Artist Nicole Buffett's new collection of paintings, entitled Council of..., was inspired by, and benefits the work of Center for Council.
In this video interview, Nicole discusses this new work with Center for Council Executive Director Jared Seide:
Efrain's Journey: Beyond Us & Them
My name is Efrain Ortiz. I am the Program Assistant with Center for Council, but most importantly I am an example of what transpires when one engages in the practice of council.
I believe in life you don’t merely stumble across opportunities by chance. I was first introduced to council while serving a 12-year sentence inside of California State Prison-Los Angeles County, in Lancaster, California, where I worked as a clerical assistant in the
main office. I was in charge of typing up incidents and rules violation reports. I already had my share of violent experiences, but working inside the main office I got to witness how violent and disruptive prison really is, as I had a firsthand view of every violent incident which took place in our facility. Our yard was one of the most violent, high-security facilities in the state of California at the time. We lacked resources and support with only two self-help groups (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous) which rotated every Saturday, until Center for Council came along.
It was here, in the circle created by Center for Council, where we as individuals had the opportunity to sit amongst other men and both speak and be heard with regard. We learned the four intentions of council: speak from the heart, to speak from that sacred place where often I wouldn’t share with just anyone; listen from the heart, something I continue to work on as it is often times the forgotten half of true communication, holding my judgement or my need to resolve; be spontaneous, allowing yourself to say what arises at the given moment that the talking peace is in your hand; be lean, so others have a chance to share their stories, and I found that often I learned more about myself through the stories of others.
To be able to get to this point was no easy task. I was sitting in a high security, level four prison with men who have committed some horrible crimes. But in the council circle, I was no longer sitting with those boys from back then. Through practice, we began to trust each other as the stories got deeper, the layers we began to peel off revealed the hurt we suppressed for many years. We began to connect to one another through our shared stories, as we connected the dots to our past, understanding those traumatic experiences and how they led us to a tumultuous life. The amazing thing was, we started to look at one another as human instead of by race, gang affiliation or moniker.