My Story – Susan Brown

Intangibles! They can’t be held in your hand but can be felt deeply in your heart. Gratitude is one of my daily reflections. I have learned to lean into life instead of letting life lean into me and I am so very grateful for my awakening towards the spoken and unspoken vessels. All of the various challenges and trying traumas along with spectacular splendors and precious prosperities, with each I get to share with my friend Tamara. I have a gratitude for our friendship that will live with me always! Thank you for a platform to convey one of the many things that I am grateful for.

I Killed the Man who Tried to Kill my Unborn Child and then sexually assaulted me.

I am a mother. A survivor of domestic violence. I am a renowned international artist. And along with countless others I’m serving life without parole because of Michigan’s inhumane sentencing laws.

The story of how I got here is deeply painful. Years ago, I was married to a man who was mercilessly verbally and mentally abusive to me and my children. I wanted to press through the anguish to keep our family together, but then, his behavior escalated. When the unthinkable happened, I had no choice but to leave to protect our child.

A year later, I had moved on and was 30 weeks pregnant with another man’s child. My estranged husband was enraged and in a volatile verbal exchange he stabbed me in my stomach and proceeded to rape me. During this altercation we fought and as a result his death ensued. I never intended to kill him. Initially, I was unaware of his passing due to the emergency premature birth of my child and the nature of my own injuries.

After two trials, first ending in a mistrial due to a conflicted verdict, then, proceeded a second trial of vastly altered testimony, contradictory witnesses and denial of defense witnesses I was found guilty of 1st degree murder, and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

In prison, I have learned to heal my pain and manage conflict. I have come to address my dysfunctional thinking that aided in my poor choices that lead to that dreadful day. I also now understand how important communicating my needs are and found I am worthy of speaking my truth. I could not do that before because I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t believe in myself because I didn’t understand myself but now, I do. I have done everything allowable to be better than who I entered prison as. It is my merciful plea, in which, I request an opportunity to return to society. In hopes to show my transformation as a successful accomplished commissioned artist, mother and daughter.

Michigan’s criminal justice is incredibly abusive. By law, judges are required to hand out extreme sentences for certain crimes. And there is no chance to reconsider and change those sentences over time. As a result, one in seven incarcerated people in the state is serving a life sentence. Many of these people are fellow mothers and survivors.

A large number of incarcerated people are paying for mistakes made at an incredibly young age. Indeed, roughly 40 percent of incarcerated Michiganders were under 26 years old at the time of their offense. That’s despite an abundance of research that shows the human brain is not fully developed until age 25. Our prisons are also full of older people who bear no risk to public safety. Indeed, nearly four in ten of the people serving life in Michigan are 55 or older – one of the highest rates in the entire country.

State legislators need to give people — many whom have experienced unthinkable trauma — a chance at the freedom and healing we deserve as human beings. Fortunately, some lawmakers, like Senators Irwin, Chang and Geiss have advocated for “Second Look” legislation. Second Look allows the courts to reevaluate incarcerated people’s sentences after they have served a certain amount of time in prison, providing an opportunity for another chance. It’s gaining momentum nationwide. Michigan should be next in line.

Let me be clear: our criminal justice system is anything but just. I had to endure and try to comprehend a system that did not allow me to share the entirety of my story, let alone present any evidence of the abuse I survived. I was a mother with postpartum depression attempting to work through frustration, fear and crushing emotions to fight against my assumed guilt. Put simple, that is not what justice looks like. Like so many others, I was railroaded by a broken antiquated criminal justice system that should be helping people such as myself.

In prison, I have found my purpose in creating an unusual kind of art. I take materials most view as insignificant, useless, and discarded and transform them into unique forms of beauty. For me, the practice is deeply spiritual and symbolic. Just as these supposedly insignificant, useless, and discarded materials can be shaped into something beautiful, so too should incarcerated people have a chance to reform their lives.

We can’t afford to be complacent about outdated harmful sentencing laws. We’re simply asking for dignity and humanity. Give us a second chance.

Prior to prison I never had any negative interaction with law enforcement. I was a positive light in my community just as I strive for barbwire. I volunteer, mentor many of the youth, and assist the elderly as much as I can. Pre-covid I facilitated communication, conflict resolution and mediation groups. I do my best to be available to anyone in need. I believe these are positive attributes that will yield even greater if given the opportunity.

Susan Brown is an artist and had been incarcerated at Women’s Huron Valley Facility since 2003. More about Susan and her work can be found by visiting:
goggle ‘susanbrownredeemed’


By Toby R. Davis #234179

IN NORTH AMERICA, we have roughly 2.2 million people incarcerated. When an individual is convicted and sentenced to serve a number of years inside the criminal justice system; consequently, he/or she is hauled away to pay his/her debt to society. So, what is the collateral damage and impact behind it? Surely, there has to be one. On day one, we began to learn that our family is left behind to fend for themselves and the family portrait is suddenly fractured. All what remains is a silhouette in the family photo replacing the image of you, the incarcerated. The family that once was is no more because we have left behind mothers, fathers, siblings, significant others and children.

Incarceration is systemically designed to break down the family structure by removing the heads of the household. You can’t effectively fulfill an active role as father, brother or son while sitting behind bars. When we come to prison, we unwittingly subject our loved ones to harsh treatment and emotional trauma occasioned by incarceration. Any time a loved one comes to visit you; they’re paying a price. They must follow the rules and regulations of the MDOC which entail thorough body searches and discourteous remarks. In addition, visitors have to leave all personal effects (such as keys, cellphones, etc.) inside a numbered locker and then consent to a body search by a Correctional Officer for any possible contraband that may violate their policy. Personally, I’ve seen visits cancelled for the pettiest reasons (i.e., unlocked car doors, opened windows, pants too tight, being too affectionate, and the list goes on). And, as if that’s not enough, our loved ones are left to pay for collect calls, Jpay stamps, commissary, secure packages, appliances, clothing, shoes, and gas to commute there. Before long, the effects of it can weigh heavily both emotionally and financially, as they didn’t necessarily sign up for it. On the strength of their love and compassion for you, they endure it.

If you are incarcerated and have a support system from family and friends, you are blessed and don’t take it for granted. No one is obligated to hold you down while incarcerated. No one is obligated to accept your calls. No one is obligated to visit you. In fact, you should consider yourself forever indebted and deliberately set out to repay them by learning from your mistakes, using your time wisely, and never placing them in a situation such as this ever again. Another payment can be made to them by taking advantage of certain programs at your facility. Take the time to read financial investments, real estate, and other viable trades. You owe this to your family, but more importantly, you owe it to yourself to return home better. Knowledge is leverage! If you obtain it and apply it, you will increase your chances of not returning to prison and become a law-abiding citizen who will be able to contribute to his community.

There’s one proverb that rings 100% true. Time is precious! If we waste it doing nothing, then as a consequence we become nothing. If you love your family as I surely do, then love them in action, not just by mere words. Malcolm X once said, “To be a fool is nothing, but to remain a fool is a disgrace.” As the time we spend in prison we can never be reimburse for. So, if you really think crime pays, I urge you to think again, my dear brother, because in the end, the payment falls squarely on you and your loved ones!

Always Something to Be Grateful For

After 29 years of being incarcerated, one may assume that someone in my position would approach this topic with pessimism. On the contrary. I’ve learned that regardless of where you are in life, or what you are going through, there is always something to be grateful for.
First and foremost, I am grateful for waking up this morning with the activities of my limbs, and of sound mind. I have the knowledge of my divinity, my power, and my purpose. I am conscious about my connection to the Universe in its entirety because the Universe is Mind and Intelligence. That which I am also.

I am grateful of my connection to our planet because the human body is a microcosm of it. The flesh represents the vegetation. The bones represent the rocks. And the blood represents the water.

I am grateful of my connection to nature, and every living thing that exist, because it is all an extension of myself like branches are to a tree. This level of consciousness exemplifies the harmony in creation, which encourages me daily to move with it, because going against it has proven to be unproductive.

I am grateful for having a great support system, with my mother being my rock, and my siblings being my lifeline. I have a beautiful daughter, and a handsome grandson who are my world. I have strong bonds with my nieces and nephews, and their children that I have yet to meet in person for the majority of them. Although my father and my youngest daughter made their transitions in ’06 and ’10, I still consider myself to be blessed. I know so many people who have lost a parent, or a sibling during their incarceration.

I am grateful for having for having very positive energy around me to feed off of whenever I feel drained and need to reboot. I am grateful to have my A-alike, my twin and my friend who I call Queen Alanna. She came into my life at the right time and has been such a powerful positive force in it. Thank You!

There are so many things to be grateful for. It’s all about your perspective, your perception, and your vantage point. There’s always someone somewhere in the world in worse shape than you are, and that’s a fact. If you examine their lives, and then examine yours, you’ll always find something to be grateful for.

Sincerely, Demetrius Brasher #234214


Muhammad The God!

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Actions Speak Louder Than Words; Thankfulness As A Lifestyle Shows How Grateful We Really Are.
by J.C. Riley #288310

God gave me a gift that I can never repay. My mother and father gave me gifts, that I can’t pay back either. Neighbors, Teachers, Coaches, Pastors, and even Strangers have given me priceless jewels that can’t be repaid. There is no price you can calculate for the intangibles we pick up from the people who love us, protected us in our youth, contribute to our lives daily, and helped form who we are today.

How much did we pay for those meals we were provided with by uncles, aunts, or neighbors, when we were invited over as children? What about the young brothers in your neighborhood who made it clear to any strangers outside of the neighborhood, not to bring their foolishness to This Block?

For those of us in Prison, who work all month long for 10, 20, some of us are lucky enough to make 40 or 50 dollars a month. How much is a deodorant? How much do we spend on phone calls? Music? Groceries? Whose money are we as prisoners spending? I’m making a point.

Me, you, everyone has been on the receiving end of blessings. Blessing we deserve, and blessings we don’t. A great majority of those blessings come at the moment they are needed, and from a source we either can’t repay, or doesn’t need what we can offer. So how do we repay those blessings?

To me the answer is obvious. The first thing we should do is the work on Self that the blessings were provided for. The blessings we receive usually come for a specific reason. Was it extra money to pay a bill? Or a stranger who changed our tire when we were unable to do it ourselves? Blessing come to take us from Point A to Point B, so we owe it to the those who provided us with opportunity to achieve the objective that the blessing was provided for. Don’t take the money that was provided for YOU to buy a suit for a job interview and spend half of it on Lottery Tickets.

Once you put the blessing to its intended use show Gratitude. And because, again, blessings usually come from the top down, it’s always best to show that Attitude of Gratitude towards those in a similar position you were in when you received your blessings. We owe it to those who blessed us to bless others, so the energy of their blessing doesn’t stop with us. Their single act of blessing You and Me can bare the fruit of blessing multiple individuals. If it does, how likely is it that we should continue to be blessed? People understand that when they help you, they’re helping others as well.

And it doesn’t stop there. We invite blessings into our lives when we look for ways to bless others without necessarily receiving what we would call a blessing at the moment. For one, we don’t always recognize the multiple ways that we are blessed. And two, you never know who you’re benefiting or how much or how far what you do for others will carry over.

A Wise Woman once said, “All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you.” It’s how we change what we touch that will determine how we are changed by what we touch. Do you get it?

So I offer my energy during this holiday season with a focus on showing Gratitude all the time. I want to show my thanks to the TBTW Community by doing what I can, both through my words to the Community at large, and through my deeds in paying my blessings forward to those around me.

I am so thankful for a platform to express the continuous, ongoing Change in the hearts and minds of those of us locked up in prison. A great majority of us find it within ourselves to grow and evolve at the contemplation of our wrong doings, but are never given the opportunity to correct those wrongs. Thanks to the support from readings like you, we can a least vocalize our desire for redemption.

Happy Holidays TBTW.

Grateful for Plenty

What do I have to be grateful for? I am grateful for all that God has allowed me to experience. I am incarcerated for twenty-four years to forty-five years, and yet I am grateful for the opportunity that God has given me to experience. Would I have learned all that I have learned in here out there? Probably not. So, I cannot look at this as a purely bad experience, for I have gained incalculable knowledge while interred within the MDOC. I am grateful to God for my beautiful Black Mother. He gave her to me as my Earthly Haven. I could not have survived but that God insured my survival with the perfect Guardian. So I am grateful for plenty.

Remember This

Remember how you were created when the world tries to bring you down.

Remember all that you’ve overcome when you need strength to go another round.

Remember that there is no one like you when someone wants you to do things like them.

Remember to celebrate your life because it’s like the perfect hymn.

Remember those who need you when you need some genuine love.

Remember your purpose, it was designed from above.

Remember that it is our struggles that add to who we are.

Remember that you are blessed, and to give from your heart.

Remember you are beautiful, no matter how many flaws you may think you have.

Remember there is someone who appreciates every part of you, it’s just this thing that you have.

Remember that these words come from deep within. What comes from the heart reaches the heart and in me you have a friend.

Written By: Frank L. Adams Jr

Happy Momma Monday!

Open My Heart: Yolanda Adams

A Mother

….signifies what a woman is
….defines what beauty can really be
….personifies the infinity of possibilities
….illustrates life is a conglomerate of strength
….magnifies the softest touch exactly how love is meant
….voices the harmony that balances the universe
….permeates the pain of discipline over that of regret

A Mother is everything magnificent that we expect. Thank you for your God’s grace. real/love

SpiritualMotivator: Noble’Ju


Then Keep on Fighting

I do not know anyone who is battling this horrific disease, so I can’t say that I have intimate knowledge of this affliction. Yet, as with any affectation, I would encourage any who has had the unfortunateness to have experienced or is experiencing this terrible affliction to remain Strong in hope and courage for this is not the end of the line. This will serve as a testament of your Faith and your strength in God and Yourself. Show you how strong you are. You need not show any other how strong you are (unless you have children. Then you must be strong and steadfast for them), just show You. Belief in you IS belief in God. I encourage you to fight. Then fight some more. Then keep on fighting. You will win. Just trust God, trust Yourself and you will win. I love you and I pray that God Blesses you with His Mercy. I have a friend named Tameka and I just found out that she has contracted this unfortunate malignancy. I pray for her daily. Here be a Beautiful Black Woman who sought real Love from a Man. Yet what she ended up with, through a very unfortunate series of events, which had her following the wrong Man down the wrong road, and when finally found and brought home, she found out that she had Breast Cancer. I humbly request of God that she be forgiven and shown His Supreme Love and Mercy. I ask that He give unto Tameka another opportunity to show and prove that She is Worthy of His Mercy and Forgiveness. In His name I pray, Amen.

Thanks for this chance to express my most heartfelt condolences to my Friend Tameka, whom I haven’t spoken to in about, almost a year. Nevertheless I still Love my Friend and I pray that she will be able to overcome this tribulation and move forward with life as God intended for her to do. I send this message to any and all Women who have and will face this terrible reality. Stand strong and know that God has a plan for you. So give not up on yourself nor on God, nor on me for that matter, for all three of us is in attendance for YOU.


Displaying Gratitude


Definition of gratitude: The quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.

I would like to begin by stating, I am grateful for the support that I receive from my family and friends especially my mother and son. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to rewrite some of the wrongs that I have caused and experienced in my life as well as the lives of others. The feeling of being able to motivate someone with positive words is a gift that I am grateful for. I work on inspiring, empowering, and adding value to others, which brings me a sense of happiness. I pride myself on doing more good than bad. I am happy and grateful that I am still alive, because so many of my family and friends died young.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.”(1Timothy 4:4)

During these troubling times, I am grateful and show gratitude to all those that come in and out of these facilities to teach and assist, and all those that do not continuously judge men and women like myself that are incarcerated (Thoughts Beyond the Wall).

I am grateful for the amazing opportunities that have been manifesting in my life, so I display a great attitude to others.

“Having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:7)






Blessed and Highly Favored

Name: Ahjamu Kalifah Baruti (a.k.a.-slave name: Richard Lee Carter)

Hostage No: #178539

Address: Saginaw Correctional Facility

9625 Pierce Road

Freeland, Michigan 48623

As briefly ponder upon what is the things in my 66-years of life to have gratitude for, I can truly say I AM and have been Blessed and Highly Favored!

Half of my adult life have been incarcerated here in the Belly of the Beast (prison). 37-straight years of incarceration. I am doing a virtual life sentence (life in numbers/years). I am still “Grateful” for my life. Life consists of making decisions and evolving to a higher level of consciousness. The more knowledge (information) that I’ve been obtaining through my avid reading and studying in my 37-years of incarceration is preparing me to make better life decisions upon my release back into society (being fully matured).

I am “Grateful” to have this Quality time to intensely read and study daily in my classroom (cell) by becoming a student of life.

I am most “Grateful” that the Creator have bestowed his favors and blessings upon my Beloved Mother and Baba (father) that they both are still living giving me the opportunity during my incarceration to “Atone” for my wrongs that I’ve done in life and to others, and the shame that I’ve bestowed upon my Beloved parents and the hurt that I’ve caused them by coming to prison—because they did not raise a criminal, I just made poor decisions in my life.

I am “Grateful” for the opportunity to see another day. The “root” word for Gratitude is humbleness of the heart to appreciate every little thing that is done to advance us in our growth and development as human beings. I am “Grateful” for everything that life has to offer to breathe fresh oxygen to sustain our lives, water to replenish and nourish our bodies, sunshine, etc… That the Creator gives to each one of us freely.

If we begin to count our Blessings, then we would see there is so much abundance to be “Grateful” for, and we would not allow ourselves to feel emotionally down.

When we truly begin to Love the Creator with a sincere heart we begin to be “Grateful”.

I am “Grateful” for my four sons and one daughter, my 13 grandchildren, and one great grandchild. I am “Grateful” after a night rest (sleep) to have replenish my body with the energy it needs to start another day of living.

I am “Grateful” for life to make a better life for myself and others. I am “Grateful” just to be able to witness and marvel over the Creators Creation. Gratefulness is the Love of the Creator!