by Miguel Quezada

Being willing to go alone requires being fearless in the face of the unknown and being courageous in the adversity of the world saying, “you will fail”.

My lack of con dence was because I had learned one way of life. That was to be down with my homies and neighborhood. The beliefs I adopted were those things we learn in the neighborhood: loyalty, trust, honor, respect; these values were real and I would have defended them with my life. This belief system was and is powerful and at that time I lacked the courage to break away and go on alone. This belief system kept me weighed down because I believed I was abandoning and letting down the homies and neighborhood.

Over nearly twenty years in the prison system I learned about my potential and who I don’t want to be in life. The beginning stage of this realization was not easy. The prison yard placed many obstacles in my path. The fact that my former homies from the streets never helped me, but it was my family who came to visit, made it an easy decision to break away from that old life. All along it was my parents and sisters who displayed loyalty, trust, honor, and respect. I had it twisted. My homies and neighborhood might have started on this path with me, but they won’t nish with me or nish me. And that’s okay.

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A Simple Photo That Means a Million Words

by Bryce

There are many things in my life that I own and cherish. From childhood trophies and items my lovely parents got me, to simple things as pictures and blankets my grandmother would make me. Out of these things I tend to cherish and remember the pictures the most.

It is more than just a simple picture, it is a photo that means a million words and memories. Something that I will carry with me for the rest of my time living in this world because when you lay your eyes on that picture, it paints a whole world in your head that expands the picture in so many ways. Plus, you usually take these photos with loved ones so it creates a special bond and feeling that is impossible to break. Something you will never forget.

There is just something about that special item that you cherish most that no matter what happens in life, nothing will ever be able to replace it. It is the love behind that item that matters the most because at the end of the day, it’s your family and loved ones who will forever be in your life to love and support you with every choice and thing you do. That is the true meaning of family, right?

In the end, there are a ton of wonderful things in my life I could say I cherish and are of value to me, but nothing will ever compare to that simple photo you lock your eyes on that means the world to you, but absolutely nothing to someone else.

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Make Up Your Mind

by Melvin Jones

Made up my mind
No matter how much I was abused
I was done crying
Didn’t matter if it was an extension cord, a belt, a coat hanger,
a Hot Wheels race track a fist in the mouth,
a kick in my stomach, a slap
I wasn’t gonna shed a single tear
I was done crying
I was done denying
That it wasn’t my fault
As the blows rained down on me
I simply detached… racing
For the dark crevices of my mind
There I sang and danced to songs
That spoke of God rescuing me
How this little light of mine, inside me
I got to let it shine
And when the beating stopped
I calmly came back
Cleaned up my wounds, finished my homework
Put books back in my knapsack
Like nothing had ever happened.
You know like how everybody seems to just keep getting up in the morning,
going about business as usual
In the aftermath of all these young kids murdered
by fully automatic weapons clapping
Call it a round of applause
Good lawd. Thankful it ain’t their child’s final curtain call.
I made up my mind
No matter what, I would make it through this
Every ounce of pain I received
It became the motivating force
My gas station, spiritual ethanol
No lie, some days I used to wish
That God would give me strength
Where I could snatch that broomstick before the next hit
Once and for all ending this nonsense
Turning the tables and beating the hell out of these monsters with it
I wished to be that courageous,
but back then I simply wasn’t.
I just stared at the stars and dreamed
Maybe a spaceship would come for me,
pulling me up by a light beam
Taking me to a faraway galaxy
It never came and nothing changed
Yet I couldn’t be the only one, I felt it in my heart
I knew it deep in my brain
Cause one day I believed we could unite
Something like caped crusaders or world saviors
Standing together, man, we could fight
Halting this, this madness
I know these emotions, how it feels to live in constant fear
As a kid back then, but now I’m all grown up
Got my weight up like I was preparing for the NFL draft
Through all those bruises, busted lips, the welts…
I could always hear
Greatness calling in my ear
I used to stare into my bowl of cereal
Thinking… why did God put me here?
And now I know
I mean I really know
So I could show what it looks like
To have that glow
To not merely exist in shame
But to overcome, stand tall
Demonstrate to the world
This is what you do with all that pain
Put it on display, put it on a plate
Because I made up my mind
That as long as I’m breathing,
all I want to do is help save another kid today.
Allow my thoughts, my words, my actions
to inspire them in some way.
So children everywhere, understand
When you hear me, when you see me
Know that everything, everything’s gonna be okay.

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