I teach classes at a boxing gym and I’m always searching for something new—and hard—to add to a 90-minute workout. That’s how I first heard Coss Marte’s amazing and inspirational story. You owe it to yourself to hear him tell it himself in this TEDxTalk, or better still, read his book. In the meantime, I can give you this 30-second version:
CM was a really, really successful drug dealer. When he went to prison, his doctors said that his health was so poor that if he didn’t change his lifestyle he’d probably die of a heart attack. He was only twenty-four.
So he changed. He changed himself, and he’s been changing people inside and outside of the prison system since then with ConBody: a prison-based full-body workout. Whether the space you have is a gym, a hotel room, a tiny apartment, or a prison cell, CM shows you that a better body is possible if you choose to “do the time.”*
CM chose how he spent his time at Rikers, and he made the choices he could about food, too. And that’s part of the story Michelle Repiso tells in her exhibit “Basic Necessities” opening next week at The Clemente (NYC Lower East Side). In prison, “better food” choices may be pretty limited, but sometimes you can still choose making a burrito with your cellmate instead of silently eating whatever’s served in the mess hall that day.
MR shows through this collection “the mechanisms [three men] employ to sustain their humanity while incarcerated.” Whenever and however we can choose to be ourselves, this is a powerful reminder of how much it matters that we do choose.
*CM also changes lives by employing formerly incarcerated people. Much, much more to say on this topic in future posts.