Dear Congregants, Friends, and Supporters:
It is with great sadness that we share the news of the violent death on one of our members in prison, Mikaela Dodgens, who was also known as Phoenix. We especially want to send our deep condolence to our other CLF members living in prison who face the same dangers every day. We hold in our hearts the CLF Letter Writing Team the heart-beat of our prison ministry. They are the ones who share our UU faith directly with our members in prison.
Mikaela was a transgender woman living in a men's prison in Ohio. When we first heard the news about the death of a Unitarian Universalist in late August, the name was reported as Phoenix. During the six years of her membership at the CLF we had only known her as Mikaela. Her pen pal Erich contacted us after speaking with her mother, to inform us that it was indeed our Mikaela. Here is what Erich wanted to share with Mikaela's fellow congregants at the CLF who didn't get the chance to know her:
Mikaela was a bright, talented musician and artist, and a vibrantly spiritual person with high hopes for the future. I am proud to say Mikaela was my friend, my pen pal, and a person who was always excited to dig deep into an exchange of ideas. We shared hopes and dreams, sadness, and shortcomings. She was more than the decisions she made on her worst days. Mikaela saw me through several major life transitions and I hope I provided some level of companionship in our exchanges. I wanted her to know there were people on the outside rooting for her success, questioning the role of policing and prisons, and most importantly--people of faith and conscience who would welcome her fully in our congregations.
Her suffering a beating in the prison yard and dying the next day is most certainly not the future that she had envisioned for herself, nor was it a reflection of the hopes I had for her. For any who were touched by her spirit, her ability to make you smile on a bad day, I join you in grieving this terrible loss in our congregation. Her death serves as a not so subtle reminder of the brutalities of the prison-industrial complex and the gift that each day is. While there is pain in my heart and righteous indignation, I hope you will join me in lighting and carrying the flame for Mikaela.
We will be offering prayers for Mikaela on social media, and a time for people to share their grief about this horrible ending to a beautiful life. We will be honoring her strength and her beauty.
Here are three ways you can honor Mikaela's memory:
Rev. Meg Riley, Mandy Goheen and the Prison Ministry Team
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive