A few weeks ago I did something that I felt I needed to do. You’ve read several stories of my childhood on here and I felt that I needed to speak to the youth of American and let them know that they have choices. I visited a local youth incarceration facility to speak to a few of the kids there. I got the idea this summer from a very special woman who showed me that sharing is caring.
When I came in I got the usual another black man coming in here to tell us to keep our head up and obey the law bull crap look. I opened my statement telling them that I was them. I’ve been them. I was just luckier than they were. A few of them looked at me and said, you wasn’t me. You don’t know me. You can’t understand me.
I told them to give me a chance and let me explain. I began with no I don’t know you but I know what got you here. You were faced with some difficult decisions. Either out of necessity or out of anger you made the choices you made. I’ve been that person that took things that didn’t belong to me. I’ve also been that person that fought for what I wanted to keep. I’ve been that person that made a few bad choices that should have landed me in prison but I was fortunate that I didn’t get caught. That’s the only thing that separates me from you.
I had to remind them that not everyone who does bad things pays for it initially. Sometimes we make decisions that we have to be willing to live with on a daily basis. The problem that most of us have is that we don’t think things all the way through before we do them. Most of those young men weren’t the only people to do what got them in that situation, they just got caught because they were unlucky.
Some of them were there because their families had already given up on them. Others were there because they had given up on themselves. Luckily for them they are young enough to make a change. I wanted them to see that from me. When I told them some of the things I did as a teen they were amazed. Again I was just lucky and finally some older guys pulled me to the side and made it impossible for me to keep messing up.
I hope that they got something out of it because when I left I felt as if I had gained another perspective on life. Even today, it’s time to get rid of the things that are holding me back from being the best me I can be. Sometimes it hurts to let those things go but as the saying goes, “you can’t be great until you get out of your own way.”