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.

CRT: Second Class Citizens

I greet everyone in the Moorish greeting of Islam! My name is Antoinne Pitt #1157338, housed at Lawrenceville Correctional Center.

The topic of critical race theory should be closely examined in order to over stand the perpetuation of mental slavery. The 13th amendment abolished physical servitude unless punishable for a crime. Minority elites established a highly racist system known as apartheid meaning apartness in which minorities and people of the olive hue were denied political rights. In the days of civilization, the olive hue people were divided amongst classes based on those who were considered to be evolved or civilized based upon religious beliefs, education and economic status and the attainment of this status ensured access to more granted privileges and protection under the legal system per U.S. constitution. Those who were considered uncivilized were those who would not surrender to their religious customs, and beliefs and were classified as 3/5ths of a person. Our olive skin complexion makes us of the same class but economic status and social status creates division within the classes. This social construct of race is a destructive nature that is manipulated by the divide and rule policies of authoritarian regimes.

Our legal system is derived from Civil or Roman law and the belief that men and women are not endowed with the capacity of self governing. All law and authority is therefore derived externally from statuses devised and imposed by rulers whether a pope, king, monarch or government. This system was developed from philosophy and Roman property law in which creation is divided and human beings are treated as chattel and the possessions of others are devoid of inherent liberties. We are thus in every sense enslaved and cut off from the world given freely in common to all. This slave system ranks and categorizes people, and grants restricted freedoms that are defined and limited through statutes issued by the rulers, the ones that institute the laws, in which prison is a institution used to warehouse property, property being the one’s that broke the laws in which the rulers instituted. This is why the prison system is disproportionately black. A system was designed and put in place for people of the olive hue to get caught in it’s entanglement. Law protecets racism because it is said that ignorance is no excuse for the law and black is a state of ignorance. Until we understand law and it’s origin, we will continue to over populate the penal system. What we see today is the result of a so called black race being treated as second class citizens. As long as we are viewed as such, the law will never be for us, but against us, and the United States constitution is the law of the land. Peace.

My conditional pardon was recently denied but the fight for freedom hasn’t and will not stop. Sign my online petition Seeking Justice For Antoinne Pitt and go to www.infinitypublicationsllc.net to see a sypnosis of my curriculum “Thinking With A Purpose,” which is a curriculum created to reduce the rate of recidivism and prevent criminal thinking and influences. Also you can contact my publisher Winter Giovanni the founder of Infinity Publications to learn more about my curriculum C.O.A.T (Countering Overdoses and Addiction Treatment) a curriculum created to prevent and reduce the rate of opioid overdoses. I came in love and leave in peace.

A Thin Line Between a Hero and a Criminal, Q’s Origin Story

I’m not sure how many people understand how thin of a line there is between the path of being a criminal, and the path of being a hero — other than the people who have walked it. More so, the people who have unfortunately stumbled upon the darker side.

I have been incarcerated going fourteen years now. Over this time, I’ve lost my grandmother, chose to pick up the practice of prayer and meditation, and through the help of a loved one, been able to embrace my great desire for higher education. Reflecting on my life, I’ve been able to ascertain the point where it all changed for me — a childhood experience where I trickled over the line where hero meets villain.

I’ve always considered myself a good kid. After several different location changes in my childhood, concepts like school and friends did not have the time to take an impacting hold on my life. However, I’ve always honored my parents, respected my elders, and was always ready to help anyone I could, when I could. My mother struggled with jobs and relationships as she tried to raise my siblings and I. She didn’t have enough energy to work long hours, endured massive migraines, chased behind three pre-teenaged boys (and a baby girl), on top of being very poor. An over-premissive parenting style seemed the viable option for her, so my brothers and I were free to roam and interpret the world on our own. Innocent enough, all of these factors set the ground for the childhood experience that changed my life.

I was ten years old when my family moved to a housing project in Durham, NC. Then, the Pokémon craze had set in heavy. Everyone had their gameboys, the videogames, and the trading cards. This craze didn’t fail to reach me either. I was totally in love with all things Pokémon.

I was at a cousin’s house, walking around their neighborhood. I was showing my cousins my rare holographic Pokémon cards, when a group of three older, unfamiliar kids walked up. I remember them clearly. One was a light-skinned boy, his hair was unkept and his clothes were a bit ragged and dirty. There was a kid who was big and round, he wore an old dress shirt that was too small for him, some old khaki pants and had a chipped tooth. The third was a very small boy who looked way younger than us. He had a bandana wrapped around his head with the knot tied to the front. “Hey, let me see those,” the light-skinned boy said. I looked at him with a smile on my face, and without hesitation gave him the cards in my hand. Excitedly, I began to explain the different cards and my love of Pokémon. Suddenly, he punched me in the shoulder and said, “These are mine now,” he then jumped back and threw up his fists in a fighter’s stance. I looked at him in amazement for a second before I understood what was going on. Outside of play – wrestling around with my brothers on the living room floor, I never had been in a fight before. Recognizing what was happening, I took a stance in defense of myself and my property. We danced in a circle, and before any strike was thrown, I saw a shiny piece of chrome glimmer in the corner of my eye, and then was frozen in astonishment. “What you gonna do now!?” is what the tiny bandana-ed boy said as he pointed a small handgun at my face. My mind and body were locked in place. Of course, I had never since an actual gun before, but being predisposed to cartoons, movies, and video games, I knew just how deadly a gun could be. Noticing how petrified I was, the boys turned away and fled with laughter and my trading cards in tow.

Seeing them disappear behind the houses of the neighborhood, anger and sadness boiled up inside of me. A raging ball of newly recognized emotions exploded, and I just erupted into tears. I sat on the porch of my cousin’s friend’s house shaking uncontrollably and bawling with my head in my lap. My younger brother sat beside me, his hand was rubbing me on my back in an attempt to comfort me. Strangely, I felt shame, cowardice, and disgust with myself. “Why didn’t I do something!? Why was I so afraid?” I cried inside and began I blame myself for being too kind, for giving the boy my cards. I looked at my little brother… I wanted to be strong for him, be his hero, and I felt like I had let him down. Through tear-filled eyes, I looked him in the face and cried out a promise, “I will never let anyone take anything away from me again!” Little did I know, that day and that promise would change my life forever.

Not too long after that encounter, I found it harder to walk away from confrontation or any type of situation that I could prove how brave I was. I found it harder to walk away from fights with the other kids, to walk away from challenges of thievery and delinquency. My behavior lead me to a childhood of truancy, underaged drinking, doing drugs and even joining a gang at the age of eleven. I no longer felt like a coward or a victim, but I didn’t realize at that age, that I was victimizing my mother and eventually myself with my erroneous quest for bravery. As a child, its hard to determine the line between being a hero and a villain. Even as adults, we look at most criminals as fearless or unhinged. These assumptions are not entirely true. Most of us here in prison were fatherless, scared children who managed our fear in distressing environments by imitating what we thought was brave.

Through meditation, prayer, and education, I’ve now come to realize what bravery truly is. I earned my GED within my first years of incarceration. I have been mentoring young men for over 10 years, helping them find their own spiritual journeys, tutoring various subjects, and motivating them to seek higher education. I currently take print-based college courses at Ohio University, studying to receive a degree in social sciences. I plan to use my education, reinforced by my experience to help deter youths who have fallen on the wrong side of that thin line. I also want to work with local legislators to create policies that support them.

While I’ve been able to achieve this level of growth during my incarceration, my story did not have to have this chapter of imprisonment. That leaves me with the questions: How can we save those noble little boys out there who are only seeking to be heroes? How do we teach them not only courage, but righteousness and strength, without ever having them see a jail cell? Through my story, I hope to increase the awareness that the world is full of these misguided good kids, who didn’t have a proper chance to find the heroes they truly were, before it was too late. If we can do a better job of identifying these special children, we can help them be more than just villains society believes deserve nothing more than a life of incarceration. We can create more heroes…

Our mission focuses on remembering the brilliance behind bars, giving incarcerated people who want to be heroes a chance to show the world that they CAN be.

– Q. Patterson, Creator and Organizer of BrillinaceBehindBars.com

Criminal

To be a criminal is not soley a matter of self determination, no more than being homeless is. It is accompanied with a lack of social responsibility as well. Almost no one randomly wakes up and says “I just want to commit crimes for a living.” No.

Illegal acts are social dilemmas, mostly committed in states of distress, where individuals are seeking immediate relief from very present, very persistent problems. In this search, they make grave mistakes, sometimes harming others… inconsiderate of others, because of the apparent lack of consideration for them by others. The pressures and problems they face are less likely of their own making. Crime on a large scale is a societal problem that plagues the impoverished. A problem few of our leaders see fit to impute upon the victims or simply ignore.

Where the jurisdiction of social responsibility ends, the choice of an individual to select a destiny of their choosing must take precedence. The identity of a criminal must be shed, because a criminal is not what you are just because a crime is what you’ve committed. In opposition, society’s inclination to be “tough on crime” and continue to demonize those who (for the most part) are victims of society’s failures, does not allow for such realization. Truth is, society has had a great hand in trapping millions of people into the role of the “criminal.” Showing them that their lives are less and beyond redemption; that their existence does not amount above the mistakes they have made.

The abolishment of parole and the reluctance to restore it, along with the restriction of earned sentence credits disregards the practice of incentive as a means of enforcing ethical behavior. In fact, it enforces the idea that no matter your behavior, your lot in life is unchangeable, breeding despair and further instilling the persona of the criminal.

To be a criminal is not a crime, it is merely a product of an imperfect society, but to remain one is. To assume that this problem is definite is a grave injustice that stands to keep destroying countless lives and stagnating the evolution of society as a whole…

– Q . Patterson, Brilliance Behind Bars Creator, #1392272

My Race is Not a Crime

Here we go again, DAMNIT MAN, I’m sick & tired of being sick & tired of seeing my people wrongfully oppressed by these so-called authority figures.

What possible reason could you tell yourself to justify shooting a unarmed man in his back seven times? I can recall during this journey (bid), talking with an elderly white man, and he gave me a piece (a very valuable jewel) that made so much sence, I must share it with you in hopes that somebody else “Gets It” –

Guns were made for hunting, & you only shoot what you hunt and plan to kill & “EAT”, and since I don’t eat people (not a cannibal), I don’t shoot people!

My being born black should not be a crime, nor should it dehumanized my existence, my right to live in accordance to the standards set for all! If you got an issue with my blackness, then take your complaint to the Creator of all, cause I’m not the problem here, but your views of my race, ethnicities, beliefs, & values are. At the present, we are dealing with two (2) pandemics. One that is new, and deadly claiming over 200 thousand lives, and the other that is over 400 hundred years old, with probably triple the equivalence of a death toll and still climbing here today. Covid-19 vs. Racism. Instead of trying to get a seat at their table, we, as a people need to build or own table. Its doable, especially when we’ve built this country up from our blood, sweat, tears, & ideals. This country, which we claim to love so much was actually built on the backs of our ancestors whom where stolen from their native land, enslaved & forced to do what the others refused to do & given the worst treatment in return. We were viewed less than human. Know your value & self worth, cause we all as a race (the human race) matter beyond what these mere words could ever express. All life is special, & should be cherished as such. That’s Real Talk, that’s Equality!

Sincerely, D. Moyler #1119539

Lawrenceville Correctional, Virginia

Overcoming Race: It all starts with you.

Racism can be over come and by nature is not able to establish the human race. I am not one who experienced much racism openly but have felt many of the after effects of the hatred that stems from racism. As long as people continue to keep the mindset that one race is superior, to another none will be able to reach their highest capacity for growth.

In fact each and every one of us are needed to support each other so that we can become what we truly are, which is ONE race. I truly have hope for changes within the system, that they will improve all of our living conditions but unless these changes touch the hearts of those who have had to endure mistreatment through these growing pains, no real change can be made. It all starts with you.

My name is Shaveek Pittman and I am currently incarcerated at Lawrenceville Correctional Center.

-Shaveek Pittman Contributing Writer | Virginia #1870834

Social Mechanization

How many of us actually understand the complexities associated with social structures and their influence on the minds and lives of their participants?

It is a common thought amongst most of the incarcerated – that we are the sole producers of our fate… that if we are rejected, abused, or oppressed, it is solely our fault. That where we come from or the state into which we were born doesn’t hold power over our destiny. We are right, but only to an extent…

Most of us, here in the penitentiary, are obilvious to the influence of social machination. Which made it hard to understand what is now neatly prepackaged by media outlets as systemic racism. The common mindset of the incarcerated, myself included until recently, is that of self-determination. Nothing more, nothing less. That it was our choice to commit crimes rather than succumbing to pressures brought on by hostile environments and unfruitful conditions. It may be a matter of pride to take on the responsibility of our crime, than to acknowledge that there is a force beyond our control, before our time that has planted us in a position tilted in the favor of failure…

The design of racism and its effects are ideological. It begins in the form of idea, before it festers and works its way into culture, and then manifests into mental illusions, stereotypes and prejudices that the masses come to affirm as facts. The weapon most effective in a democratic society is that of idea. Once the people can be made to believe customized ideas, then laws customized to serve agendas outside of public interest can be easily accepted… leading to a social system that makes a single race out to be villains. Villains who should be kept down thus they rise up to enact some form of violent justice… politicians scapegoating on the backs of an ostracized and victimized people, all the while diverting attention away from political failure and corruption… sound familiar? It’s textbook Hitler.

Not only has the plague of racism infected the minds of the common American, regardless of race, those prejudices gave life to legalisation that created way for mass ghettos largely populated by black people, writhed with violence and poverty. It also gave way for laws that allowed mass incarceration and its great racial disparities facilitated by our American justice system. Even laws for gerrymandering and districting to render black voting less effective and obscure the practice of scholastic segregation.

Sure, many of us have heard of Willie Lynch (or maybe should educate ourselves on the subject) and his divisive philosophy designed to control black slave, but who could of thought that that same system and philosophy could be modified to control American citizens. The methods of divide, fear monger, and conquer… these are the foundations by which we allow our government to ensure that a great deal of young black lives are born and may very well die in specially designed situations manipulated generations (and may sustain for generations more), because of a hatred based on a fear they had no hand in creating…

Yes, the seams of the white supremacist power structure has been identified and called out, but if us as a people do not know where to look for sustaining, meaningful change, then what use is a strike… look into the system. Even though many of us did not experience Jim Crow directly, the aftereffects of its era still haunt our lives with racist laws that have a more subtle tone, are a little more hidden… activated by fear and racist undertones that still serve today to accomplish the mission of great racists, dead and gone… whose hate lingers on, hurting and killing innocents by the hundreds… and sabotaging children’s lives before they even get a chance to live them…

I encourage you to continue to fight, but know what you are fighting for. Want life. Want the right to live. Life for your children, life for your family, life for your human brothers and sisters… and know where to look to get it…

Knowledge is power. Power to change, power to grow, power to rise above…

All power to the struggle…

– Q. Patterson, Creator of BrillianceBehindBars

Sleep in Peace, by Brandon Hope

Awake behind walls of concrete,
Stay away wicked thoughts of deceit,
My appearance and my name is clean,
The truth lies in my thoughts and my dreams.

Drift asleep and nightmares are present,
wide awake and life’s still unpleasant.
Through the pain, hate is the norm.
Utilize love and make it form
the new norm,
a brand new society,
one where to get justice –
there’s no need for rioting.
Where there will be no battles where none should exist,
Now I understand why we hold up our fist.

The power’s in us, united at least.
Once we accomplish this goal,
I can sleep in peace.

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

Fear: Writing Prompt

The year of 2020 was anticipated with promise of change. Many of us prisoners here in Virginia were looking towards possibility of some relief, but as quickly as that light came, brilliant and burning with hope, the quicker that flame was doused and the gloom of despair and uncertainty reclaimed the reigns of our community. This time, the darkness came in a form fit for global impact – a pandemic. pestilence. 2020: affectionately dubbed the year of clarity and vision by most of us, has quickly wrapped into 2020: the year of the coronavirus.

Incarcerated populations across America have been affected by the disease at various rates. On the low end, staff’s refusal to work in possibly infected areas is slowing operations. At the high end, the highly communicable virus rapidly spreading throughout the confined quarters of prison communities, where social distancing is literally impossible.

So far, there is no apparent sign that the virus is here at Lawrenceville, but the proliferation of COVID-19 across cable television, the woes of our family members by phone, the statewide directives locking down prisons, and distributing sneeze guards keep fears fluid and real from one side of the gates to another.

Fear: the surrender of the help that comes from reason.

Behind the walls, fear is king. As incarcerated people, we deal with a set of fears most others do not. We depend on staff for almost every necessity. If conditions became somewhat apocalyptic and society destabilizes, prisoners will either be legally executed or abandoned in cells to futilely fend for themselves… a fear permanently etched in the back of the mind, and at the center is the motivation for all fear — the idea of survival.

Prompt: Define fear in your words. What are some of your fears? How do you see yourself overcoming them? What do you think could be done to alleviate today’s fears of sickness and death?

– 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.

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