The Loudest Voice is Our Vote

While sitting in the Birmingham jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in longhand his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Within this letter, he stated how he couldn’t sit idly by in Atlanta, his home state, and not be concerned about what was happening in Birmingham. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

In my 23 years of incarceration, I live with the direct result of an injustices I created. This injustice is now effecting me and many others and that injustice is: “NOT VOTING.”

In November of 1994, my late father-in-law warned me of not voting. It was during this time that Mr. George Allen was campaigning for governor. His campaign was fueled by the ‘tough on crime’ mantra, with the abolishing of parole as the prize for electing him as governor. I never paid much attention. And to be honest I really didn’t care. Never in a million years did I think that abolishing parole would become like a modern day genocide.

I know that crime must be dealt with, and we all want a safe society. However, many make mistakes, are remorseful and seek rehabilitation to become a better person.

Now in 2023, I find myself facing a very lengthy prison sentence, without the possibility of parole. During these past 20 years, I have met many individuals, some guilty, and a few not guilty. I’ve also met many who, through the rehabilitative process are better and different people today. But the majority of us continue to find ourselves at the mercy of the governor to one day enjoy the freedom that we took for granted and forfeited.

I didn’t vote in 1994, the following year (1995), he fulfilled his promise and abolished parole in Virginia. I’m living in the results of not voting. Many think that my one vote doesn’t matter, just think in a small town, someone won a school board seat winning 3 to 2. Voting matters from our local elections to the highest elections. Voting is actually your voice!!

I lost my right to vote; now, I try to inspire others to vote. I speak to inmates often telling them to encourage their family to vote. Yes, we’ve lost our rights to vote. But think if each of the 37,000 plus inmates in Virginia would inspire 10 people to vote, that would be would be 370,000 votes cast. Yes, it would be in different districts, but I promise you this would make a difference.

So inspire your family and friends to vote. When they ask if they can help, say yes, Vote!! Also tell them to get in touch with their elected officials, from their local representative (senate and delegate) to your national (senate and delegate) prior to elections. If these elected officials will not return your email, letter, or call, then thats a blatant example of them not EARNING your vote.

It’s time that they realize that our votes must not be taken for granted but must be earned.
Let them know what issues effect you and your community. These elected officials are there because of you and for you.

It’s time that we stop being “Democrats, Independent or Republican.” We are humans with a voice, and the loudest voice is our VOTE. It’s time that they stop taking us for granted. Many have gone before us before us, oftentimes being jailed and treated harshly for wanting to vote. We no longer have to count the “jelly beans” in jar. We just have to register. Pass on the importance of voting on to your kids.

To my fellow ex offenders, vote for us! Make getting your rights restored a priority. Speak out for change.
Its time that we stop giving away what many others earned through their blood, sweat, tears and some death.

Many died for us to have the right to vote, don’t give it away, because this injustice is a threat to justice everywhere.

Samuel E Harris #1026738
Lawrenceville Correctional Center

Suffolk, Virginia

(Sam) a successful car salesman in the Tidewater Area who suffered an accident while in service to his country and later diagnosed with PTSD by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but later denied treatment due to bureaucratic red-tape, caused him to self-medicate and lead to his incarceration for robbery with a 220 year sentence, with 60 to serve. In spite of his situation of incarceration, he has used the last 23 years to rehabilitate and become the devout man of God he is, that has served others through the positions and platforms he’s held within prison. He’s also co-authored several books :”Beyond The Shackles” and ” Speaking Out for Change” as well as authoring his own book ” A Double Minded Man” soon to be released. He can be contacted via US mail or email @ Samuel E Harris #1026738


This quote is so relevant today, that it’s almost like it was written with these specific circumstances in mind.

So many people, while being themselves a victim (knowingly or unknowingly) of systemic racism, inequality, inequity, or some other form of social injustice… choose not to stand up, speak up or in any way take part in the movement for true justice and reform which by default (if successful) they too will benefit from.

As a people… unity is the most feared and most underused tool at our disposal. Society has become so singular (I, me, my, mine), that we don’t feel the need to be proactive or get involved in anything that does not directly effect us. We as a whole have become largely unaware of our indirect community. That is until it happens to you or someone you consider a loved one. Then, all of a sudden it becomes important to you, and you seek help and support and demand justice or change at breakneck speed. Before 2020, how many George Floyds were there that we were silent about? Think about what could have been done 10, 20, or even 30 years ago to prevent the tragedy of George Floyd from happening. And even now, less than a year later, the streets are clear and NOTHING has changed … the proof is right there in your social media news feed.

– Sincere Born Allah, #1131459, Nottoway Correctional Center


“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


“Freedom is never given voluntarily by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” -MLK

The origin of oppression has always eluded me… why does the oppressor oppress? Why does the oppressed accept the circumstances enforced by the oppressor?

As opposed to a condition of nature – for animals do not share in unoriented oppression beyond survival – I feel as if oppression (the deliberate and willful use of power to deject the progress of an individual or group of persons) is a common condition of human folly. A compensatory action of fearful emotions. The oppressors fear the image of their own perceived inadequacy – and to reinstate to themselves a perception of strength, they choose already disadvantaged victims to afflict upon, reinforcing an illusionary form of power. This process is not only fallacious for the oppressor, it is just as so for the oppressed.

When oppression is prevalent, it is so because the oppressed subscribe to a fallacy. That fallacy is one that promotes a dominance held by one over another. This allows the oppressed to accept what they believe to be a matter of fate rather than one of self determination. Forfeiture of will, the core of the human spirit immobilizes the oppressed and empowers the oppressor… oppression germinates in fear and thrives in despair.

In the past it took the form of physical slavery. Now, it has a more subtle body. Distrust in political processes, or a form of systemic slavery. The oppressed today in America are the dejected men and women who disregard political activism as a means of bettering the state and quality of their lives. The oppressor will not willingly give up even a grand figment of power for a minuet reality of powerlessness. It goes against the very nature that breeds it. But the oppressed have a choice… a choice to grab hold of self-determination and free themselves from the illusion of powerlessness.

But this is a CHOICE, unprovoked by the oppressor, that must be decided for one’s self…

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


“An injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King was respected for his holistic outlook on human and race relationship. He sought to integrate black and white Americans into a better reflection of the virtue, equality.

Today, it is easy to get wrapped in a personal justice, that we disregard the general good and how they are so related. A personal justice now could become a great injustice for the generations to come. For example, the law enabled the inhumane practice of slavery to flourish. A subjective form of justice gave one man rights over another. The generations following the countless battles to reckon the flatter form of justice, now leaves a deep rooted animosity set to threaten any truer expression of justice from taken hold in a near future…

Justice is a vast principle. Ranging over billions of perspectives, yet has a common thread that resonates throughout the human spirit. The ideal justice may not have been realized. But the wounds of injustice steady healing. Just as the tides of injustice are greatly momentous, so too are the tides of true justice. For its arrival, there must be great faith and a practice to match. Because if an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere… undoubtedly, a justice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere…

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