Our Black-James Crawford

Our black is beautiful, our black is love, our black is original, our black is pure , I wear my blackness with confidence. I show no fear it’s a duality to this history moment our black is hated, our black was beaten, rape , held in bondage , most of all our black was murder and y’all wonder why we got a chip on our shoulder psychological chain reaction.

Blood of a slave body of a king mind of a God it’s helluva thing, our black is one with the culture so we are equal. 

Being this color pressure is applied on a day to basis the force behind chemical melanin and melationin in our brain the reason we got this glorious color on our body’s and faces the people of this color was dehumanize and sold off as live stock our ancestors was rob of their true nature as human beings whites looked at us as animals existing in a human shall.

They said we was unattractive and we came with a foul smell just thinking about how they did our people in the Atlantic Slave Trade make me stick to my stomach full of pain and rage like Nat Turner ready to rebell. 


Our black come with the natted hair with a Fiske that the unlike woman and man stare born to dream chase and conquer reality mind built to cope with family tragedy, our black region supreme over all colors I hold my black fist high for solidarity and all the blacks who fought through the struggles. 

They place things in our community for us to kill each other . 

We refuse to be broken our black is striving to take back everything that was stolen . We just needed to be awoken to the right knowledge so wake up our black is dieing at a alarming rate you are what you eat so take that chicken off your plate get it. 

Our black was brain wash they want to divide us they want us to think we are all different but they can never separate us from our black peace.

Wise Words-James Crawford

Wisdom From The Elders

This is a topic that must be pay attention to because we tend to take advice and jewels from those that manifest before us for granted. When one take time out their day to sit with a elder from family members men or women, to elders one know and absorb the knowledge that’s express through their wisdom (things they experience) should be cherish and honor. When the youth humble themselves enough to become a student then one third eye will be open (mind) to new things also this will be closing the gap between generations. See when the youth abstract the knowledge then they can cross over the bridge to wisdom which is the application of knowledge the result will be a understanding so they can view things from a clear picture to see that understanding is the highest form of love. With that being mentioned when elders share there knowledge ,and wisdom it only birth a understanding which is their love for that individual.

Self Examination And Self Growth

Self examination should be put into practice on a daily basis because it’s best to view ourselves in any situation rather it’s a positive or negative situation. When one use self examination a person can make better decisions, which lead up to a person changing things in their life, it’s another form to get to know self more deeper that’s apart of redefineing yourself so you can be a stronger you, most of the time we are scared to self examine the things we know or need to know because the lack of studying or willing to learn due to no discipline well as a pluted perception.

Self Examination will give you answers to certain ways and actions that you maybe questioning yourself about, self examination will bring about structure to ones life. Without first self examining yourself your aim and purpose won’t have the full potential. Self Growth, most of the time we be the main source to hindering ourselves, if there is no growth then stagnation exist and if one is stagnated then that person is stuck in position (complacent) with that decay start and eventually death arrive mentally. Self growth can not happen if one have not change his or her perception which is molded by thought because those two things is what make up one reality but a mind state without change is dead. When self growth is accomplished self determination will be the reward.

Self growth start internally then the external follows just like the mental is the engine and the physical is the vehicle that represent once thoughts. These two forms of thinking are very important to ones shaping and molding themselves into a successful person to me you need both to get ahead in life. To me self examination, and self growth are synonymous to each other because the act of process, and progress if one look close in self examination self growth is present at the end of the day each one are dealing with a mental process. To end my build take this, when one change their thought, their perception will change, only then will one reality change.

Funding Our Own Incarceration-Charles A. Jackson

FUNDING OUR OWN INCARCERATION
BY CHARLES A. JACKSON BEY
As we know the cost of living in the outside world has been going up and the battle for minimum wage has reached nearly ten dollars per hour throughout Michigan. Be mindful the institutional factory jobs has been removed throughout Michigan prison system, as well as our work bonuses for the remaining jobs such as food service. Over the last 30years prison wages have not gone up! throughout Michigan, it is widely known that state prisoners such as myself can barely support ourselves with a prison job adding to pennies a day. We are considered blessed if we have the help of family and friends. It should be noted once again that prison wages have not increased in over 30years. Yet the prison store prices have gone up! Along with prison job pay scales going down. On top of limiting us to only 200 hours as food service workers, with a starting rate at 17.5¢ unskilled, 23.5¢ semiskilled, and 32.5¢ skilled per hour, consider how prisoners are being held responsible for the following living expenses toward funding our own incarceration:

A. Hygiene supplies including sales tax

B. Over-the-counter medications,
including sales tax

C. Co-payments for medical, dental, optical services, in the amount of $5.00 per visit individually

D. Legal photocopies along with notary
services in the amount of $1.00 per notary.

Pursuant to MDOC policy directive PD 03.04.101, which governs medical service providers to charge prisoners a $5.00 medical co-payment for all medical services as delineated above, placing extreme hardship on all prisoners! so this alone does save the state and prison system thousands of dollars. This is in addition to the fact that all the work we do would otherwise cost the state money to hire people from outside to do, which means prisoners are taking on the many facility operations.

Also look how we add additional funding to our own incarceration, comparing store prices from 2008 to those of 2020:

*noodles then 20¢ now 35¢
*white rice then 65¢ now $1.39
*chili no beans then $1.45 now $3.33
*peanut butter then $1.70 now $3.29
*tuna fish then $1.30 now $4.42
*footlocker then $79.40 now $112.00
*protein powder then $10.90 now $15.51
*cough drops then 65¢ now 93¢
*stamped envelope then 41¢ now 59¢
*Colgate toothpaste then $1.50 now $2.80 
*Soap then 40¢ for Ivory, 60¢ for Dial, now 65¢ for off-brand

Keep in mind that in reality we are unable to actually afford any of these items on a 17, 23, or 32¢ income, so that means that those of us who are blessed to still have family, friends, and love ones to help support us are the ones actually being fleeced. Which they are the actual tax paying citizens funding our own incarceration through the Securepak ordering system, phone system, J-pay Music, and the fee for sending financial aid to our accounts just so we can keep funding our own incarceration through the system of highway robbery with no gun!

My last critical point which I want to enlighten readers to is this Safe & Just Michigan gave the two following statements in the spring of 2019:

1) People incarcerated in Michigan are serving some of the longest sentences in the nation, with an average minimum sentence that is 10.3 years and growing, and
2) Michigan’s prison population has fallen 23% between 2006, when it reached its largest size of 51,515 people, and 2017.

These two statements might sound like they cancel each other out, but both statements are true. The paradox is one of the interesting facts brought to light in the Michigan Department of Corrections’ 2017 statistical report, which was released in January 2019. It’s no coincidence that the average minimum prison sentence is rising at the same time the overall prison population is declining. In fact, the two are related. In recent years, efforts have been made to find ways to divert people from prison for offenses that bring shorter prison sentences. Problem-solving courts, such as substance use courts and mental health courts, offer treatment programs instead of prison time. This has reduced the state’s prison population. However, that has done nothing to reduce the number of people who are still serving long-term sentences. While people serving sentences of 20years or more comprised 18.3% of the prison population in 1998, as of 2017 they represent 31.7% of the population. We have fewer people coming to prison, but those who are coming are coming for a longer time, adding to the system of funding our own incarceration along with the tax-paying citizens of Michigan being fleece.

According to a report by the Senate Fiscal Agency, a reduction in 13,000 prison beds would result in a $494,000,000 savings. Even with this decrease Michigan still has an incredible amount of work to do in order to lower the prison population further. Even with that cut over the last 14years, Michigan still spends over $2 billion on corrections alone. Like many states, Michigan has reached a critical point in the status of it’s corrections department. Instead it should be Michigan Department of Corruption or Misusing Michiganders’ Deposits on Corruption because the MDOC has deviated from the concept of Michigan Department of Corrections. Because in reality that term would represent an individual being corrected from their error by being rehabilitated through adequate programming, restorative justice, and prison reform.

So you citizens should be fed up! with the lies and misuse of your tax dollars going towards the funding of our own incarceration!!! I know I am, what about you???

Family & Friend Support Pt 2-Joseph

Dear Readers,

The one thing many prisoners yearn for is support from family and friends. When many of us came to prison, we were forced to be alone. And for many of us that unknown experience is scary. Support in most cases is given in the beginning of our sentence but as the days and years pass things begin to change. Life continues to go on without us. Its a cliché quote that says, ” Out of sight, Out of mind” and sadly it plays its way out in our daily lives as the days and years pass. Its not that they love us less or they don’t care but life doesn’t stop for them and unfortunately were no longer present.

Nothing about prison is normal or humane. Prison is a abnormal environment. This is why support is truly needed. Family keeps a prisoner engaged with reality. Family reminds us that we are human beings that have emotions and feelings. Support is giving help and encouragement. 

Prison places a enormous hardship on the mental mindset. Its a daily struggle remaining normal in a abnormal environment. Some have the mindset of not changing and they accept the negative trajectory of their life.

For those who do seek change and accept that this is a positive trajectory to a new life. They now are seen as the abnormal individuals in this environment where the criminal mentality is deemed normal. So we seek the support of positive people to keep us focus and motivated in are journey of being productive citizens.

The support from family and friends is very essential to our mental growth and change. We need to be encouraged with positive words of hope and change. We need to know we are loved, missed and needed. This comes by way of letters and phone calls. Simple jpays that say I love you and stay focus go along way. A lot of men don’t like to write other men however understand that its needed. Men need to seek counsel from other men. Steel sharpens steel. Men that will hold us accountable to take our rightful place in this world as productive men. 

When many prisoners got incarcerated a lot of family members were young so bonds and relationships were unable to be developed. Now as they come of age into adulthood, they have no idea who we are but we have no idea who they have grown to be. I’m embarking on a journey to learn my family as we speak. When I left they were baby’s and teens now there mothers and business women. Who have no idea who I am as a man today. They only know what is told to them and somebody else’s perspective of you is subjective or bias. Especially if they haven’t had any contact with you to see your growth and evolution. I would like my family to get to know the man I am today because Im no longer the man I was 13 years ago. When I am released I will need their support more then ever. The parole board wants to know that prisoners being let back into the communities have some form of a support system.

Prison is designed to destroy family ties by way of systematically employing many tactics to discourage healthy and consistent relationships. For example, you may be from Detroit but instead of housing you within reasonable driving distance they house you up north 5 to 8 hours away. Knowing that this will discourage your family from visiting. They make the application process to visit complicated by denying applicants because they failed to put N/A in places that don’t apply to them. Making them fill the whole application out again only to deny them again for something trivial. These tactics are meant to discourage families from visiting. It has happen to me numerous times so I speak from experience. Physical interaction is another very important aspect of support. 

Friendships come in many ways. We cherish them because a true friend is hard to find. Everyone wants to be your friend when your doing good and on top but your TRUE friends will be by your side when your at your lowest.

The voice and message I’m sending out is this, if you have someone in your family or if you have a friend incarcerated reach out to them. Your support is truly needed. A simple, “How you doing” and Keep your head up goes a long way. Remind them they are human beings because this system is designed to dehumanize them. Its not all about money and food packages. We need to know somebody cares. Despite the mistakes we have made we still are human. If you truly love them know they need your help as they change. No one makes it to the top alone.

I thank you for reading my post. Please leave a comment and continue to visit for more thoughts beyond the wall.

Joseph Green

Family & Friend Support-Jerome Walker

My name is Jerome Walker, but most people call me Don’Jay or DJ for short.

I am here to talk about how essential it is to having family & friends support while being in prison.

I

During my first 5 years in prison, I had little to no family support due to the crime I committed, or from their misconception on what had took place.

By not having any support, I let it dictate the way I did my time. I was considered what most called a hard ass. I didn’t listen and came in as if I had a chip on my shoulder. I began to lash out as I was catching unnecessary tickets and constantly getting in trouble and going to the hole. To me, it was like without family being by myside, I began to contemplate was life really worth living?

The saddest thing is when I got locked up, my daughter was only 8 days old. I didn’t have the support of her mother, nor did I had the support of my family.

I only could hear through new prisoners coming in telling me how such & such died, and how my daughter’s mother is out there struggling.

There was barley any pictures coming in, any money to buy the necessities.
A lot of people had to rob and steal because they were unable to have that family support that all people in prison needs.

5 years into my time, one close member in our family died from cancer. The family came together and reached out to me and decided that life was too short to harbor unwanted feelings.

I was reached out by many family members and friends.

Having family and friends write to you and tell you to keep your head up, and we are in this with you made everything felt like there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

I instantly changed my behavior. I put away my childish ways and became a man. I managed to get my GED, some certificates in Culinary arts, Custodial maintenance and many others. I started to interact with family more, and my dark days seems to have light in them.

Family support is so essential for us on lock down, because without it, it seems like we are fighting the world alone. Sometimes we become depressed and want to give up on life. It’s like, if they don’t care, why should I?

My happiest moment is when I had help from family and friends in finding my daughter 3 years ago. We have built an unbreakable relationship, and she is part of my support system.

My biggest support system now is my mother, sisters, daughter, uncles, father, cousin, and many of friends. There’s light at the end of my tunnel as I strived to be a better person for my family, myself, and friends.

I have a petition going towards my release in accordance to the change of law dealing with juvenile lifers, please go to my facebook page at Jerome Jay Walker click on the link and signed the petition I have on there. If you don’t see it, please send a friend request and I will accept you as a friend, you will then see the link and be able to sign it, and please, share it with your friends. Thank you for signing.

Sincerely,

Jerome Walker #277651

Naeem Nusaga

Naeem Nusaga shared his thoughts with Joseph and I surrounding his own conviction and how he identifies with “Writing my Wrongs” written by Shaka Senghor.

Naeem

ABOUT MY CONVICTION: 

At age 19, my best friend Henry Dillard and I were both wrongly convicted of second degree murder and other lesser offenses in the County of Saginaw, MI. Ironically, there was NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE that directly linked us to these two crimes, nor, did any of the various identifiable prints collected from both crime scenes matched any of ours who were alleged involved. After four friends were identified and arrested, investigative officers pressured and coached two of them to lie against their childhood friends; in order to save themselves from a possible life sentence. These two alleged eyewitnesses, Christopher and Rodgers, have since confessed in sworn affidavits to this unmitigated truth.

Moreover, I look forward to sharing with you “my true story” and the intriguing dynamics behind how two investigative officers were manipulated and bamboozled when they sought out information about an actual crime(s) from a notorious drug informant named, Robert ‘Bryant’ Wilbert, who diverted their entire investigation and spun a cogent tale so intricate, you’d thought it was professionally written and produced on a movie set in Hollywood; except, this was no hollywood script…this was MY LIFE!

MORE ABOUT NAEEM: 

During 26 consecutive years of a wrongful imprisonment, I’ve maintained an excellent institutional record as a model prisoner and only incurred one (1) major ticket for being inside the gymnasium unauthorized. I’ve opted early on to use my time constructively to become better, not bitter. I refused to be your average prisoner. I acquired a High School Equivalence Certificate, Tech Math, Custodial Maintenance, Introduction to Computers, Mentored the Youth, employed at MSI Laundry for seven (7) consecutive years, and even penned four (4) books; including “The Girl In The Mirror” that I dedicated to both my lovely nieces, Core’Ana and Core’Asia Davis, with the hopes of inspiring all teenage girls to live about negative influence and identify with the beauty within. My third book “Confronting The Hood Mentality” (although COMPLETED, not yet published) is directly aimed towards helping young black American youth in the inner city to avoid cultural pitfalls, peer pressure, and to boldly lead a purpose-driven life.
Today, I am a man of great faith, insight, integrity, and committed to using the rest of my life making a positive impact in the lives of others. Granted, prison doesn’t have the most favorable conditions live in, but it does however have the most favorable conditions to GROW IN, that is, if you expend your time constructively. With maturity, I’ve now gained a new perspective on life and is all for healing, not hurting my community. Upon my release, I aspire to engage in public speaking, book tours, support prison reform, and work with at-risk youth.

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My synopsis of the memoir: “Writing My Wrongs” by author Shaka Senghor

When I first opened and began reading from the pages of the memoir ‘Writing My Wrongs,’ I was quickly captivated by the life journey of James White, Sr. who had later intellectually evolved into the man now known simply as Shaka. Like a tiny, fluttery butterfly that’s admired for its beautiful wings, he too had to undergo a mental and spiritual metamorphosis of his own inside an American prison.
Unfortunately, no gun has ever been manufactured with a ‘rewind button’, meaning once you squeeze the trigger and the projectile exit the metal barrel of the gun at a high velocity, there’s no taking it back! You then have to live with the consequences of your actions, and by living with them, what I mean is you have to make atonement for your actions by understanding the damage in which you’ve caused. While serving 7 years in solitary confinement, Shaka began atoning for his transgressions and misdeeds, while confronting the hurt, pain, and unforgiveness from his past. Before long, the journey of redemption, forgiveness, and enlightenment prompted him to write a poignant letter to his victim. 

On page 4, he openly writes: 

“Today, when I look back, I wish I could change the past. I wish I could restore your life so that your children could have known the safety and security of having their father in the house. I wish I could bring you back to life so that your wife could enjoy the presence of her husband and your parents could see you reaching your dreams.”

The acronym for L.I.F.E. is Lessons Improves Future Experiences! Often times, we have to go through something in order to become something. We must learn from our past experiences and commit to do better in the now experiences, in order to improve our future experiences. As human beings (or God’s children), we’re all subject to make mistakes, but the biggest mistake of all is NOT learning from them. Against all odds, Shaka chose to learn from them by turning to deep introspection. He then was able to RIGHT his wrongs by “Writing His Wrongs”, then followed them with corresponding actions that gives us all hope for change. Yes, making a change for the better can be hard and difficult, but it is possible, especially if you lean on God’s broad shoulders as a source of guidance and strength. As no man is given a cross too heavy to bear!!

“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. 

C.H.A.N.G.E.-Joseph

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.

Introductions

Who are we?

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

My name is Cam and I am currently a college student. Where? Doesn’t matter. School is hard and that is all you need to know. I grew up in a rural city where everyone knew everyone and their third cousin. Did I like that? For a while. My hometown was a great place to be a child, but I was trapped in a bubble…a bubble that was a beautiful bliss. I was privileged in many ways. Everything I needed was at my fingertips. My parents were married, I had a beautiful home, a mother that made dinner every night, clean water, and a decent education. Life was easy in many ways. Then I moved to the city, a city bigger than my hometown, but by no means someplace like Chicago or New York. Still, it was large for me. There, I was hit with a few hard realities.

First, the entire world is not a blissful bubble. People face struggles every day, but not the ones that I actually understood even existed. Access to fresh produce, clean drinking water, shelter, protection under the law, and so many others are basic human rights*. I add an asterisk here because when when you’re born, I guess no one reads the terms and conditions, which apparently states that depending on the color of your skin, the amount of money your family makes, or which gender you identify with determines which human rights you are given. Crazy right?! It’s a HUMAN right, yet it is not given equally to all humans. This might not be news to you, and if its not, congrats! That’s amazing! You’re more knowledgeable than I was before I left my small hometown, because it WAS news to me. Not anymore. That is why I am here.

I am passionate about social justice as a whole, but specifically creating justice in a system that already has “justice” in its name, yet should really be called the “Criminal Unjust System”. It is an entity that not many people are questioning. Why? I guess it has always been that way? Well why aren’t we questioning it further? Maybe it’s because we aren’t knowledgeable of the harm that prisons do to people and the lack of resources for those who currently are or have been incarcerated. Our goal is to create a space where stories of those who have been affected by the criminal justice system can be shared, a space where new ideas, understandings, and possible solutions can blossom. We hope this to be an interactive safe space where voices can be heard and goals can be achieved.

My name is Joseph. I have been incarcerated for 12 years. I grew up in the inner city of Detroit in a single parent home. Growing up in the “hood” I was exposed to drugs, crime, injustice, inequality and racism on a daily. So often that I became desensitized to it. I watched my mother battle heavy drug addiction as a youth. So heavy that my mother rented our home out to dealers. Many times my siblings and I went to bed without eating. At one point we were almost put in the foster system however that pivotal moment did something for my mother. She got clean and tried to provide us with a better life. Being exposed to this lifestyle did something to me. I wanted better but unfortunately I tried to attain it the only way I seen growing up which was selling drugs. I thought I could be better then those who did it before me. To cover my tracks I kept legal employment. Upon attaining my GED and nursing trade I decided that I had to change my life. I had seen enough death, drugs and crime. I wanted more for my life. So I enrolled myself into college to pursue a nursing career.
Unfortunately I was falsely accused and later convicted of a murder I did not do.

Since being in prison I have seen so much injustice and inequality. I want to share my voice and give a voice to voiceless. If it wasn’t for my darkest moments I would have never found the strength to shine my light. Sometimes it takes our darkest moments to birth our greatest change. #C.H.A.N.G.E