I met people who had no reason to care about me, yet they did. Their positive vibes became my peer pressure. I finally stopped blaming others for my failure and I focused on the lessons that I learned. Today, I want my mistakes of yesterday to become my lessons for today.
To all the human beings who wear blue, who do not let that decide who they are, and to all the free people – teachers, educators, staff, correctional officers, who are human beings, doing a job and service for society that’s not easy. I thank you for your humanness, for making a difference in a population that a lot of society does not care about.
Since I was first locked up at the age of 18, I’ve worked earnestly to be a part of society and to reunite with family. I have not wasted 45 years inside prison. Instead, I have chosen to become a certified drug and alcohol counselor, a certified Brother’s Keeper, hospice care provider, to be empathic and to experience feelings and thoughts of other human beings. This has helped me become a better human being.
I always knew my family had Indian blood lines. I never sang the songs or sat in a ceremony or danced at a Pow Wow until coming to SQ in the early ‘80s. The Red Road Sweat Lodge was the first built in a US prison in 1979. Thanks to all the Elders and Indian people, who walked to D.C. for Indian Rights. It led to Jimmy Carter signing the first Religious Freedom Act of 1977. It was and is the point of change and growth that forever changed my life.
During COVID, with no programs, no self help groups, no college classes and no visitors, my stress and loneliness is high, I now lean on my prayers and songs more than ever. Without ceremonies or the Indian grounds, I use the Medicine of Prayer songs to stay centered and healthy.
From the small TV in my cell, I see human beings everywhere stressed and isolating. Two of us live in a small 5’x10’x 9’cell for 22 and a half hours a day, unless you are a critical worker. Every other day, we can use the showers and pay phones.
In order to cope, I fill my days writing family, friends and others like you, good people giving voice to the sometimes forgotten. I read textbooks, do bead work, draw, paint, and watch TV. And when I feel it’s right, I play my handmade cedar flute and sing. This is what’s keeping me grounded.