I spent my young childhood in East Palo Alto, California. I remember hearing gunshots outside of my school one afternoon but really, I was always surrounded by love and empowering values to the point of being sheltered from the other things that were around. We moved to Buffalo, NY, then again to Baton Rouge, LA. I'm sure moving around encouraged me to want to fit in at the new places I found myself in. I really got into more trouble the older I got. A lot of it was about fitting in, but also standing out. As we moved from place to place, my dad's jobs got better and my mom finished law school. Our lifestyle improved. I didn't want to lose touch so I would still hang around the hood. My dad was an educator so there definitely was a premium put on doing well in school in my household. Mom's a civil lawyer so things not being fair or right were always highlighted too. That was just the overall attitude in my house…the way I grew up. There's racism, oppression, things are messed up and what are you going to do to make it better.
My thinking was, however I was going to help, I needed to be out in the streets. Thing was I wasn't near rooted and focused enough. Those streets were way too much for little ol' me to handle. About a year after I went to Morehouse College in Atlanta, my family moved to Brooklyn, so it became back and forth between Atlanta and Brooklyn for me. In the beginning, you couldn't have told me I'd end up doing some of the things I did. But that's the thing about wrong, it starts off little then grows like a cancer. First this seems okay, then you justify that to yourself, then you go a little farther and before long you get comfortable doing a whole lot of things you would have never done before. I went from drinking an occasional Boone in high school (sometimes something a little stronger), to drinking more than a 40 everyday along with any other liquor I got my hands on. I went from occasionally smoking a joint, to smoking often with other people, to smoking at least one blunt by myself every day. I went from stealing out of stores to putting guns in people's faces and telling them to give me their money to becoming violent when I felt someone was disrespecting me.
I got in serious fights and started getting arrested for more and more serious offenses, until eventually I was sentenced to 20 years to serve 10 in state prison for an aggravated assault. This was a miracle in itself because I was looking at 20 years straight and possibly even more. It was nine years and four months before I was able to taste freedom again. I went into prison with a hardened heart, corrupted by the pain of life and my own bad decisions. To me, police officers were enemies and one day I'd be part of a revolution. In the meantime I'd just deal with anyone who gave me problems. I figured it was all training. I was delusional and psychotic. And I had no intention of turning around.
I still had that desire for knowledge and decided to read the books that people called holy, out of curiosity…and boredom. I had some time on my hands. I started with the Bible and I didn't get any farther. When I read the Bible it just hit me that if there was a God this is how He had to be. I was hard, I was ready for whatever, but nights alone in my cell I knew I had gone so low. I still justified my actions at this point but I couldn't convince myself that ten years in prison was what I wanted. An interest to know more about this God had been sparked and before long I made up my mind to follow Him. The book said to accept His Son as my Lord and that's what I did. It didn't come all at once. It's been a journey and a process, and it still is. But one thing I am sure about is that I am not the same person I was. People can come with their own reasons why. People can say I never really changed. I don't make it complicated. I just thank Jesus. And for those who say I'm still the same, just continue to watch what I do. 'Cause that's not the same.
I can only speak for myself. I can't change what I've done but I can do my best to do better now. And I don't believe I could or would want to without my relationship with God. That's my story. What's yours?