The raw truth based off my observations and experiences.
My Journey towards Cryptocurrency:
I had just started taking notice to Bitcoin a cryptocurrency. I thought skeptical and was like they going to shut that down just like the Silk Road; which was a criminal bazaar. I figured that because any currency not back by central bankers would get destroyed and the founders killed. I read enough history books and watched a few documentaries that lead me to understand this was plausible.
One day I had a meeting with the artist Sajjad Musa we were at BRIC, sipping a cappuccino, and discussing ideas for my next book cover for Prison Survival & Urban Refinement. He also did the cover for The Hidden Hand: Duality of Self. The conversation turned to getting out the rat race. We were both in agreement that working long-term for someone else was not the best use of our time. He started talking about investing in the cryptocurrency market.
I was like that “shit is not going to last.” Then he started to build (talk) on what is currency and who validates it? He answered his own question with “we do.” I paused a moment and let that sink in. I remember in prison that cigars to an assortment of snacks were the currency of exchange because we placed value on that. He had my full attention now.
As the conversation progressed I was like I don’t have 5 grand for no Bitcoin. He was like there are other currency and shared an app with me called Coinbase. He said he deals with Litecoin, at the time it was going for $56 dollars. We carried our conversation over to Applebee’s because I was in the mood for a Mucho L.I.T. He came me more information for I can do my own research. We departed, and my mind was swimming in thoughts on the train ride home.
When I got home I started to do my own research. I became aware it was a plethora of cryptocurrencies with Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin being the big three or the most well-known. It was a lot of news articles the subject as well. I understood it could not be regulated because it’s decentralized and peer to peer. The technology that underwrites it all is called Blockchain.
It was early in the morning and I decided to buy 3 Litecoins and a piece of Ethereum. I was good taking a loss on that amount of investment. I knew I had to upgrade my knowledge base before I go further. I was overwhelmed with the amount of cryptocurrency that is out. I searched for workshops on Eventbrite, looked for groups on Meetups, and downloaded a few news apps dedicated to cryptocurrency.
Some of the prices for workshops had cost close to 3 grand, I settle on one at Galvanize for $49. When I went I was the only Black person in attendance and the only women there was Asian. The two most underrepresented groups in technology: Black people and women. That brought me back to a recurring thought that Black people get out hustle because of a lack of information. Whole structures would be transforming around us, and we will not have found out how to use this to our benefit.
The facilitator was knowledgeable he was from CryptoNYC.org. I learned a few things and gain the greatest of insight by understanding that cryptocurrency is in its infancy stage. Even the facilitator and his community are learning and working around this cryptocurrency. He did recommend reading the white paper on Bitcoin since it is the original cryptocurrency and a book called The Internet of Money by Andreas M Antonopoulos which I am doing.
It is a lot of cryptocurrency on the market I would advise you to do your research and get your friends involved. The more minds the more information that can be shared and acted on. We are not late to the table because it’s still being molded. We can all be early adopters in our changing future. I will see you on the crypto frontier.
September 10, 2014, I escape through the flaming gates of hell. I felt like some returning mystical warrior in a Netflix original series Return of the King. I knew my journey just had begun. The odds were stacked against me. I was almost 40yrs old, just had done 19 ½ years in the Virginia prison system, on parole, resource poor, and returning home to land 513 miles away.
All that was flashing in my mind is how do I beat the statistical odds and not be a recidivism stat. It states that most returning citizens reoffend in 3 years at a 68.2 % rate.
But I was prepared to be a part of the 32.8%!
Every second that ticked through my humiliation process I vowed to never be captured and held in bondage again. And so far, I have been accomplishing that. I want to share some of my insights of what I have learned in the 3 years I have been home.
I often heard people use the phrase “Your network is your net worth.” In an application sense, it’s the truth. I re-establish bonds with family and some friends. That is going to be your greatest support system. If I ran across people I knew and felt like I had to ask them too many questions on how they were living; I kept our association in the 90’s. My days of being a ‘real nigga, stand-up dude’ was over for these streets. I also knew I am too thorough to be a ‘snitch’ for the police. My best move was to stay in my lane and let them stay in theirs.
All the new friends and associates I met them on my path as I build equity in my character. I knew I had to discard social skills developed in hazardous atmospheres and acquire new ones to successfully navigate amongst people that didn’t live by street codes or prison rules. And not attack others who crossed a line I felt was disrespectful.
I think one of the greatest keys I incorporated was taking moments to myself to gauge and reflect on where I am at on my path and review the choices I was making. As well as re-evaluate my agenda as facts, circumstances, and opportunities change. I did this in a systematic manner, every 10th of the month.
I understand that It would not have been wise to rush into a relationship with a woman. I had to awaken from an emotional slumber that I was comfortable in. I had been emotional dead for a long time. It was my way to survival in purgatory. I had debriefed many brothers who had made this mistake countless of time and saw a few firsthand accounts. I am definitely in a better place emotionally than I was 3 years ago and it is because I let my emotions naturally filter back into my body.
Prison ill-prepares most hostages for today's and the future job market. Only the brothers I knew that were able to study electrician trade came home job ready and secured better than average employment. I took upon myself to acquire skills that would allow me to compete in today’s job market and has an opportunity for me to use it as a future consultant. I choose computer network. I just graduated in June with a Computer Networking Technology AAS, and I am working on a Computer System BTech BA.
I am a writer by love. I also self-published my first book The Hidden Hand: Duality of Self. I also am finishing up my second book Prison Survival & Urban Refinement. I kept doing what I love to do and learning how to use the technology of today made it possible. My passion will create opportunities for me in the future.
If I could write and speak to people on my experience and earned a living from it I would probably just do that. I realize you have to be a credible messenger when it comes to talking to the youth or anybody that wants to know a real perspective about prison and the streets. I was honored to be an Arches Mentor (I worked with youth/young adults on probation) participate in the CLOSErikers Campaign, was a national organizer and speaker at The Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March. I still take moments to give a few words of wisdom to younger brothers when their ear is available.
I know I am securing a better tomorrow by preparing now. I realize that I must be a mentor to those who want to walk the path of freedom. I have my ups and downs but that’s regular people sh*t. I know only those who successfully navigated a storm can tell somebody else on the method they have used to get through it. I am honored to be amongst the 32.8% who never get talked about.
"When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out." - Ho Chi Minh
A mosaic of faces came from all parts of the USA to stand in solidarity at Lafayette Square in DC on August 19, 2017. They were there to let the forgotten know they were not forgotten. It had a two-fold meaning for me because I was one of the forgotten, a prisoner, just under 3 yrs ago. And on that day I was standing with a sea of flavorful faces as a supporter and organizer for The Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March. In my silent thoughts, I know I am the prisoners’ ambassador.
I know the prisoners’ mind and what they are feeling. When I be still for a moment I can channel it from my own experiences…
When I was walking to Freedom Plaza and knowing the historic meaning that enslaved ancestors of mine probably paved these streets it made it that more real for me. When I watched Hugo ‘Yogi’ Pinell daughter cry as she gave her account about her father; I wonder how many other daughters had cried in this plaza before? I wonder how many other daughters watched their fathers be ripped out of their lives during slavery as well? And here we are about to march and have a rally on the 13th Amendment and the Legalized Slavery Clause. How much has things changed?
What is it about the prisoner’s humanity that is easily over looked by the ‘good folk’ of this God-fearing Nation? When you consider that most prisoners are locked up on crimes that they committed when they were young, you should assume they grew and matured passed a criminal mentality.
How prisoners are living I was living under those same conditions less than 3 years ago. If I do not tell you I was incarcerated, how would you know? All you would see is a handsome man. Just like you would not know I was college educated or a published author. I wear no identifiable marks of my former prison status.
I understood the need to rally people on an issue like Legalized Slavery. It is our social responsibility to heal the fallen that fell from grace of the community standards. We should not accept the commoditizing or let them be allowed to be used as beast of burden by corporate, state, or federal interests.
Who do we want to leave prison; a harden, bitter, convict or a self-developed and self-reflecting human? One is going to be a predator the other a community stakeholder, but which manifestation is going to live in our community is solo based on us.
If you think the 13th Amendment’s Slavery Clause is a good thing and making money off the prisoners and at their expense is a good thing then do nothing. But if you want a community stakeholder to return to your community then you better get involved.
Ubuntu- “I am what I am because of who we all are”
I am days away from being a part of an historical event: The Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March (August 19, 2017). I am less than a month shy of beating the statistical odds of recidivism. I will be representing the 32.2 % that didn’t go back to prison after their first 3 years home. This will never get mention because an ex-felon success it’s not sensational enough for nightly news. It will show a different image of Black and Brown men, which doesn’t support their get tough on crime rhetoric and pro-Legalized Slavery Agenda. Power players and national thieves must keep the voting public scared to death for they can be alright with the billions being spent to militarize the police and fund private prisons.
I am still climbing out the hole from almost 2 decades in prison. A comeback from having nothing material and building my name in the free world.
I am in a world driven by network and resources. Building my network only requires meeting people with like interested and having mutual understanding. Developing and acquiring resources take time, especially when you are taking the legally route. Striving to manage with money I use to blow on weed, liquor, and food in one day or some nights on a dice roll (1-2-3).
I am up for the challenge and relishing the increments of my climb. Seeing my own growth and recognizing the challenges that come with it. Knowing the opportunities that did not happen was because of my criminal past and being alright with that. Knowing when I look some people in the eye and understanding that glimmer of fear is their burden to carry and not mines. I am not here to convince them that I am not the man I was yesterday. If I was we would have never cross paths.
My aspiration far exceeds my current funds. I keep focus on the slow grind. I keep a mental image where I was 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18 years ago with no opportunity or hope. And my current situation brings a smile to my face. I can sip on Kenya coffee, listen to Pandora, and work on my next book. I can take long walks and see something different and interesting each time. I can go to anyone of NYC museums. I can buy lamb and rice off the Halal cart. I can jump on mass transit and go see family and friends. I can get a travel pass (a parole requirement) and travel to other states and enjoy myself.
I don’t sweat the little things because I survived the place where sane men go insane. I don’t compare myself to another man’s accomplishment; I root for his success. I don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘who I could have been’ if I never went to prison. I enjoy the moments I have now. I enjoy the smile when it appears on my face. I enjoy the positive exchange of words I have with young brothers that called me ‘OG’ because they can’t remember my name but know my character. I enjoy being a socio/politico-cultural aware Blackman that is undeniably in short supply in today’s America.
I have a vision of myself and I am walking in the path shined by my own light. Life only grants permission to those willing to live it.
Travel in harmony!
Sitting on a balcony at 3:47 am at Waikiki beach Honolulu sipping on Remy Martin and looking at the darkness of the Pacific Ocean on one side and lights on the other side that’s shining on silent streets. Who would image 33 months ago I was having audiences on a prison yard with some of the strongest brothers I would meet in my life.
The state of mind I am feeling right now is tranquility. I can see my next few moves:
I am grateful for my experiences I have been having since I came home on September 10, 2014. The ups and downs. It’s the downs that showed me what I was really made of. When nothing was going my way. When I couldn’t catch a break. When I started thinking that these bitch ass niggaz got a better hand than me and crazy shit swam in my mind.
I have been to the point where emotional I could not take it anymore. And the pressure felt like all layers of the atmosphere started crushing me. I had to slide out the chair and sit on the floor. I could not stop the tears from following like the Niger River out my eyes. I did not know why I was crying. I knew I was feeling better as each liquid doubt and fear was channeling down and massaging my face.
People use to always remind me of how strong I was because of the almost two decades I did in prison. And I always remind them it came at losing something emotionally. Which was why I was sitting on the floor tearing. That was the moment I started to become a human again. Up until that point, I was just wearing a people suit.
When I stood back up I was regenerated. I knew I had the skills and the heart to successfully not to become a recidivism statistic. I owed it to myself to live and blaze a path that fit my mentality. I owed to my family and friends to be the man they can count on. I owed it to my community, especially the youth to see a different image of a man. One who wasn’t a gangster or coon.
I am honored of my personal journey this far. My inner cadre always reminds me to take note of what I have accomplished. I realize why now as I stare into the darkness of the Pacific Ocean. They know I still could be bidding like my co-defendant who is still getting turned down for parole. I know I am probably the only NY parolee in Hawaii. And that thought feels amazing.
I am grateful for the opportunities that reveal themselves to me. I strategize about the opportunities I can create for myself. My life is nowhere I want or see it to be at this moment. But it’s damn sure nowhere where it was 33 months ago. I have learned to embrace the moment while I prepare for a better tomorrow.
I have my eyes on the prize!
How can you live in America and not be a social justice activist by default?
I often wonder how after 28 months home from doing 19 ½ years in prison, how I’m an activist. Am I qualified to sit on the national committee for the Millions for Prisons Human Rights March? Should I have stepped into a membership position with the Close Rikers campaign? Would it have been better if I kept my head down and just got myself together for the next 3-5 years? Especially since 3yrs seems to be some magical number that stats say 67 % of people who are released from prison reoffends within that timeframe.
I had to take a long hard look at myself, meditate, and clear my mind to the point where no thoughts exist. The Daoist masters call this state the “No Mind”. When I am at my calmest state, I am the most dangerous. I see everything as a mathematical process. The clarity I gain after meditation is the greatest resource I will ever have.
Sometimes I ask myself…am I human? And why the things that most people fear when it comes to the so-called establishment I don’t? Then it becomes clear… it is the love I have for myself. I want for myself what I want for my brothers and sisters. When I was imprisoned I fought and filed two legal cases on behalf of the 5% Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE). My adversary chose to label the NGE an STG (Security Threat Group) at first, and then a gang. That means I went from some type of terrorist threat to a gang member. This is the moment I became an activist. This issue affected me and thousands of others; I was an NGE activist.
I learned a valuable lesson in the power dynamic of the haves and have-nots. I could have said “fuck it” did my time and maybe made parole earlier than the 11th time I went up. But what type of man would I have been?
I did not seek out or even know the two issues I am involved with had organizations that dealt with it. When I was asked to play a part in the movement, I knew intrinsically what I was supposed to do. I accepted the challenge when I could have made the excuse “my money not right” or “I am working on securing a solid foundation for myself”. If I had done that then what type of man would I have been?
Glenn Martin from the “JustLeadership” organization has a saying, “Those close to the problem are closest to the solution.” I concur. I realized I have the empirical experience and insight to address the issues I am involved in. Too often we shrink from our responsibilities as community stakeholders. We take the position:
The only question is…why are you not involved?
Guerrilla Thinking and Urban Refinement
The main thing about incarceration is you are going to have to make a choice. Are you going to remain the same and study street philosophy and so-call learn a better way to do the same thing or a new hustle from an old fool, who life consist of touring prisons? Or will you be courageous and transform your pre-incarcerated thinking to be the best you? But if you are not dissatisfied in being a half-dead commodity and living with the quasi-dead, as well as being ruled over by mental midgets then you probably are a zombie.
The catalyst for transformation for me started when the judge slammed that gravel at the conclusion of my guilty verdict. I thought to myself, this is what I get for following the codes of the street and being a stand-up dude.
I guess I should have been happy because I was facing life plus 28 years. Reporting this to my father, who already heard, was one of the lowest points in my life. No son should hear that level of hurt transmitted in his father’s voice. I didn’t even use my whole click.I went to my bunk and wrapped up in a sheet forming a cocoon. Why? For I could cry in peace and go to sleep letting the tears wash another layer of who I thought was me away.
When I awaken I began to question all the ideas and values I was taught in the streets. I would come to learn two powerful key terms and use them like surgical scalpels. They were introspection and retrospection. I realize that I had to fully emerge myself in a soul searching mission. This is when my self-discovery truly began. The transformation of the criminal mentality to one of Righteousness. When I talk about righteousness I am not coming from a religious perspective, but one of self-evaluation, self-mastery, and in tune with Universal Law and Divine Order. The inherent divine compass that exists with inside of you.
As I became a big brother to those around me, I understood that I had to reflect a model of manhood other than what was expected from being a convict. It is easy to surrender to your lower reptilian brain. But to be a progressive thinker and practice behavioral refinement and adjustment is a challenge. Why? The prison atmosphere, convict mentality of others, and poor character C.O.s (and administration(s)); all summon you to surrender to the animal. You have to exercise supreme discipline or you will become reactionary and a slave to other people’s movement. I had to swallow things that offended my false pride. I never mastered it but became a savant of managing it.
When you wake out of your illusionary state of being a ‘real nigga’ you become political to what’s happening around you. You know from your first day in prison that it is no such thing as rehabilitation. As you develop your knowledge through studying, you understand the why. At some point, you will ask yourself, how do I break pass the limited expectation of those who benefit from my situation politically or/and economically.
I will not say that you can practice complete righteousness in a diabolic atmosphere. One time I was faced with a decision to kill another prisoner, because of an act of violence he had done to one of my younger brothers and student at that time. I was 29 years old, had been in prison for nine years at this time, and about to turn into a hypocrite in my mother’s eye. It was the calmest choice I had ever made. I let one tear for my mother drop because I resolved in my mind that the next move automatically made me eligible for the death penalty because I was already locked up on a murder charge. The only thing that interfered with my plan is that I didn’t have a banger. So I requested one from the older brothers I rolled with. They weighed the situation, weighed my character, and weighed our bonds, and made a decision that saved me from a possibly hot shot in the arm. I am usually rational but they saw I wasn't because of my bond with the younger brother. They knew I was serious, extremely discipline, and never talked about my former street life with them; only about progressive thoughts and ideas. So they understood if they would have given me that banger, I would have killed that prisoner, doomed myself with death by the state or had gotten natural life in prison. I am still grateful to those brothers (Life and Atl) to this day.
Some may question why I didn’t have a banger. The same reason I hung my guns up before I got locked up in 1995. I made a conscious choice not to. When you know you’ll get busy and meet aggression with equal or more aggression and you are striving to change, you have to eliminate factors in your life. I was navigating a path out the streets at 20 years old. I knew other options was out there. And I didn’t like the person I had become. On a very real level the longer you stay in the streets the more you transform into an animal. I knew in my core that wasn’t me.
One of the hardest things to do is to alter your thinking from your street persona grata to a progressive urban guerrilla thinker. The greatest wars are fought with thoughts and ideas. The first terrain you have to conquer is your own mind. The reason I use guerrilla is my personal nod to intellectual guerrillas like Walter Rodney and George Jackson who represented the same concepts but demonstrated in two different arenas. A guerrilla uses what every resource is available to improve his/her position strategically, knowing they do not have the resources of what their opposition might have. To the powers at be, I am a thought terrorist.
 A timed phone call
There are myriad of issues that plague our community: gentrification, police terrorism, poor schools, self-hate, and others. I want to focus on the prison industrial complex. This monstrosity is feed with bodies and taxpayer dollars.
The prison system as it's currently designed is not structured on “rehabilitation” African-Americans but exploitation. According to the book Slavery by Another Name, after slavery ended in this country to after WWII, Black men were arrested on trumped up charges mainly vagrancy and fined. The local sheriff knowing these out-of-work men could not pay the fines, he subsequently sold them to the local plantation, mills, and mines. A lot of these men died in this prison camps.
In this modern day era, they give prisoners anywhere from a few pennies to a dollar an hour for their labor to work in factories that produce products. These products get sold and make millions but for who? But companies like Jpay, Global Tel-Link, Keefe, and Private Prisons just make money directly off the prisoner and his family through supplying cheap products, high services, or the prisoners themselves become the commodity. It’s a high level of vampirism going on.
Prisoner Human rights abuse from Abu Ghraib Prison made global news, most people never heard of the atrocities at Red Onion Prison in Virginia or the countless others that are peppered across American’s rural areas.
This is why it is imperative that we organize against the prison industrial complex and raised the alarm. Become active and be a part of the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington, D.C. August 19, 2017.