Meridian Star

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March 22, 2013

Jail dance lets fathers, daughters take a few steps together

(Continued)

RICHMOND, Va. —

"Father Father Father where have you been?/ Jail, dead, on drugs, or the street life is that where you went? / Did your choices lead you to leave me?"

Her hoarse voice rises, like a preaching poet's. Then she screams and weeps some of the final lines:

"I know after hearing my poem you feel messed up and you should / But I understand now you were misunderstood/ You too was misled you was raised by the hood / Was a fatherless child because your father was no good."

Watching as some of the inmates choke back tears, Sheriff Woody rushes to the front of the room.

"Let it go through you, brothers," Woody says. "Let yourself just feel it."

It's the morning of the dance, so Jhaniyika's mother is getting her ready at home, as her five siblings — four boys and one sister — watch enviously.

Her mother helps her put on her white tights and silver Mary Janes along with a necklace of plastic dress-up pearls.

"I'm gonna see Daddy. I'm gonna hug Daddy," she says, twirling around the living room.

Her sister Avianiea, just a year older, is quiet.

She stares at SpongeBob on TV. She starts to cry.

"They said we could only bring one daughter," says her mother Jennifer Morman, who chose Jhaniyika because she cries the most for her father whenever they visit.

"She really hates talking to him through that glass," says Jennifer, who wears her husband's wedding ring around her neck since inmates are not allowed to wear jewelry.

Does she think the dance will help?

"I think it will stay with him," Jennifer says.

He's been behind bars for the past nine months, this time for failing to pay child support for a 15-year-old daughter from another relationship. He gets out in 88 days. He has nine children total and says he just doesn't have the money.

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