Weather Updates

Letter from prison: ‘Don’t be a thug’

 (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

storyidforme: 51632774
tmspicid: 19187214
fileheaderid: 8699810

Updated: August 5, 2013 6:20PM

A letter from prison arrived from one of my 555,300 black brothers incarcerated across America.

Postmarked March 25, from the Nebraska Department of Corrections, the white envelope was inscribed with an inmate’s name and ID number in blue ink. He says he reads my column.

“Although you and I grew up in the same era, we took different paths,” writes the man, sentenced in 2010 to 34 years for shooting a man. “Our communities need more men like you. You are truly trying 2 do your part. Your voice is powerful. I wish you would consider mentoring my son. . . .”

But I think it is inmate No. 72481’s words that his son and perhaps all young brothers should hear, written from a prison cell:

“Check this out, young brothers,” he writes. “If you are reading this letter or someone is reading it 2 you, this is all real. The words I’m spitting are true and come straight from the heart.

“You may not know me personally but I’m sure you know somebody like me. And some of y’all probably aspiring to be just like me, or some other ‘thug’ on the block. But I’m telling you right now, this ain’t what I want. As I write this letter, I’m confined to a 10-by-6-foot cage.

“Like so many of you youngstas out there, I too grew up in a single-parent home. My mother did all the right things to raise me right. The only male figures I had 2 look up 2 in my ‘hood’ were drug dealers, pimps, gang leaders, gangstas.

“I wanted to walk like them, I wanted to talk like them, I wanted to dress like them. I wanted to have juice (power, prestige, paper) like them. Eventually, I became one of them.

“And I was just what they wanted. I was young, I was fatherless, I was impressionable. . . . I was made 2 feel like these O.G.s [original gangsters] had nothing but love for me. But in actuality, they didn’t love me because they didn’t love themselves.

“I didn’t realize then that I was expendable. . . . I gave my life and allegiance to a gang who claimed to be my family.

“Ain’t none of my so-called brothers coming 2 see me in prison. Ain’t none of them sending me no money. Ain’t none of them writing. See, I am not an asset 2 them anymore. I’m no longer able 2 generate money for the gang, or bring the guns in.

“Some of the guys I come up with wasn’t as lucky as me. Some of them were shot dead in the streets only to be memorialized with some empty liquor bottles and cheap T-shirts with your face on it and forgotten in about a week. Some of them ended up in rehab, paralyzed from the neck down.

“Running around with them thumpers (guns) don’t make you no man. They will make you a dead man. This ain’t a rap video or movie.

“How y’all say it? Keep it real? Keep it 100 percent? Well, that’s what I’m doing: Put them blunts down, put them guns down and pick up a book.

“If you a shooter, somebody eventually gonna get you. And most likely, you gonna catch a case and then be locked up like an animal.

“And ain’t no guns in here, homie. You either gonna fight or get f-----.

“Now, is this how you want to live for the rest of your life? Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Respectfully, Uncle Stoney.”

Powerful words penned in prison. And if they reach just one, then it is worth the ink.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.