Category Archives: Essays & Commentary

Three Ways to Prepare for Release


How to Prepare Yourself for Release

by the Author of 13 Years of College, Ronald Bullock

After serving a significant amount of your prison sentence, there are quite a few things you need to do to prepare yourself for your exodus. I will explain three, and why these are essential to starting your path of being a productive citizen and help decrease the recidivism rate.

Five years in, with nine to go, I concluded that I would be free longer than I would be incarcerated, so I needed to begin my journey immediately.

  1. Set a five year plan and do something each day that aligns you with your end goal.
    adult book book series college
    Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

    In my case with nine years left I decided that I wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree.  I had to pass a reading comprehension test since I didn’t score high in that area on my G.E.D. This was required before I could enroll in the Associates degree.  So, scoring high enough on the reading compression test was my first goal. Therefore, I began studying to get a high score to enroll into the associate’s degree program, so I could eventually move on to the bachelors program.

  2. Read daily, whether it’s the newspaper, magazines, or self-help books. Reading allows you to detach from your physical location. Reading also allows you to stay abreast with the ever changing world.
  3. Find a community organization to communicate with. This community could be your local church, mosque, community center, etc… You want an alliance with a positive and productive circle and these organizations often include resources that will help propel you to success.

In closing, I allowed five years to get past me; but, if I’m asked when an incarcerated person should begin their preparation for their release, I will answer, emphatically: “As soon as possible”! The reason being, it takes quite a while and much discipline to learn, unlearn, and relearn. That is: know what you want in life, unlearn what got you there and relearn what it takes to get you that new life you so desire.

 

Black History Month Essay: Uphold The Legacy of African American Leaders by Author Le’bert A. Gordon


Writing Prompt: Is There Still a Need for Black History?

I sent out emails to some writers featured on Cry Redemption with this prompt: Is there still a need for Black History, since the election of America’s President Barack Obama? The following is Le’bert A. Gordon’s response.

I find the audacity that such a question must be asked thought provoking. How were we as a race of people able to overcome brutality, subjugation, intolerance, oppression, and castration? Are we to forget and not continue to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for the little freedoms we enjoy today? Are we not uplifted and inspired by those African Americans who have contributed so much to America and the world society at large?

We now live in a society where all little African American boys and girls can, not only dream like our beloved brother Martin Luther King, Jr. once did, but can actually achieve becoming the President and First Lady, in an entrenched racist society such as the United States of America, like Barack and Michelle Obama.

If, because of the statement I’ve made above, you believe we as African Americans have achieved true racial equality in the United States of America, you’re sadly mistaken. You only have to look to the recent happenings which took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, the racist statements made by the Congresswoman of Alabama, and the current crises taking place with the Governor and Attorney General of Virginia regarding their insensitivity to wearing “black face” as a joke.

There is a very famous saying: “If you forget from where you came, there’s a good chance IMG_20180817_054112you may repeat it.” The sad legacy of our history that some would like to forget and bury is that we African Americans were forcefully brought to this country by brutal means in wretched and deplorable conditions-chained like livestock, at the bottom of slave ships-across nine thousand miles of ocean. We survived, only to be sold into the forced servitude of our slave maters. Yet still we survived.

But we didn’t just survive, we persevered even when there seemed to no hope. Brave men and women stood up against oppression. Not just with their physical rebellions, but also with their intellectual minds—an element the slave masters could not defeat.

We must try to keep Black History alive in the hearts and minds of our children, and in the conscience of the American people. So that never again will any race of people in this great country of ours be subjugated to second-class citizenship, be de-humanized, or be treated barbarically because of the color of their skins. But rather, we must regard men for the intellect of their minds and the contents of their characters.

Today, we have an obligation to uphold the rich and great legacy of our African American Activist Leaders, Academic Scholars, Inventors, Liberal & Fine Arts, and Scholastic and Athletic achievers. There are too many to name. As a young boy, it blew me away to learn that it was a black man, George Washington Carver who first invented Peanut Butter, and Luis Howard Latimer who contributed to the invention of the light bulb.

They have allotted us February as the Month to celebrate our rich and proud history and I encourage each and everyone to take full advantage of those 28 days to share with your children and to reminisce and even celebrate with others our great accomplishments. But, while doing so, never become comfortable as if we’ve made it. But rather, also strive to work individually and collectively to empower and enrich the legacy of our Black History here in America and all over the world. Yes, there’s still a need for Black History!!!

Written by: Author Le’bert A. Gordon
Follow at Facebook: authorlebert.gordon

Reading These Three Books While Incarcerated Helped Me Change My Perspective


by Ronald Bullock

These three books gave me hope for a life after my prison sentence. I drew inspiration from all of these books and authors. The common theme for me was the authors’ ability (or the subject’s ability in the case of the Malcolm X book) to change, both themselves and their message. I was impressed that they also found an audience after being incarcerated.

  1. Man Child in the Promised Land by Claude Brownmanchildinthepromisedland
    Claude was in and out of the justice system from when he was a juvenile until early adulthood. Even through all of his street gang involvement and near brushes with death, he never allowed his past to predict his destiny and future. Claude attended and graduated from Howard University and later attended Stanford and Rutgers law schools. He had a great ability to embrace at-risk youth and empower them to walk in a life different from his own childhood.

 

 

  1. Makes Me Wanna Holler by Nathan McCall
    makes me wanna hollerNathan was sentenced to a ten year prison for an armed robbery. During his time down he found some time to self reflect and find himself. He took on some training in printing and upon his release he pursued college. His problems in life continued to persist and he was later jailed again for child support. However, through all of his turmoil he still pursued his career in writing and became a bestselling author.

 

 

  1. The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haleymalcolm
    The two fold story of Malcolm’s life is monumental within itself – from a womanizer, fast-talking hustler, and robber to the leading Minister of the Nation of Islam. The way that prison groomed and prepared him to be the great speaker and national speaker that he grew to be! What he exemplified was a great maturation of self discipline.

 

 

Ronald Bullock:

udyI was sentenced to 13 years of prison but I like to consider the time 13 years of college. My sentence changed me forever – it fast tracked me to my role as a husband, father, friend, and educator! I began to seek discipline, work ethic, and education to propel me to my physical exodus from prison! Thanks to these valuable men and authors for sharing their lifes’ lows and transitions.

I have now completed my own manuscript, a memoir entitled 13 Years of College, which is my debut. It’s being edited.

Stay Tuned! Stay Blessed!

Instagram: 13yrs-ofcollege
website: http://13yrsofcollege.com

Mental Health Awareness by F. Jacobs


After spending 35 years on this earth, with 17 of these current years incarcerated, I’ve discovered that my mental and emotional heath are just as important as my physical health. Being that October is Mental Health Awareness Month, I will raise the awareness of the importance of mental and emotional health/wellness, to the best of my ability and knowledge and to as many readers as possible.

I strive to present positive, productive, and progressive coping methods for the various forms of mental and behavioral disorders. This is my caveat, for I am neither expert, nor have I been formerly educated on this subject. However, the time to take action is overdue in the quest of being more proactive in our communities, families and work places. Step one is to identify the problem while Step two is to discover the solution. Collectively we can make steps one and tow much easier.

Things to Consider: Emotions and Our Mental States

People with good emotional health can still be plagued with emotional problems or

Mental Health and Awareness by Floyd Jacobs
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

mental illness. Often, mental illness has a physical cause. There could be a chemical imbalance in the brain. Problems with family, stress, work, or school can trigger mental illness or make it worse. If you know someone who may need help coping with a mental illness and may not even know they are mentally ill or if you, yourself, is struggling with emotional and mental issues then consider these things and please be proactive (and not reactive) in your treatment.

Our emotions are the direct product of our mental state. Paying close attention to our health and treating threats to our physical well being is no different from when we sustain psychological injuries. If you are more proactive with protecting your physical well-being and neglect your psychological well-being you might probably experience a gradual decline in your mental and emotional health.

Talking about the upkeep of ones mental health may sound like a foreign language; however, the professional experts say that maintaining ones mental well-being is rather simple and easy; just choose to do it! The choice is yours to make a difference in a positive way.

written by:
F. Jacobs AKA Bumani SankofAllah, The Prudent Pauper

Next Part (2) Mental Health and Awareness: Seven Dimensions of Wellness

adult alone backlit dark
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Review of The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman


Le’bert A. Gordon Reviews of  The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman

Today’s review is of The 5 Love Languages (The Secret to Love that Lasts) a relationship book written by Dr. Gary Chapman. Dr. Chapman, who’s been married to his wife Karolyn for over forty years, shares with you insight and relationship experiences which have worked for himself and the many individuals and couples he has counseled over the years. No relationship will ever be perfect and thus Dr. Chapman gives many jaw-dropping story examples of individuals and couples who were on the brink of break-up and divorce, but were able to steer themselves back into committed love by learning and communicating their mates’ primary love language.

The 5 Love Languages focuses on the kind of love that is essential to each individual ‘s emotional needs; the kind of love that keeps one’s “love tank” full, just like the “in love” emotion we experience when a couple first meets and during the early stages of a relationship. However, it should be noted that according to Dr. Dorothy Tennov, the average life span of the “in love” romantic obsession phenomenon is two years.

5 Love Languages
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Therefore, with the help of this book (The 5 Love Languages), we all can now recognize the “in love” experience for what it is–a temporary emotional high–and now pursue “real love” with our mate. The kind of love that is emotional in nature, but now obsessional, unites reason and emotion, involves an act of the will and requires discipline, and recognizes the need for personal growth.

Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love. But to be genuinely loved by another. When you choose to love someone, you find appropriate ways to express that decision. This is what this book (The 5 Love Languages) is all about. How do we meet each other’s deep emotional need to feel loved? If we can learn that and choose to do it, then the love we share will be exciting beyond anything we ever felt when we were infatuated.

Learning The 5 (Emotional) Love Languages (Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch), and beginning to speak your mate’s primary love language will revolutionize your relationship and enrich your lives.

I recommend this book to every ardent person who is seeking everlasting love with their mate.

~ Le’bert A. Gordon, Author, Philanthropist,  and Paralegal

More from Le’bert:

In every loving relationship, the beauty of a woman’s love that is found in her man’s heart, is the very essence which soothes the savage beast, and cultivates a long lasting–loving relationship.
As I’ve delved into the topic of cultivating healthy relationships in my book Insights Into The Male Mentality, I will be presenting to you periodic reviews of complementary relationship books from other authors which advances the understanding needed by men and women to make true the sayings: “A well tended man fills his home with love abundantly,” and “A happy wife, a happy life,” as well as, bear true the phrase, “It takes two to make a thing go right!”
The 5 Love Languages compliments my book, in that, while my book addresses the insightful things one needs to know and understand when seeking the formulation of a committed relationship, it (The 5 Love Languages) provides the secret to love that lasts by answering the question of: What do we do after we’re in a committed relationship or marriage to make it last? If you are one of those individuals who’ve tried your very best to show your mate just how much you love them, but have found them unresponsive, Author Gary Chapman proves you with the answer. You must be willing to learn to express your mate’s primary love language if you want them to feel the love you’re trying to communicate. Then, once you identify and learn to speak your mate’s primary love language, you will have discovered the key to a long-lasting, loving relationship.

Loving Through Bars: Bidding With Someone You Love (Part 1: M.I.A.)


Loving Through Bars (Part One): Missing In Action

by K. Omodele & SKL

Real Talk, many who knew us ain’t think we was gon make it through no five-year bid especially since Shelley was only twenty-four when them people snatched me up off them streets.  Matter of fact, soon as them crackers put me in the back of that SUV and it began sinking in that wasn’t no jumping through no windows, hauling-ass through the woods like Harriet Tubman, soon as I realized that I was wound up tight, I figured I was gon have to let Shelley ass go.

By the time they got me all processed and that cell door clanked behind me, my first priority was to make some calls and let somebody know where the fuck I was. My heart was turning into wood because I knew: one, wasn’t gon be no bond (they ain’t never gave me none before, though I always clung to a lil wriggle of hope); two, I ain’t remember no numbers (I’d been commanding my damn cell phone to dial people numbers for years); and, three, I had to find a way to call Shelley and eventually make her ass go on bout her business.

Being locked up, your first priority is self-preservation, you understand?!

***************************************************

That Thursday, I’m waiting on my Man to call me because that weekend we was supposed to be headed to a holiday party at one of his friend’s house in Charlotte and he was driving all the way down to Chattanooga from D.C. to pick me, then I was gon drive us on up to North Carolina. That’s a lot of driving but back then I ain’t mind us hitting the road together. We made every trip a damn adventure, stopping and eating at little restaurants and we used to love us some Sheetz. We’d been together about a year; first we dated about a month, then we had hauled all my belongings up to an apartment he had just got in D.C.

Anyway, he ain’t call Thursday, so I blew his messages up. “Where is MY Man??? I need to talk to MY Man.” That always had his ass calling me back within minutes.

But when I ain’t heard nothing from him that night, then on Friday either, my heart began feeling like a damn semi was driving over it. Then, late Friday night, my cell phone rang, but his name didn’t pop up on my screen. It was his cousin’s wife.

“Hey, Girrrl. Jomo got locked up down in NC in another bitch house… blah, blah, blah, blah… He fucked now… blah, blah, blah. You young, you might as well go on with your life. He ain’t shit. You need to find some other … blah, blah-di blah-blah…”

And my emotions just flooded, over-flowed, and gushed into each other in one big-ass river of hurt. People sure know how to kick you when you down and pour salt in a wound, don’t they? Salty-ass bitch.

woman holding space gray iphone x
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

To Be Continued

Black Lives Matter Racist? Come On, Rudy


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Black Lives Matter is Racist According to Rudy Giuliani
By Kaya Omodele .@TheAbeng

“When you say black lives matter, that’s inherently racist. Black lives matter. White lives matter. Asian lives matter. Hispanic lives matter. That’s anti-American and it’s racist.”~Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani

I caught that ignoramus Rudy Giuliani on CBS’ Face The Nation a few Sundays ago. Responding to the most recent gun violence between police and black citizens, Giuliani claimed that Black Lives Matter is an inherently racist term because, according to His Dishonor, those words imply exclusion of other lives. I don’t get it; how in the hell are people drawing that conclusion?

If I say that my life is precious, how is that translated as everyone else’s life is worth less? “My wife matters” doesn’t mean that I think less of other people’s wives. The statement “Christ is love” doesn’t imply that anything other than Christ isn’t love, does it? Maybe the problem for some people is rooted with the word “black” within the statement. Stop the foolishness!

The declaration Black Lives Matter is an assertion, an aspiration and a reminder to a world that seems to have disregarded the fact, by those of us who feel that our lives are considered cheap, or of less importance than other lives. It’s a cry- We’re here at the table too. Feed us some of this “liberty and justice for all”, too.

A person must have a good sense of logic and objectivity to understand this. In his past dealings in matters of police brutality against minority communities, Rudy Giuliani has displayed little of the former and none of the latter. In case after case, Rudy automatically sided with and backed up his police force, even when police in Flatbush, Brooklyn precinct bathroom sodomized Abner Louima with a broomstick, then rammed the weapon in the Haitian immigrants mouth, knocking out his front teeth. Remember, his Dishonor came on TV urging New Yorkers not to rush to judgment despite the fact that police officers had tried to cover up the incident.

We could go on and on about the former mayor of N.Y.C; but the reality? He’s an astute politician. And politics (politricks), my friend, is all smoke and mirrors, some counterfeit, olf higue, vampire business. Of course, after 9/11 Rudy converted all the well-deserved public sympathy for the first responders in NY into positioning himself as “America’s Mayor”, as if the bravery of those civil servants (NYPD/NYFD) somehow vindicated the despicable acts of others.
When you’re right, you’re right; when you’re wrong, you’re wrong!
In the words of Bob Marley, Rudy, “You can fool some people sometimes/but you can’t fool all the people, all the time…”

Kaya Omodele writes for the blog The Abeng and My Conscious Pen
Follow: @TheAbeng\
Like: http://www.facebook.com/TheAbengandMyConsciousPen

Related Topic:

http://consciouspen.blogspot.com/2015/12/abeng-review-between-world-and-me-by-ta.html

http://consciouspen.blogspot.com./2016/01/abeng-poetry-pounds-of-black-ice-urban.html

Instructing Yoga While Incarcerated by John Gianoli


Instructing Yoga While Incarcerated
by John Gianoli
copyright 2016

I enjoy yoga; and since being incarcerated, I do it every day in one form or another. Fortunately for me, I also teach the yoga class Monday through Friday. In teaching the yoga class in prison, I am afforded the unique opportunity to touch the lives of fellow inmates. Whenever they tell me of the benefits that they get from yoga class, I just light up inside.

Some of my students have shared the following:
“I was a very angry man when I came to prison. John’s yoga class is the high point of my day. When I twist and breathe under his direction, I let go of tension that I did not realize was even there. After yoga, I have the ability to get along with others when I might otherwise snap.”

“My knees were shot before yoga. Since I have strengthened the muscles around my knee-joint and made them more limber, I can now walk distances that I could never do before.”

I used to get injured every time I played racquetball. I had to quit. Since taking yoga, I can now play and not worry about backaches.”

“Before doing yoga class, I could never get to sleep on the hard mattress in my cell. Now with my body more limber, I sleeps most nights with no problem.”

“In yoga class with John, I enter a zone like no other in this prison. He plays music and dims the lights. We focus on our breath and our bodies become an instrument of meditation. I cease to be in prison and my spirit is free; that escape is priceless.”

“Mentally, I am much sharper after yoga. I count my breaths and watch my balance. I am now aware of how I treat my body.”

Comments like these keep me teaching the class! When I can to prison, I started to run. If I ran three miles or more, I was devastated with knee and ankle pain. After doing yoga for a year, I started running again, at the age 56. I am now running more than 20 miles every Saturday morning, with no soreness. I have no doubt that I can run this far now because of my yoga practice. The yoga class has been a blessing for me and I hope that it continues to bless those that I can touch with this wonderful discipline.

yoga-john

Creative Writing Class – Incarcerated Pens


Creative Writing

Creative Writing Class for Prisoners
By Kaya Omodele @theabeng for Beneath The Surface Publishing

Writing is cathartic; it is a cleanser of the conscience, it is sanative to the soul. For many incarcerated men and women, writing provides a mental sanctuary, creative outlet and voice- everyone has a story, almost everyone wants to be heard. Choosing words and arranging them on paper, forming ideas and themes on the page is like painting your soul on a mural.

When we began our first creative writing class last March, seven inmates enrolled but by the final exam in June, we were down to three students. That’s a drop rate over 50 percent; but, the students that lasted were passionate and dedicated- they put in work. In reality the workload was a stack of bricks. Students were introduced to literature-poetry and fiction; they wrote journals, drafts and revisions; studied word choice and diction, alliteration and allusion; read and analyzed literature by celebrated writers and poets such as Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, E.E. Cummings, Bessie Head, Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston and Jamaica Kincaid.

The Fall semester Creative Writing II began in September and ended on December 14th. This semester 15 signed up initially but by the final class our numbers whittled down to seven. Our focus this fall was on fiction writing. Whereas the first creative writing class covered the fundamentals of writing and reading both poetry and fiction, in Creative Writing II we studied the elements of fiction more in depth, and focused on short stories. The syllabus touched on scene structure, narration, showing vs telling, plot, structure, figures of speech, characterization, details and setting. The final paper was a short story with a 7,000 word count.

Our writing classes consisted of people from different backyards, from politician to a self-published author of an urban story (Drako Sullivan); financiers and farmers to medical doctors and dope boys; black, white, an Asian and a Hispanic; the educated and the under-educated, from all walks of life- our prison writing classes are truly a microcosm of American society.

Oh, and we did have the classic a dog-ate-my-homework excuse in the form of “I think I lost my assignment during my move from Unit D-2 to D-1.” This from a politician. Right! Nice try, Mr. Perry.

Literature Textbooks we used:
Writing Fiction- A Guide to Narrative Craft, Seventh Edition 2007 by Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French
The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, Seven Edition 2005 by R.V. Cassill
The Creative Writing Guide by Candace Schaefer and Rick Diamond
The Compact Bedford Introduction To Literature, Fifth Edition by Micheal Meyer

Poems and Short Stories We Studied:
The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses by Bessie Head http://www.sacp.org.za/biographies/bhead.html
Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
A Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemingway
The Killers by Ernest Hemingway http://members.atlantic.net/~gagne/hem/hem.html
She Being Brand by E.E. Cummings
Africa by Maya Angelou http://ucaswww.mcm.uc.edu/worldfest/about.html
Un-American Investigators by Langston Hughes
Dream Boogie by Langston Hughes
Harlem by Langston Hughes http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hughes/hughes.html
The Conscience of The Court by Zora Neale Hurston http://www2.wwnorton.com/college/english/naal7/
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer Day? by William Shakespeare
My Mistresses Eyes by William Shakespeare http://www.poets.org
The World Is Too Much With Us by William Wordsworth
Girl by Jamaica Kincaid
(An excerpt from) Hardtimes by Charles Dickens

Read Poetry by:
T. Raines:
Universe- https://cryredemption.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/universe-by-t-raines/
Depression- https://cryredemption.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/depression-by-t-raines/

Anthony Choe:
Glitter- http://cryredemption.workpress.com/2015/12/28/glitter-by-anthony-choe/
Edgefield Zoo A Haiku- https://cryredemption.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/edgefield-zoo-a-haiku-by-anthony-choe/
For Richer or For Poorer(1997) A Sonnet- https://cryredemption.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/for-richer-or-for-poorer-1997-a-sonnet-by-anthony-choe/

Drako Sullivan:
Soul Mate A Sonnet- https://cryredemption.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/soul-mate-a-sonnet-by-drako-sullivan/

Kaya Omodele @theabeng contributes to Beneath The Surface Publishing
Read more about my experiences teaching prison creative writing classes
http://consciouspen.blogspot.com/2015/12/teaching-and-learning-prison-writing.html

Beneath The Surface Publishing:
beneaththesurfacepublishing@gmail.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/beneaththesurfacepublishing/
Twitter: BTS_Publishing