“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