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.
My eyes have been closed for fourteen-years. I am now fteen-years old and trying to get my life together after waking up one day and feeling the heaviest regret ll my heart. This regret came to me like a ashback.
I looked in my mom’s tearful eyes, thought about the innocent people I took from and hurt. I thought about how my persona now is affecting my younger brothers perspective of my life and me. And now how every morning I have to wake up at the crack of dawn to pay the price of everything I put myself and everyone else through. I guess you could say this was part of my wake-up call, the other half consisted of terrible life experiences that just made me think “damn, I really just need to get it together and fast”.
This quote speaks in several different ways, but for me it says, “everyone goes through something, but everyone also gets their wake-up call.”
As January comes to a close, our partners and friends over at the JJIE (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange) based in Kennesaw, GA, have picked up and posted a wonderful piece from the talented Mathew Edwards, who for the last couple years has been a wonderful contributor in The Beat Within writing workshops inside San Quentin State Prison. We must say, Mathew consistently writes stellar pieces about his journey and hunger for another date with freedom.
Recently we asked our writers in our weekly juvenile hall writing
workshops to reflect on the upcoming Donald Trump presidency. We were quite surprised how many different opinions were shared. Some responded with angry commentaries, poetry and rap. Another pleaded for Americans to “give him a chance,” pointing out that as “wards of the state, if no one gives us a chance to change, how can we?”
Well, right before the holidays, we sent numerous “Trump” reaction
pieces to The Crime Report, based in New York City, to consider, and
yesterday we were informed that they picked up and posted an abridged and slightly edited selection. Their selection is different that what was featured by our friends at the JJIE (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange).
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.
On a rainy Thursday in December my twin brother and I made a decision that we both regret. We’d been smoking and drinking with some girls, and, when we were about to walk home in the rain, my brother said, “Let’s get picked up.” I said, “Nah. Let’s walk. Mom’s probably sleeping.” He called her anyway. Then, when she was on her way, I saw an old “friend” who jumped me back in August. My brother told me not to confront him, but I didn’t listen. I regret that decision every minute of every day.
Being separated from my mom and my little brother hurts my heart. I pray to God a lot, everyday, to forgive me and to let me and my twin brother go home on GPS or supervision. I just want to see my loved ones again. I hope they all forgive me—my twin for what I’ve gotten him into, my mom for breaking her heart and my little brother for not being there to play with him. Every time I call home and hear my mom’s or my little brother’s voice, I cry, asking them for forgiveness. When I get out, I’m going to get a job and turn my life around.
Wow, like our friends over at the Juvenile Justice Information
Exchange, The Crime Report, based in New York City, picked up and is
featuring on their site their favorite “Dear President Obama” pieces
from The Beat Within and are featuring these standout pieces today. We
must say, they did an outstanding job with the spread on their site.
A couple months ago one of our writing prompts in our weekly writings
workshops inside juvenile hall, county jail and state prison was a
“Letter to President Obama.” We were overwhelmed by the response from
our many writers, and are so humbled that our friends at not only the
JJIE but The Crime Report picked up and is sharing these words with
their community of readers and followers.
Our prompt was written as… Letter to President Obama – This January
2017, President Barrack Obama, our first African American president,
will be leaving office. We want you to take a moment to share your
thoughts with the President. Introduce yourself and explain why you
are writing. Let him know your concerns. Offer your thoughts on a
current issue, and express your support or constructive
criticism. Share your truths about the last 8 years he has been our
commander and chief. Come from your heart and thank him for his
amazing service, or let him know your disappointment. Dear President
Like all milestones that inspire genuine pride, our self-satisfaction is accompanied by a big dose of humility, as we reflect on all the incredible writers and workshop facilitators who have poured their energy, talent, compassion, and love into this program. The Beat simply would have long since ceased to be without the courage of our participants and the dedication of scores of workshop facilitators, typists and editors who gave so much and asked for so little in return.
Now we humbly ask you to reaffirm your belief in the power of the written word to enlighten minds, elevate spirits, and liberate our most disenfranchised and ostracized citizens—incarcerated youth—from the shame and stigma of incarceration.
Fostering a culture of compassion, camaraderie, and creativity can make all the difference to children who find themselves entangled in a punitive institution that degrades and dehumanizes.