Wednesday, February 26, 2020

A Message of Solidarity

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached in the Main Prison visiting room at Angola by a Rastafarian brother. The Louisiana Network for Criminal Justice Transformation and the Rastafarian congregation at Angola have become allies in recent months, so he took that moment to meet me face-to-face. After fifteen or twenty minutes of conversation, the brother, who had sneaked into Building A because he heard I would be there, told me that the Rastafarians and the Islamic fellowship would be celebrating Black History Month together on February 23rd.

"If you write something to the group," he said, "I'll read it."

I had a lot on my plate right then. Responsibilities at the university were demanding my attention and I was about to leave to spend five days in Oakland, California, for a prison abolition national conference. But I couldn't turn down such a golden opportunity to be introduced by this man to yet another segment of the population at Angola in such a lovely way.

With no other "free time" for the purpose, when I got on the plane to go to Oakland, I pulled out a pad and pen and wrote the following. The word is, they liked it. So as February comes to a close, I'll share it with you.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

A Father Writes From Prison: "SHOTS FIRED!"

NOTE: I received the following essay from an incarcerated citizen with whom I have been working. The photo above is not of him or his children, but is intended to illustrate the issue about which he wrote.

I imagine that everyone – at some point in life – faces a personal tragedy that shakes them to the core. Well, for me, this is one of those moments.

A few days before Christmas, my youngest son was gunned down and left for dead in the streets of New Orleans, his dreams of one day running his own real estate business indefinitely suspended for reasons I cannot begin to fathom. And as I sit here – 150 miles away at Angola – my heart bleeds for him.

In the quiet moments between the chaos and mayhem of prison life, somber thoughts of my youngest child lying on the cold pavement in a pool of blood sends chills down my spine and nearly breaks me completely. The gruesome images in my mind are the kind that no parent should have to endure – not me, not anyone. As a father, I am beside myself with grief, not just because my son was almost killed, but because I wasn't there to protect him in the first place. I’ve been incarcerated his whole life – 17 years – not knowing the struggles he had to face on his own while I was locked away. Then, on January 21, my son's birthday, I received the most important letter I would ever read: