SHATTERED MIRROR

Shattered Mirror is the introduction to the upcoming Jay Burton autobiography Shattered Mirror. In 1989 at the age of 16, Jay was arrested and convicted of a gang murder he was not a part of. Shattered Mirror is the life story of seeing it reflected through a shattered mirror.

Introduction

This true story about my life was born out of necessity. To illuminate the true cause and effects of a young Black male growing up in a desperate search of an identity. How poverty and gangs can severely alter an innocent child’s life from a dream to a nightmare. How at 16-years-old, I would spend over 25 years in California’s worst prison for a murder I had never been charged with. My story also signifies how my life was completely shattered and broken. Eventho it showed me a place of struggle, I found the strength to push forward. From how I lived and encountered the betrayals, trials, and tribulations, suffered during my lifelong journey, to enlightenment and redemption. Yet with all the burdens and hurdles to jump over, I somehow persevered. In spite of the difficult oppositions, I seek out ways to put the shattered mirror back together. I constantly look for different approaches to patch things up piece by piece. I learned that in order to inspire others, I had to aspire to become better in my search for meaning of self, through the webs of deceit, trickeration, and flaws, that my uphill battle within this life has placed before me. I try to shed light and uncover the twisted ideologies of this tribalism mindstate I pledged my life to within the gang culture that I adopted at a very young age. A culture that fed off of Afrocide and ignorance that has in some form or fashion had some negative effect on an entire race of people within its influence.

In California it would be the Bounty Hunter Bloods in Watts, a notorious Los Angeles gang that groomed and indoctrinated me with the social ills of the gritty street-life from drug dealing to banging. Both the ideologies of the Bloods and the Crips I would experience. Since their inceptions in the 1970s, these ideologies aided in shaping how I viewed the world, and the political landscape that criminalized everything that I stood for. The gang culture I grew up in Los Angeles breeded many factions and rivalries.

The 1965 Watts Revolt with the Black community pitted against the brute force of the city’s racial injustices, only sparked the light to what was to be the next Revolutionary party to carry the torch for poverty stricken Black ghettos. However, the Bloods and Crips would counter any possible revolutionary cause. So would the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, along with their cohorts, would also be playing their part in creating a monster, in fact, it would be the Los Angeles County Sheriffs with a division that prided themselves as the “Lynwood Sheriffs Vikings.” In a published federal court case Thomas vs. The County of Los Angeles (1992), the court described them as a neo-Nazi, white supremacy gang. It would be this gang, not the Crips, that would change my life forever.

My account of life is based on my experience and how I would perceive my reality projected to be. It is not about heroes and martyrs. I’m forced to deal with the hurt and pain I took the people in my life through because of my own foolish pride. Pride that in the end leads to nothing but emptiness, misery, and spiritual oppression. In Nelson Mandela’s book Long Walk to Freedom, he wrote, “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” Ironically, as a hood, we became outlaws. For many and sometimes obvious reasons, however, we took on counterproductive and detrimental acts. Thus, another secretive F.B.I. Memo of the 1960s about the fear of the inner-cities birthing another “Black Messiah,” would never materialize in my generation to carry the torch to mentally liberate us. The Bloods and Crips would be a non-social issue, because we would become our own worst enemy.

Shattered Mirror, Part I of the book, illustrates a reflection in the mirror of life’s perfect beginning, birth, nurturing, and love. However, an actual shattered mirror no longer portrays perfection. The webbed, spider-veined design, etched within the glass distorts the image, an image too hard to look at. To fix the imperfection, we often take paths of self-destruction, seeking a satisfactory end to our means despite the abnormality of it all.

Like Part I of Shattered Mirror, Part II, “Love, Loyalty, and Betrayal,” evokes my raw and sincere feelings into all that is villianous and corrupt, with what I took on as being the gospel. No matter how loyal I was to the “game,” it’s never enough to this disillusion victory we play from childhood to adulthood. And in many cases, until death do us part. We ingest the vileness of a twisted game concept, then refuse to let it digest its waste, and exit our system. Despite the foul odor permeating from the core of our soul, reminding us Daily that our ideology to this gang concept is rotting our existence. It’s this false consciousness indoctrinated into our heads that causes us to believe in the unbelievable. My struggle and sacrifice to the so-called “Cause,” when odds were visibly stacked against me, whether it was “homeboyism, comradism, or cronyism,” I had been loyal to it all. In contrast, betrayal has been returned constantly. I knew that blood makes you related to someone, but I also believe that loyalty to others makes you family. Then I learned the hard way, that one must always keep their grass cut low, so you can see the snakes crawling amongst you. In a game where there is a million souljahs, which I just happened to be only one of the million, sacrificing good men is just a part of the game. And whether you become a “has-been” or ” never-been” replacements are numerous, since betrayal is endless in this dog-eat-dog scheme that’s built on muscle and manipulation.

There was never a question to my loyalty to the “game” despite my betrayals to almost every woman that has been a part of my life. From my mother, sister, and all the girls or women who played a role in the development phase of my struggles. The “cloth” that I was cut from was equal to the beauty of the woman who has been a part of my life. It was “blood-in, blood-out,” with that banging mentality. No matter the consequences, there is no retreat nor surrender against society’s reenslavment of the Black-Male through it’s judicial system. Before the age of ten, almost half my peers would encounter a negative experience with police. Life in the ghetto is often associated with negativity, like drugs, gangs, poverty, illegitimacy, and every other social-ill the unfortunate have to bare. However, the experience itself, is what builds character and resilience against a position of oppression. Sadly, it would be during my long term imprisonment that I would become fully conscious and enlightened to the overall struggle and sacrifice that enabled me to become an empowered educated man, with a purpose to help lead my peers toward freedom.

From the concrete jungle to a concrete casket surrounded by barbwire, it became clear to me that it was not how you start but how you finish. I had to become a mental machine to politicize my movement. Forced physical isolation for years in attempts to break me only made me stronger. And unlike many, I could never become content with physical or mental imprisonment. Then I realized that all of my life’s experiences were by design. Everything I lost in my dark journey was actually a gain. The same gaines former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela had after spending 27 years in prison. The same gains that Black nationalist leader Malcolm X had after doing some years behind bars. The same gains boxing promoter Don King had after serving several years incarcerated. However my gains would come in the form of a freedom fighter, an advocate against a brute prison system. To take up such a position requires one to be prepared to be deemed an enemy combatant or terrorist, because in prison you are considered a slave, literally. To question and petition systematic inhumane treatment often comes with a form of retaliation. But I had to redeem myself and give back to those that my lifestyle had affected adversely throughout my life span.

On March 6, 1989, it had been reported in an investigative report, a red 1978 Cadillac Coupe Deville turned right off of Imperial Highway and onto Wilmington Avenue. This was known as territory belonging to the Carver Park Crips. Sometime before that, a 36-year-old Black motorist, Robert Harbor, parked his Cadilac at a fast food restaurant parking lot on Imperial. Harbor walked across the street to the liquor store and purchased a pack of cigarettes. Upon returning to his car, Harbor was approached by a lone male dressed in dark clothing who was armed with a 45 caliber handgun. The man demanded Harbor turn over his wallet. It only contained $40. The armed man demanded the car keys, and Harbor complied. He then drove off in Harbor’s car, speeding westbound on Imperial Highway. Afterwords, Harbor managed to flag down an unmarked police car. He briefed the deputies about his run-in with the armed man, who he described as being Black. Deputies then drove Harper to the M.L.K. Jr, hospital on Wilmington Avenue and 120th St.

It was further reported in the investgative report, that a large group of alleged members of the Crip gang were hanging out together on the street corner of Alabama Avenue, when the red Cadillac approached. A young Black female exited her Volkswagen Rabbit that was parked at the curb. Her boyfriend and his friend proceeded toward her. And in an instant, she saw a gun barrel pointing from the Cadillac’s window. This caused her to duck back into her car and lay across the front seat as gunshots erupted. The Cadillac slowly turned eastbound onto 118th Street as rapid shots repeated. The gang member dove to the ground next to his girlfriend’s car where he felt he had been shot. A fatal bullet ripped through the right flank and abdomen of his friend. While another bullet struck a young Black female in her leg. It snapped her right thigh and sent her to the ground. The car speed off, while auditory celebrations were heard coming from the car, ” Bounty Hunter…yeah,,,” as witnesses and victims hid and ducked for safety.

Simultaneously, deputy Ken Williams and his partner from the highway patrol were nearby patrolling when they heard the fired shots. They eventually observed a speeding Cadillac driving erratically Eastbound up Wilmington Avenue. The Cadillac crossed over a busy intersection at a red light on Imperial Highway. The patrol officer activated his siren and went into pursuit. One that quickly turned into a high speed chase. The patrol car got up close, bumper to bumper with the Cadillac attempting to halt the chase. It was of no avail. After turning left off of Wilmington and onto a residential area, accelerating to speeds up to 70 mph, just then did the deputy dispatched for back up, as he rode the bumper of the Cadillac.

Soon thereafter, The Cadillac came to a screeching halt and ran into some parked cars next to a church. The occupants quickly exited. The officers took to foot pursuit in either direction, chasing down the suspects. They disappeared behind some homes in the dark alley.

[Editor’s Note]:

JAY BURTON is a volunteer Restorative Justice Coordinator, who has educated himself in law. In 2017 he pitched his paralegal service for prisoners at a Defy Ventures “Shark Tank-style Competition,” and won first prize. The competition puts prisoners before CEOs, venture capitalist, and other volunteer judges. Jay has also successfully sued the State of California for unconstitutional prison living conditions. Jay is currently doing a petition drive to come home at Change Dot Org. Please sign his petition.

Petition · California Prisoner Illegally Held Going On 32 Years · Change.org
https://www.change.org/p/california-governor-l-a-district-attorney-attorneys-advocates-for-social-justice-california-prisoner-illegally-held-going-on-32-years

Coronavirus and Prisoner’s Relationship with Death

by Donald “C-Note” Hooker

As a political junkie, Friday’s edition of the PBS NewsHour, is always must watch TV for me. On Friday, April 24th, 2020, reporter William Brangham was doing a human interest story on COVID-19. Somehow, he ran across a Facebook post from a New York City, Mount Sinai, ICU nurse, KP Mendoza. The 24-year-old, frontline Coronavirus worker’s, Facebook post, drew national attention. His post said something that struck a nerve with Brangham, that resonated with me also. It is also the reason why I’m sharing my Mprisond Thotz, on Coronavirus.

When I was in college, I used to tell myself I was too busy to call my parents. At best, I’d call them once a week, maybe once a month if I was in the midst of midterms or finals. They’re immigrants from the Philippines who still work as nurses back home in Chicago. I even used to attribute my inability of connecting with them due to my hectic schedule and their unconventional shift times. But, it’s strange how anxiety claws at you. I read their stories in the medical histories over morning report; I see their faces in my dying patients – hear their children’s distraught voices pleading for updates, praying for good news. Was it their voice I heard, or was that mine over the phone?
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I wonder if my parents have finally figured out why I frantically call them almost every night now.

I had the misfortune of learning of my mother’s passing in 1998, while a prisoner at High Desert State Prison. The last time I had spoken to her was a telephone conversation. I had called her from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s, Men’s County Jail. I was special housed in their Crip module. My phone call was regarding an expected visit that didn’t happen. This was a follow up as to why. This was going to be her first visit. I was able to get through to her on the phone, and she did visit just like she said she would. She told me how she was waiting out there for hours upon hours, waiting for me to come out there, until she got kicked out, as visiting had closed.

Her visiting experience didn’t come as a great surprise. The sheriff played those type of games to visitors coming to visit Crips. After she told me that, she then told me, “As long as you’re in jail, I can’t do nothing for you.” Just as soon as those words left her lips, I hung up the phone in her face. That was in 1987, a whole decade prior to her passing. I had a girlfriend who was very adamant, near the point of break up, for me to call her, and reconcile with her, but I wouldn’t.

I recall a Bible Story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Both had died, one went home to the Maker, the other to the Baker. The Rich Man, who was suffering, and in torment, begged God to send Lazarus back to the living so that he could warn the Rich Man’s family, the perils of his path. [Luke 16:19-31]

At the time of my mother’s passing, our relationship status was estranged. No one knows, or could feel my deep sense of regret. This is why Mendoza’s college days’ reflections of regret, at being too busy to make a phone call, resonated with me. Ironically, I feel like my purpose on Earth is to warn others not to repeat the mistake I made. I am Lazarus, and we don’t get opportunities to say I’m sorry, or that I love you, when our family, without warning, dies. My mission hasn’t been easy. I get push back all the time. This world is full of bullheaded people, and like my mother use to say, “A hard head makes a soft behind.” It is so valuable that we take the time out to renew our family relationships. I am unfortunately confident, that this novel coronavirus will have killed over 100,000 Americans this year. This domestic plague, in the space of one year, we’ll have killed more Americans than all the American lives lost in international Wars post World War II in 1945.

I just wanted to say, family is family, please resolve yourself to accept that. Growing up in gang culture L.A., all my homies, weren’t my homies, but if someone were to attack, someone I had despised from the gang, I had to help the homie. People think they don’t need their family, but they do. Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, was able to articulate the disaster incarceration has had on the Black community, and the Black family in particular. Those of us who are incarcerated are like Jesus, who was hauled off to be crucified; while the families we’ve left behind, that are free, are like his disciple John, who when questioned, after Jesus’s arrest, stated, “I never knew him.” With family being a primary source for compatible genetic material for life-saving procedures, is that the time, you would want to have that uncomfortable conversation? When you need them to donate genetic material to save your life, or the life of your child?

I hope this prisoner’s humble experience with death, during this Corona pandemic, resonates with someone, to forgive their loved one.

 

[C-Note has written for Prison Action News, California Prison Focus, Turning The Tide, and Our Voice. He’s been written about in People, Darealprisonart, Inside CDCR, and KCET-Los Angeles’s Departures. In 2017, Google Search listed him as both Americas and the world’s most prolific prisoner-artist.]

The Illusion of Cohesion Within the Wolf Pack

In the early ,1990s while housed in the Los Angeles County Jail High-power unit 1750 since ,1989, I had gotten to know many of the major figures in this world of prison, street-gangs, and the political engine which moves it along. Believe me the life is vicious, it is not for someone who walks into it believing the homies got your back. That’s s falsehood. Your worth and your survival is measured by your willingness to sacrifice your freedom and, maybe your life. not for the cause, but for your own honor and pride as each day will be a test of your manhood, given by the very individual(s) you thought were there to protect you and you them. Prison will rip away all of the fabric of societal mainstream’s that remains in those you once called your homie, and he will prey upon you like a hawk does to a rabbit forcing you to kill or be killed less you submit. Never Let Your Guards Down. To Have Paranoia In Prison is an Asset not a handicap. TK1

The Truth About Doing Time

by Tracye Washington

I know from experience that many young adults confined in a Youth Authority or State Prison like to exaggerate their experiences therein to enhance their status in the hood. The truth, especially in these California level four State prisons, is that daily life is filled with periods of aggravation and depression. The picture of life is boredom, but it is the effects of boredom which triggers all of the negativity you often hear about. Prisoners associate by race, region, gang or, social group. It is a gross violation of protocol to go beyond your collective group and attempt to harrass, threaten, steal, or assault one of them. This could lead to a riotious warfare. Many prisoners are fully aware of this and as a result abide by these rules of passage. But what they do in the alternative, is prey on those within their own groups. They Rob, steal, extort, rape and assault one another for no other reason than to satisfy some built up negative energy, to acquire the money and or property they get from their loves ones to purchase drugs, and to satisfy a fetish. When you use to hear the term, Car, or Card, as in Blood Car or Crip Car, in the past, it meant that those gangs or collective groups who bare that title at the end or their hoods name was aligned with others. In 2020, that is no longer the case. Because of the innumerable acts of aggression within these collectives each hood or sets represents themselves. The handful of prison structures, (e.g., Bloodline, United Blood Nation, Blue Notes, Consolidated Crip Organization etc.) they are a collective of several members out of every Blood or Crip gang. Their numbers and influence has since wane in the many years of non-progressive thought and primitive philosophical ideas. The major problem of today is drug abuse, especially meth. Meth is a drug like no other within the State prison system and is responsible for the exploitation, rape and assaults taking place because these youths sell their soul and bodies for it. TK1

A Vision From Inside

by Chancellor Young

Sbcc by design forces nonviolent prisoners to become hardened violent prisoners and violent prisoners to become even more violent due to lack of programs and lack of other opportunities, but there’s a flipside to every coin, where the administration lacks, the gang culture doesn’t, there’s a readily accessibility of gang proliferation which in turn breeds cultural confusion and chaos. Empty idle time causes us to face a hellish reality that can drive one to go insane. 

I write this piece because there’s an untold side of the story that NEVER gets heard, this is bigger than me or any singular individual, this is about the “cause and effect” of a harmful administration, a culture which perpetually foments a culture of pain and hurt. So much so that younger prisoners freshly coming in adhere and perpetuate the violence by simply responding to culture created from policies of strict lockdown, institutional poverty and deprivation. Something so trivial as (trading the bars for a actual window) can give somebody hope.

Guys tell me all the time that they gravitate to gangs because it’s the closest thing to family, being that they’re so far away from their home and family, not to mention that they are aggressively sanctioned from phone, visits and unable to communicate with family. I don’t agree with it, but I can see how and why the gang culture has become so prolific.

I would think that the administrative powers that be are aware of how their compounded punishment pushes people to a place of despair and complete hopelessness, when being left with a feeling of having nothing to lose, EVERYBODY loses.

There is one particular unit (j-2) which is constantly out all day, that unit is without incident or interruption, not because guys in that block don’t have a propensity for violence, but because they are treated with dignity and respect to some degree.

It is a threat to society and communities if this prison continues to operate this way, it’s disadvantageous in many respects, the most important being reintegration and programming. When you inadequately prepare individuals to rehabilitate and reintegrate back into society, you’re only contributing to the never ending cycle of recidivism, but maybe that was administrational agenda all along, After all, if they properly prepare us and provide us with a marketable skill-set, we might not ever come back, and, therefore the people working within these walls might not be employed for too much longer.

Respect to those who empathize and support the plight of the incarcerated.

Respect to those looking to make a difference.

Thoughts of a Mind Without Limits

by Chancellor Young

I’ve come to the realization that all friends are not friends.. when I was younger I was blinded by “friends”& “loyalty” and the definition surrounding what such words actually meant. For me those words were not just empty words and weren’t applicable only when it befitted me but more so when obstacles and/or adversity reared its ugly heads. I’m a lot more intellectually awoke than I have ever been in my life and I attribute a large portion of  my conscientiousness to my wife/family and the other portion to just life’s experiences just showing me “what’s what” & “what isn’t”..Really what I mean by that is that I’ve been placed in situation’s, some by choice and others by force where my loyalty was constantly tested to which I acted in a way which displayed my loyalty through the level of aggression/violence I was willing to inflict.. its sad when I actually think about it because I’m generally a selfless person by nature but due to the actions of others or inactions of others I’m forced to see things for what they actually are and become the selfish person that I am not! I’m glad to be here in prison and actually reflect on the direction that I want my life to go and I’m also thankful/grateful for the opportunity to see who is actually here for me and not just spewing a bunch of empty words around, it just suxx that my life’s lessons and realizations had to come at my families expense or through my own personal hardships, I use to always hear the term “pain brings pleasure” and I never understood what that meant until I did. I’m one of the lucky ones behind these walls who’ll be able to reintegrate back into society, I’m too smart at this stage in life to keep making the same senseless,thoughtless mistakes, besides losing isn’t a option at this point, to make another grave mistake will mean to lose and to lose is to be without my wife and my kids and I can’t have that. My life is and will always continue to be a work in progress but as long as I continue to work and strive & be productive, I’ll be aite… We’ll be aite… 

My life is a book that has yet to be written!!!

The Architect – Words of Transformation from Death Row San Quentin

by Ajani and Adisa Kamara

[Editor’s Note]:
An interview with Craig Ross and Steve Champion was recorded on the San Quentin prison phone in October 2019. In this video they talk about The Architect which they co-authored together.

Craig Ross (Ajani Kamara) and Steve Champion (Adisa Kamara) have been prisoners on death row San Quentin prison, California, for over 37 years. Their book The Architect is for gang members, both former and active living where Craig and Steve grew up, facing the same challenges. It aims to promote gang members’ self-transformation. As Malcolm X wrote “We have got to get over the brainwashing we had… get out of your mind what the man put in it… We have to learn how to think”

You can purchase The Architect here at the following link from Amazon UK, Amazon USA or directly from Palewell Press, the publishers.

https://www.sacredeyeofthefalcon.com/…

The Architect is published by Palewell Press:-

http://www.palewellpress.co.uk/Palewe…

Read more of Steve Champion’s work here:-

https://www.sacredeyeofthefalcon.com/

Does the Death Penalty make Redemption Impossible? – An Essay from Death Row San Quentin

by Adisa Kamara

[Editor’s Note]:

Steve Champion, now known as Adisa Kamara, is a death row prisoner at San Quentin State Prison. A former Crips gang member, he grew up in South Central Los Angeles. Champion has been incarcerated since 1981. He is self-taught and conversant in African history, philosophy, political science, and comparative religion. As an author he has received an honorary mention in the short fiction category in the 1995 Pen Prison Writing Contest and in 2004 won first place in nonfiction for his essay, “His Spirit Lives On: George E. Marshall.” He has poetry featured in the book “Voices From The Inside”. An excerpt from his memoir “Dead to Deliverance” was published in Maxim magazine (May 2005). Steve Champion, along with co-author and fellow inmate Anthony Ross (Ajani Kamara) are currently finalising their book “The Architect” in which they aim to present a model for gang members to develop a new consciousness of change that can transform their lives and communities in positive and extraordinary ways.

CARDI B’s COMEBACK AT CHAUVINIST JERMAINE DUPRI

by Donald “C-Note” Hooker

I have had the luxury of 20/20 hindsight after reading the Autobiography of Angela Davis and Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, by Elaine Brown. It was these memoirs that exposed my mind to the Black woman’s perspective. That the Black woman who was in the struggle with the Black man, was not seen as bringing anything of concrete value, other than sit up, listen, and grab a sign. Her mind, her genius, from the Black male to the Black female was not being utilized. Recently, Jermaine Dupri commented that all the female rappers rap about the same subject matter and are basically stripper rappers. I found it highly fascinating to hear Cardi B’s perspective to Jermaine Dupri’s statement. Cardi B pleads this isn’t her fault. She tried conscious content and knows other sisters that are doing it, but there is no support for it, either from Hip Hop journalist or bloggers, nor is there a commercial market. Her story is that the industry and the public doesn’t want this kind of lyrical content. This is where Cardi B’s response gets Jermaine Dupri in trouble.

Jermaine Dupri is not the paradigm of conscious content. He built a successful music career from mindless, cotton candy, devoid of any substantive thinking music. He was working in the same lyrical spaces as the very female rappers he decided to comment on. Currently, I am taking an undergraduate course in the history of Rock and Roll. Part of the curriculum is to do a lyrical research paper. The assignment requires a compare and contrast of lyrics from three to five different artists and songs. I chose five songs that the word “Jump” was a part of the chrous. The five songs included, The Sugarhill Gang’s, 1980, Apache (Jump on It); Aretha Franklin’s 1982, Jump to It; The Pointer Sister’s 1984, Jump (For My Love); Van Halen’s 1984, Jump; and Kris Kross’s 1992, Jump. Of these Works, only the women did I find any lyrical substance. If The Pointer Sister’s lyrics was the orgasm, Aretha’s was the foreplay. As far as the gentlemen were concerned, the most egregious violator of lacking substance was the Jermaine Dupri produced group Kris Kross.

In March of 2018, the PBS program Front and Center featured musician, singer, and songwriter, Nile Rogers. For those who do not know who Rogers is, it is said, he and his songwriting partner Bernard Edwards, fueled the Disco era with their band Chic and kicked off the Hip Hop era when The Sugarhill Gang rapped over their record Good Times. Their song, We Are Family, recorded by Sister Sledge, was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.” They produced Diana Ross biggest selling album Diana in 1980. They produced David Bowie’s biggest single Let’s Dance. And produced Madonna’s greatest selling single Like a Virgin. Despite his collaborating partner’s passing in 1996, Rogers teamed up with Pharrell and Daft Punk and released the 2013 Get Lucky. The single reached the top 10 in the music charts in over 32 countries and is one of the biggest selling songs of all time. Rogers is accredited with selling over 500 million albums and 75 million singles. On Front and Center, Roger recalls the time he was venting to his mentor, Jazz musician Ted Dunbar regarding playing top 40 hits at a club.
Dunbar was perplexed at Rogers vexations, telling Rodgers that the music did not belong to him but the public, and any record that makes it into the top 40 is an excellent composition. Rodgers was taught and trained in classical music and grew up in the world of Jazz. Having came from the world of Classical and Jazz, Rogers had a certain bias against Pop’s top 40 as being lowbrow music. He was told by his mentor, if a record moves people and is commercially successful it is a great composition. How many artist would cut their right arm for a one-hit wonder? From that point on, Rogers never looked at Popular music in such a highbrow way. I tell this story, because ever since I heard this from Rogers, I no longer do a highbrow analysis on lyrical content. Especially if it is commercially successful.

Anybody who is truly African-American, is aware of our internal tension between Street culture and nonadherance to that culture. Street culture is antithetical to the type of behavior earlier generations thought was necessary in order for African Americans to be accepted into American society. In music, this was exemplified by Motown’s showmanship . On TV, it was the Huxtable family on The Cosby Show. Street culture is highly frowned upon in the African-American community. It was well-known, Oprah Winfrey was not going to allow rappers on her show. They are seen as pedaling poison. Ice Cube is famous for stating he wasn’t going to allow his children to hear his music, yet after making such statements of being conscious of their harmful affects, he has never changed his lyrical content. I watched Warren G be highly critical of today’s rappers, stating in his era we did not rap about drugs, all they rap about nowadays are drugs. How many plots and schemes were hatched while under the influence of Warren G’s Regulators? I know I am one of them, it was a very, very, powerful song, about running your turf. We who have cut our teeth, and made our living in Street culture are the epitome of the Jesus Christ challenge, “He who has not sinned, cast the first stone.” What makes Brother Dupri’s statements appear to be chauvinistic, is his reputation for being a ferocious patron of strip clubs. While it’s okay to see a sista get money with her body, the moment she steps out of that place and is getting money with her mind, is being rewarded for her thoughts, and her ideas, this type of behavior is being delegitimized. We who come from this culture, Street culture; a culture where we are to embarrassed to tell our grandmother or mother what we’re doing; a culture that we want to shield our youngest children; are in no position to be hypocritical nor critical of how the poison being distributed by one person involved in this culture, is a higherbrowed poison from the next person’s poison. The African-American Community has a moral compass. When you are involved in a behavior that you would not feel comfortable telling your grandmother, or will want to steer your children from, those of us that have chosen to use this as a vehicle to find our place in the world; we need to drop the putting on airs, because we are certainly no better than anybody else working this thang, called Street culture.

This is our fourth published piece by this writer on feminism, the other three were:

“THE IMPORTANCE OF WOMEN VOICES IN STRUGGLE: Emphasis on the Black Woman’s Voice.” 2017
https://mprisondthotz.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/the-importance-of-women-voices-in-struggle-emphasis-on-the-black-womans-voice/

“The Myth of Intersectionality to Women of Color” 2018
https://mprisondthotz.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/the-myth-of-intersectionality-to-women-of-color/

“Due Process in the Era of Me Too” 2018
https://mprisondthotz.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/due-process-in-the-era-of-me-too/

[C-Note has written for Prison Action News, California Prison Focus, and has been in People Magazine, Public Television-Los Angeles (KCET), and ABC-Los Angeles (KABC). He is a native of Los Angeles, poet, playwright, performing artist, award winning visual artist, and King of Prison Hip Hop. His works have either been exhibited, recited, performed, or sold, from Alcatraz to Berlin. In 2017, Google Search Engines listed him first in results, as America’s and the world’s most prolific prisoner-artist.]

Insanity is Calling

This was a letter to self written by a prisoner in Pelican Bay’s SHU Program

Last night I received a visit from an old adversary. I was just about to fall asleep when, suddenly, Insanity came calling to do battle. I fought diligently and at no point in time did I yield, however, thousands of emotions were violently killed during my struggle to overcome. I was very much unprepared. The attack was rather ruthless, coming swiftly me without warning. Once the premise was set the fighting began with my thoughts, subsequently advancing to my respiratory system. Durng this time, my mind was being bombarded with thoughts of sorrow, utter despair and desperation. I was experiencing difficulties breathing; Insanity had me in the depths of its clutches, choking out every breath that I took was great persistency and patience, in spite of a opposition. I became exceedingly frightened; terrified to say the least.

My biggest fear is that one day I will undoubtedly succumb to my enemy and relinquish every once of sanity that I have. But wait. Why should I be so fearful? When total sanity is gone, so goes my suffering so goes my sorrows. It is only my existence (my self-awareness) which tells me that I’m suffering. If I’m am to continue to exist in a constant state of oppression, why then should I remain aware of it? Under these circumstances, insanity is the preferred selection while death is an alternative.

Certainly my death is not the worst possible outcome. The worst thing about dying is living to know about it. I do not live in the same sense as one who physically experiences life from day to day. I merely exist within my own consciousness. To the world, I am dead. I am very much aware of my death because I am “the living dead.” The only thing tangible about me is my awareness of myself. Realistically, there are no other physical attributes required for this physical form of existence. I see no reason for even wanting to exist in such a state. I am aware of only myself; outside of this ever contracting coffin which I’m confined to, nothing else seems to exist.

I have absolutely no concept of time. Every day is the same as days passed; today is tommorrow, tomorrow is today, and the past is my future. Sadly, I see no end in sight as I struggle everyday to maintain my sanity. It is a battle in which I feel, ultimately, I shall lose; perhaps even a loss that I shall look forward to.

Insanity has many weapons of mass destruction, including those of biochemical warfare. How can I possibly prepare myself for battle in an environment consisting of utter chaos, hatred and sorrow? In which direction do I turn for Hope in a world where even my Keepers look down on me with contempt and aversion, simply because I am an “inmate” and not a human being?

Why should I continue to live in darkness? Even my shadow knows better than that.

by Theo Wilson