The conduit for me to pull all the ingredients of my healing together came when a childhood friend asked me, did I want to go on a retreat for formerly incarcerated men. I could not even imagine how that would be. But I agreed. And forgot about it because it wasn’t many details he had shared beyond the question.
I had Earn Time Off (ETO) days I had to use, and I was thinking about going to a NY State Park that had cabins to get away from the city madness and to reflect. I would be 47 years old in a few months. I wanted to review my past 7 years home: accomplishments, losses, highs, and lows. Like magic, I had received an update email with details about the retreat—dates and where it would be. I knew at that moment my energy was aligned to receive this Universal blessing.
I filled out my paperwork and submitted my ETO request. I still received no itinerary on the activities. I was cool with that. On my ride up to Blue Mountain Center, it reminded me of the drive to see my brother in places like Auburn Correctional Center. It’s funny how I am going to heal in Mountains that have caged plantations sprinkled about with thousands of people being traumatized in them.
During the drive, I thought about the two-faced theater mask (comedy & tragedy). That is what life has always been—duality. The dichotomy in myself has brought me to this precise moment. I knew I wasn’t a gangster anymore. I never was I just showed flashes of the tendencies. But who am I now?
Blue Mountain Center must have been one of the most serene places I’ve been beside my mother’s womb. This beautiful place was where the indigenous Haudenosaunee people once called home, before the concept of the Five dollar Indian. I could still feel the sacred energy. And learning the history of this place had made me think what a suitable place of tranquility.
The Healing Circle the first full day was intense. As each person went into the chair to share their reason for coming and what do they hope to leave with I have seen the true essence of manhood. It was powerful to witness strong men not afraid to be vulnerable without the fear of looking weak.
As I got to know my cohorts in healing it made me feel like I didn’t have to conceal my emotions. That I wasn’t alone. Men hide their vulnerability in the shadow. But men who lived the life where perceived toughness, ruthlessness, or heartlessness was a commodity ceased to be connected to their emotional center.
When the healing practices from Qigong, meditation, art therapy, drum circles, Reiki sing bowls, vision boards, and healing circles were not going on I took solace in unpacking the daily events in my room. Alone with my thoughts, pen, and paper I could feel the layers of frustration, hurt, disappointment, self-doubt, and gangster thinking peel away as I scribed.
Writing has always put me in a serene state. In prison, it was my refuge. In freedom, the transducer connecting the internal thinking with external words that I share. I received more during the retreat than I gave. I was open to all the activities and energy.
The first night I had to ask, “How have I failed myself?” I would go on and list my shortcomings. I knew I could not fully be open to the retreat if I wasn’t introspective with myself. The next night I would list my achievements and what challenges do I face now.
In my nighttime journaling, I wrote “Time heals all wounds, no frown, no darken heart, no ill will last forever. It’s the journey to survive through it which brings the pain and self-doubt…”
As I currently read My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem. He states that trauma is in our bodies. And that healing for melanin people can’t be done just by talk therapy alone.
I pondered the holistic approach of the retreat and agree with Resmaa Menakem's assessment on trauma and operating from our lizard brain. Working in the restorative justice space with incarcerated youth I can see their pain hiding behind their poor behavior and pseudo-toughness. I understand better since I started my journey of healing.
We need more culturally aware therapists with skills in traditional healing methods to heal our youth (especially those who fell victim to the streets) and melanin people.
I was grateful to be a part of the first retreat for formerly incarcerated men. I hope more organizations have the compassion to do what the Alliance of Families for Justice sponsored.
My healing came in three stages. It’s thinking we have in the Five Percenter community that deal with Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding. Each is a level in your awareness with Understanding being a completion in an idea you needed to comprehend.
My first stage of healing came when I least expected it. I was depressed or on the verge of sliding into depression. I felt like the bar I held myself to, I was well below it. I was my hardest critic. The time and discipline I had put into building my social equity or capital seem for nothing. The time in my relationship produce my daughter but I had felt like a mate and partner a failure. The time of 5 years I put in for schooling didn’t produce the results I thought it should.
I called my oldest and closest prison comrade who became my brother in Hell’s Prism [. Life was going better than average for him. As I was sharing with him what was going in my life it’s like I had a panic attack, broke down, and slid to the floor. I was in some much pain I couldn’t breathe. I could barely manage to talk, and tears came flooding out of my eyes. At that moment I felt like a broken man.
He sent a ticket for me to come to spend the weekend with him and his family. As we shared brotherhood that weekend. He looked me dead in my eyes and apologize for not being a better friend to me. I was taken aback by that statement because I couldn’t figure out why he said that. He continued “I should have been checking in on you more and didn’t know you were going through all this. I took for granted that you were good because you the strongest person I know.” There was no doubt that this man who I met in prison was my brother. My family. He saw me at my lowest moment and threw me a lifeline. No judgment. Here we were two former gangsters, former ex-cons with murder jackets, now fathers: sharing a deeper bond as brothers. I felt revitalized as I touch down at Newark Airport and killed my second-round job interview [ on Zoom.
The second stage of healing came when I decided it was time for therapy. This time I would do it for myself and not appease anyone. In the Black community mental health is not a talked about subject. It should be with all the trauma we endured and still go through in America. I didn’t want a male therapist. Or someone not from my cultural background. I wanted a woman not because I was being sexist. I was being biased. I knew most women carry a nurturing trait and have a naturally caring understanding that most men don’t have. I was getting stumped in my search. I didn’t have the best health insurance at the time and the selection of therapist was not meeting my criteria or was not covered under it. I reached out to an old colleague that was a social worker. She sent me a service called Open Path Collective [. The rest was history after that.
The Universe would align me with what I needed. A Black woman who happened to have two things in common with me. We both were from Bushwick and went to the same middle school (at different times). My guards were at ease. I had worked to do.
Another reason I took therapy seriously was that I started to study PTSD for formerly incarcerated people. I had a friend of mines after doing 26 years in Hell’s Prism commit suicide a week shy from being home for 2 years on my daughter’s birthday. I wonder how he could do that after being in some of the worst conditions in prison including VADOC's first supermax. What pain was he going through that he couldn’t share with me 5 days before when we had spoken?
I went to therapy as a dry sponge. I would be introduced to Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). The cognitive distortions that we identified that I had to work on were Jumping to Conclusion/Mind Reading and Should Statements. Mind Reading built skills in my street and prison persona. That was needed to read the room, understand the vibe, and anticipate violence or be willing to give it at a split second. After being testified on I was on guard for the slightest chance of betrayal. That is what a hostile environment produces in a person. The thinking doesn’t translate over in application when you are in a relationship. It will have you seeing ghosts in a person's moves, trying to read their mind, taking offense to minor issues or mentally created issues.
I think the Should Statement aided me in my core frustration. I felt logical I should have been in a better situation. This was based on the path I took since I was home. I felt like I had more accomplishments and credentials than I had when I first came home. But why I was in a worse situation? That was what I thought. Looking back that was the furthest thing from the truth. I was comparing myself to myself and the high standard that I set for myself. I started to review the social factors that were also going on at the time. Covid disrupted our lifestyles and opportunities disappeared. I forgot that sometimes it’s not the season for your fruit to bear. I realized I am on the right track I just have to keep striving.
My therapist helped me to develop coping tools that I could not develop in Hell’s Prism. People often say you do not mature in prison. That you stay the age that you got incarcerated. That statement is a conundrum. It is true and false. A person can mature in Hell’s Prism in some areas in their life. I did not know what area I was not developed in. I would find out. It would be in dealing with a serious adult relationship. How could I when I didn’t have one until my early 40’s?
My therapist saw me over the duration of time develop the skills I needed to aid me on my life journey. She asked me do I still need therapy because I went from once a week to once a month. And my initial pain, frustration, depression was not a factor any longer. She left the door open for me to swing back through it if I needed to.
 Hell’s Prism is how I saw prison and a nod to my prison memoir called Prison Survival: Hell’s Prism available on Amazon and Kindle.
 I got the position as a Reentry Coordinator.
 Open Path connects clients in need with mental health professionals who offer affordable therapy for $30-60 per session
I strategically didn’t take my laptop on this AFJ Healing retreat for formerly incarcerated men at Blue Mountain Center. My phone had no mobile service and Wi-Fi was 99% of the time not working. I had to transcribe my thoughts with my old friends' pen and paper. It was refreshing because that is what we had in prison. I came back to the source of my peace—writing.
I cannot blame anybody for actions I took or did not take. I am a man. I can say that in a space where I had to confront myself. No distraction, no movement of the city, no sounds of chaos. I realized at one point in my life I was a monster. I thought about dispatching death in the same manner as doing a math equation.
Why did I think like that?
It was a choice to water one seed over the other. It was a choice to have the lion mentality over the lamb. It was a choice to be a gangster over a civilian. I aligned with a style of thinking in itself that planted my destruction: death or a long sentence at an early age. I would receive the latter.
At 20 years old receiving 55 years I did not understand how the Universe had shown me mercy. All I thought about was the ‘code’ had been broken and snitches run amok. And when will my revenge be executed?
I had lessons to be learned but the methodology had not been developed yet. Because I had not developed yet. Eventually, I would. Once I saw the blessing in receiving 55 years over the Life and 28 years, I could have received for blowing trial the Universe lesson started to pour in a militant mind. But I wasn’t healing. How could I in a space designed to crush Black men? Where vulnerability was seen as a weakness and humanity a luxury.
After prison, I would meet goals, gather accomplishments, develop professionally but I never healed from scars that came apart of my essence. I just became another version of myself. I still was logical and calculative. I still was the armor and not the heart.
It was a lesson I had to learn that didn’t manifest itself yet. The seed would be planted when I became a father. When I witness the birth of my daughter it busted over a floodgate of emotions for me. The unconditional love I had for her disarmed me and my armor started to melt off. The love I had for her started to emanate and engulf her mother as well. In it planted the seed of vulnerability but I had not realized yet.
In time I would morph into a family man. The timing must have been right to set the stage for the most painful lessons I needed to learn. I often said you don’t grow or learn what you need to when you are winning. It needed a catalyst that would overwhelm me. It came professionally, personally, and economically all at the same time. I was being overstimulated with calamity. It had one overall arching theme—lost. I couldn’t logically think.
I would remember being so frustrated after an interaction with my ex-fiancée, I would go walk in the rain for it to cover my tears. At that moment I became vulnerable. I became human. I no longer was a monster...
Trip was sponsored by Alliance of Families for Justice
Nobody talks about the fallout from being a thorough or stand-up person in the streets. Gangsters, thugs, and hoodlums all knew a prison cell or a wooden cocoon will be your reward. The knowledge sharing never extends to what happens when you come home from a prison bid, especially a long one.
When you are making the transition back into society as a regular civilian it seems like there are moments where you will never be accepted. I remember being home less than a year and getting a demolition job through a non-profit that service formerly incarcerated people. Upon working for a week and not filling out a W-2 I kept emailing the owner. His response was less than stellar and he invited me to his private parts. Had we been faced to face I would have tried to knock out all his teeth and left him with a wired jaw. An affront like that had to be address in kind. I was nowhere near integrated back into society, but I was trying. I stop to wonder why he thought that behavior was appropriate. Then it hit me. I am an ex-con in his eyes and not worthy of respect! Who am I going to run to and make a complaint, probably was his thinking.
When I would start my apartment search years later, I felt like an accomplished citizen with 2 college degree, published author, social justice advocate and working at a salaried position that paid decent. I would run up against roadblocks and I could not figure out why. I kept getting responses like my credit was under 600 when all the 3 major credit bureaus had it over 640. I requested to see the file that was rejected and got the number and company that ran it. When I got the file, I notice that they ran a criminal background check on me. I estimated all of them did it.
Reason for denial!
Now I was pissed because I thought shelter was a fundamental right for a human especially if you could afford it. I was wrong. I still was being penalized for a crime that took place in 1994. I wondered how many barriers would I continue to face? How much more do I have to endure? At what point do I get fully integrated back into society!
Society can accept a person switching genders but cannot fully accept a formerly incarcerated person striving to be the best version of themselves.
I see the importance of Clean Slate bills being introduced in certain states. Being formerly incarcerated should not be a Scarlet Letter.
In life it’s going to be moments when nothing is going your way. You can prepare and arm yourself with tools that you feel with help you get to the next level of your development. And you still can hit a brick wall. How do you prepare for what you cannot compute?
As a system-impacted person going on my seven-year home, I hit this wall in almost every phase of my life (personally, professionally, and financially). I didn’t have a model to compare it to nor any personal history to reflect on that would have been my light house in this mental fog.
I have been extremely comfortable in the most hostile and dangerous situations and places. But I was no longer that man in those type of circumstances. I am navigating as a legit person in what my street comrades would say “civilian space”. I took the steps to assimilate. I went back to college got an AAS and BTech degree to create better career opportunities for myself. I self-published books to create independent opportunities. I was honor to get involved with different social justice initiatives to build my community stakeholder equity. And one moment in time I was engaged and became a father in the process.
Everything went left and to say I was unprepared is an understatement. I started putting pressure on myself, wallowing in self-pity like why me, and probably didn’t know I was going into a depression. I was extreme frustrated and by default started to argue way too much with my ex-fiancée who I never hardly had an argument with before. I started viewing her from a street paradigm and label her actions as being disloyal. I never took the moment out to consider she is a mother to a toddler first before my woman. I was slipping in the relationship and didn’t know how to fix it.
While my personal life was falling apart, it was being feed despair from a lack of professional opportunities. Any real man wants to pull his own weight and do all he can for his family. I started to feel like I was sold a false bill of goods from society. I prepared myself but where was the return. My excel sheet can attest to the resumes I was sending out as the different color tabs increased monthly. I didn’t feel like a winner. I was losing in an atmosphere where I had no blueprint to study. I was going deeper into frustration probably depression which would look different on me. I knew how to wear masks outwardly but my ex she saw the truth. I was falling short from the man who she fell in love with. Somewhere along the line I let my guards down to myself. I let self-doubt permeate my body. I got caught up in the why me syndrome.
I knew my discipline was slipping when I started to drink too much and didn’t keep up with my fitness regimen. I was out of character and it was all internally. I knew I had hit rock bottom and I needed to do something. I couldn’t figure out why I was carrying this level of frustration and angry. I knew it was time for a change. I did two things immediately one was completely stop drinking it wasn’t agreeing with me. The other I found a therapist. I figured I need to improve my mental health state.
I was in a rut and I had the courage to admit it to myself and work towards getting out of it….
If you want to donate for a cup of coffee:
As social distancing becomes a new word and national guards roll into my town; I think about the holes in our system. I think about how inadequate our infrastructure truly is. I think about the level of fear I witness daily on people faces. I think to myself where to we go from here?
I was watching the news and heard them report that the Democrat party was going to penalize counties who didnât allow voting because we supposed to be practicing social distancing. I was like damn; we are a technological advance powerhouse and we still use low tech measures for voting. We know about the fraud that has taken place from misplaced ballots to voter intimidation. This would be a perfect area to introduce blockchain technology. Voting booths and machines would be a thing of the past. People could vote from the comfort of their homes. Now imagine what the voter turnout would be.
The greatest inadequacy that was exposed during this Corona pandemic is how outdated New York City School System is. It probably has been poor since they designed it. With the failing schools and low graduation rate, it was already on its last leg. When the shutdown order was giving to close schools and go to an online learning environment, I thought how would that look? I talked to my friendâs nephew and asked how his studies going? He told me logs on to Google class to get his assignment. I asked how the class is though? He was like what class I just get my assignment with a due date. I asked so the teacher is not teaching online via live video? He was like no.
All I thought about is the students that will fall through the cracks. I am an advocate of the complete destruction of the current NYC public school system. It needs to be replaced from an industrial model to one that can compete and develop the children moving forward. And a virtual school model needs to be designed parallel with it as well.
As our outdated systems are exposed, I hope those in so-called leadership positions have visionaries among them. If the presidential race is indicative to what is leadership, then we in trouble. I canât see new ideas coming from people birth during WWII.
Letâs re-imagine what tomorrow could look like with integrate technology throughout the infrastructure systems that suppose to serve the people.
The lives of justice-involved youth are just as valuable as other youth. There is no throwaway youth. The golden question is how do I make a youth see value in themselves? The platinum question is how do I get them to critically analyze the values or philosophies that made them justice-involved?
Credible Messenger is a term and a movement that gains its archetype from people like Dr. Divine Pryor, my friend and unofficial mentor as well as the great late Eddie Ellis, the founder of the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions who presented the Seven Neighbor Study which identified 7 NYC neighborhoods that accounted for over 75% of Black and Brown NYS incarcerated population.
What does a Credible Messenger embody? A formerly incarcerated person with a prison story and street credibility? Or one with transformed thinking, behavior who is showing the results in their life? If the bar is set too low, we will get poverty pimps that followed the money from Civil Rights Era initiated programs. If we set the bar too high, we will miss those that are applying their transformed thinking in real-time; and lack some of the socio-political networking and job skills that are desired.
A key Credible Messenger factor should be integrity. This could be surmised from their current viewpoint, personal growth initiative, and future outlook as well as steps they have taken to transform a criminal mentality and the why behind it. It will be the governing principles in their lives.
The nonprofits that value the Credible Messenger skillset; should place them in positions to develop and advance beyond entry-level positions. City politicians need to do a better job in identifying grassroots lead Credible Messenger organizations and give them funding on the same level of non-Credible Messenger lead organizations.
What does a Credible Messenger look like? Like you! A person with an earnest desire to help justice-involved youth transform their thinking, analyze their philosophy, and modify their behavior to be the best version of themselves.
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I was sitting in the parole building waiting to be called by my Parole Officer (PO). I was like damn when is this shit going to be over with. I hated going to parole and hearing people conversation that floated in my ear. It made reading difficult because of the noise distraction and I could not block it out with music because phones have to be off.
Two hours had passed, and I was getting restless. The only good thought I had was at least I only reported every 3 months. My PO called another person. I am wondering how many people before me since I got there at 10 am. Another hour past before she called me. I shot passed her to where the drug test kits were at and ask do you need urine because I was not tested last time I came. She said, “No, you are going straight out the back door. You done.”
I paused and let that sunk in on the atomic level. “You done.”
The vision I had over the weekend was manifested before me in those words, “you done”.
My PO then said, “Virginia released you 2 weeks ago I am closing your file now.”
I didn’t bother to ask why you didn’t tell me before I came in or had me wait 3 hours knowing I was off parole. I didn’t care. I felt a sword was lifted from over my head. Since I was 17 years old, I was on some type of jail, probation, prison, and parole. At 44 years old I became my own man again. No more travel passes! No more home visits from the PO! And no more reporting to this building!
I no longer had to worry about walking on a razor blade edge and potentially losing my quasi-freedom and leaving my baby daughter without a father.
This is the opening to a current book I am working. I will be detailing my own reentry strategies and insights on how to get off parole early.
My other books are available now:
Prison Survival: Hell's Prism a memoir of my experience in prison.
The Hidden Hand: Duality of Self a fast pace Urban Political Street Thriller.
The world is lonely when you see from a different perspective. When others are move by sex, money, or social status they miss the Invisibles. The ones that know the only currency is character, principle, and integrity. I am one of them.
My daily struggle is to remain steadfast in a sea of falsehood. I exist on a thin graphite layer which contain the rage that bubbles beneath it. My smile hides the contempt I have for the spineless. The secret is my steel mask is steel. I am unmoved.
I move through society as a foreigner. I watch crumb eaters on social media pretending to be movers and shakers: Power players. I watch yellow backs display their ignorance through recorded crime. I am lost in this age where despots of stupidity are the new heroes and the Invisibles are the villains.
Some women behavior poorly matches the energy of reality TV talent less sex holes. But hey she a “Bad Bitch.” When was winning inspired by being nothing?
I watch life from a perch hidden, walk next
to people but I am not seen, and when I speak my words are ancient on regressed ears. I see pass them but the architect of low vibration ideas and thinking knows that Invisibles are a threat.
My DNA is coded from genomes from another era. My manhood different so I think militant and speak pleasant. My presence is felt after I’m gone…
Photo by Daniel Monteiro on Unsplash
Mallah-Divine (MD) Mallah is an author, blogger, youth specialist, and a community stakeholder. His contribution to the urban genre is The Hidden Hand: Duality of Self. He combines his passion for the streets and socio-political knowledge into a sub-genre called Urban Political Street Thriller. He considers himself the father of it.
His inspiration for writing this book was Sam Greenlee The Spook Who the Sat by the Door, all of George Jacksons writing, and Donald Goines Kenyatta series.
MD had read in an interview with Mario Puzo from the Godfather fame, that his inspiration for writing that book was not the Mafia. It was about a family that was in the Mafia and he wanted to humanize them. MD figure why cannot the same thing be done with thugs, hustlers, killers, and strippers; humanize them.
MD goes a step further because his book is saturated in the Black American Experience. It’s a what if type scenario. What if a former hustle/killer name Bo-Money do a bid, retrained his thinking, and be placed back in society bent on implementing Black Liberation Army (BLA) tactics? What conflict would arise from his former Get Busy Krew? They are sitting at the hierarchy of a national drug ring and expecting him to take the underboss position. His former hood (Bushwick, Brooklyn) has started to be gentrified and police violence is out of control. Everything calls him to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Each character in The Hidden Hand: Duality of Self represents an idea in the Black American ethos. He also incorporates the classic afro pick with the fist in the spirit of symbology. The descriptions of scenes are vividly real, characters are complex, and the dialogue is on point:
“The holes of time are crochet with lies. Each loop is a tear of deceit, but still we’ll drink treacherous things.” Max stated his nonsense philosophy at the conclusion of the story, then sipped on a bottle of Dom P.
My life changed after 30 hours of misery. But once I seen my little star in that warmer with her hat cocked to the side, I thought yeah, she going to be cool like her daddy. Right then something clicked in me. The seed that was planted 9 months prior had sprouted, rooted, and snaked vines of immense compassion in my emotional system.
I was moved. My body quivered internally because I knew now it’s real. I am a father! I have experienced happiness plenty of times, but I never experienced visceral joy until that moment. “ Go ahead and pick her up,” the doctor whispered. I didn’t hesitate I scooped up my newly birthed stardust. Her little eyes focused on me probably thinking who the hell is this. It doesn’t have no milk.
In that moment we connected. I became second and she became my primary concern. All I thought about was protecting her, education her, and facilitating her development (especially in STEM). I understood in that second why my mother said at the reveal party, “I am glad you are having a daughter.” I had not really soften up from doing that long prison bid. Even though, I was going on 4 years home. I still carried an extreme edge of discipline and a hard shell. I would have poured me into a son’s container. The mind I carried at the moment. Preparing him on a militant course before he developed his own personality.
My daughter had instantly cracked my veneer without even trying. I smiled freely and unconsciously for the first time in decades. I felt a piece of my humanity reawakening. I remembered a passage I had read that babies come with messages from the ancestors. I received mines.
A new uncharted journey of fatherhood had started for me. I had a model of a father in my own. And theories on the father I wanted to be. Now I have the chance to wrap my bundle of joy in unconditional love.
Cryptocurrency to most people seem like a fallacy, some a get rich scheme, or means for criminal figures to move money or extort businesses with ransomware. It may be all those things. But the reality is that the technology that underlines the major cryptocurrencies are being integrated into our systems slowly but surely. Also, cryptocurrency is being adopted as a currency (no brainer there). It will probably adopt faster in countries where mobile device penetration is heavily saturated like on the continent of Africa. Imagine the business opportunities there with out bankers or middlemen involved (FAIR TRADE).
The cryptocurrencies that has no use will disappear like so many other businesses and investment opportunities. I know you don’t believe that the market will stabilize. Go ahead and finish eating your hotdog at Woolworth, then go pickup your movie from Blockbuster and jump in your DeLorean and head home. And don’t forget to email me from your Compaq; make sure you check out the latest Nas Album on Napster.
Be aware when Wall Street investment firms are creating cryptocurrency divisions. All they care about is the bottom line: money. I don’t think all these fancy degree holders from Ivy League Universities are just hoping their clients’ money will grow. They are doing their research and executing. Don’t be left behind because of fear.
The same money you make it rain with at a strip club could be used to invest. The same money you stand on line in the freezing cold for the new J’s can be invested. The same money you use to masquerade as a “bad bitch” can be invested. The money that you use for bags of weed and bottles of henny every day; one day could be set aside to invest.
You can get the knowledge for yourself and make a wise choice based on accurate information. Some people view cryptocurrency as an urban legend. All I am saying is it cost nothing to read a few articles to keep you updated while you on the toilet.
If you do not know where to start join our Facebook group: Urban Cryptocurrency
We all are novice of the cryptocurrency space and each one teach one.
Prison Survival: Hell's Prism (coming real real soon!)
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
When I watch countless police brutality videos as I scroll through my social media feed I see a common theme. The theme is that white police are the enemy of Black men, women, and children. If this violence was contained to a certain location or Black male cops were slamming handcuffed teenage white girls and shooting unarmed white men in front of their families I would claim it was just poor policing. There is no alarming rate of multiracial victimization by the police.
But when I see the police handle white mass murders with kid gloves and even take them for a bite to eat, my mind state shift to the American reality for Black people. The police are the legacy of the paddy rollers from slavery. It is their inherent nature to be hostile towards Black people in this country.
Inside of me is a silent rage that I wish would die out, but it can’t. The fuel of injustice constantly feed that flame. I understand why Huey P Newton and Bobby Seale took such an aggressive legal stance in policing the policing.
I am a man!
I am a coward!
These are the thoughts that ring out in my mind as I view clip after clip of this barbaric behavior being executed against my people from mindless drones. They don’t even think like hey this could my daughter, son, father, mother, or neighbor. We are just the enemy to these pale faces.
The NFL worried about a fucking knee. The reality is fuck your flag, your anthem and your pigskin. It you are not concern on the WHY the knee was taking in the first place.
When the inner man becomes the outer man don’t cry, don’t scream foul, don’t beg for mercy; just know that the pendulum has swung against you.
I cry tears of discipline and strength. That the dam that contains the Ogun spirit in me doesn’t break.
Photo by Lasaye Hommes on Unsplash
A lot of people use to come to our cut area to borrow his fictional thrash. I didn’t like it because our privacy was already limited. I did see how many people like reading those types of books. I thought to myself that is a way to educate the people. It would be like sneaking castor oil in orange juice. I came up with the concept of writing urban political street thrillers. As I wrote I let him read it.
He was like are you going to get this publish while you in here. I was like no. A lot publishers of that genre were robbing people; giving them like 500 dollars for a manuscript. I rather let my work die than to be cheated. Money never moved me, and I was never going to mortgage my self-worth or integrity for it.
I continue to work on it and my short sci-fi stories. Writing was my refuge. I would throw on my Paul Taylor cd it was a compilation of his songs and zone out. I could write for hours in the worlds I was creating. The visual I would see when writing was so vivid in my mind it was like I was there. I had transplanted my soul to the paper. This was the strongest creative outlet I had. It was saving my life, but I didn’t know it. By creating emotions for different characters, it was allowing human traits in me to stay alive. My pen was the conduit to trapped sentiment. Writing wasn’t no hustle for me it was a lifeline to sanity. I was pouring my essence into my creation, fashioning new worlds. And loved it.
I thought back, what if that racist teacher never kicked me out of my 8th-grade creative writing class. I realized every element in my life was interwoven. I was a tapestry of good and bad experiences. I had a reservoir of water to share. The only blind spot was would I be able to share my creation with the masses. But for the moment it was my dingy in a sea of chaos.
Prison Survival & Urban Refinement ( Coming Soon)
The Hidden Hand:Duality of Self ( still available)
I kept thinking like damn this shit going too slow. I am definitely going to miss commissary. I had no magic key to unlock the minds of those judging my worthiness for freedom. I did what I was supposed to by submitting a parole package with my letters of support and accomplishments.
I heard the key in the door. I knew it was show time. I went swaggering into the room where they held the hearing. There she was in the corner of a 32-inch monitor. I also wonder why her image didn’t take up the whole screen. I sat down in my familiar seat. She asked me was I still studying the import/export business. I was. She never asked me did I have remorse for my crime. This was my third time seeing her and it was my shortest interview. She just literally looked at me with compassion on her face. She knew, and I knew it was no more I could have done in prison. I was the ideal parole candidate. I had not caught an infraction in 13 years. My vocational slot was filled up. I was a teacher’s aide. And I still had strong family support.
After a brief silence, I excused myself to leave. She really did have compassion on her face. She told me as I was leaving, “I am giving you a good review.” That was the third time I had heard that. I know she meant it, but she didn’t have a vote in the process. I always thought that was crazy. How is the person interviewing me don’t have a vote?
The whole parole process was political. This is how criminal minded thugs turn progressive in their politics by being politicized through the process. As the DOC tries to dehumanize you it has the opposite effect on a few. They become aware through their empirical experiences by getting hung on the barb wire of the injustice system. I was no different. As this process tried to suck the hope out of me and shatter my fortitude, my resolve turned into titanium. I had no hope of making parole I concluded that a long time ago, but I still stayed prepared; it was the student in me. It allowed me to have the intellectual tools to rationalize my situation.
I was a captured dragon but the fire in my belly still burned.
Prison Survival & Urban Refinement
(A prison memoir coming soon)
Now the former Blood was doing good, building a stronger relationship with his mother and the mother of his children. He was growing. Then one day a new Blood came on the compound supposed to be a 4-star general. He inquired about him and another God on his side of the yard was like he wanted to meet. He was one of them use to be Five Percenters that turned Blood.
We meet that Saturday on the fence. I listened to questions he was asking the young God. His tone turned me off, especially when he was talking what was supposed to happen to him when he left. I let him know right then this man walked the yard by himself and nobody served no penalty on him. Now that he God that’s not going to happen at all. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. I turned to the young God and told him you don’t have to burn yourself. The Bloods had some protocol that you suppose to burn yourself when you leave.
Shit got tense, but when I am with you I am with you. The young God looked at me and then at the other Gods that was around. He knew we had his back and we were comfortable with whatever choice he made. He chose to get the burn. We all left in peace. As we walked off the young God said, “Didn’t you just go up for parole the other day?” He was letting me know with that question he had thought it through critically and made the best decision for everybody. He was learning what real brotherhood should be. You don’t push the button because you can. He realized even in a win it’s going to be a lot of losses.
The sad thing is that it’s more stand-up men in prison than on the streets. Every so often I was reminded of that. It shows when you in the moment; I like to say in real-time. When certain codes/principles are a part of you, you don’t have to second guess yourself. It’s that reason I became more selective with who I bonded with. I realized I had an aspect of my personality that was still ride or die if I dealt with you. I felt no need to weed that out. Only to refine the process of bond building. Everybody is not capable or worthy of that exchange of loyalty.
Prison Survival & Urban Refinement Coming Soon!
Another turned down, I knew I wasn’t going to make parole in my early 30’s. It was no reason why. They still were building prisons. They still had people with drug charges or offenses lesser than murder who were still eligible for parole. It was a hard pill to swallow knowing the whole process was a sham. I knew people that stop participating in it. I figured I have nothing to lose by still going up for parole. And since I didn’t have an infraction since I was 26 yrs old the process became political. The parole board was acting like a judicial body and each turn-down I became indifferent. It didn’t faze me. That started to worry me a little bit. I know from an intellectually standpoint I was becoming more disconnected from the human element in myself. I knew it was a defense mechanism. I remembered my first few months in the big house. A gentleman hung himself because he had got his 18th turn-down for parole. I had seen them cart the body out. I had wonder at the time what level of hopelessness he was feeling to take his own life.
I recognized who I was historical inside of this American tragedy. I played into their trap and this was my penalty. You can’t use the snake deck of cards and think you going to win. He operates from a different archetype.
I seldom thought about the streets now. I had been over a decade removed. My letters came infrequently, but they still came, and I was always grateful for that. It was still those that took a moment out of their day to think about me after all this time had passed. It made me reflect even further on the man I used to be versus the man I was at this moment. I knew one thing for sure the love I was being shown was not on par with the friendship I had given. I had put it on the line for people countless of times; whether it was beef, moral support, or money. And now to barely get a letter was an interesting turn of events for me. I used to be one of the first checked, now I suspected, I barely registered as a whispered thought in a drinking or a smoke session.
Prison Survival & Urban Refinement (Coming Soon)
I am sitting back thinking how did I get in such a wretched condition? Nobody told me what the fallout would be when I was older for being a thorough and stand-up dude. I have been home for at least six months (currently) from doing almost 19 ½ years in prison. That is around 9, 984,960 minutes of being amongst the half-dead: prisoners.
Yes, prison psychiatrist tries to fool us on the inside and you people in society with names like inmate or offender. Make no mistake I was a prisoner. My comrades are prisoners now and will be for the foreseeable future. The name game of those who are incarcerated is to try to control their minds. A master psychiatrist knows how words and colors play on a person psyche. If you identify yourself as a prisoner 6 out of 10 times you will probably become socio-politically and culturally aware. If you think those who designed and still profit from the prison-industrial complex did not learn from the 1970’s and 80’s prison movements, then you are mistaken. The modern-day slave breakers have become more skillful in penology. They even turned a social responsibility into a profit-making scheme.
Look at the origin of police in this country. Check out paddy rollers during slavery. So, do not act surprised when you see more Black men in prison. No, they do not commit more crime. It was design for freed hostages formally called slaves. A book called ‘Slavery by Another Name’ documents how new laws were enacted to re-enslave the Black man after slavery. This was done up until WWII. How many broken homes were created with the stealing of the head of household?
Now, I as well as countless others are so-called free but if you on parole you are not. You are just doing your time under a zero-security level parameter. But you still feel the fetters and understand the power dynamic is not in your favor. Your moves are still limited. You must ask another person permission to travel, get your driving license, get a car, move residences, and you have a curfew. Now imagine a grow man on a 9 pm to 7 am curfew; how am I supposed to date women if I got to come home before the streetlights come on? It’s other things as well but, everything is at the discretion of your PO (and each one has his/her own style). But hey I am so-called free, so I should be tap dancing in the street with a watermelon smile.
Nobody had given me the ‘game’ on the after effects of living a false street mentality. Honor, loyalty, and respect are great principles to live by. You just can’t live by them in the streets. And if you do. You will be left holding the bag every time. Now if you are alright with doing football numbers or life in prison then this book is not for you. It’s for your newborn son when he reaches your age now.
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?