My pain is frozen in time, present – it’s ongoing like a freestyle rap session; explicit four letter words permeate my imprisoned well being. So it is easy to see that I have nothing to brag about being honored as a “thugged out gangster” who has spent some two decades incarcerated.
Just like a lot of the youth who’s eyes will grace upon my words and hopefully become entrapped within the hymns I try to blend into that infectious hardcore beat; I too was you. I’ve been incarcerated since I was a mere sixteen years old. Tried as an adult in Los Angeles County, and for the past two decades traveled up and down the state of California in shackles by armed guards.
So you see I’ve danced to that beat, but because I neglected my God-given responsibilities to my family; I’ve been totally out of rhythm as if I had two left feet.
I note that preaching has become devoid of reasoning to the youth as it has for many of us, despite the age bracket. However lost souls are becoming too numerous as if the torch is being handed down from one generation to the next. And if we are under the impression that becoming a convict is sticking to the “G-code” then I must shatter your illusion.
For instance, “being down” for the hood is the most over-rated terminology used by your troubled selves. “Being down” is supposed to mean being a servant and uplifting your hood (community). If you’re to be arrested and jailed why not for political reasons: a cause? Like that of an activist. Being a “gang member” (Black, White, Latin, Asian) is not the problem. It’s the ill-practices of fratricide and other criminal behavior that is the underlying problem.
Starting off with our fratricidal behavior, (ie, brothers/sisters killing each other) these we go at under the guise that they are our “enemies”. When we are our own enemy. In fact, in prison you become allies with your so-called enemies for a common cause. This way of thinking and doing is alien. On the streets you’re enemies, but when we’re trapped like rabid dogs, all of a sudden we become allies.
As to other criminal behavior, we must first start caring for self, so we can begin the process of caring for others. Our weaknesses are often our core problems. Whether our weakness is connected to drug abuse, sexism, racism, illiteracy, bullying, thievery and the likes. It contributes to our social recklessness and misdeeds.
If you are currently incarcerated, take this necessary time to recognize your weakness and build from there. This is your starting point to the balancing act; being that our strength is usually not associated with our downfalls.
Furthermore, one is not to associate “weakness” with poverty. Poverty is a social condition. It affects millions. But millions are not subjecting themselves to criminal mischief in their plight toward betterment. So we must not use poverty as an excuse for our criminal behavior.
Although in a sense, there may be times that survival justifies some “outside the box” acts to sustain us for another day. Thus, I don’t want to confuse righteousness with reality. Neither do I want to sound preachy or be judgmental, because I’m no good example of responsibility. In fact, I still have a lifetime of elevating and proving my worth.
However, a person’s past does contribute to the building blocks of character. A dummy will only continue to subject himself to the bumps and bruises that can be avoided from the repeated insane cycles of beast acts and hopeless pursuits. There’s no real honor in gangsterism, stupidity, ignorance or the over used phrase: “Keepin’ it real.” For I epitomize consequences of this twisted pathway to nowhere.
Every life is worth saving, start with self and become at peace with your natural realm. Education can unlock the darkest box, but once you're freed, be accounted for.
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.