Dedicated to my children, my inspiration
December 2009, Clinton Correctional Facility
As I’m sitting here staring out of these cobweb windows, considering how the
winter storm had seasonally robbed these oak trees of their lives, what I find most
intriguing is the resilience of nature, the revival process it goes through after every
winter storm. I smile and think, This is my life. I am nature being hit by a storm for a season. My
resilience to persevere and not be defeated is how I revived myself.
I am suddenly distracted by the blazing light of the sun as it erupts through the
cracks of these dull broken windows. I find myself slipping into a trance, counting
snowflakes as they fall from the sky . . . angels throwing cotton balls from heaven. I am
thinking, What’s next? Is this really about to happen? So, is this what success feels like? Liberation,
my mind has outgrown and broken the chains of mental slavery and self-destruction.
All of these self-limiting beliefs I embraced are now terminated; I have the ability to do
anything I desire. That dark cloud that once lingered above my head has vanished. All
along, why have I been denying myself this type of self-rewarding fulfillment? Why was I
so afraid of stepping outside of the box?
I find a vulnerable spot within my heart where I begin to travel down memory
lane. I look at where I am today, and where I come from. I think about the obstacles I had
to overcome in order to spiritually and mentally elevate to the place where I am today. I
become frightened of the circumstances I’d accepted as “reality”; I’d allowed myself to be
its victim. Part of that reality, growing up in the “hood” I came from, was a life expectancy
of age eighteen. Twenty-one if you were lucky to grow up in a functional family. My motto
was “Life’s a bitch and then we die.”
My mind shifts to a time when I attended an adult education class, and the
instructor told me that I was “afraid of success, cheating myself out of life.” I was offended
because this dude did not even know me to be passing judgment. I knew that he’d never
be able to understand my life. Truth be told, he was correct, but hearing that truth had
hurt me. At that point, I had become complacent with my position in life. I had allowed
myself to be defeated by a delusional perception of what I’d deemed to be true. I’d
conceptualized being a product of my environment, all I’d ever be, and nothing more. I
had given up on myself and hid behind all types of excuses. My most believable excuse
was: Life’s not fair; no matter how hard I try, the odds will always be stacked against me,
because this is a white man’s world. With this being said, I married into the street life,
and I never turned back. This lifestyle became all I cared to know, me being anything
other than a thug was uncivilized. Why would I have left the street life—with instant
gratification and worldly desires being fulfulled—a sure thing, in return for a change . . .
the unknown? There was no room to think about anything else but getting money,
survival. I was tired of being poor and picked on.
I saw all of the injustices taking place within governmental structures. These
injustices were aimed to dismantle the minority communities by blocking any
possibilities of socioeconomic growth and development. I understood how and why
these governmental social structures were systematically designed to terminate any
potential social cohesion or capital within minority communities. These structural
strains on a community provoke a type of structural violence that keeps a community
disenfranchised and subordinated to the powers that be. At such a young age, I clearly
understood all this. I knew my future was doomed. I was determined to get mine by
all means because I understood my country didn’t have my best interest at heart. I got
way too comfortable and relaxed in those streets, the fast life: fast women, fast cars, fast
money, fast entertainment, fast everything, just partying and bullshitting.
WOW, my thoughts were interrupted by the sound of names being called. I slid
out of that abyss and realized I’d missed half of the graduation to my trip down memory
lane. My name would be called next. At age thirty-one, I will gracefully walk across that
stage and receive my GED. This is my first academic achievement, and the thought of this
intensifies my nervousness. My nerves are all over the place, twisted up like someone
wringing out a wet towel to be dried. I feel knots of pressure nestled at the base of my
My stomach is a trampoline, as a ton of pressure from my nerves violently jumps
atop my bladder, causing a yearning sensation for the restroom. My heart surges into my
throat. Not only that, it stops beating for what seems like forever. I cannot breathe. My
thoughts, feelings, and emotions are a tornado, increasing in speed by the millisecond.
I am one tenth of a second away from fainting. What’s going on? Am I having a nervous
My nerves just go into autopilot, doing whatever they want without my permission.
Oops, did I just fart? I hope nobody heard it, but it smells terrible. Damn it, I’ll just play
dumb, so I turn around and start looking for the suspect like everyone else is doing.Oh NO,
are these tears forming in my eyes? My body didn’t get permission from me
to do this shit. I cannot do this right here, right now, in front of all these people. Why am
I even crying? I’m not hurt, in fact, I’m proud of myself, of this day, and of this moment.
Hold on, underneath all this happiness, I do find sadness. My family is not here to share
this moment with me. I’m certain that through the thousands of miles that separate us,
they are experiencing this moment in spirit.
Imagine this, a thug-ass dude getting all emotional and all teary-eyed, on the
verge of breaking down, boo-woo crying. I want nothing more at this moment than my
momma. I’m relieved that my gangsta homies aren’t here to witness this vulnerable
moment. Then again, they should have been here for their own personal growth and
development. This type of positive peer pressure is missing amongst peers from my hood.
I hear my name being called; somehow, I manage to stand. My knees are wet
noodles, so I wobble trying to find balance. I make my way to the stage, shake hands,
and receive my GED. Such a regal feeling as my fingers massage the grooves of the fancy
embroidery on this paper. This joy I’m feeling does not derive from this fancy piece of
paper; it derives from my endurance and perseverance. I’m remembering those hot days,
no fan, and one packed classroom. There were about thirteen disruptive classmates who
interfered with my learning. It was extremely challenging, being out of school for so long.
I didn’t give up. This brings me joy, highly achieving my goal.
In this precise moment, I’m receiving an epiphany. Applied knowledge mixed
with pure ambition is my key to success. Today I can appreciate the value of honest hard
work and dedication, this formula plants seeds of determination, honor, integrity, and
dignity. These are ingredients needed in order to become a certified High Achiever. I had
victoriously executed my power of choice. I chose to pursue higher learning, with a goal
of earning my GED. Ten years prior, I had no intent or concern to earn my GED. Today I
have reached my goal.
May 2018, Look at Me Now
Twenty years ago, I’d never thought I’d be enrolled in NYU, earning college
credits. Not only am I taking college courses, I’m doing extremely well with a 4.0 GPA. In
addition to studying at NYU, I’ve graduated from a very rigorous entrepreneur program
where I learned about: business administration, social/business etiquette, character
development, and managerial skills, just to name a few. After I graduated, I went on to
become a peer facilitator for this entrepreneurial program. I applied the knowledge and
have become a founder and a CEO of two businesses (Styles for Miles and a marketing and
promotion corp.), which I will launch upon my release.I look back at my past and ponder
upon how far I’ve come and the distance I’m
preparing to go. I oftentimes wonder where I would have been if I’d never had this
prison experience. This experience has given me the time to prioritize my life, develop
a new principle-centered value system, and execute positive, calculated risk-taking.
I’ve utilized this time to reinvent myself. Today, I am an asset to myself, family, and my
community. As Tookie Williams expressed in a New York Times interview, “Redemption was
tailor-made for the wretched.”
There are so many youths out there who are falling into the grips of negative peer
pressure, and there’s a lack of positive models in their lives. Their lives have become
everything that’s trending within social media. They are not consciously aware that this
machine is systematically dismantling their families and their communities. Too many
worldly distractions have taken the attention off of how the government is using them as
dispensable “pawns in the Game.”
I once experienced those same barriers in trying to make it out of the ‘hood.’ All it
would have taken for me was for someone to sit me down and drop jewels on me, just be
there for me genuinely. All I needed was someone to understand me. I lived most of my
life by trial and error.
So, I took all of this into consideration and, in 2016, I created a program called High
Achievers. I am Founder and CEO of this program. We are currently active within Wallkill
Correctional Facility, performing workshops in reentry and human service areas such
as: time management, effective communication, goal setting, leadership skills, and we
also explore family values versus the criminal lifestyle. High Achievers is a compass to
guide individuals to their inner greatness and highest potential. We aim to challenge our
participants in raising the bar in their lives.
My team and I have created a curriculum tailored to meet the needs of juvenile
delinquents and incarcerated and formerly incarcerated adults. I’ve resided within
correctional facilities for over a decade, and I’m witnessing frivolous programs not
designed to meet the needs of incarcerated individuals. Who understands the needs
of juvenile delinquents and incarcerated men and women better than us? We are the
incarcerated, the ones closest to the problem. We have one thing that other correctional
facility programs and organizations lack, and that is experience.
High Achievers workshops identify, address, and help to resolve root issues
that contributed to our incarceration. We are the “one stop” whenever it comes to
rehabilitation and programming for juvenile delinquents and incarcerated individuals.
This is my way of giving back.