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by Ernesto Rodriguez
I wanted to take the time to write to you about the importance of relationships. You see, relationships do not only mean the kind we have with an intimate special someone, but the kind of relationships that pick you back up in life when you fall.
You see, in life, we have the illusion that the friendships we build with homeboys or the homegirls are everything. We believe that if we are accepted and build up our reputation in our hood, in our street, that somehow it will erase or blot out the heavy and painful things we go through in the darkness of our lives. In the darkness we are born to. Some of us go through things that may traumatize us and make us feel vulnerable in a way that we turn to aggression and violence to mask the insecure thoughts and feelings those experiences may haunt us with. We may grow up seeing our mothers beat mercilessly, we may see our little sisters struggle psychologically because they experienced sexual molestation or rape, we may grow up in poverty that never allows to develop some kind of stability in our lives and therefore become apathetic towards others… So why should we nurture the kind of relationships that promote the very things we are trying to escape and hide from? Yes, the gang life, the street life and the homegirls/homeboys only represent the very things we are ashamed of. We tell ourselves a lie that because we are brave enough to defend our neighborhoods through gang violence, that somehow we are brave enough to carry the vulnerable secrets in our hearts that we want no one to know about. That somehow, we are being aggressive, not to the human beings we are hurting in the process of our internal struggle, but to the monsters that took our innocence during our vulnerable stage of childhood.
It is your duty to free your mind. If your mind is not free, you’ll never win. Not mentally. Your mind will be locked in chains. The love and support of others may help but truly only you can free yourself. It takes time, practice, and learning. But if you keep a positive mindset you’ll get through it.
You must understand that everything you’re going through is temporary. It’s all a test but only you decide if you pass or fail. This chapter in your life is called growth, and it’s up to you whether you reach a hard word and quit the book, or overcome that obstacle and move to the next chapter.
As Assata Shakur said, “It is out duty to ght for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
I wonder what they’re all about? You know. Those nightmares, man. I had one last night. I was trapped in a cage. I was a wolf with blue eyes. I had blood on my fur, scars on my skin, those scars of guilt in my heart. On my heart. I wish it would all stop. I ask God to come into my heart. I say: “Please, God, will you help my mom and my heart? I can’t take it anymore.”
I walk around with a smile while deep down I want to cry. I want these nightmares to end. Until then, I will be in my room trying to ght my wars. I’ve managed to stay away from the killers – you know, drugs, weed, cancer sticks – but I’m trapped, clawing at the door, barking, “Help me, please.”
by Son Nguyen
I like the saying, “Broken Crayon Still Colors,” because it could help us see things from a more positive perspective, especially during difficult times.
Being locked up no matter where we are at, whether it is in juvenile hall, jail or prison, it is easy to get discouraged. We are stuck behind concrete walls, while the world on the other-side carries on without us. We have been banished from the rest of society. People who we were once close to start to forget about us, while others have turned their backs on us.
Confinement often causes people to feel despair and induce them to lose their sense of self-worth. Life might seem dark and you may feel worthless because of the situation that you are in, but I’m telling you not to give up hope! You may be down right now, but you are definitely not out. Look at the circumstances that you are facing as a blessing in disguise. Take this time as an opportunity to learn, grow, and discover yourself. The greatest treasure you will ever find will come from within, that is when you learn to love yourself for who you are.
From the day I got out of my Mom’s womb to the day they bury me six feet under, I’m in control of my destiny. I believe no matter what circumstances we lie in or how bad we got it, our life is de ned by our decisions.
My decision making in the past got me where I’m at now but I won’t let my past dictate my future. I control my own destiny, so with that being said, I declare myself accountable for the steps I’ll take to get there. I see myself being “the man” when I age to my thirties. My de nition of being “the man” is being nancially free with the mentality of being broke.
I plan on attending school and staying in school long enough to learn everything I can about owning and running businesses. I know becoming an entrepreneur isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but what’ growing without challenges? Besides my career, I de nitely need support in order to stay in school and keep my goals in mind.
Angelo J. Vasquez
I’m writing you from prison like l always. I’ve been here since I was sixteen years old and I’m twenty-seven now. It’s truly amazing that I’m not dead. My life wasn’t ruined when my mother and father got a divorce when I as five years old. No that just meant more presents and two bedrooms. It was when I first began to smoke weed. When I was a nine-year-old boy I began to smoke rock, meth and PCP. I couldn’t be sober once I started. I began to steal from my family, anything of value was going to ‘the connect’. Then an idea that seemed to solve my problems.
I bought a couple ounces and began slanging. I got in a gang so I wouldn’t be robbed. I got lost in the streets. I didn’t even know who my family was anymore. My mother would cry herself to sleep, driving around every street pulling up to every crowd looking for me because she loved me. My father gave up on me, moving out of state. I was so numb on drugs I didn’t even care. I thought this gang lifestyle was the top, that it doesn’t get better than this.