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by Keith Erickson
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.
After being in here for a moment, you think about life, about how things could’ve been better if you never made your move.
But it’s different in your cell. As soon as that door closes, there’s like a whole different life waiting for you. It’s like a nightmare because you’re only thinking about how long you’re gonna be in there, how long you’ll be staring at that locked door.
Then boredom hits. Instead of being stimulated, that isolation makes you cry. You think about your mom, about what might be happening to her. When you think about so much at one time, eventually you start to shut down. You can’t sleep. You stare at the walls and they start closing in on you. The space gets tighter, so you talk to yourself inside of your head. After a minute, you start to hit your push-ups. You physically tire yourself out and then you end up passing out.
by Michael X. Bell
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.
My city cries for help in so many ways.
People think we kill ‘cause we senseless,
but it’s really hurt and pain.
From the outside looking in, people say we’re possessed by evil. But come from where we come from,
we all trapped from our mindset to our freedom.
Look into my eyes, I’m the tears of my city,
I’m the pain and the suffering, I come from the nitty-gritty. All we want is help, we want a lending hand.
We want somebody to care and don’t give up and understand. Don’t judge us from the out, try to nd the inner secret,
We rob and take to survive and live,
no father so money becomes my leader
Oakland, California, the town as you may call it,
I was born and raised, streets full of murderers and cof ns. The cry of my city, a cry of pain and help, don’t judge us ‘Till you walk a mile in our shoes and see what’s up.
Our pain from death of close loved ones,
pain from fathers being absent.
Pain from lack of money and struggle,
The struggle causes us to hustle
by Vernon Smith
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.
by Big Boone
I used to question life. I used to plot on the lives of others with malicious intent. My own life was a test to see how far I could push myself: how much I could take and how it would change me, to hurt another person, to have low regard for life. How would it make me feel; would I be the same person after that I was before? Would it make me a better person or a worse person? Would I feel sorry or not?
The things I did and things I learned made me the person I am today. The person I am is the person I wanted to be and knew I would become: a strong individual, who can survive when others would die, who could stand in the storm of life (guns, gangs, drugs, death, poverty, prison) and say “you can’t break me”. I am a person who has nothing and still strives to live; who does not fear death; who does things just because I can. The life I lived is what made me the person I am. I’m a firm believer in the idea that what makes you laugh will make you cry. What makes you will break you.