Last week, in lieu of our annual gala, EJP hosted a virtual Impact Week highlighting EJP alumni and community members.
On Tuesday, EJP was joined by EJP alumni Joseph “Joe Joe” Mapp. Joseph is the Communities Partnering 4 Peace program manager and director of reentry at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago. He recently graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, which he says was possible through the support and guidance of many other returning individuals.
Joseph always loved to read and gravitated toward others who enjoyed reading. From the moment he entered the correction system, he went through several processes of education. Despite engaging with his education before joining EJP, he didn’t get the fulfillment he was looking for.
He found what he needed in 2010, when he was introduced to EJP. EJP courses were not traditional classrooms, with arbitrary regulations and top-down instruction methods. Through EJP he gained new perspectives on his life, both through others’ lived experiences and through pedagogical theories and methodologies that felt relevant to his own experiences.
This was the first time he felt “worthy” of this education, he said.
Although he was challenged by the structure of EJP at times, he said they gave him space to challenge himself.
EJP helped prepare him for leadership roles, Joseph said. “Because of my time at EJP and in its programs like the Mindfulness Discussion Group, I am able to sit in my discomfort,” he said. “I am able to think differently about the power structures that higher-ups continue to produce.”
Joseph believes in ending incarceration permanently, while still aiding those currently experiencing incarceration, especially through outside education initiatives. EJP Director Rebecca Ginsburg asked Joseph what he would recommend for faculty members wanting to start their own education programs for incarcerated individuals.
“I think it’s important to recognize that what sustains EJP is its flexibility,” he said. “I would advise any organization to think about being flexible when you’re in an environment that seems to be a contradiction of everything you’re trying to express or teach or exchange or develop.”
Joseph continues to support his incarcerated community members through his role at Precious Blood. He also sits on the boards of the Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison (IL-CHEP) and Precious Blood.
Since leaving prison, he has enjoyed many adventures, including water skiing, skydiving and parasailing, and is looking forward to bettering his swimming skills this summer. He reports that he is living every day since his release like it’s his second day of freedom.