Controlling our narrative: The UBF 100 Prisoner Book Publishing Project

by Ivan Kilgore, UBF Founder

Incarcerated people experience feelings of being misunderstood and trapped and, as a result, we feel voiceless. When we cannot speak the words we truly wish to say, we turn to poor substitutes. As well, the state propagates the stereotype that we are monsters – a stigma many seldom overcome.

Across the nation, the Departments of Corrections purposely redirect our resources away from our communities, causing many to become dependent on prison slave work (i.e. jobs). It is through identifying these aspects of prison life that our inspiration for the “100 Prisoner Book Publishing Project” became a reality. By taking control of our own narrative, we can counter these stereotypes and have our voices heard. Our written words, therefore, become our voices, and our publications become a way to take control of our lives both economically and socially.

After spending close to two decades in prison, I have come to know many incarcerated men and women who truly want to give back to their communities and, as the founder of the United Black Family Scholarship Foundation, I am honored to announce we are now accepting manuscript submissions from incarcerated authors. See more below.

I remember like yesterday the first time I published a book from behind prison walls. When I held it in my hands, I realized these walls are more mental than physical, and if I could not be on the outside physically, I could bring the world to me, and mend the community from the inside with my words. I could do it!

The answers were right in my hands in the form of my own book, “Domestic Genocide: The Institutionalization of Society.” Having personally experienced this, I wanted to provide the sense of accomplishment I felt to other men, women and children who face the same everyday circumstances I live in.

“Perhaps first you learn to allow the page to take yourself out of your prison cell.”

Over the years, where I have taught in a “Writers Room Workshop” in California prisons, I explain:

“You have to be willing to go deeper than the person on the street. You have to take them for a ride on which they cannot take themselves. So unlike acting, you have to go into yourself to bring out the real you or other characters within you that feel real and also need to come out. It’s just an amazing process when done well. And perhaps first you learn to allow the page to take yourself out of your prison cell. But after many tales, you learn to take others on that same ride. On the backs of our words.”

As a result of my writings, I now have the opportunity to express to the many people I have met, including professors, students and UBF volunteers, that people in prison have voices the world needs to hear. These are people who strive to do something good for the communities from which they hail. Let’s show them how to fulfill that good with the power of words and publishing!

Additional submission information for the ‘100 Prisoner Book Publishing Project’

Please refer to the United Black Family Scholarship Foundation manuscript submission advertisement for guidelines, deadline and address information in the San Francisco Bay View newspaper.

“We are bringing to life the stories of our voiceless – those hidden from society – by publishing their untold stories in the hopes of discovering real solutions to the constant struggles our communities face. For years our focus has been on identifying the issues and problems. It’s time to write words that carry forth messages of solutions for change, and put them into action through our organizational structure for a better today and tomorrow.” – Ivan Kilgore, UBF Founder

As you can imagine, these endeavors take a lot of hard work and can be costly. We appreciate any donations, and welcome volunteers who are willing to help see our foundation grow! If you are interested in volunteering, please contact us at ubfscholarshipfoundation@gmail.com. To donate, or for more information about the organization and our programs, visit our website at https://ubfsf.org.

Thank you!

In Solidarity!

Send our brother some love and light: Ivan Kilgore, V31306, CSP-Solano, P.O. Box 4000, Vacaville, CA 95696.