An Earned ‘Second Look’

Right now, as an incarcerated person in Virginia, I do not have a lot of options when it comes to obtaining any form of relief from a lengthy prison sentence – and it’s definitely not based on my own willingness to rehabilitate. For years and years, incarcerated people are housed with little to motivate them into productive and meaningful rehabilitation. We are asked to merely sit quietly and wait until the time is served and there is little emphasis on correcting behaviors. We are asked to maintain employment for a majority of our time, stay charge-free, and it is not until the final years of our sentence, that we are instructed or able to take re-entry programs and the like. Still, there are many of us in here that need that extra bit of motivation, reason, and cause to push us. There are many of us who have taken measures to earn the opportunity for a second look.

This year in Virginia, there is a bill on the table to implement a policy called ‘second look.’ This would allow for the incarcerated population to petition the convicting court for possible resentencing based on who they are today.

Knowing there’s over 30,000 people in the Virginia Department of Corrections’ custody, a petitioner must meet requirements before they can submit. A person who was 25 years of age or younger at time of conviction is required to serve at least 10 years of their sentence, while those over the age of 25 must at least 15 years. The structuring of the age requirement is based on scientific findings concerning full brain development and aging out of crime.

The second, and more controversial element of this bill, is about maintaining a near perfect record for your past 5 years of incarceration. It states in the bill that an incarcerated individual cannot have been found guilty of any major institutional infractions (100 series, e.g. assaulting an officer), and only one minor infraction (200 series, e.g. unauthorized area) within 5 years prior to petitioning. You must also be at GCA (good behavior) level 1 at the time of application. This is the cause of some criminal justice advocates’ concerns. They believe that the behavioral requirements are too strict, unreasonable, and even near impossible to achieve by most prisoners.

My personal thought on the matter is that it is a little shameful for advocates on the outside to assume, that given the opportunity, we, on the inside, could not possibly maintain a charge free status for 5 years – EVEN IF OUR FREEDOM DEPENDED ON IT.

Many of the arguments provided by advocates suggest that corrupt correctional officers and staff will take ample opportunity to excessively charge prisoners, solely to ruin their chance at petitioning. Though their arguments cannot completely be disregarded, I find it rather negligent to attribute that much weight to supervision only. I have experienced COs and staff members who do not always have the best intentions and fall short of standards that should be expected of professionals in charge of human lives. But to the contrary, these individuals are far and few in between. They are probably as common as the overly obnoxious boss, supervisor, co-worker, etc. that you may experience on the outside. Plus, there are many avenues currently in place to address grievances of prisoners who deal with potentially corrupt staff members and officers.

I, myself, understand how hard it is to maintain a perfect behavioral record in prison. Early in my incarceration, I managed to receive numerous charges. Most of which, were not minor infractions. But I also understand that a “second look” law did not exist for me then. There was not much to help focus and motivate a better pattern of behavior. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way. After seeing my life heading in an unwanted direction, I had to take charge of my own rehabilitation.

When I first entered the prison system, I didn’t have a high school diploma. Not only have I acquired my GED, I’ve also been working hard to fulfill my college-level education goals. Currently, I’m taking print-based correspondence courses at Ohio University. I’m working to obtain an associate degree in social sciences. 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. For years, I brainstormed this very platform to help showcase the brilliance of people incarcerated and was given an opportunity to bring Brilliance Behind Bars to fruition, going strong for 2 years.

People grow, people change, and people can be rehabilitated, even when the odds are against them, and rules seem petty. I see this bill as an opportunity to push people in the right direction, make for more public safety in and out of the prison walls, and bring us some hope for a brighter future.

Quadaire Patterson has been in prison in Virginia for over 13 years – since 2008. He was 20 years old, caught up with the wrong people at the wrong time and ended up with an extreme 20-year sentence for robbery/use of a firearm; when he didn’t take anything or have a weapon.

Introducing Caged Cranes

The crane is born to fly… Caged, some cranes peck at themselves until they are bare. Some of them conform to their entrapments, others, they continue to fly…

The description above is not only about the tall wading class of birds known for their grace and elegance. It is also a survey of the many men I have seen held to the confines of the Virginia State Correctional System.

For over a decade, I have been one of those men… bound and surrounded. I have been sentenced to murkily strut the grounds of state correctional facilities speckled across Virginia – quite simply, as a crane caged and barred from its birthright. However, I’ve always been accompanied by the practice of prayer and meditation: my means to fly…

Furthering my spirituality by body, a friend and I came into possession of a few books on the art of Tai Chi and Chi Kung a year ago. We took to the practices in the books, got more into general health and wellness, and had an idea to help make a difference beyond the walls, Caged Cranes.

Caged Cranes is a concept that seeks to unite at-risk youth with the spiritual practices of Tai Chi and Chi Kung as a means for greater personal growth and spiritual development. It is based off of the idea that the opening of spiritual awareness is an opening to a greater outlook on life and an increased chance to see better options in less than opportune circumstances.

Fortunately, I found spiritual desire in my own journey, but I know I would have benefited from this type of programming in my teenage years. In the past 13 years of my incarceration, spiritual development has been a key pillar in my overall growth. 2008 is when I received a 20-year sentence for a mistake I made as a wayward young man, after the loss of my grandmother, Sharon Lynn Dixon. She was my rock and a vehement believer in God. She was an evangelist at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Virginia. For as long as I had known her, she was bound to a wheelchair, where she had been ever since she was shot in the back by a possessive ex-husband. As tragic as her situation was, my grandmother never let it stop her from taking to the streets every Saturday, going door-to-door to share the joy and strength she received from her belief in God. From a wheelchair, she still managed to stand as tall as anyone in the room. Her voice was always filled with vigor and passion, spirit and truth. Her hope was never sealed to the limits of her chair, it buzzed around the air she carried, and it flew as high as the heavens she envisioned.

I’ve held the spirit of my grandmother close every step of the way through my incarceration. Through her spirit, I have found my own connection and relationship to God and spirituality. A relationship that has kept me on a path of great personal growth and spiritual development. Growing up, we didn’t have much, but what my grandmother gave me has proven itself a priceless and irreplaceable treasure. A message I wish to share with others who find themselves caged: imprisoned by circumstance. No matter the obstacle or situation, we are all cranes with a birthright to soar.

I am imprisoned, but by body only. My mind continues to soar above and beyond the prison walls. I never gave up on my desire to seek higher education and help others. When I first entered the prison system, I didn’t have a high school diploma. Not only have I acquired my GED, I’ve also been blessed with an opportunity to fulfill my college-level education goals. Currently, I’m taking correspondence courses at Ohio University. As of right now, I’m seeking to obtain an associate degree in social sciences. For years, I brainstormed this very platform to help showcase the brilliance of people incarcerated and was given an opportunity to bring Brilliance Behind Bars to fruition, going strong for nearly 2 years.

My successes in the darkest of places only prove that progress is possible for those who may have experienced difficult childhoods or economic drawbacks.

I truly believe that the troubled youths of today can benefit from the practice of Tai Chi, and we can work with them to identify the spiritual beacons of their own lives. My hope is that this would result in an increase in youth achievement and lower incarceration rates for young vulnerable black men and boys – helping them find a higher purpose within themselves to achieve their goals.

I plan to implement this and other programming to give back to the community when I am released.

Q. Patterson, Founder of Brilliance Behind Bars

Editors Note: To learn more about Q, take a look at his origin story here.

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

Prompt: The Incarcerated Vote

HR 1 is a voting rights bill that if it was passed in its original form, would have restored the rights of incarcerated people and ex-felons to vote in federal elections. The bill has long been amended solely to restoring the voting rights of ex-felons, but it also brought attention to another intriguing aspect I’m sure most people probably don’t know.

For centuries at the behest of the white establishment, minorities have been disproportionately policed, jailed, and imprisoned. Beyond stripping the lives away from young black and brown men in this country, states have found ways to actually profit from putting minorities in prison economically evidently, but more interesting, politically.

HR 1 identifies a law that allows counties with prisons to have people they house counted toward that county’s population on the U.S. census. Thereby pilfering the population of multicultural, urban (largely Democratic) areas and adding them to rural, largely white (largely Republican) areas. All the while, eviscerating the incarcerated person’s right to vote. This dynamic is the core of what can be considered as politically-motivated slavery.

With the reallocation of the urban populace to these rural areas, the voice of the people is stricken from a more accurate representation of the people, and is instead granted to a more diluted form of constituents who would be more likely in favor of continuing the trend of mass incarceration, post-millennium slavery, and the further exploition of black and brown people for personal and monetary gain.

HR 1 intends to correct that law and return the population of those incarcerated back to their hometowns… There has been much work in recent legislation concerning criminal justice reform to correct the racist systemic devices that have been used to disenfranchise droves of minorities in America for a majority of its history, however the threat of the old establishment looms over us all, impeding our progression to a more perfect union. Awareness is the first step, activism is the following one.

Know that the bile of racism runs deep, and its effects are subtle. The old guard feared that we, as a people, would become aware, so they withheld education and knowledge from us for centuries. But what they fear most is that, armed with such education and knowledge of self, we would actually do something about it, so they try to break and discourage us, and even pit us against one another. We must understand that we are solely responsible for making sure that their every effort from here on out is made in vain. Times ARE changing. We, at this moment, may not be able to enjoy a world truly free of systemic racism before our time is up, but be sure, our efforts now will be the catalyst for the world our future generations will experience…

I extend my love to each and everyone seeking freedom, not only for themselves, but the world now and the world to come…

Love, peace, and action…
-Q.

Prompt For Incarcerated People: Compose an essay, poem, art, or any other form of creative expression you may have. Think about your experience participating and learning about the political process. Below is a list of questions meant to serve as inspiration for your piece.

  • What is your experience with voting and the political system before and after incarceration?
  • What are your thoughts on voting while incarcerated?
  • How can we change the point of view on letting incarcerated people vote?
  • How has participating in the political system impacted your life?
  • Are you more educated about the system now than you were back then?
  • How would being able to vote change your life?

Make sure to let the people know who you are, where you’re from, and any project(s) you may have or have been involved with so we can promote it. Thank you for your contribution. We are working together to bring awareness to the brilliance they have locked away behind bars.

Thank you to the readers of BrillianceBehindBars.com. Answers to this prompt will be coming in through April of 2021 from those incarcerated across Virginia.

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

The Cycle of Victimization

When will we, as a country, began to see crime as an extension of a vicious cycle of victimization?

I myself – a ‘convict’ – have been beaten, abused, shot, and stabbed… ridiculed, rebuffed, and victimized. None of my assailants were arrested, or put to trail. Even now, I do not wish the harshest of punishments to befall them. I wish only for a chance for their hearts and minds to be changed…

When I see people who have been victims of crime profess that the people behind bars should face more punishment, I wonder to myself how easy it is for people to forget that they (the ones incarcerated/the “criminals”) are victims themselves: victims of financial oppression and social oppression, victims of mental illness, victims of emotional dilapidation. It’s so easy to ignore the voices of those victims… easier to sacrifice the tears of ‘con-victims’ to appease the ‘real’ victims.

Do not misunderstand, I do not disregard their loss or abuse. NO ONE should have to go through such, life itself is hard enough. I merely want to offer a perspective that may hopefully open the mind’s eye and get us on a path to ending m the vicious cycle of victimization.

I hear the testimony of state senators about constituents as victims of rapes and murders. I also hear the testimony of incarcerated constituents as victims of molestations, fathers and family members lost to wrongful deaths, poverty and abusive upbringings… what I see, what I hear, rings a tone of hurt people, hurting people… is it right? NO. But neither is the outlook that the prisons that span this country coast-to- coast do not house the majority of the greatest victims of society.

This is an injustice that will only serve to further the vicious cycle of victimization… and continue to cost lives… to the grave of the prison system.

– Q. Patterson, BrillianceBehindBars Creator, #1392272

Q. Patterson’s Thoughts on Abolishing Mandatory Minimums in Virginia

On paper, a mandatory minimum is a prescribed amount of time a person who has committed a specific crime MUST actively serve in prison, as opposed to what can be suspended by a judge or jury. The judicial device of mandatory minimum seems extremely arbitrary, due to the fact that their are two bodies (judge and jury) who, through a hands-on knowledge of the facts of the crime, can discern specialities of that particular crime and sentence accordingly. I do not understand the need for mandatory minimums as they are excessive, since descriptive sentencing guidelines exist.

They restrict the ability to sentence justly, being that no two crimes are identical, even though they may share the same charges. The presence of such a device, being that of mandatory minimums, can only leave room for corruptive and nefarious usage. For example, a police officer can threaten you with multiple charges carrying mandatory minimums, effective increasing prison time tremendously if found guilty, simply because you decide to invoke your right to an attorney during questioning, which in turn, makes their job investigating a little harder. This vindictive practice is common amongst law enforcement and is abetted by the law itself through the vessel of mandatory minimums.

I, myself, am a victim of this very practice. Police officers decided to charge me 3 use of a firearm charges (another controversial law enforcement practice referred to as charge-stacking), each carrying a mandatory minimum, 3 years for the initial UFA, and 5 years for each subsequent UFA charge. This comprises 13 years of a 15-year sentence… mandatory minimums should be removed from the courts and the power to impose fitting, fair sentences reinvested to the judges, as they should be.

– Q, 1/14/21

Prompt: Education and the Prison System

Can you agree with the age old saying, “if you know better, you’ll do better?” I, myself, take the phrase as a praise to education as a means to curb criminal behavior in light of a better society. I believe that education, especially at the collegiate level, can help to reinforce moral values of ex-offenders and strengthen them with critical thinking, creating a line of innovative professionals and reputable contributors to society. This would ultimately result in curbing violent crime and would be a more effective use of the state’s rehabilitative efforts. Education is defined as training. So, lack of proper education can be synonymously linked to criminal behavior. Thomas Jefferson even linked being a good citizen to education by saying that ‘no one can properly use their freedom as Americans, if they do not have a proper education.’

Examining my own shortcomings, I could say that many of us who had turned to crime suffered from a sort of mental strangulation brought on by lack of education. Not only were we captives to our resources, being children of poor black families, our belief in getting a college education was shared amongst us too far and few in between. Having been one myself, its hard for a poor young man to really get behind the idea that an education would solve all his problems. Hefty tuitions discourage many poor people from even believing they could actually go to college. College to them is a pipe dream and fit only for the affluent; increasing the gap of disparagement mentally and literally. Instead, they see school itself as a waste of time and shortsightedly decided on faster, more lucrative options to relieve very real, very immediate stresses. It is becoming a common fact, the money it takes to house a single prisoner, could be used to send a person to college for four years. Why do we as a country continue to allow the school-to-prison pipeline target and claim wayward young black men’s lives? Corruption of the prison system became racists’ main weapon in retaliation to the emancipation black people. Now, it has been a system in motion coldly devouring young black and brown lives before bloom. Making higher education readily available to incarcerated people would at least help put us on a path to correcting some of the damages caused by the corruption of a justice system plagued by generations of oversight.

Rehabilitation through education… that isn’t a hard idea to get behind, is it? Maybe even a community college program could work with justice departments and start getting involved with lost youth looking at potentially life-destroying sentences. Me, I sacrificed my high school education because I became a teenage parent. I knew it was a bad decision then, but failed find another way. If I had had the opportunity offered to me to go to college, as an 18-year-old boy who’s life had gotten away from him, I would have jumped at the chance. I know the resources are there.

There was a program that made collegiate education readily available for many incarcerated people – involving the use of grants called Pell grants. This program has long been restricted to the point that only about four thousand inmates within correctional systems across America (less than 1%) receive them. Plus, the program goes up for review every year, leaving those few incarcerated individuals to worry if they’ll be able to finish their college courses. There must be a better way… to achieve this ‘better way’ is the job of both the people and their political leaders. The people with respects to raising concerns to their local politicians that they want safer streets and actual, effective rehabilitation efforts. Simply imprisoning people alone does not rehabilitate them. In fact, it may actually only make matters worse. Men and women, who were deterred from a path to higher education, could benefit by getting another chance at higher learning. Most of all, communities deserve to be safer places to live and raise children, and in a space where a person doesn’t have to be relegated to criminal thinking because of lack of education… its possible.

I believe if the upcoming administration wants to stick by their promise of relief from systemic racism, they would be more than open to providing greater swaths of incarcerated people with a readily available path to higher education. Only time will tell if change is really to come for race relations in America. Or, will it be the same story: America continuing to fail at acknowledging black oppression, and continue holding our country back from fulfilling a dream of establishing a greater union. Until then, whether behind the wall or on the streets… the struggle never stops…

Prompt for the Incarcerated:
How do you think people can benefit from a higher education while incarcerated? Do you believe there should be any specific types of educational course that should be offered to incarcerated people and why?

Remember… you may expound on the topic in a variety of forms: essays, poetry, art, etc. make sure to let the people know who you are and any project you may be or have been involved with. Thank you for your contribution. We are working together to bring awareness to the brilliance they have locked away behind bars.

-Q. Patterson

Thank you to the readers of BrillianceBehindBars.com. Answers to this prompt will be coming in through December of 2020 from those incarcerated across Virginia.

American Growing Pains

The United States of America… an idea grander in scale than any nation before it. Unlike most other countries proceeding its coming, it was conceived deeply in an idea, rather than monarchical heritage or empirical legacy… The American concept is rooted in daring, unimaginable goals that most older nations fear to venture. But the struggle of a pioneer is that of the unknown… we, as a nation have no blueprint. We have no model. Even a child who learns to walk has a parent to mock, as it takes on a task it has never done before, and still it does not succeed without undergoing great difficulty at first… standing, bracing, falling a number of times… these are its growing pains.

Our country in its infancy has no parent. It is self created and unable to model what has come before it. Most of its being still resides in the realm of idea. Slowly, it moves into existence through the gates of the evolving human heart and mind, as they can better identify what it means to be human. The journey from what our country was, onto what it is now, has already challenged the understanding of humankind and its very definition of what humanity is. This shifting of perspective did not come with flowery grace or comfort. No true growth can take hold in such unchallenging conditions. It has come with great troubles, great struggles to stand, great falls; but they are all important to the growth of our nation, and the growth of humanity as a whole.

The great confusion and fear, giving way to the tremendous violence that has ensnared our country for centuries, is a product of the growing pains associated with the next stage of our nation’s development. It is not because humankind is inherently evil, no, it is because humankind is inherently fearful. But as the test of time has exposed the world of fact, we are always more fearful than we should be, and always braver than we expect. So, I welcome the growing pains, as they are evidence of the great transformation my beloved country is taking on…

Everyone who believes that the ideas of freedom, justice, and equality were intended as an absolute for every single person born or sworn to America do not let the unrest of the protest shake, deter, or discourage you…

What has been shown by great leaders before us is that the power of love and truth will withstand any measures taken by its opposition… keep your head up… and see the beautiful future that lays before you…

Q. Patterson

2020: The Seed of Freedom

The halfway point has arrived, establishing this year as the tilling: the cracking of the ground and ingrained systemic racism – granting some air to the fertile soil of change that has desperately been fighting for breath.

A pandemic – resembling a biblical pestilence; and protest – resembling a spiritual famine… what is this? The exodus? Who knows what powers are at work. But what is known (and is clear) are the frustrations baring down on the souls of the free… and now those souls seek the surface…

The pandemic has given time to those who were too engulfed in their own daily struggles to see the lifetime national collective struggle of our country and our world. Protests, like the pandemic, have reached beyond seas and touch minds and hearts of blacks, whites, and all colors of multiple nationalities that believe in the ideals of equality and freedom perpetuated and woefully being contradicted by our country. Those contradictions stand to tear the free world apart. But ever-resilient is the spirit of mankind, and even more pervasive is the spirit of freedom that drives man to fight.

To fight from chains onto an identity.
To fight from poverty onto prosperity.

We must not forget, injustice festers in a state of complacency. Forever vigilant, is the eye of the one who fights for freedom. The energy for the movement towards true change is robust, but momentous. We cannot allow the visions of truth and justice to flee once this one ceiling gives way. And when I say we, I say ALL who believe, faithfully, that justice and equality are more substantial than empty undertones hinting to a state unattainable by the human family.

Some people profess: “well if the pandemic didn’t hit, then this wouldn’t be as intense,” or “If we had a different president, we wouldn’t be going through this.” All could be true. Even so, I myself believe that even when others like to disregard it in these tragic times, everything happens for a reason. Even the struggling is purposeful. Us, as a nation having to endure Trump, having to suffer through coronavirus, and the tragic loss of George Floyd, each egregious event holds its stake in the change to come.

I spoke with my mother one day and expressed my depression, seeing the early stage of the protests turning violent. My mother thought I was depressed because the people were violent. I told her it wasn’t that the people were violent, it was because the people they felt HAD to be violent in order to be heard… that tension over what is clearly a mistreatment of human rights was ignored to the point of explosion… My mother then reminded me that ‘change takes time, and the more monumental the change, the more time it it’ll take…’ She said her grandmother was a slave, her mother lived through civil rights, and she endured the social injustices of the 70’s. Now, our generation, and its youth, masses of whites, blacks, Asians; the modern make of America, take to the streets to push even harder towards equality’s inevitable fruition.

The seed of freedom has been sown in every lasts one of us.

Even in their most hopeless conditions, our ancestors nurtured that seed for generations, and for the generations to come. Now, that seed has pushed beyond the dirt. It has pushed beyond the unknown and hypothetical. To greet and take in the sun and its light… to take in its truth.

We NOW know. The idea of freedom and equality are no longer ambiguous or relegated to some seemingly special privileged class of people. No. It is known now that freedom is an inalienable right of every one human being ingrained in the soil of all who are blessed to take part in the life. So no, I am not distraught by the fighting. Because those who fight, are fighting for what is theirs…

May the souls of every person be aflame with the fires of freedom.

May every tear and drop of blood not be in vain, nor let the blood cool over illusions of freedom.

Continue to fight with every bit of your life, because the world of tomorrow is authored by the heroes of today…

Forever my love and strength to the movement,
Q. Patterson

Cover Photo from B.L. Patterson, Q’s brother