What’s Free, Part 2

by Lord Serious

What does freedom mean to you? Freedom is commonly defined as being free from restraint or bondage. There will be some who will read this, who think to be free simply means “you are not in jail or prison.” Then there are others who are currently in prison, or who’ve spent time in confinement, who view it a little differently. After serving time as a prisoner under physical restraint and bondage, you may tend to look at what it means to be ‘free’ from totally different perspective.

When you no longer have the freedom to come and go as you please, you quickly realize that the worst thing about being incarcerated is not the physical bondage; it’s the mental chains that weigh you down the most. Being trapped in your own head, reliving past traumatic events, imaging endless scenarios about how your life would’ve turned out differently if you had only made different decisions. The stress and tortured inflicted by the what ifs, the I should’ve – could’ve – would’ves, and the unbearable pain of heartache you feel after losing a loved one who you never got to say goodbye to, or a love interest to another man who can fulfill her physical needs. All of the above cause pain that teach the physical prisoner that it is the mental chains that he must first liberate himself from in order to endure and survive prison.

But you see the problem with these two perspectives is that they are too narrow. What freedom is, or isn’t in the above-mentioned context can only be explained through its relation to prison.

What about the restraints society imposes upon the public? Do these encroach upon our freedom? Do the laws and social norms impede our ability to fully express ourselves? Are we somehow less free in a society with man made laws that place restrictions on our behavior? What about the laws of nature? Can you be truly free if you are unwillingly bound to obey the physical laws of the universe?

What about financial freedom? Why must we borrow and accrue debt just to live a lifestyle beyond our means? Why must I pay back what I borrow, especially when the creditor adds interest? In a truly free society, wouldn’t food, clothing, and shelter be free?

What is sexual freedom and should society place limitations on it? Should people have the sexual freedom to explore all our their urges whenever they choose? Should same sex marriages be lawful in a free society? Should the society determine gender roles, or are we free from making a choice because these roles have already been predetermined by nature? Are we bound to the gender of our genitals or do we have the freedom to change it whenever we please? Now, do not think I am advocating any of the above-mentioned behavior. This is simply an impartial analysis of the broader implications for what is, or what isn’t freedom?

These are some complicated and controversial personal and societal issues. But the central theme to them all is what’s freedom? These are controversial issues because they put individual freedoms into direct conflict with societal norms. It is the duty of society to act in the best interest of the majority? But many times these societal norms oppose our freedom to pursue our own individual self interest. So how do you find a balance between individual freedoms and group freedoms? How do you reconcile their differences when they take opposing sides? And who decides who’s right and who’s wrong when everyone has their own opinion?

So when you ask me what’s free? My answer is simply I don’t know. I haven’t the slightest clue what freedom is, because I have never fully experienced freedom on an individual level, nor have I experienced it on a group level. Freedom has eluded me my whole life. In fact, I spent my entire life living in a society that had laws and social norms that I played no role in deciding, yet, I had to conform to them. Sometimes I did, but a lot of times I didn’t. But these social norms are used to control the behavior of those who live within the society. Certain social deviances are frowned upon but they are accepted, but there are also categories of social deviances that this society has criminalized. As a result of my social deviance from societal norms, I was sent to prison. So as an individual, I have never been free. I have always had to live by someone else’s rules.

However, on a group level, the native Black person living in America is the most over-regulated and controlled group in this country. The societal norms of this society has literally passed laws that explicitly stated that it is illegal to be Black in America. As societal norms changed, these laws were rewritten in a race neutral language that permitted the racist spirit of the law to still be enforced. So is it really any surprise that in less than 200 years after the abolition of slavery, my group would suffer from the mass incarceration of our people all over again? Or that we would still be fighting for the freedom to cast Black ballots in free and fair elections?

What’s free? What will it take for my people to be free from racism? What will it take for the world to be free from White supremacy? I think it takes a virtuous freedom. A freedom where Black people willingly sacrifice some of their individual freedoms for the greater good of our race. Only once we achieve this unified freedom will our group gain the freedom to exercise self determination as a people. Only then will our group gain the freedom to compete against White supremacy, and only then will it be destroyed. Only after White supremacy has been destroyed, will we as individuals have the freedom to enjoy and express our melanin without fear of repercussions.

To learn more about me visit my website http://www.lordseriousspeaks.com.

Prompt: What’s Free, Now?

It has been 2 years since BrillianceBehindBars has been encouraged to ask the question about what freedom means to you. Since then, the earned good time credits bill has been passed. Though it might have taken on new meaning, the question remains the same… “What’s free?”

The beginning effects of the earned sentence credit legislation is starting to reach the general population in prisons statewide in Virginia. The spirits within the walls are brightening with a new sheen of hope. but this newfound hope does not come without its own unique set of repercussions — the kind that are sure to accompany any type of mild life changes, whether incarcerated or not.

With thousands of incarcerated peoples eligible for early release and are about to experience an accelerated return to the public, the general air surrounding talks of early release comes with a slight tinge of fear. The burdens of public living have escaped many of us who have experienced an extensive amount of time behind bars. It is not hard to imagine how sudden news of early release could possibly appear a little suffocating for some of us here who seek to be independent and more than functional members of society.

Anyone who has spent even a night in jail has a larger frame of reference to draw from when the idea of “freedom” is loosely thrown around in town hall debates about wearing masks in a pandemic.

However, for anyone like us, who are armed with heightened awareness of what it truly means to be “imprisoned” – the idea of what “freedom” is (or what it means to be “free”) has evolved. That is to say, we know what it means to be free while still “locked up.” True freedom is achieved on multiple levels. Freedom in the truest sense involves freedom of the mind, and in our capitalist society, financial freedom is a must to say that we are truly free…

There is still a matter of tremendous amounts of suspended sentences looming over the heads of many who will soon leave the prison. Along with that, there are still major obstacles facing ex-felons in securing adequate employment and the restricted level they are allowed to participate in the political process. Sure, some of us will be leaving prison soon, but if not properly prepared, we could end up just trading one prison for another. If we continue to do what we’ve always done, we will continue to have what we’ve always had. For most of us behind bars, that is unacceptable.

I am interested in hearing what some of us have planned to obtain this truer form of freedom. Whether or not you have benefitted from the new law, freedom for a lot of us now is only a matter of time. For others, freedom may still be in reach someday soon. What will you do with it?

Prompt questions to help inspire writing:
-Do you believe there’s more to true freedom than getting out?
-If you were set free today, what would you do and where would you go? What are your plans?
-What’s your ideal job or career? Do you think it will be difficult to attain?
-Do you see restoration of rights as an importance to your freedom? Why or why not?

With great love and respect for each and every one of you,
BrillianceBehindBars Creator, Q. Patterson

Reparations of Self

What’s Godly everyone? I am Allure, The Seer of Truth, and I would like to give a big salute with the upmost respect to the founder of this incredible platform, Q.

Speaking of this topic, it all start with self. You know the first disagreement we had with the universe is accepting the false truth of separation from the universe and believing in everything outside of self. To know self is to know everything, to know everything is to know self – so when you look in the mirror you are looking at trillions of years of evolution. You are priceless. Look at the process it took just for elements to take form of human??? Well, news flash: you are that special specimen.

Before we think about reparations on wealth, first we need to seek reparations of self. The most valuable tool that anyone has and also the most powerful, is the mind. It has no beggining nor end. It has unlimited power and capabilities. You are exactly what you think, so think gigantic and stable and not little and fragile. Be consistent and persistent with knowing and understanding who you are and everything else will follow. A wise man of the east once said: “They’re either gonna become like you, or you will become like them. The choice is yours.”

-Allure

Limitation.

FREEDOM.


What does this word mean to me? 7 letters with such a powerful impact that becomes more than the actual verb of the word itself. What I thought was freedom – able to come & go at will, no limitability – was just barely scratching the surface of what it truly represented. See, being incarcerated for a long time gives new meaning to simple (everyday) normalcy; and with time normally comes wisdom & insight. With that said, knowing the dynamics of its core definition, freedom does not necessarily mean that one is free to do whatever (without barriers). It just means you’ve been let go (for temporary purposes). But don’t get it twisted, you’re not all the way free. You still got limitations on your blackside. As a human being, coming into existence puts a limit on you; so you are never “free” to really be free, or have freedom.

A good prime example: this COVID-19 virus that is seriously affecting the worlds population right now. There is no freedom in that or from it. Young or old, big or small, hot or bitter cold, it affects all that comes into contact with it. This strips all of their “so – called” freedom in one form or another. If its not the virus itself, then its the government restrictions placed on society’s movements. New news for all of us!

Freedom is something that one will never really experience, due to life limitations & restrictions, no matter how much or hard one tries to achieve such. It’s just one of the many possibilities that we’ll never reach, no matter the exerted energy into it. Sad as they say, but so very true to the essence & core of the meaning. That’s my take and overstanding of the issue here.

– D.Moyler – Words of Wisdom :-), #1119539, Virginia

F.L.Y

“Martin crawled, so that Malcolm could walk.
Malcolm walked, so that Obama could run.
Obama ran, so that we could fly!”

This is the process that pioneers of human right and revolution sacrificed their life for and its quotes, like this one, that intrigue me and inspire me to find a just cause in this life and defend it from injustice.

One would say, “What are we fighting for in 2020? ” I would answer that question with the above quote… In my opinion, we as citizens of America, have two common enemies: oppression, and ignorance. Oppression is the main reason, so I would say that we are fighting to f.l.y. (free lives, yes!)

Freedom is based on being unbounded, and/or unrestricted in all realities of life. Life is to be lived in peace, so when you ( as a human being) are treated inhumanely you tend to rebel against the source of oppression. Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” sums up the point I’m expressing. Peace!

Romello Harris, #1987153, Greensboro, North Carolina
Aspiring Singer/Producer

Choice.

Greetings and Salutations,

My name is Jay Strode and this is my first entry participation in Brilliance Behind Bars submission.

So to begin my definition of freedom, I would start with the premise that one is bound by something. Whether these things be natural physical means or psychological/mental and even spiritual means, to be free is to be afforded the opportunity/privilege to choose. To choose what you may ask? Well, I would say to choose life to choose love, hope, peace, and prosperity just to name a few things. If we as people are truly free why on earth would we choose things that would be to our detriment or counterproductive to our overall wellbeing? Could it be because we are bound by something? Ignorance, philosophical anorexia, or even lack of the ability to simply critically analyze people or situations, these can be root causes for the lack of freedom. My personal prescription for obtaining, securing, and maintaining freedom is a daily dose (in the midst of penitentiary living) of humility, forgiveness, and love.

We must remain open to knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. For without understanding, there is no application of the things we’ve learned. And I believe that freedom is not only linked to choice, but also process as in the learning process. Choice is just that powerful. I never intend on belaboring a point or proverbially beating a “dead horse”.

So for that point and that point alone, I will close for now but never forever. Shalom. Meditate on these things.

WHAT’S FREEDOM? Lord Serious and His Thoughts on HB1532

There are two kinds of freedom in this world. Actual freedom and nominal freedom. Actual freedom consists of all of the rights, duties, responsibilities, rewards and burdens that come along with being a free people. Nominal freedom consist of granted privileges that can be taken away. Actual freedom is expressed by the will of the people and their God-given right to exercise self determination as a people. Nominal freedom is expressed in statutory laws that prohibit those who are actually free from discriminating against those who are only nominally free. Those who are actually free understand that freedom cannot be granted by any man made law because all men are actually born free. However, those who are nominally free are free in name only. Society tells them they have been granted their freedom and they believe this to be true simply because they have been given more privileges.

The nominally free voluntarily hand over their will power to those who are actually free. This is due to their miseducation on what freedom really is.

Free people have their own land. Free people form their own governments. Free people build their own school systems and teach their own children. Free people grow their own food to feed themselves, and what they cannot grow on their own land they will trade with another nation of free people to get the things they need. Yes, free people are free to make trade agreements with other nations of the world. But the nominally free are not permitted to do any of these things.

For the nominally free, when they purchase land they must pay property tax to those who really own the land. The nominally free do not form their own government, instead they rely on the government of their enslavers to protect them. The nominally free think they have achieved a level of success if they can send their children to one of their enslavers most prestigious schools. The nominally free are dependent upon their enslavers government assistance to provide them with food and shelter. And the nominally free are so brainwashed that the idea of finding a foreign connect and establishing a direct line of trade for anything other than drugs, would be ungrateful to the middle man who is their enslaver. He’s done such a terrific job of taking care of them, that it almost seems unfair to cut him out of the deal.

I’m tired of being only nominally free. Nothing less than actual freedom will satisfy me now. However, this kind of freedom cannot be gained as an individual. It must be achieved collectively by a group of people who share a determined idea. I am writing this hoping to connect with more people like me so that we may put our heads together and devise a plan of action to succeed in such an undertaking.

Now, I will briefly express my thoughts on the Virginia General Assembly’s decision to Amend HB 1532. In it’s original form this proposed House Bill would have been the most impactful prison reform in Virginia since the abolition of parole in 1995. The original version permitted those who are incarcerated in state prison to earn up to 30 days good time credit for every 30 days served. It would be retroactively applied to both violent and nonviolent felons. This would effectively reduced a state prisoners time potentially by 50%. To meet this criteria the prisoner would have to remain charge free and enroll in educational programs, vocational programs, and other rehabilitative programs such as Anger Management, Substance Abuse, etc. I actually supported the passage of this bill over the one that would repeal the abolition of parole. My reason is HB 1532 in its original form permits all prisoners with two priceless things: it would give us a chance to redeem ourselves; and second, it would also allow us to control our own destiny. However, the amended version of HB 1532 was not all inclusive. This version would only offer this earned good time credit to nonviolent offenders.

Obviously, members of the Virginia House of delegates are of the opinion that Virginia’s violent felons do not deserve an opportunity for redemption. This is extremely hard to swallow, especially after watching reports on the news showing U.S. officials negotiating peace and signing agreements with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Do you mean to tell me that America is ready to forgive the terrorist organization responsible for the most violent terrorist attack committed on American soil (911), but America is unwilling to forgive the violent felon in Virginia? Do we live in a nation that is accepting of a double standard that grants reprieve to the terrorists responsible for murdering thousands in cold blood, but it demands retribution from the violent criminal who hurt far less people? This is just another example of governmental mismanagement and American hypocrisy. When viewed through this lens, I challenge any of Virginia’s state legislatures to defend this ridiculous policy. But I see through the deceptive wording of this bill’s race-neutral language, and will expose it for the discriminatory political farce that it really is. The problem with HB 1532 in its original version, is that it benefits too many Black and Brown men. The amended version is designed to offer relief to those who fell victim to the “opioid crisis” otherwise known as White people. The individual mental, physical or spiritual freedom of members of the minority in this country, can guarantee no long term security for that individual. Our only hope to achieving actual freedom, real freedom… freedom from racism and discrimination will only be achieved when we begin fighting for the freedom of all Black souls as if they were our own.

– Lord Serious Hakim Allah / J. Boughton Jr., Chesapeake, VA #1404741

Lord Serious Hakim Allah is the author of the controversial book APOTHEOSIS LORD SERIOUS HAKIM ALLAH’S HABEAS CORPUS APPEAL available now on Amazon.com for $10.00 plus s/h. It is a must read.

The Battle is Within, by Brandon C. L. Hope

Greetings to the readers, my name is Brandon C.L. Hope. I am 19 years of age. I am incarcerated at Lawrenceville Correctional Facility in Virginia. I have been incarcerated since the age of 14. Through the process that the judicial system has put me through, I have become enlightened to many beautiful things of this country that we live in, but I have also been enlightened to many detrimental issues.

Right now, I would like to speak to the topic of “What’s free?”

Despite my obvious lack of freedom, and despite all the complaints that could be brought to society’s attention, that is not the aspect of free that I would like to indulge in at this particular time.

The lack of freedom that I would like to bring attention to, is that of not the oppressed, but that of the oppressor. Yes, the oppressed obviously lack freedom, but freedom is not just physical. There is also a mental and spiritual aspect to freedom. Although we, the oppressed, often view the oppressors as powerful and free, that is not truth at all. The truth is that the mindset of oppression has enslaved humanity.

Often times, the oppressor only oppresses because of demons and struggles they battle within their personal life. So, the simple fact is, that the battle for freedom is not the oppressed against the oppressor, nor the oppressor against the oppressed… the battle is within. The fight is humanity against physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional slavery. Unity is key.

Thank you for your time…

– Brandon C. L. Hope, From Hampton, VA

What’s Free?: Writing Prompt For the Incarcerated

Following the ‘What’s Free‘ essay exploring freedom, we’d like to invite the incarcerated community to explore their own definitions of freedom.

“The 2020 Virginia General Assembly has ended….and the outcome has dejected many of incarcerated peoples who were seeking some relief from extensive captivities…

The biggest hope was HB 1532, a bill that was set to change the world of Virginia men and women circulating the VADOC system, adding more good time than the current 15%. A lot of the incarcerated population and our caring families set their hearts on a comprehensive plan that would grant earning captive citizens some relief from their imprisonment. It also had a decent turnout of the public in support. To the disappointment of many, the bill was continued to 2021 due to the fact that the patron, Delegate Scott hoped it could to be more inclusive next year.

The fact of the matter is: the current good time mechanisms set in place to ‘help encourage’ Virginia’s incarcerated peoples, continue to brand Virginia as a state more in favor of human warehousing, than rehabilitating its’ citizens most in need of the system’s help… and not the system’s wrath.

But let’s imagine the alternative future… if Virginia’s HB1532 had passed…

What then? The doors open up for few faster than most. “Free” to roam as they please – but all are still bounded by tremendous amounts of suspended sentences looming overhead, stigmas, outdated legislation needlessly restricting ‘ex-felon’s’ career choices, and restrictions of rights that keep reentering citizens from being able to fully partake in the processes that establish citizens as functional participants in society. Not to mention, the lapse in life development due to lengthy imprisonment…

It begs the question: “What’s free?”

We are incarcerated, but we don’t have to be imprisoned. Freedom is initially a state of mind. One must be free in mind first in order to obtain true, substantial freedom, physically. For those who wish to change their trajectory and stake in life, they first must be free to do so. Though they control the cell doors and gates, they do not control your mind.

What do we do to obtain true freedom? Free in mind, free physically, and free financially. Freedom will not be willfully be given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed (Martin Luther King Jr.). What plans do we have to obtain, secure, and maintain our freedom?

Write an essay defining for the readers your definition of freedom. If you would like, describe a plan following your release for obtaining, securing, and maintaining your form of freedom.

Don’t forget to include what you want readers to know about you…”

– Quadaire Patterson, Creator, Organizer, Writer VADOC #1392272,

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know wants to write on this prompt this month and be featured on BrillianceBehindBars.com, send an email to yourlovedoneq@gmail.com with the essay and bio to review, or we can add inmate numbers to our Brilliance Behind Bars JPay to allow them to contact us directly. 🙂

‘What’s Free?’ Introduction

In the state of Virginia this year, there was a justice reform bill that drew the attention of every eye within the incarcerated community (this community includes family members of incarcerated people.)

HB 1532 was a bill that was set to change the world of Virginia men and women circulating the VADOC system. The bill was set to upgrade an already in-use system of earning “good time,” which in its current state allows inmates with a flawless conduct record to earn up to 15% off of their sentence. For example, an inmate can be given a sentence of 20 years. If they remain flawless in conduct for an entire 17 years, they would find themselves released. No real incentive placed on unrealistic standards – disparaging and illusionary. Under the introduced bill, if an inmate maintained flawless conduct (and mind you, this is no easy task by far), they would receive up to 50% (give or take 5 years) of their time reduced. Hence, tangible incentives to encourage good behavior and rehabilitation… giving some realism to the standard put forth…

The bill eventually – after several committees mulled over it – applied amendments relegating its effectiveness to non-violent offenders (which make up a very small portion of the ones who need it), and pushed its date of effectiveness back to 2021. The patron, Delegate Scott, elected out of Portsmouth, has opted to push the bill in hopes of finalizing a more inclusive clause…

I had predicted for a time before the conclusion of Virginia’s 2020 election season, that the House wouldn’t just ‘flip the jailhouse over’ and empty convicted criminals into the streets. Irresponsible, along side political suicide. I know in these confusing times, it’s unclear whether they go hand and hand anymore.

The idea of being released early was met by the majority of my community with joy. I did not share in the same elations as my community members. I took in that idea with much needed perspective. Knowing that since I came into the final stretch of my sentence, it’s all been about planning. Planning not only to be released – no, that’s not even a fraction of the struggle for me or most in here – and not only to survive; but to thrive in a world that’s unfamiliar. The thought of early release becomes synonymous with thoughts of being unprepared… and the question… what is free?

I started with the definition of release – to be free from restraint, confinement, or servitude…

How many of us questioned freedom outside of being physically imprisoned? A lot of the thinkers inside have attacked the concept of freedom philosophical. But I don’t believe the core of freedom resides solely at the footstep of the mental. I warn against my fellow incarcerated people to disregard what we have already blatantly ignored. The station of the law fails to return a standard form of freedom to those who have been convicted of a crime, resulting in a virtual life sentence.

‘Ex-felons’ are subject to restrictions that accompany them long after their prescribed sentence. nullifying a lot of any possible knowledge they may have acquired over their decade long stints. For example, many of us incarcerated were oblivious to legal process, being that a lot of us didn’t make it to government courses. Nor were many of us properly introduced to ideas or proper outlets to help us define ourselves to ourselves, outside of the deplorable environments which we were raised and ventured.

I plan to help change that by bringing awareness to the political obstacles that impede an incarcerated person reacclimating into society.

Together, we can help better restore the standard of freedom amongst ALL members of society…

– Quadaire Patterson, VADOC #1392272, From Virginia Beach, VA

Editor’s Note: In March, we will be approaching the topic of freedom, amongst those imprisoned. For more, visit: ‘What’s Free?’ To read the prompt shared with those who are writing, check out this post. Thank you as always, for your support.