By Mindi Hunt
Since her early years, 68-year old Deedee Kirkwood has remained a revolutionary thinker in search for her niche in the world. The wild and curly haired, bohemian styled, mother and grandmother is modest when referred to as an activist.
“I’m just a housewife and a grandmother with a passion to help,” she says with a sparkle in her eye. Be that as it may, after a lengthy search, Deedee indeed found her niche and has become a lifeline for those locked up for cannabis, earning her title as activist.
Deedee’s journey from housewife to cannabis activist began as a writer. Despite the self-doubts common to youth and inexperience coupled with moments, she wished to throw in the towel, something inside her told her she had a higher calling and writing was the vehicle.
Deedee’s steadfast belief in cannabis’s ability to save the world and heal the sick provided her the platform to push herself beyond her comfort zone. Her hope was that more than the hippy generation would understand its worth. Thus was born her play, originally titled ‘Peace for Pot’ later TOKE.
The play is a humorous peek into Deedee’s experiences growing up in a strict household, rebelling, and her attempts to conform to a 1960’s cookie baking, soccer mom. It is a no-nonsense look at the pressures of a woman attempting to fit into her world wrapped in the raw humor only Deedee could write.
The main character, WeeDee, is joined by her sidekick and higher conscious, the Pot Fairy. The Pot Fairy was originally imagined in 1996. As you will see, to this day, the fairy spirit helps Deedee realize her higher calling in life. Furthermore, it was through promoting this play that she began learning the extent of the atrocities of the drug war, which led her to become the activist she is today.
“In Sacramento, 2012, someone I met at an ASA meeting hosted a tea for TOKE. I met people at that time who had their kids taken away for pot-only related offenses. This shocking reality was a segue into sending birthday cards to pot prisoners. Some wrote back and then I wrote back. These back and forths turned into relationships over the years with these lifers becoming like family.”
Deedee had no idea so many were incarcerated for cannabis and the awareness that at least 50 people were serving life sentences was a whole different kettle of fish that she found hard to believe. “Just like when I tell people now about these unfortunate souls being forced to endure daily nightmares for cannabis-related offenses with no violence, no victim, and no family of any victim, they don’t believe me.” She presumes it is increasingly difficult to believe as more and more states legalize cannabis. “These pot lifers remain a secret of the Department of Justice, locked away inside while outside their prison walls cannabis is often legal to buy in stores.”
Finally, Deedee found her passion and began a campaign to bring hope to people often forgotten. She began sending letters as fast as she could lick a stamp. Currently, she corresponds with over 30 inmates. Writing letters may seem simple, but communicating and maintaining relationships with prisoners, who are often in despair and hopeless, is something their loved ones and friends often struggle to do.
Imagine the courage it takes to write that first letter to a stranger? Deedee had that courage. Consequently, her pen-pals truly adore her and speak of her tenderly, as if she were family all along.
- Craig Cesal is a life without parole recipient as a first time nonviolent offender convicted of conspiracy to commit cannabis crimes. Craig’s crime involved nothing more than repairing trucks that had been used to haul loads of illegal marijuana. Recently his sentence was reduced, leaving him a new release date in 2028, but the matter is not final and his case is currently in litigation. Craig said the following about Deedee.
“Deedee is one of those people who are ALWAYS there, in that she is always actively pursuing some avenue to gain attention to our plight or even writing screenplays used by universities to highlight our cause.
“I believe the biggest hurdle we have as marijuana lifers, is that most people don’t even know, or don’t accept that there are first time offenders, such as me, sentenced to life without parole for marijuana. She sets a great stage, and puts in great effort to get us that attention, which is our only avenue to relief.”
- Ferrell Scott was sentenced to life in prison for nonviolent cannabis crimes and has served nearly 10 years. Ferrell is a father and grandfather who was given the extreme sentence due to the three strikes law that allows previous convictions to be part of sentencing. None of Ferrell’s prior convictions were for violent crimes and were nearly 20 years old.
He wrote, “We have a wonderful relationship. We write each other about once a month and it has been that way for like 3 years. She is a really good person and I love her to death. We have a wonderful connection on many levels. I don’t know what I would do without her.”
- Michael Peltier, a paraplegic, received a life sentence for conspiracy to commit cannabis crimes. Again, he is a nonviolent offender with no victims involved. Money that goes on Michael’s commissary account often is used for art supplies. His paintings are beautiful and help to keep his spirits up and to pass the time.
“I believe that everyone, throughout one’s life, will be assisted by an Angel at critical points. The most recent Angel to have appeared in my life is Deedee Kirkwood.
“While I have reason to be angry at the world…, I have chosen to remain positive and gain knowledge from my experience. In this endeavor, Deedee suddenly appeared and gave me the encouragement greatly needed at a very stressful period in my life.”
The admiration between Deedee and each of the cannabis prisoners is mutual. She feels their impact on her life is immeasurable. “I am a very internal person and have spent all my life trying to connect with my purpose. It is a comfort to finally identify the nature of my spiritual path which has resulted in my compassionate heart feeling in sync with my inner and outer voice. As I reach out on their behalf, these prisoner relationships have presented me with opportunities to grow as a person by revealing hidden courage and strength that I didn’t know I had. Their letters motivate me to spread their plight far and wide and I am humbled by their tremendous encouragement, kindness, and integrity in the midst of the death sentences they are facing for a miracle plant.”
With all that she was gaining from the experience, it wasn’t long before Deedee was compelled to do more. Naturally, as friendships grew so did her desire to help. She quickly learned time is not the only cost for those behind the razor wire. Many people believe everything is provided to the prisoner and they have jobs that pay enough to cover what is not provided. The ugly truth is prisoners work for mere pennies per hour. Every email and phone call is costly. Soap, toothbrush, socks, shoes, top ramen, stamps, envelopes, T.V. and medical care are just a few things the prisoners must pay for. A job that pays six dollars a week makes it very difficult to buy the things, such as underwear, necessary to live humanly.
Consequently, she decided to enlist the assistance of her trusty sidekick, the Pot Fairy, as an ambassador of peace once again. The Pot Fairy is featured on aprons sewn by Deedee and the proceeds applied to the commissary accounts of cannabis lifers.
“The first Pot Fairy graphic was based on a handmade cloth dread locked doll I got at a grateful dead concert. I loved her vibe and her look and brought it to an artist friend who came up with a logo for my play. Since then the pot fairy has evolved into the ethereal cannabis spirit she is today. When I decided to sew some aprons it was always with the intention of featuring her.” Ultimately, Deedee’s goal is to not only provide much needed monetary and emotional support to cannabis prisoners but to “spread the word about their death sentences and join forces with others who want to offer support and work for change.”
Deedee’s inspirational life is a relatable story about young girl’s self-doubts and her transformation into a woman who gains the strength to share her passion for writing with those society deems unworthy of her time. Through her journey, we have the opportunity to learn that no matter what your talents are, even a grandma who writes letters and sews aprons can change the world. Afterall, in this day and age, couldn’t we all use a little of Deedee’s fairy magic on our side?
There are a multitude of avenues in which you can help Deedee and the cannabis lifers she supports. She is always looking for new ideas that will further the cause. Her website, www.potfairy.com, is a one-stop spot. Here you can order an apron, obtain addresses to cannabis lifers or contact Deedee to volunteer your gifts and talents to help better the lives of people our country has condemned due to fears over a plant.
Article Originally published on www.salem-news.com courtesy of Author