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by Miguel Quezada
When I knew there was a chance that I could reach out to you young men and women in the Modesto Juvenile Hall, I was ready for the opportunity. You see, back in 1998 and ’99 from age sixteen to seventeen, I was in the max unit, and in 1999 I spent some time in the boy’s unit too.
Back then I weighed about one hundred and fty pounds. But I felt a lot bigger because I carried within me a lot of resentment, loneliness, fear, and rejection. All of this spilled out into the world and the people around me in the form of anger. I was a very angry kid. I covered up my feelings by blaming everyone else for what was messed up in my life and for the things that kept me in a vicious cycle of bad decisions. Worse, I had the perfect outlet for my anger: gangs. It allowed me the chance to take out my anger on people I believed to be different from me. In making them lesser, I thought I became important, which made me feel better about myself. This was shallow.
Back then, I wouldn’t admit this to anyone. I had low self-esteem. I didn’t think much about myself. I hid my low self-esteem behind a mask of toughness that shed no tears. Before I knew it, I was so deep into making mistakes that I could see no way out. Not seeing a way out, I felt my life was over because of all these mistakes. So I just continued to do what I was doing because there was nothing else left. I had failed school, let my family down over and over again, and lost my family’s trust. By then, I didn’t care anymore. My life became all about the neighborhood and my friends. Whatever worries I had in life were drowned by the use of drugs and alcohol. In my mind, it didn’t matter whether I lived or died. That is no longer the case, but it took me a very long time to understand those things about my life, a life that many of you might be living today.
I can honestly say I wasted eighteen years of my life, each day chasing something; answers, love, a high, money, acceptance. I spent eighteen years acting out and making mistakes because I thought someone would save me. I realize now, though. I can’t keep making mistakes based off the choices people made before I was born or because people thought life was boring and wanted more than just a family.
I wish life was laid out in front of me but it’s not and never will be. I don’t know where the days went. Time keeps speeding up and lately, the days have been passing me instead of me passing the days. I feel like life’s happening around me and I’m not even part of it. I never thought eighteen would come so fast. A mixture of opportunity and fear stir inside me. I’m ready and I don’t know what I’m ready for. I’m scared and I don’t know what I’m scared for. I do know that now my times up, nobody’s saving me. So it’s on me like it always has been.
by A. Raheem Ballard
Since the beginning of time, language has allowed people of all ethnicities to communicate, to be heard, and to be felt. Through the exchange of words, language has also allowed people to persuade others, and to be persuaded.
For example, the ery speeches of Adolf Hitler convinced a nation of people that blonde hair and blue eyes was a sign of ethnic superiority. Then, there was the congregation of Jim Jones, which was tragically misled from America to Africa, only to commit mass suicide. These horri c acts were not only carried out with bad intentions, but with the purpose of altering history. These events were accomplished through the power of a man’s words
On the other hand, just as language and words can be used to rally people towards corruption and injustice, they can equally be used to call people towards positivity and progress. What would the Civil Rights movement have been like without Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech? Or Malcolm-X’s “Ballot or the Bullet” speech that changed the way minorities viewed the political process. Not to mention the many speeches given by Cesar Chavez that strengthened a labor movement and demanded economic equality and change. Again, these examples illustrate not only the power of men, but the power of their words.
Thick brown skin with battle scars everywhere, a glance around my face expressing a deep depression and overcoming of sin. I see three tattoos that express the love for the people symbolized amongst each of them.
I see coarse hair, which I was born with and struggled with while going through different stages of depression. I remember my different hairstyles as I think of myself, and cry knowing that my hair did not deserve this point of roughness. That’s just the outside appearance of the mirror for the bigger image is withheld inside of my soul, heart and mind.
Now I see joy jumped by my pride and knowledge of the streets and books. I see plenty of ghts, mostly wins, a few losses physically and mentally. I see pain and hurt towards people shown by my evil spirits. I see attitude more negative than positive given to those who come across my dark lights.
In the depths of me I see hope for recovery of the mind and broken heart. Then I remember to when I was happy. I was a pure and wise happy soul. I loved those who loved me. I even loved more.
I see me and see a wounded heart forcing itself back together after being torn apart by my rst love. It’s hard to x since when I see me, I see him in me. I see, a once on track, skill minded human being who had a decent head on her shoulders change into a lost certi ed gang member who’s ignorant mind won’t allow her to think beyond the streets. I see stupidity creating blind spots within me.