My entire life I've wondered how I would have turned out if my father was in my life. My mother was addicted to KJ (PCP) in the 1990's. One night when I was five we got pulled over in San Jose, California and she got busted with sixteen joints of PCP. She went to prison for five or six years and I was left parent-less.
I've met my dad, that I can remember, three times in my entire life. With no father in my life I eventually turned to the streets for guidance and comfort.
My mom got out of prison and when I was eleven or twelve we started to get high together and selling bomb and crystal. Still no real role model except for my varrio.
My dad was sentenced to a seventeen-year prison term in 2000 or 2001.
In the hood I didn't think of the consequences I would have for doing crimes and frankly I didn't care, I was in and out of the juvenile hall system since 2003. I used to play sports in the community I grew up in, got kicked out of every school I attended in seven years and I wish I never did.
Today, I'm twenty years old and regret everything I've done to end up in the position I'm in now. In 2010, at the age of seventeen years old I got charged as an adult and got twenty-one years with eighty-five percent. My release date is 2028 if good, 2033 if not.
Now, (can you believe) I'm celled up with my father, the one that was never there for me and chose to be a gang membber than to be a father to me. I understand the responsibilities he had to do as a gang member, but what about the responsibility to being a dad?
In 2006, I had a son that was born. I was thirteen years old and I was there for him but not like I should have been. I too had responsibilities as a gang member. I messed up like my dad. It took twenty-one years, “almost” life to get a reality check. I forgive my father and have chosen to move on from here on out. I hope one day my son, Eli will forgive me and give me a chance for my mistakes and know that he has a Dad who loves him very much. I know he'll break the negative cycle.
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.