With nearly 18 years of incarceration, 6 different prison yards in 5 different states, I can definitely say that there is nothing on this side of the wall that I am unfamiliar with. Through life I acquired a thirst for knowledge. I love the feeling of achievement that comes with each new accomplishment pertaining to anything positive or educational, regardless of my conditions at the moment. Still, I have not been what one would consider a model inmate by far. In fact my current location happens to be a 23-hour maximum security lockdown, granted up to one hour out of my cell for recreation. This is supposed to be additional punishment for my so-called disruptive behavior building up from past events.
The average prisoner serving a lengthy sentence, especially the 30’s and 40’s to the LIFE withouts, regardless of a rehabilitated mindstate and/or strong will for positivity and mental growth will often times have a low tolerance. It is not uncommon for this particular breed of prisoner to be extremely rebellious when faced with issues that may compromise their daily activities.
Throughout the years I’ve suffered from both. However, my dilemma didn’t stem from a “nothing to lose” mentality, as with most prisoners, but suprisingly developed as I begun to learn and read more. After discovering that I liked to read and had a penchant for what I now consider “entertainment novels”, such authors as John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon, Robin Cook et. al.- at a young age, maybe 17 or 18- one of the the homeboys introduced me to literature that involved basically all black history and culture. From W.E.B., Marcus Garvey, to the George Jacksons behind the walls. Though this is usually a positive gesture meant to enlighten, in the beginning, I allowed it to instill negativity upon my attitude. The more I learned, the more I developed an extreme hatred for white people. The racially tense environment of prison only added fuel to the fire. For years this was the most unhealthy, as well as angriest, part of my bid and contributed to 90% of my rebellion.
Fortunately, it was in this particular phase that I received one of the many valuable proverbs of good wisdom spoken by great men over the years. Their conditions irrelevant. Upon witnessing my release from the S.H.U. (Special Housing Unit), or hole as we refer to it, for the third time in less than a month; Giggles- one of the “old heads” whom happened to be a well-respected CRIP on the Yard and as of 2004 Rests In Peace- indulged me in conversation. My incidents at the time were always for arguing with officers and refusing orders.
Giggles– Rest In Peace- informed me and made me aware of the following:
The route in which I was taking had no substance and was even more so a losing battle, for everytime it’s the same routine. Argument transpires. More officers alerted, I’m handcuffed and walked to S.H.U…..This can only slow down any progress you’re able to make in what is already an unfavorable environment.
But the main words spoken by Giggles which registered deeply; First, he said:
Even as the traps are being laid, WE as black men can only fault ourselves for continuing to walk into them with such ease.
and the most important words spoken by Giggles were:
The most effective retaliation for any anger that the majority of us have stored could best be met on more of an intellectual level. In other words, WE must learn to use our intellect to better fight for the issues WE feel need changing, as well as for creating and broadening paths to make a change. This can only start with the educating of minds and building mentally to develop enough intellectual power to get the job done!!
The majority of any fight, no matter the opponent, is mental not physical.