All of us during our lives as children, adolescents and eventually adults need some encouragement. As the individuals we are we tend to learn differently, have different perspectives and take risks on different levels. For those like myself words of encouragement were really needed in my life to ful ll my true potential in the activities that I engaged in. Always being in juvenile hall and camps as a kid I did receive a lot of encouragement to break out of my shell and try to think differently. It took a long time for me to grow, but I hope for you it comes quick.
Knowing that many of you in detention centers may possibly hear or read these words gives me the feeling of talking to myself when I was a kid. Many thoughts enter my mind, what would I tell myself? What have I learned since? What has impacted me? Was it worth it? Regardless what your ethnicity is I was you in juvenile hall, I was you in camp, I was you possibly going to the California Youth Authority, and I was you charged as an adult.
I’ll never forget the rst time I saw my daughter. I knew her mother was pregnant but never knew whether she actually had the baby or not. It was a woman I met while selling drugs in another state. I was told that she left Washington and moved to Kansas. That was the end of what I knew about the pregnancy. My stay in that state ended with me coming back to California and getting a parole violation and another year in a California prison. The next time I heard of her was when my friend told me that my kid’s mom had a daughter that looked just like me. That I should go and get her as the woman was addicted to drugs and doing bad. That she was putting my daughter in harm’s way. I called her and we talked brie y and she said that she would send me photos of my daughter. The crazy part was after I gave her mother my address to send me photos and info about my daughter a Marshall showed up at my door with a paternity test.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve made some mistakes and even bad decisions. I am a man of many regrets, but someone once told me that it isn’t where you’ve been, but where you are going that counts. It’s true. No matter what we done in the past, as regrettable as it may be, we are like books – waiting for that next chapter to be written. The great thing is that we are the authors of our own books. What is said in each chapter is up to us. One decision at a time each its own chapter.
For instance, when I decided to quit smoking, that was a new chapter. When I decided to learn Spanish, that was a new chapter. When I decided to start teaching myself to draw, that was a new chapter. The more major decisions the more chapters. The next thing you know, your book is going in a completely different direction. People are reading your book in a new way. Haters even must admit your story has changed. Truth is, your story didn’t just change – YOU changed it.
The scars of my childhood are the very parts of me that so many men like me, incarcerated men, want to keep locked away from the rest of the world around them. The Alternatives to Violence Project Workshops bring out the courage in men that you would never expect to witness within a prison. This weekend was like a whirlwind of emotions and laughter that left many of us crying, yet with the realization that our personal af ictions are so much bigger than just ourselves—they also belong to so many others within and outside of these granite walls.
Fatherhood/Parenting: this was the focus of this weekend’s workshop. New faces, some familiar, yet uncharted territory for many of us to share due to the scars that are concealed beneath the billboard display of tattoos that take up much of out bodies. It is a well-known fact amongst us prisoners; the Alternatives to Violence Project is designed to make you comfortable in order to make you comfortable. There is no growth without the pain of nally beginning to confront the damage that’s been done to you, including the damage we’ve all been guilty of dong to others. That’s the beauty of these workshops: we learn to love, trust, and support men around us regardless of where it is that we’ve been, all within a crash-course un-fold of three days. In the bigger picture, we’re restoring our humanity while helping one another heal.
A lot of people often ask and wonder “How does a person manage to survive (mentally or physically) after spending nearly two decades of their life in prison? And what is to become of someone who gets incarcerated at age of fourteen and is sentenced to spend the rest of their entire life locked away in prison?” I ask, rather the conviction was just or not, how can such a cruel and unusual punishment tactic as giving kids life sentences in adult prisons, be allowable under the code of law?” And then there are those who believe, or at least “say” they believe that this doesn’t happen in America!
This Doesn’t Happen In America
This doesn’t happen in America? I cannot speak for every individual person who is in my same situation, or for people who are in situations similar to mine. Everyone should be entitled to speak on their own behalf. But do we really get the chance to do that? So while everyone’s situation and experience may be unique, there does exist some universal similarities. It is these universal similarities that I can and that I do speak, a universal truth. The truth of the situation is that when you are in prison, you are subjected to a constant and consistent state of suffering! In today’s society, prison is the closest thing/place we have as our own modern day version of Hell on earth. This constant suffering and the daily life in a prison environment is designed to attack your soul, your humanity, your mind, and your overall mental stability.
Greetings and peace and blessings upon each of every one of you that listen to this beat of ours… I want to share with you all some of my own “calls for help”– the first two relate to each other and a little bit more of what I’m going through now within my own journey. And the third one will be a shout-out and a cry-out for help from all of you, as you will see…
Alright now on my last prison term, which I ended up doing in ASP/Avenal from 2008-2012 I landed on the B-yard there, also known as the two yard. So anyways me being a Sephardic Messianic Jew, after saying what’s up to a few of my old friends, homies, and associates, I started searching for and seeking out any brothers of likeminded, beliefs based on the Torah roots teachings and come to find out we had a pretty nice strong minded congregation there- but not much at all in the way of any type of real programs or worship/service time in the chapel nor study books or Besorahs- bibles. Let alone DVD teachings or CDs within the two yard chapel there. So we all started to gather out on the yard on Shabbat/Saturday mornings between 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
In my opinion, a safe community consists of positive, happy, genuine people, plenty of resources; i.e., money for after school programs, new supplies every quarter like books, pencils, paper, whatever is needed or used mostly by the kids, clean streets and public spaces, no graf ti, homeless people, prostitution, and drug users.
I would say a place like Beverly Hills is very safe; mainly from the many white superstars that live there with plenty of money; a vigilant police force and other members of that community who care and take pride in how the community functions and the ‘rich’ that live there.
My old neighborhood is the exact opposite of what I just described above. Gang plagued, drug infested, crime riddled, bad people with bad intentions in general! The schools are like gang playgrounds and hang out. Families are broken; both parents are not in the home, the home itself is very dysfunctional, and the people have nothing positive to look for.
No one said life was fair.
I don’t agree with life’s experiences some people and I have shared…
Who knew she wouldn’t believe me when I told her he rubbed on me.
Streaks from the streams of my eyes,
and she tellin’ me, “there ain’t no reason for them fears…”
Later on, taking life in my own hands and it’s for his life he came to fear…
Who knew he’d step up and start beating me
when dude walked away and left his seeds.
I would cringe for no reason, not knowing him
and him would be the reasons I’d feel uncomfortable around
and the other one taking me up outta my dysfunctional foundation.
Stuck with some strangers now thinking I’m racist.
They didn’t want me. I could see it in their faces…
But I learned to handle my own.
Through years of fears, enduring pain and finally fighting back.
The crazy part about it is the shame, guilt, and blame is what keeps me regressing.
It’s what keeps me on the streets. It’s what kept me on my knees.
Praying to God just this one time.
“I promise this and I won’t do that, if you just help me.”
I’m sure we’ve been there. Done that.
Some more than others, when your back’s against the wall.
Makes it quick to come back…
Because it’s been that and then some of these dark secrets I continue to hold onto…
Just playing for keeps…
‘Cause it’s the hate that keeps me going. It’s the pain that pumps and keeps flowing.
It’s the revenge I think that’s mine.
The lack of forgiveness dwells within me, keeps me strangled for life.
But it’s my life that shhh won’t leave.
It’s what had me stuck on the pipe. It’s what had my lips to that drank,
my fist to the mugs and my finger on the triggers
keeping record of faceless figures.
Thinking I was hurting my mom.
Thinking I was hurting my dad.
Thinking I was hurting all those that hurt me and left me for dead.
With their broken down loyalty, them words don’t mean a thang.
All the while destroying myself. My body. My spirit.
My life and my soul.
Who said this life will be fair!?
I had to look up, forced to believe someone outside of me cared!
Through desperate and some quite miserable times I realized who always was there…
Someone told me it’s easy to say: “what happens for a reason…”
But it’s freewill that we’re given,
Pick your poison. It’s all in due season…
I never chose to be harmed, exposed and beat down as a child.
But as I grew it was my decision to act like I’m crazy, of senseless mind.
I hate that we go through some things underserved.
Paying others karma. Life lets them know they got served.
But know that he’ll make a way for me and you once we find the purpose to use it all for some good.
His love is not something of the unheard, it’s greater than me. You and you!
Not long ago I remember a day sitting in my California prison cell doing what I’d done so many countless other times through the electric fence and razored wire staring out my window. My freedom, something I hadn’t had in nearly thirty years, was left standing there in the forest just outside the Prison’s perimeter. I couldn’t reach out to clutch it in my bare hands if even my life depended on it – I was, and continue to be, serving the rest of my life in this man-built hell. They say that it’s a center for men and women to be rehabilitated. A place of correcting our wrongs with rights, before we leave behind a legacy that is just meaningless and forgotten. They say, many of us get so lost that we fall into the cracks of this con nement. Only to no longer nd our way back out. For me, I’m one of the fortunate ones – I found my way back to the surface.
Guns played a detrimental part in my life because for a long time, that was my only understanding on how to deal with my issues and problems that I encounter on the streets. Guns were always perpetuated, as “that’s how you handle business”. This ideology ultimately led me to commit murder in gang violence because I wanted to be respected, accepted, and powerful. That ‘genius’ way of thinking cost me seventeen years and counting, of my life at the age of fteen.
My response to the popular pro-gun expression of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is a sinister way to keep the focus off the guns.
There are a number of ways to kill someone without using guns so when a person is shot with a gun, that bullet(s) is the main reason why that person(s) is dying or hurting.