Some of us can't help it – we were born into these mean streets
Have you ever been the youngest of five with only enough for two to eat?
When the Bible says to love your momma, but momma can't be found
Then I go to momma's room and five naked men are standing around
Or have you said, “Momma, I'm hungry” and she says, “I need another hit”
Or been so long without any food your mouth can't even make spit
I didn't hang out in the gutter – the gutter was my home
Drunks, prostitutes, dealers and thugs, raised me until I was grown
And you want to talk about gangs, there's no choice to join or not
How was I supposed to go to school
wearing the wrong clothes when I left my block?
I constantly hear from society, to respect your fellow man
But when we were living in abandoned homes, I don't remember getting a hand
And that Rodney King beating – that stuff happens everyday
So if I don't have a picture to show, does it simply go away?
My condolences to Trayvon's family, he tragically died from a gunman's slug
But the story would have went the other way, if that young man was a thug
There would have been no outrage, it may not have made the news
The black man's living his own holocaust, but no sympathy like the Jews
So what happens if I'm not an athlete, a rapper or a college grad?
Does that mean all my hope is gone, while the world says, “Oh my bad”
So I chose to live the fast life – with jewelry, cars and girls
The army says, “Be all you can be,” so I'm balling in my world
And if I'm truly lucky, I'll move on to other things
'Cause life expectancy goes from years to months
on your way to being a king-pin
So yes the streets did raise me and I learned the game from my mother
Your goal may be a college degree, mine is to move up and out of the gutter
This is thousands of young men's stories, yet the end hasn't been written
Respect to those who made it out of the slums, and prayers for the dead or in prison.
I Thought I Should Ask (The World)
Do you think of happy times, can you miss what you can't feel?
Do you believe in love if you can't see it, is it still real?
Can your hopes be my hopes, I'm just hoping to be free?
Can I still take care of you, if for now you must carry me?
Are my words just pen to paper, or can they touch your soul?
How can I be a part of you, if without me you're still whole?
Why must I ask questions, if the answers I should already know?
I always wanted you to stay, even while forced to let you go.
My mind's no longer imprisoned, although I live behind these bars.
Hurt sometimes takes healing, yet still it leaves a scar.
Why are past sins remembered, even when we start again fresh?
It makes no sense to hate my life and still thanking God for every breath.
Can you still love me, when you hate what I may do?
How can you know the future when I, myself still have no clue?
Will you posses the patience for two people to be as one?
We're not meant to live in darkness, to have the life you need, the sun.
How can you believe in me, when you might not trust yourself?
How can you say you love me, and belong to someone else?
True love has no pain, hurt comes when you're deceived.
Children believe in fairytales, so what do you believe?
Life is about taking chances and sometimes we only get one.
Will life make you stand your ground, or make you want to run?
My heart is all I am – if you break it, I may die.
So sorry about these questions, but I have to ask you, why?
Life is what you make it, even though things may go wrong.
My hope is in the future, 'cause what is life when hope is gone?
Remember the things that make you happy go beyond what the eye may see
Some people wish to own the world, while others just want to be free.
Since 1996, The Beat Within’s mission is to provide incarcerated youth with consistent opportunity to share their ideas and life experiences in a safe space that encourages literacy, self-expression, some critical thinking skills, and healthy, supportive relationships with adults and their community. Outside of the juvenile justice system, The Beat Within partners with community organizations and individuals to bring resources to youth (between the ages of 11 -17) both inside and outside of detention. We are committed to being an effective bridge between youth who are locked up and the community that aims to support their progress towards a healthy, non-violent, and productive life. The following pieces come from our weekly workshops which were recently held in one the 18 juvenile detention facilities – from Hawaii to San Francisco to Washington DC – we venture into each week. From the writings we produce the national publication, The Beat Within. For more information please visit us at www.thebeatwithin.org.