Call Declined: Bonus Episode – The Parents

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Many wonderful people helped make and inform the Call Declined podcast. In this special bonus episode, we hear from three people who are very important in the stories of Aimee’s and Kamisha’s lives–their parents. Through our conversations across generations we hear echoes of trauma, abuse, and incarceration. And we see a system that too often declines calls for help. But we also find hope for a world where those calls are answered.

Additional Resources:

Kamisha Thomas’s Portfolio: (portfolio) (Instagram)

Aimee Wissman’s work: (portfolio) (Instagram)

Pens to Pictures:

Call Declined is hosted by Melissa Beck and presented by the Sozosei Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Otsuka. The Foundation’s goal is to increase access to mental healthcare in order to eliminate the inappropriate use of jails and prisons for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in the United States. Learn more at

The Sozosei Foundation extends special thanks to Aimee Wissman and Kamisha Thomas, visionary artists and co-founders of The Returning Artists Guild whose creativity, resilience, and lived experience inspire us to build a world where mental illness is not a crime. To learn more about the Guild visit

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Please note that this podcast contains mature content, including explicit language and discussions about drug use and other potentially sensitive topics. The views expressed are solely those of the participants and do not reflect the opinions of the Sozosei Foundation, podcast host or sponsors. Listener discretion is advised. This content is intended for mature audiences and is not suitable for all listeners.



Carol, Galen, Karen, Melissa Beck

Melissa Beck  00:00

This podcast contains mature content, including explicit language and discussions about drug use, and other potentially sensitive topics. The views expressed are solely those of the participants and do not reflect the opinions of the Soto Safe Foundation, podcast host or sponsors. Listener discretion is advised. The content is intended for mature audiences and is not suitable for all listeners.


Melissa Beck  00:31

Hi there, I’m so glad to be with all of you. This is your host of Call Declined, Melissa Beck. The podcast series was just four episodes, but part of the story still needed to be told. And so I’m happy to kick off this bonus episode that we call The Parents.


Karen  00:58

Throughout history, we vilified parents and more precisely mothers for the behaviors of their children that we deem inappropriate, disappointing criminal, or just simply other. This is particularly true in the history of mental illness where mothering was once deemed the cause of some forms of mental illness, debunked his junk science, the cultural perceptions of mothers, what it means to be a good mother or a bad mother, side by side with cultural perceptions of daughters, bad daughters, good daughters, teenage girls, all propel how we treat and view mothers and daughters. The long debate about nature versus nurture is not the point of this podcast. But our listeners know that we began the podcast and Amy and Kamisha’s childhoods and by default, then we began with their parents and their families. So we wanted to talk with Amy and Kamisha’s parents, people for whom calls for help are often declined. Through these conversations across generations, we hear the echoes of a system that punishes and marginalizes that fails to provide a safety net for new parents that tears families apart through a flawed criminal legal system, and that offers incomplete and even harmful interventions, for those who need mental health and substance use treatment. Kamisha, and Amy’s lived experiences are in many respects intergenerational, from family violence to substance use and incarceration. These patterns over time highlight the fact that the work Kamisha, and Amy do today with the returning artists guild is uprooting those intergenerational systems of violence, oppression and neglect. We hope this Call Declined bonus episode offers you a more complete picture of Amy and Kamisha, and makes you think differently about the role of intergenerational trauma, individual lives and dreams. First, here are some memories, thoughts and advice from Kamisha’s mother, Karen. When I reflect on being a mother, I always like to kind of go back to the beginning, which is the birth story. And so I’d be curious if you could tell us about the day Kamisha was born and what that day was like for you how your pregnancy was and how you were feeling that day.


Karen  03:35

Well, that was an eventful day. I had Kamisha at St. Anne’s Hospital, which was nuns. They told me don’t come back.


Melissa Beck  03:52

You’re like never again.


Karen  03:55

That’s in total mark my words. You ain’t got to worry about that. I don’t want this to get that one I wanted to first.


Melissa Beck  04:04

That’s hilarious okay, why? Now like Inquiring minds want to know like, what, why?


Karen  04:10

I was suppose I was supposed to have had an epidural and all that then saddle block. I had commission in the AD so it was a saddle block back. And my mom told the nun. No, she’s not getting that Karen won’t sit still, she’ll be paralyzed. No. Oh, they listen to my mom instead of listening to me.


Melissa Beck  04:40

Oh, Karen.


Karen  04:41

I wasn’t prepared for natural childbirth. And I was forced into having natural trout. And I kept feeling like I had to go to the bathroom and I kept telling them I’m getting up. You’re not going to know me, I’m not laying here, you’re not going. I was a difficult patient. It was yeah, it was a long labor, and I was traumatized my mom messed me up big time.


Melissa Beck  05:11

When Kamisha came into the world, and as a little girl, tell me what she was like, tell me about young Kamisha.


Karen  05:19

She was perfect in every way. She had a head full of hair, and she’s beautiful. Because like I said, I got what I want. It wasn’t a boy. And she left the hospital before me. My mom and dad took her because I had to have breast surgery today after I had her.


Melissa Beck  05:41

Oh, that sounds really difficult, Karen


Karen  05:44

Yeah, I mean, that event that having a baby, and the nuns it was very traumatic.


Melissa Beck  05:54

I’m so sorry. How long did you remain in the hospital?


Karen  05:58

Let’s see, I had her I was here three to four days. Shoot, like I said, my mom and dad said she knew I needed to stay. She was healthy. Why can’t we take her? They took her America.


Melissa Beck  06:14

Wow, and so where did you go after you all got out of the hospital, did you go to your to my mom? And what was that like those early days?


Karen  06:29

The early days were, it was a battle between me and my mom. She wanted to control Kamisha. Now, in other words, it wasn’t my baby it was their first it was the first granddaughter.


Melissa Beck  06:46

So how long did you and Kamisha stay with them.


Karen  06:51

I moved out before she turned nine months because I couldn’t do.


Melissa Beck  06:56

So Kamisha when I asked Kamisha about her childhood, she shared a memory of living in a pink house. Do you remember that pink house? Tell me about that pink house.


Karen  07:09

That’s the first house we had was the pink house. And yes, she loved that house.


Melissa Beck  07:14

When you were in the pink house. What else did camicia like to do? Did she do art, she listening to music.


Karen  07:21

We always have music playing and she watched TV. She always wanted to adopt babies on TV because she didn’t like being an only child. And I told her mommy’s satisfied with just her. She was definitely a fast learner and I had a lot of strict rules. She knew how to count before she went to school, she knew how to write you know how to tie her shoe. She knew how to do all of that stuff before she even started school. Actually, she started pre kindergarten.


Melissa Beck  07:53

So when when you set her off to school and pre K, what were you hoping for her? What were you hoping her future was going to be like, as a mom?


Karen  08:05

Whatever she wanted. My only guideline for Kamisha, when she was in school, she wasn’t allowed to make C’s. I didn’t accept C’s. If she made C’s and grades, she was on punishment. Because that means you’re average. That means you’re not trying. You’re not giving your full self.


Melissa Beck  08:25

So as Kamisha growing up and becoming a middle schooler and then a teenager, what were those years like?


Karen  08:36

When she became a teenager, that’s when they start sneaking and doing things on their own, and all her nickname was locked down. Because always kept her locked down.


Melissa Beck  08:48

That’s a journey. Okay, man, so when ? When did that start? When did you bestow that nickname? Or what was the behavior that started?


Karen  09:04

Once she turned 12?


Melissa Beck  09:07

What happened?


Karen  09:08

Well, because I work two jobs. So once she became a teenager, you know, she knew she had her chores to do. She knew she had to make good grades. As long as she did what she was supposed to do. She still got what she wanted got to do. You know, some of her freedoms a lot of times. Kids don’t always pick the best friends. I try not to pick her friends. But I’m watched over her more careful because she wasn’t allowed to do a lot of things her friends would do because like I told her right there mom. You know, I’m saying I don’t care what their mom let them do. You’re not doing that.


Melissa Beck  09:45

Right, so as she got older and got her nickname locked down, what that and it sounds like you are a super busy mother and you know, engaged, what did you worry? Do were you worried about her?


Karen  10:06

Yeah, all parents were about their kids. I, well, when she was in lockdown, we lived out in the middle of nowhere. So there was no buses so she had a car when she turned 16. Or she would drive my car take me to work and pick me up. And then by the time I got on her first car, she only had an hour to learn to drive and I said, You better learn how to drive it or we park in it so and she got her freedom. You know, she got off a lockdown. Because being on lockdown is because where we lived, it was no public transportation. We lived on Rickenbacker Air Force Base. I moved from the city to the outskirts of town.


Melissa Beck  10:59

What made you make that decision to get out of the city? And […] Oh, Karen, that must have been frightening.


Karen  11:10

It was.


Melissa Beck  11:12

I’m so sorry. That’s horrible, did you but I presume you felt more safe, and the outskirts of town?


Karen  11:21

Yeah, because when we moved first I moved in with my dad. And then we got to a place out there, on Rickenbacker.


Melissa Beck  11:29

As she got older, how is she doing in school? I mean, when I talked to camicia, about her, her middle school years, and her teen years, it sounds like she was an extremely bright, outspoken person with strong feelings about what was right and what was wrong and what she wanted to tolerate. And frankly, what she didn’t. And it sounds like, you know that that got noticed, sometimes by the police, sometimes by the school. That must have been a lot. I would imagine, as a mom, having all of that happen.


Karen  12:10

It was, yeah, yeah.


Melissa Beck  12:12

Did you? Did you feel supported, Karen? That’s the only word I can think of right now. Did you feel like as Kamisha was going through that, that the school had her back? Or they were kind of adults in the school who are like, oh, yeah, helpful.


Karen  12:33

She was in Reynoldsburg School District, which was kind of prejudiced. So I took her out, like I said, I had a stalker when we lived in Reynoldsburg. So we moved out and we moved out on faith.


Melissa Beck  12:46

Can you tell? I’m sorry, Karen, can I just stop you? Can you describe I don’t think all of our listeners will know what Reynoldsburg Ohio is like, give us a little tell us about what that looks like and who’s there.


Karen  13:01

Reynoldsburg is it’s it was a prejudice area. So it was I mean, the teachers I was a bus driver then. So I always had Kamisha schedule. I was able to walk into school and find out what classes she was in. And whenever she told me she’s having problems at school, I don’t all of them wasn’t justified sometimes. You know, Kamisha got into trouble sometimes, but she wasn’t a bad kid like I said her tolerance for right and wrong. She’s always been able to depict what’s right and what’s wrong. And she don’t let nobody you know, she wasn’t a pushover, you know what I’m saying? So and Reynoldsburg school district after that, you know, our like I said, having a stalker, it was just time to leave. And we just went out to work, come back on. She went into Hamilton Township school district. And that was a different arena for camp. She met some good teachers out out there. But then when she went to high school she got kicked out. She got kicked out a couple, you know, it’s yeah. She told us she got kicked out a couple of schools.


Melissa Beck  14:42

Yeah, I gotta, I feel I got a very honest recounting of, of her teen years. Um, and again, you know, I’ve shared with you I’m a mom.


Karen  14:53

It was rough, yeah. So my expectations for what I wanted Kamisha to be in her expectations, we weren’t always aligned.


Melissa Beck  15:06

Yeah, yeah. Let’s, let’s fast forward a little bit. You know, I got to know Kamisha in her leadership role at the returning artists guild. And that’s how I got to.


Karen  15:21

She’s a true leader.


Melissa Beck  15:22

She is, she is a true leader, a natural leader, which very few people are. And an extremely wonderful, impressive person. When Kamisha was arrested, can you for the crime that led her into Dayton correctional where she met Amy? Can you tell me as her mom? What that was like for you?


Karen  15:53

Hell […] I was devastated. I literally had a nervous breakdown because that she didn’t. I couldn’t fathom my child. Doing what she did. Yeah, it was that was the worst time of my life.


Melissa Beck  16:28

So on this horrible day, Karen, when Kamisha got arrested, and you got the grandbabies back with you. Can you walk us through what happened over the next couple of days?


Galen  16:45

I had to pull myself together, I can’t be falling apart, and I got the kids. I gotta take care of the kids. I was devastated that was a rough go that day that month. That six months, you know, adjust and getting the kids in school. I have to call the county on let the county know that they’re here or they’re not going anywhere. They’re staying here.


Melissa Beck  17:12

Yeah. Karen, it just sounds so difficult if you could give advice to parents who are listening to this. What advice would you give them?


Galen  17:24

Hold fast. Hold fast, because like I said, I had to step outside of myself and do what was best for her children, and my sanity.


Melissa Beck  17:47

Here’s some memories from Amy’s mom, Carol.


Carol  17:54

So I was a survivor of domestic violence. So Amy came in to she was a baby, but she came into a kind of a crazy situation. And I was trying to protect her. Literally, I tell people this and for whatever reason, I was like, I can live like this, but she will not live like this. So we left, she was a couple years old, she has no memories in her dad would not have anything to do with her, but the day she was born are super excited and sweet little girl and my family was just over the moon. You know, I’ve always had a lot of support and just adored her. I mean, she was just she was just so much fun. Really a smart, smart, smart, baby, smart toddler, just smart person. You know what I mean? She just says she just and she always has been. So she was just a lot of fun. But with with smartness comes, you know, some other stuff like, you know, I’m smarter than you, right? Like, you know, but she was just a lot of fun to have and, you know, I just, you know, like all moms are most moms I should say, you know that I was just like, I need to protect her. And you know, and he did not understand that for a long, long time, honestly, it’s skipping ahead of her in her life, but I’ve shed a lot of angst because my ex husband would not see her and and then we always lived away so then we moved home it just didn’t I think she saw it finally put it together right like oh my gosh, mom, right but it took you know her as a much older adult to figure it out, you can’t explain something like that to a child, they just know that my dad doesn’t want to see me and probably doesn’t love me, I don’t know if that’s what she thought I’ve never really talked to her a lot about it. And that’s from I feel like that’s what for most kids that have missing parents, right? You know, they’re like why are they will you know, that missing parents that don’t see them? I know divorced parents happen, right? But this is like a missing parent like in my the problem, right?


Melissa Beck  19:59

Carol told us, Amy has been an artist since she was very young.


Carol  20:03

Amy was always coloring on the walls, right? Like literally with curtains like I don’t know how many times she covered the walls. And finally, I don’t know she was not very old and I just gave her some water, some soap and a rag and like, you get it off of there, you know, you and I, you know, like she was probably three or four years old and like, Oh, you’ve done this like 10 times. So I made her tried to scrub the walls that really didn’t stop her but it kind of made me feel like I was trying to like be have paper. We have chalkboards, no walls. And that’s kind of a kid thing, but you know. Yeah so she was fun. She liked because we listened to so much music. I mean, she’s like a music dictionary, right? Like, she knows songs and titles and artist and she’s very good with I always thought she’d be a DJ, I wouldn’t have surprised me.


Melissa Beck  20:47

Carol also remembers hard times.


Carol  20:49

I really think that probably about 14 she just got very unhappy with me. Just very unhappy. Just, she didn’t really, you know, she didn’t like me. I mean, and I tell her that all the time. You did not like me. I mean, I still I love you but you did not like me and their whole childhood, there’s little, like, you know, kind of little digs. You know what I mean? And I’m like, wow, him her tough crowd, kid. But so I think that came into play that she just didn’t really like me, and then she didn’t like, I don’t think she liked herself. I don’t think she liked her body. I don’t think she, we went we moved to Cincinnati, so she could swim, she was a very good swimmer, like, really good. And the swim team girls were mean to her in high school. And I soon after I saw this kid walking up the hill from the school and it was hurt, just like I quit, I can’t do it. So that was I mean, there’s, I think there’s just a lot, you know, you know, eating the bathroom and her lunch in the bathroom. And this ginormous public school where she had been in small, private Christian schools. I think she was just, you know, unhappy. And you’re like, what do you do? You know, do you pull her out? You, you know, there’s more options now than there was, you know, back then we so when we started taking her to therapist and reaching out and like, do I need to, you know, to go to children’s, you know, where do I go? But they’re like, oh, she has ADHD. And then they gave her kids medicines, which I think she wanted, you know what I mean? Because it, they’re, they’re like, you know, like adrenaline or know what, to Adderall or whatever. And then somebody gave her something else. And then they gave her something else. And they, you know, there was all this we were chasing, you know, something that I don’t think, to be honest, I don’t think a medicine could heal. You know, I mean, a therapist might been able to make her think a different way but a, you know, you’re talking about a 15 year old child’s brain, you know, you’re not talking about a 35 year old, you know what I mean? Like a mature person, and to try to make a 14-15 year old person like, Oh, that’s not true, this will pass and high school is just a goofy period of your life anyway, you know what I mean? And then you’re gonna go on and really start your life and, you know, we just couldn’t, she couldn’t. She just couldn’t see board, you know, and mean, she would just get kind of stuck. And just kind of stuck. I don’t know, you know, just the sad, it was just I don’t want to tear up because there’s such there’s been a lot of pain and names live for us. And this certainly was the start of it. You know, she ran away a couple of times, I hired private detectives, I sought her out, I wanted her dog hunted this child down, like 15 years, literally hunting her everywhere she went, I would hunt her down and bring her back and, you know, get her off the streets and you can’t imagine, but I’m the lucky one, right? You know, I’m the lucky one. Here she is, right? So, you know, really blessed. And a lot of parents can’t say that.


Melissa Beck  24:10

Carol also says she didn’t fully understand that Amy was experiencing domestic violence until later.


Carol  24:18

I think, you know, I’m not pointing any fingers but Brad, Lovy’s dad was not good for me. I did not know how bad it was until after the fact and somebody from his hometown called me and said, do you know who you’re dealing with in what you’re dealing with? Because he was blocking cut, like an American looking guy, you know, and he never shared any of the views in any of the stuff I didn’t know. So yeah, that was really hard to me. Then you get busy as a mom, you know, I’m gonna fix this, I’m getting the attorneys I’m getting, you know, we had already been through. I don’t know how many rehabs we’d been in. I mean, rehab after rehab, and, you know, just just never giving up, right? Just don’t give up, and you have to just keep going. And the other thing I tell, you know, I will look at her in the it would be empty. Those eyeballs look like they would be empty. I’m like, where’d she go? I know you’re in there. I know you’re in there. And yeah, that was I mean, but there’s all kinds of hard days. I don’t know if that was any harder than the days that she ran away from rehabs or the days ahead. 100 down again.


Melissa Beck  25:31

It’s been a long road, but Carol says she is proud of the person Amy is today.


Carol  25:37

Just to watch her be, you know, that passionate and that caring. I am more proud of that than been anything else, right? And that’s something because a lot of people go through this life you know, I want money,  want cars. I don’t you know what I mean? They want they’re on the I want train. And she’s on you know, you want if you want this, I’ll give it to you. You know what I mean? Like my coat care, you want it? Honestly, that’s Amy, that was always the in her personality. When she started, you see, she started as a social work major. So that part’s there, now she just aligned it with her passion. And that’s a win win, right?


Melissa Beck  26:23

And finally, here are some reflections from Kamisha’s dad, Galen.


Galen  26:31

You know, she made it, she made a big change in my life you know, even though she’s like 40 something. It’s kind of crazy, I was always artistic myself as far as I used to write songs and stuff at a young age.


Melissa Beck  26:48

What was baby Kamisha like?


Galen  26:51

Oh, she was a joy, she responded to things, I didn’t see her, you know that much she was a day. Then when I came home, you know, she would when she got old enough to talk and stuff. I was spend that few minutes of time with her where I would like pick her up. And she was telling me to fly her like Superman now and no, take her all around the room all around, all around the apartments, and that was that then when I put on some record some music that I liked, you know, she would dance and and really enjoyed a music with me.


Melissa Beck  27:41

Let me ask you this when the way Kamisha, describes it, it sounds like things got kind of bumpy for her starting in middle school and through high school. In some of the schools she was in where, you know, they were predominantly white. And she was really feeling the impact of racism and some white kids who were racist. It sounds like she really she had a hard time is that your memory of her teen years and middle school those bumps and that really significant challenges?


Galen  28:22

In those during those times […] mom was like often on? And wasn’t getting along very well. I was impacted with through the justice system, myself when she was around 9-10 years old. After I left for a while. For that little moment came back is when me and her mom pretty much no split up after that. So this was during those times when she was different schools and everything. And I only I didn’t get to see her as much. Then we got to the point where I only had her live every other weekend. So after that, you know she got old enough to […] herself, too.


Melissa Beck  29:26

Yeah, yeah.


Galen  29:28

And we’ve been closer ever since then, than ever.


Melissa Beck  29:35

Yeah, that sounds difficult, I would imagine. At nine when you were gone that it must have been really hard for sure. Must have really missed you, and I would imagine you really missed her. Did you get to visit with her? Did anyone ever bring her to visit you while you were incarsinated?


Galen  30:01

She did get to see me before a left downtown. After I live downtown, I didn’t get to see it and so I came back.


Melissa Beck  30:13

Do you remember when you saw her for the first time when you got out?


Galen  30:19

Oh, not really. You know, it’s been a long time and you know, kind of like. Trying to put it out, you know, put it out in memory. So experience will never leave you.


Melissa Beck  30:36

Did you get to visit Kamisha when she was inside at Dayton?


Galen  30:42

Yes, when I first visited Kamisha, she was celebrating, being chosen for the project pins the pictures. This Kamisha was previously involved in video production, with me. She kind of like had a leg up on, you know, everybody. So when we went there, to see the viewing of the movies that her and Amy and the rest of the girls and May then I went back with her son and our daughter on a couple of occasions. And like I said, they were very special, and you know, very, I was so proud. You know, I couldn’t talk to tears.


Melissa Beck  31:47

And when she got out and started there, this work with the returning artists guild, what’s what’s that been like, as a parent observing this incredible triumph?


Galen  32:00

Well, that’s been good too, because, you know, shows she’s in a positive frame of mind. And, you know, as long as she keeps doing that, and moving forward, you know, I think she’s gonna be alright. So I just, you know, I’m here to support her for whatever she got. Proud, proud that I know she’s doing good as she is.


Melissa Beck  32:37

Thank you to Karen, Carol and Galen, for sharing these memories of Kamisha, and Amy. And thank you for sharing your own journeys and your wisdom. We are hopeful that the returning artists guild will offer people in their families a source of support to make the period after prison a time of healing and rebuilding for creativity and inspiration. We also hope that the intergenerational perspectives of Call Declined offer hope and perspectives to families and people going through challenging times. Thank you for listening.



Call Declined is the production of Lemonada Media in partnership with the Sozosei Foundation. I’m your host Melissa Beck. […] is our producer. Noah Smith is our audio engineer. Montez Mickens is our recording engineer. Music by Xander Singh. Story editing by Jackie Danziger. Additional support from Karen Powell, Don Gunderson Taylor and Maggie Croushore . Thanks to Dr. Jennifer Bazar and Dr. Cathy Fay at the cutting center for the history of psychology. Call Declined as presented by the Sozosei Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Otsuka the foundation’s goal is to increase access to mental health care in order to eliminate the inappropriate use of jails and prisons for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in the United States. Learn more at The Sozosei Foundation extends special thanks to Aimee Wissman and Kamisha Thomas, visionary artists and the cofounders of the returning artists guild, whose creativity resilience and lift experience inspire us to build a world where mental illness is not a crime. To learn more about the guild, visit Follow Call Declined wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

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