My name is Deedee Kirkwood. I am a 68 year old mother and grandmother living with my husband, a retired plumber, in Camarillo, about an hour north of Los Angeles where I grew up. I am lucky enough to have a son and daughter who live close by with their families.
As far back as I can remember, I've had a very strong inner voice that let me know there was something inside me that needed to come out. I didn't have a clue what it was so I began experimenting with different forms of self-expression. By my 20s, with no obvious artistic talents being revealed, I started writing. I wasn't a natural at putting scattered thoughts into flowing words but nonetheless I became a determined writer with my life's experiences taking center stage. There were years of writing I wanted to give up completely, but giving up on my work-in-progress would have meant giving up on my higher self, in a spiritual sense.
In 2003, a neighbor encouraged me to bring my words to life on stage. Without a budget, plan or experience, I rented a small theater in West Hollywood for two weekends, hired a director and crossed my fingers that my stage play PEACE FOR POT would be presentable, even though I knew in my heart that the ending was not yet the real ending. Luckily, I got a good review from a drama magazine and a thumb's up from High Times which was enough of a positive response, along with my irrepressible internal drive, to keep me going.
Then in 2011, a friend encouraged me to put my play on in Berkeley, this time with a name change to TOKE. Once again without a budget, plan or having learned from experience, I rented a small theater and hired a director. But as fate had it, just as the director started directing in Northern California, my mother fell ill in Southern California where I needed to remain until after the funeral. Consequently, I saw my play for the first time the night before opening night and without my knowledge or permission, the trusted director changed the ending to one she felt was more 'politically in sync with Berkeley', which despite my initial freak out and bruised ego, actually furthered my soulful journey to connect with the real ending. Luckily, I got a good review from a San Francisco newspaper. On closing night, someone suggested I put on my play in the state's capital.
I had never been to Sacramento before, but in the summer 2012, with a cousin's couch to call home, I rented a cheap theater and hired a director. The theater was cheap because there was no air conditioning with triple digit temperatures inside and out. There were barely enough actors available to fill the roles and barely an audience willing to withstand the heat. But the show went on with thanks to some random activists I met at an Americans for Safe Access meeting I attended to publicize my play and hand out free posters. One member I met, Patrice Mahoney, helped me nightly with the box office and hosted an afternoon tea in her apartment with like minded individuals she knew from face book.
To my devastation, several of these individuals that came to the tea were victims of the drug war with court cases pending for cannabis only related offenses, some involving separation from their children. I had no idea how bad it was. Hearing their horrific testimonials first hand was shocking and triggered that something inside me.
It was at this same afternoon tea in 2012 where enthusiastic Tom Korby (thanks, Tom!) introduced me to an organization called The Human Solutions, a community fighting to end prohibition through education, court support and letter writing to cannabis prisoners to let them know they're not forgotten. I had never joined a group in my adult life but my heart instantly went out to these non-violent men and women and their families, especially when I learned there are over 50 cannabis prisoners currently serving LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE. I joined.
In response, that something inside me was replaced with a passionate activism directed toward shedding light on this dirty little secret of the justice department. It's hard for the public to get outraged over an issue when they are not even aware of it. I have finally identified my higher calling with the help of Joe Grumbine and The Human Solutions International. I am very grateful for the inspiration. Feeling blessed.Read more