In this episode, AyLaina describes the miracle of her family, past and present, and gives advice on how to hold down and advance in a job. She journeys through the multiple roles she has held as a woman, mother, daredevil, poet, wife, and formerly incarcerated person. Each has come with particular stigmas, and their intersection is not always easy to navigate, but AyLaina shows us how to honor all parts of yourself in order to find peace.
Content warning: this episode contains mention of sexual assault.
AyLaina Verdejo is a light being having a very human experience. She was born in Detroit Michigan to a middle class family with two loving parents and three siblings. She has always quoted her life with her Grandfather’s quote…. Your worst day of trial is always your best day of testimony. She certainly does hold quite the testimony.
In 2006 AyLaina was unjustly incarcerated as many melanated people are in this country. While facing 25 years to life for a crime she did not commit she was found guilty and faced 16 to life under the Rico Act as an aider and abettor after refusing to testify against her codefendant. She ultimately served two flat years with concurrent probations due to a letter campaign of character references from charitable organizations she had volunteered for, city leaders, coworkers, and a host of family and friends. After being inundated with so many correspondences the judge did the first downward departure in sentencing he had done in over three decades on his bench. While serving her mandatory two years of incarceration she worked with several groups to advocate for the betterment of incarcerated souls. This is a passion she has continued upon returning home. Groups like the Prisoner Creative Arts Program allowed her to develop her talents as a spoken word artist and upon coming home she has graced stages and open mics with many of Detroit’s most talented artists. She has also had several pieces on various artists’ albums.
AyLaina currently sits on the board of a local charity, RAHAM Inc. (Response Able Hands and Minds) which works to provide community centers and community restoration. She also remains a friend and advocate of PCAP (Prisoner Creative Arts Project) and continues to fight for The Removal of The Box project. She, after countless interviews and denials, has found gainful employment working a salary position for a prestigious company, a position she has held for over six years now. In her spare time she continues her love for poetry, provides life coaching and readings, makes jewelry, and her greatest joy is her family and being a wife and mother.
Through the collective consciousness it is her will that all returning citizens find peace, reconciliation, forgiveness of self, gainful employment or entrepreneurialism, enlightenment, empowerment, and a chance to balance any negative energy given or received. Let us all act proactively more than we work punitively”.