From the Editor

I welcome your submissions to Hourglass Journal

Please reach out to me with ideas about nonfiction, poetry, fiction, short documentary films, podcasts, artwork, or any other creative endeavor. Our team will support your project throughout the publishing process.

Kathryn Higinbotham,

Letters from the Editor

Fall 2023: Continuing Eduction

From guest editor and Hourglass writer Dominique Harris

Dear friends and fellow scholars,

As a guest editor for this special issue, I am humbled and excited to guide you through a transformative exploration of praxis and secondary education within the prism of our worst experiences. In these pages, a group of unlikely scholars come together to share the wisdom gained from a strenuous path. With confidence, they intensify their voices through ink, so that their account resonates with those who have walked beside them and those who have yet to take their first steps on the journey of discovery. These writings celebrate the fusion of theory and practice, the praxis that empowers us to apply what we’ve learned and create meaningful change in our lives.

The spirit of Victoria Gaines’ narrative is centered around facing and overcoming fear. Victoria exemplifies the transformative journey of an individual who, despite initial setbacks and traumatic experiences, found the courage to persevere and develop new skills. This story embodies the essence of praxis and continued education for an incarcerated individual, as it illustrates the process of learning, making mistakes, experiencing fear, seeking guidance, and ultimately growing because of these experiences.

 As James Jones chronicles his story of self-improvement and self-discovery through education; It reflects the transformative potential of learning, highlighting the author’s determination to break free from negative influences and redefine himself as a seeker of knowledge, challenging societal stereotypes and embracing hope for redemption. James’s story underscores the connection between praxis, or putting his learning into practice, and continued education as the keys to his personal transformation. Through education, he found his path to self-improvement and resilience, ultimately defining himself as an individual who seeks knowledge and opportunities, challenging stereotypes, and rejecting the label of a “monster.”

 Jonathan Mejia’s piece is one that embodies the essence of resilience and determination in the face of opposition, emphasizing the transformative impact of education. Mejia’s narrative underlines the importance of overcoming challenges to pursue opportunities for learning and self-improvement. It directly relates to the themes of praxis and continued education by showcasing the author’s commitment to turning opposition into an opportunity for personal growth.

Ladji Ruffin’s account is driven by the motivational forces of self-education and personal growth, highlighting the transformative effect of learning in a challenging environment. The author’s journey from early exposure to education through their mother’s values to self-driven literacy and vocabulary development reflects the theme of continued education and praxis, highlighting the author’s path to self-improvement, self-expression, and a deeper understanding of the world. The passage illustrates the significance of self-education and the transformative effect it had on the author’s life, even in the challenging environment of incarceration.

Tomas Hernandez creates an atmosphere of internal prosperity and intellectual enlightenment through education. The narrative showcases the author’s journey from academic struggles to embracing interactive learning, fostering critical consciousness and personal transformation. Hernandez highlights the importance of dialogue, interactive learning, and the exchange of ideas, which align with the principles of praxis and critical consciousness as emphasized by educators like Paulo Freire. Ultimately, it showcases how education, even in challenging circumstances, can be a powerful tool for personal development and transformation.

Overall, these narratives collectively underline the transformative power of education, regardless of the challenges and constraints faced within the prison system. They showcase the themes of personal growth, resilience, and hope, highlighting the profound impact of continued education and praxis in the lives of incarcerated individuals. These authors have used education as a tool for self-improvement, self-discovery, and transformation, emphasizing the enduring power of learning within the context of incarceration.

Thank you for joining us on this journey, as we come together through the language of praxis and secondary education, creating a new narrative of hope, determination, and the pursuit of knowledge. Thank you in particular to each author for their contributions, and to Joe Boris, who donates his time and talent to capturing Hourglass‘s author portraits.

With gratitude and determination,

Dominique Harris

Summer 2022: Influence

This issue, Hourglass Journal centers on our influences. The four authors—Michael Clark, Dominique Harris, Janine Solursh, and, new to Hourglass, Tawanna Jackson—intimately understand that our influences are multifaceted, nuanced, and often difficult to reconcile. We are influenced by those who seek to elevate us as well as by our trauma, our environments, and our mistakes. The authors write with courage and vulnerability, attuning us to our own influences as we move through the world. 

Michael’s “Still, the Temptation” captures the arc of disregarding the influence of an older, wiser mentor, then becoming that mentor to a younger person on the verge of making analogous mistakes.

In “Autonomy of Motivation,” Dominique traces how both the poet’s own mother and our collective “Mother” influence him—and yet how he remains completely his own self, too. 

Janine’s “One Touch of Nature” renders the influence of a professor into a metaphor of a garden, writing with her characteristically lovely rhythm, calm energy, clear voice, and abundant heart.  

Within the lines of “Pieces of Me,” Tawanna reflects on her traumatic experiences in both Desert Storm and prison through the lens of a painting, using innovative line breaks, bold color imagery, and powerful charisma. 

I wish to thank Tawanna, Janine, Michael, and Dominique for their mighty pieces, which have been running through my mind for the last few months of submission and editing.  Thank you also to Joe Boris, who donates his time and talent to create the Hourglass author portraits, and to Jihad Uhuru for inspiring this issue’s theme.

And I end by thanking you, reader.  Thank you for reading, for influencing, and receiving the influence of our authors.  

Kathryn Higinbotham

Fall 2021: Hip Hop

In this issue of Hourglass Journal, three writers consider the theme of hip hop: the culture, the music, the assumptions, and the changes through time. The results are a study both in cultural unity and experiential diversity.

Each writer, Dominique Harris, Michael Clark, and Mufasa Ajanaku, approach their subject through a different lens, from a different life experience, and with a different goal, and yet their ultimate conclusions ring in harmony with one another.

Dominique rejects the mainstream, white assumptions about hip hop and Blackness, narrowing in on Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera’s claim that “hip hop has done more damage to young African-Americans than racism.” Rather than an oversimplified – even exotified – view of hip hop from the outside, Dominque tells an insider perspective that shows the nuance and contradictions of hip hop culture in a way that is fundamentally incompatible with all of the stereotypes.

Michael tells the story of his proximity with hip hop music from his childhood and an early love for Eminem, through his incarceration and relationships with artists behind bars, to reflections on his changing understanding of what hip hop means after his reentry. This is a story of entering and understanding the culture of hip hop, from liking it for its edginess to living and understanding the experiences in the lyrics.

Mufasa’s manifesto is part poetry, part stream-of-consciousness essay, reminiscent of a Big Rube interlude from an OutKast album in his native Southwest Atlanta dialect combined with philosophy, vulnerability, and critique. A lifetime of experience in and love for hip hop drives Mufasa’s criticism of its current state in the mainstream, a state that lacks the spirit in the music of his youth.

Dominique, Michael, and Mufasa offer the readers of Hourglass an education.

An education in the ways that music can influence a culture, tell its stories, and stand as an archival narrative of struggle and loss, love and connection. According to these writers, hip hop is of the people, by the people, and for the people – an implicit and explicit indictment of how it’s discredited by those who, in Dominique’s words, respond before they understand.

As much as this issue has been an education for me (not least of all in that it is my first issue as editor), I hope these writers’ work is an education for each of their Hourglass readers as well. At the very least, you may find the songs and artists they reference making their way into your Spotify queue before long.

I want to thank the three writers featured in this issue for their hard work, thoughtful writing, and patience with their newbie editor. I also want to thank Jonathan Shelley for his assistance at our Hourglass writing studio and Joe Boris for his spectacular work on the author’s portraits. And a final thank you to you, Hourglass reader; may you learn and grow with us this issue, and return for the next.

Kathryn Higinbotham