‘Dear incarcerated brother, hang on’
BY JOHN W. FOUNTAIN firstname.lastname@example.org May 15, 2013 4:22PM
Updated: June 18, 2013 7:29AM
Dear Incarcerated Brother, greetings from your fellow brother in the struggle, though I am on the “free” side of cold steel bars.
It might seem strange. Me speaking out to you from a newspaper column. But in the spirit of Brother Malcolm X, I am reaching out “by any means necessary” to let you know that some of us have not forgotten you.
To say that there are some who realize that with 555,300 black males in U.S. prisons, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, we cannot afford to forget about you. To say that YOU are the missing link in the lives of so many children and families, a key to helping restore our communities.
To say to you, dear brother, “Don’t lose hope.”
Still, I am somewhat at a loss for words.
Speaking to black men, so many of you who grew up like me — in poverty, fatherless, sometimes hopeless, suicidal, near homicidal. All of which produced in too many of us the fruit of bitterness. Perhaps I suffer survivor’s guilt.
I too know the cycle of ghetto madness, how drug dealing or a “beef,” or a night of chilling and drinking and an unplanned ride-along with your homies, clique or crew can lead to quicksand.
How rage and pride and a decision to “handle your business” rather than choosing temperance, humility and letting it go, can quickly lead to murder.
To hard time. To a day-to-day existence as a faceless number in a cellblock, surrounded by the caged rage that befalls men kept like animals.
While I have never been incarcerated, I have heard the stories from other brothers. And I cannot deny that there, but for the grace of God, for discipline and self-control — for one ill decision, for one fatal ride, one minute or one last straw — go I.
I also cannot deny that so many of you have placed yourselves there. Still, I cannot pass judgment.
I am also not fool enough to believe that amid this so-called justice system some of you are not there by grave miscarriages of justice. But I am not writing now to condemn the system that too often has proven to be destructive, discriminatory and unfairly damning of people of color.
I write with tears for having seen too many of you — of us — in shackles. Inside courtrooms, on the side of country roads, wearing penitentiary-issued orange, or filling sandbags. Or peering from the windows of buses while in transport on highways far from home.
I write to say that no Creator made you to live out your life from prison cell to prison cell, but to fulfill a divine purpose to which He has called you, even in your mother’s womb.
To say that while some of you will never again pass in liberty on the other side of those bars — until you have passed from this life to the next — many of you will. And for you, the power to right your life doesn’t lie with society more than it lies with you.
In your own hands is the power to choose a better destiny.
And whether ultimately it is Jesus Christ or Allah, or some other God of your understanding that helps you transform your life, you should also know that there is at least one brother out here who hasn’t forgotten about you.
And I am praying for you, believing in you, hoping for you — on the “free” side of cold steel bars, and yet, still in the struggle.
And if this letter reaches just one, then it is well worth the ink.