No Shackles on This Bus Ride
Sunday, December 3 was an overwhelmingly beautiful day for the residents of A New Way of Life. On the morning of the 19th Annual ANWOL gala, Chanel makeup artists came to the house to provide makeovers to all of the women attending the big event. This exciting experience was the first time that many of the women had ever gotten their makeup done professionally.
“I’ve never even had as much as a manicure in 74 years…so I felt like a movie star,” said Patricia, ANWOL resident.
The celebrity treatment continued for the women throughout the rest of the day. After receiving makeovers, the ladies put on their dresses and rode to the event in a luxurious party bus. The bus was adorned with padded benches, strobe lights, and tinted windows. The women had a blast on the bus singing the lyrics to their favorite songs, snap chatting, and posting videos of the experience on their social media accounts. Thank you Regina Cameron for providing a party bus for our residents to arrive in style.
For Ms. Loretta, the housing coordinator, the sight brought tears to her eyes. “Most of them hadn’t been on that type of vehicle. To know that somebody cared enough to do something like that and to watch them in their freedom was beautiful,” explains Ms. Loretta.
Each ANWOL gala not only celebrates the accomplishments of the past year, but it also serves as an opportunity to celebrate the residents who make up the organization. “Without the women, there is no A New Way of Life. So, to let them know and see that they are important and that there are bigger and better things in store for them is exciting,” said Ms. Loretta.
As soon as they arrived to the L.A. Hotel Downtown, the women made their way to the red carpet where they had their pictures taken and mingled with the other guests of the event.
Some of the residents were star struck as they conversed with politicians and celebrities like honorees Senator Holly Mitchell and Civil Rights Attorney Benjamin Crump and with presenters like Chike Okonkwo from BET’s “Being Mary Jane” and Sheldon Bailey of Showtime’s “Shameless.”
Following the red carpet experience, the women made their way inside of the ball room where they enjoyed a three course meal. During the awards program, Ingrid Archie spoke about the night’s theme of “Progression” and how safe spaces are needed in order for the formerly incarcerated to successfully reintegrate into society.
Grammy nominated singer Angie Fisher’s performance of “Rise Up” brought many attendees to their feet in agreement that we all must stand up for one another.
In the middle of the awards reception our founder, Susan Burton, took the stage and acknowledged the community of supporters who have taken the organization to the next level. This included all of the guests, honorees, sponsors, staff, and ANWOL residents past and present.
“I thought it was nice that different people got recognition for what they do. I can see that the people that work here are committed and enjoy what they’re doing. And what I like is that they totally understand where we’re coming from because they’ve been there and done that,” said Marlene, ANWOL resident.
“We were so mistreated for so many years in prison and to come out and have this kind of treatment is just fabulous and very nurturing. I feel like a kid again in my mother’s arms with Ms. Susan, Loretta, Tiffany, Torri, and all of the ladies,” said Patricia.
The gala day was truly a time of celebration of the women, their freedom, and what they mean to Ms. Burton and her organization. After the event was over, the women boarded the lavish party bus once more and headed back home to continue on their journeys of a new way of life.