12 years ago, I stood inside Philadelphia’s Federal Detention Center’s (FDC Philadelphia) Receiving and Discharge unit, my mind blurred to the reality in front of me.
“What’s your number?!”
“6-0-1-2-8-0-6-6!” I reluctantly replied to the correctional overseer as I began to kneel down on the cold concrete slab that served as a bench to get shackled and handcuffed. 6-0-1-2-8-0-6-6 is what I had become, federal property complete with an eight digit bar code similar to a UPC bar code attached to consumer products. One-by-one about forty of us, all men of African descent, were led in single file formation underground far below the subway lines of Philadelphia’s SEPTA trains. As we trekked through this superbly constructed, well lit, climate controlled, subterranean tunnel, I experienced an eerie feeling- a feeling I’m sure the many captive African slaves must have felt as they were led into the interior of slave ships to journey the Middle Passage.
Once we reached the opposite end of the tunnel, we were whisked up to the surface and into the dimly lit, rancid cages in the bowels of the U.S. Federal Courthouse to await our fate. Most would eventually plea for mercy or assist the oppressor ensnare others. I did neither. Like Kunta Kente before me, I defiantly stood up to an oppressive system and eventually received twenty-one lashings (years) for my so-called disobedience. Thereafter, I was remanded and subjugated to a place of hopelessness, ignorance, strife, and self-destruction.
Prison is constantly glamorized by rappers, so-called hood niggas, and their ilk. You know the ones who, if they get caught up, end up crying in court, pleading for mercy and even assisting the oppressor in order to save themselves. You can watch every movie about prison, every TV program, like “Scared Straight” and “60 Days In”, but contrary to what those shows mislead you to believe, prison is a place NO ONE can accurately describe and get you to understand until you experience it for yourself. And trust what I tell you- you DO NOT want to stand in ANY of our shoes!
As most of you stare into the rearview mirror at 2016 and look forward to 2017, I want everyone of you to realize that for me 2017 officially marks twelve years that I have been a slave to a criminal injustice system built on racism, servitude, corruption, collusion, duplicity, punishment, deprivation, calamity, bureaucracy, and tyranny. A criminal injustice system that is meant to dehumanize, humiliate, and segregate those of us who are considered less than and other in the eyes of this nation’s political elite.
Over these last twelve years I have been overtly and covertly mocked. Against ALL odds, I have become extremely lucid and strengthened my resolve in a place meant to break you.
They placed shackles around my ankles, waist, and wrists, but they could NEVER shackle my mind!
My brain remains unchained!