“Breaking Through the Wall” Pt 2-Cam & Joseph

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!

Joseph’s Thoughts…

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. 

Bonus Book you should read!

“Breaking Through the Wall”-Cam

I took a course this semester called Urban & Community Studies. The course focused on a few main themes:

1. Changing Cities — The multiple forces and related impacts by which U.S. cities have been transformed , demographically, physically, economically, and culturally from the 1940s to today.

2. Black Urban Communities — The growth, consolidation, and continued evolution of black communities within U.S. cities during this period and the corresponding view in U.S. popular culture that closely associated black people with cities.

3. Grassroots Activism — Various local efforts and community-based work within cities, particularly among black residents, to create healthy, sustainable, and just urban communities and to project new visions for cities in the 21 century.

Healing through Storytelling” would be my fourth theme for the course. Throughout this semester, we have read books, viewed clips from shows and movies, and shared our own personal experiences discussing the topic of Black urban communities, activism, and changing cities. As I have stated before, many classes and the sources used to learn material have been very academic based and sometimes without room for the growth of new ideas, only the teaching of existing ones created by scholars.

The material and discussions were centered around the student’s ideas when reading some academic material, but also experiential work as well. We were given the opportunity to form our own thoughts and understanding of the topics listed above. It is in this open-mindedness and sharing of stories that we can all move towards communities that enable us to grow and live in equality. 


Cultivating · Higher · Altitudes · Navigating · Growth and · Evolution

To cultivate is to bring the best out of something, To bring about a skill yet discovered. The highest Altitude on the human body is the head which safeguards the brain.

            Cultivating Higher Altitudes means to bring the best out of your thinking, to deviate from the way you once thought, to study and gain more knowledge of your culture and the intellectual awareness of self and bring about and promote positive growth for the youth. Altitudes must be reached by going beyond what many may consider a standard. We must work harder than expected. We possess total control on how we react and proceed to the circumstances and difficult situations that will arise in our lifetime.

            Navigating is a travel upon a route, yet this route is life. Sometimes it is planned and most times it’s not. In life, we know not what lays ahead, yet we travel forward. We encounter the good and the bad. Growth and Evolution is a process in life no one can avoid. It is a part of our human make up.

            Navigating Growth and Evolution means traveling on this road of life and understanding that we all have and will make mistakes. Understanding that those mistakes were needed to shape, mold, and teach very important life lessons to the individual. As we grow, we begin to evolve.

            Evolution is the very essence of our creation. From an embryo to a fetus, from a fetus to an infant, from an infant to a toddler, from a toddler to a child, from a young child to a teenager, from a teen to an adult. We will always evolve. But will we evolve for the good or bad? Our culture and world have evolved.

            Cultivating Higher Altitudes Navigating Growth & Evolution is meant to invoke thought which hopefully brings about CHANGE. We must all begin to cultivate our minds with the things we read and experience so that we think more productive than destructive.

            Mentally is where your growth can truly be seen because thought becomes actions. Aspire to show growth through actions, not just words. Let’s begin this process one day, one moment at a time, understanding that in order to do this, we all must…CHANGE.