedia work published in Lucid, Rachael's courses focus on the transformative potential of personal writing in higher education. She thinks that when students are given the space and the tools to express themselves, they write beautifully.

Ryan "Flaco" Rising

Ryan Flaco Rising, West Coast Credible Messengers Director and PhD candidate in Criminology Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine, leverages his personal experience as a formerly incarcerated individual to assist others transitioning into higher education at UCI. His research focuses on creating pathways for formerly incarcerated individuals in higher education and analyzing the evolution of related programs. Ryan's advocacy, including founding the Gaucho Underground Scholars Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has played a pivotal role in expanding similar programs across UC campuses. He has received prestigious awards for his work and authored pieces in various publications, showcasing the power of formerly incarcerated individuals in producing innovative solutions and sustainable pathways for their communities, encapsulated in his 'Organic Leadership' theory.

Lisandra Rising

Lisandra is an Undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine majoring in Social Policy and Public Service with a focus on Education. Lisandra serves as the Recruitment Coordinator for the Underground Scholars program at UCI. She is also part of a blended family and lives with her son and daughter who are both 14.

Mia Voloshin

Mia is a Freshman at University High and plays indoor volleyball. On her free time, she enjoys being with her friends, shopping, and going to the beach. She eventually wants to pursue college courses before and after she graduates high school.

Riley Rising

Riley is originally from Montana and moved to CA last year in eighth grade. He is now a Freshman at University High and is involved with jiu jitsu and wrestling at his high school. Riley enjoys skateboarding and free-styling on his free time. He wants to join the marines after he graduates.

Pedro Nieves

Pedro Nieves is a UCI alumni who graduated with a Bachelor's degree in the Arts. Born in Puebla Mexico, he immigrated to the U.S. at 2 years old. After getting involved with the Dream Center and Underground Scholars Initiative, he’s now passionate about advocating for underrepresented communities by using his photography and video production skills. He hopes to become a skilled photographer and creative and looks forward to applying to graduate school to further hone his artistic abilities and create a name for himself in the art world.