Alexandria Baiz, Allie as she likes to be called, has
a light, joyful energy that does not dim even as she speaks of struggles she has faced in her young life.
Her father, she tells me, was in and out of jail from the time he was 13 years old. From Allie’s earliest childhood until she was 9,
her dad was in prison, spending years in solitary confinement
at Pelican Bay. “Even when I was six,” she says, “I remember how mad I was about the crazy prison dress code. I couldn’t wear certain colors when I visited my dad. It seemed so stupid! I was six!"
Meanwhile back home, her mom was working, raising Allie and her three siblings and attending night school. “I was really independent even when I was a little kid because my mom was so busy and my dad wasn’t there,” Allie says.
Meantime, at school, Allie thought her father’s incarceration was on her own permanent record. She recalls just one teacher in third grade at Farragut Elementary, who spoke to her compassionately about her dad
. Mostly Allie says she lived a kind of double life, hiding what she thought must remain a secret from others.
When her class made Father’s Day gifts, she joined in and each year took those gifts home and placed them in a box she saved to give to her dad when he came home.
And he did come home, which brought its own challenges. “
You can have a great relationship with someone if you only talk to him once in a while
,” Allie says, “but when I was 9 and he came home, he brought some of the mentality of prison with him.” Allie loved listening to his stories, but it was hard for her to suddenly have a dad in charge. At home she and her father battled on many fronts.
One day when she got to high school, her good friend Solana told her about POPS. “I didn’t want to go,” Allie says. She grimaces. “I wasn’t going to talk about prison…” And then one day I was upset, and for some reason I decided to go, and I decided I had to write a poem. Allie wrote, “It’ll Never Be the Same” (published in
In the Key of Love
how things changed when Dad came home.
As I child, I felt like my innocence was taken
At five years old, during winter break when everyone else was going to
I was going to state prison to visit my dad, picking out specific clothing—nothing red, blue or tight
I grew up fast, very fast…
…A young, independent and scared 9-year-old was what I was
when my dad came home.
He came home with tattoos on his eyes, neck and arms.
These tattoos were nothing I had not seen already seen on him, but seeing them in the midst of a family-oriented city was different
I was ashamed, in a sense, to call him my father