Together, Joseph and I read two books…..I was required to for my Urban & Community Studies class, but they peaked his interest as well. Therefore, we decided to share our thoughts on them! “Becoming Ms. Burton” by Susan Burton and “Writing My Wrongs” by Shaka Senghor narrate the journeys in the authors’ lives as they navigating the criminal justice system.
Both books are very inspiring reads that I encourage everyone to check out! To hopefully spike your interest, I am going to share Joseph’s thoughts on the literature here!
Reading the book Righting My Wrongs by Shaka, was both powerful and hurtful. Unfortunately, I’m currently living part of his story. I feel much empathy for the many families that have lost love ones to senseless crimes. But I’m speaking not only of the families of the victims but also those accused of the crime. I feel the pain daily when I speak to my family.
However I’m thankful for prison in a strange way. Prison has taught me many things. In the black community prison is called the black man’s college. This is where I learned about my cultural history. Learning of my history has given me a great appreciation for the sacrifices made for me and others. But it also gave me a sense of pride. Learning about myself was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. As did Shaka, we learned of our value. We learned how the streets loved no one. We found out that life has so much more to offer.
I found it interesting how much I could relate to his story. Although we were brought up in different eras, the “cycle”, the story was very much the same. Drug and alcohol abuse. The selling of drugs to provide for ourselves. The single parent household. The struggle to overcome the circumstances. This is what we saw growing up so this is what we emulated. And I’m sure that many youths behind me can attest to going through the same things.
I no longer adhere to that street code or mindset. I’m not only responsible but I will be held accountable for the knowledge I have now acquired. Knowledge is only information. It only becomes power when action is put with it. Many youths don’t have positive role models that understand their plight. A lot of black man sit in prison with me while single working mothers strive to raise young men and women.
I’m not perfect and I never will proclaim to be that, but I understand that I made mistakes on my journey. This book shows that although you may make mistakes your story is not over. It has added fuel to my fire to right my wrongs. To help give back to the youth. I’m making my knowledge powerful by putting things in action.
We are living in a modern-day slavery and we have to stop the pipeline. We have to give our youth a chance to see their potential. We must be the examples, not just with words but with our actions.
Becoming Ms. Burton was a great book of redemption. She took her experiences and knowledge of the “life” to give hope. She seen that this system gave no true hope of redemption. Every state is different, and I must say to my knowledge Mi provides many programs upon release. Ms. Burton is providing hope to those who feel hopeless. Rebuilding your life after having such a stigma placed on you is hard. People who haven’t experienced this form of life will never fully understand the mental trauma experienced. Everyone doesn’t change at the same rate or time.
As with Ms. Burton, she was in and out of jail. At some point she gained a true knowledge of her worth and value, but it happens at the very moment it was supposed to happen. 100% dissatisfaction brings about 100% change.
Sadly in this country we are divided by race, class and money. In these stigmas certain people are deemed unworthy of help and assistance. They had their chances and made their choices.
Many people fail to realize that not everyone is provided the same opportunities to succeed despite what is commonly taught. Many women go through unthinkable things. And they never speak on these things. Their strength and fortitude are unmatched. And I personally salute every woman.
I love how Ms. Burton is leading by action and in the process changing the mindsets of those who cross her path. She brings to the forefront a system of oppressive rules, laws, policies, and practices geared at making those who have made changes in their life’s feel like redemption is unattainable. She shows that no matter what you can transform your life. Change is a state of mind and you should not change for anyone except yourself. Allow others to be your motivation but change because you desire something new.
One thing I love is the support she is given. Speaking as a person enduring this system, we need support. We need people to have sympathy and empathy for those who made bad decisions in life. One choice in my life should not define who I am for the rest of my life.
This book also made me think about my release and the struggle I may face. Again, to my understanding, Michigan has programs. But what about the struggle with returning to my family. I’m not the same person I was when I came to prison. I know that when I come home it won’t be easy and the struggle I embrace. However, everyone needs a support system.