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.