We want to share the news that Ben Hall recently passed away. For those who took the training in Oregon, you will, I’m sure, remember Ben. He was involved in working on our trainings with the ACE think tank for several years during his incarceration at the Oregon State Penitentiary. Ben brought smarts, humor, leadership, and heart to the training experience. He was a great gift to many. Here are a couple of reflections on/by Ben:
“Benjamin James Hall, a dear friend, passionate comrade, and wise soul passed away this past weekend. Ben had just been released from prison after 22 years this past April into the so-called-free world only to be faced with a pandemic on top of all the unimaginable struggles faced by our neighbors trying to return from exile. Ben was a student in my Inside-Out class at Columbia River Correctional Institution (he had already taken 10 Inside-Out classes at Oregon State Penitentiary) and was so brilliant and devoted to his own growth and that of others that he served as my T.A. the following year.” (Reiko Hillyer)
Ben ... “was a founding member and mainstay of our Think Tank until he transferred to another prison. He was very talented, and a caring person, and he had an incredible journey, part of which was extracting himself from one of those white gangs that hates everyone else. Ben became a community builder, and he included everyone, especially those who were most vulnerable.” (Shaul Cohen)
About his Inside-Out class experience: “It is a strange thing to come into a prison to learn together and build a community where it is so discouraged to do so. In many ways we create our own world as we steal time in a space where many might imagine such a magical experience could never transpire. While we are longing to exit this space, you all desire to beat the door down to get back inside. Our intentionality creates a world that did not exist before which demonstrates that it is possible to do so, to build the world as it could be together. Our time together has not truly come to an end, this world we’ve created is in no way transitory. We carry it beyond the threshold of these doors.” (Ben Hall)
The following piece, written by Ben for the inaugural issue of a publication he co-founded, is both thought-provoking and poignant. In it, he describes — with remarkable honesty — his own personal journey, as well as life inside prison.
“May his memory be a blessing in grief and a call to keep on loving and struggling for justice.” (Sue Pierce)