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