Zach, 31

Zach, 31

Zach

Meet Zach…

“When I walk, there is a grace about my stride that my clothes can’t hide.”

Zach, 31

Incarcerated: 2 years

The Black Man

I am a man. I am a black man. I am a black man transported from Africa, transformed in America. I am a black man whose roots stretch across the seas to the very land that gave birth to human-kind itself. I am a black man with a spirit and strength in my soul. When I walk, there is a grace about my stride that my clothes can’t hide. While I was building great civilizations, others were still in caves. I used complex equations and methods of construction to build pyramids to marvel. I’m a pacesetter, a record breaker, a co-creator with the creator. I performed the first successful heart surgery. I planned and designed Washington, D.C. I was the first man to set foot on the North Pole. I have scored more goals in basketball than any man in history, and I even broke Babe Ruth’s unbreakable record. I invented jazz to free my imprisoned soul. I was rappin’ before rap, and tappin’ before tap. Rhythm and Blues, I invented that too. The rhythm I received in Africa. The blues I got in America. I was forced to come to a land that was not interested in my strong body. Some tried to kill my mind with ignorance, but I became a master of survival.  I’ve been through slavery, separation, castration, miscegenation, so-called emancipation, Klu-Klux-Klanization, separate but equalization, civil rights legislation, frustration and I am still looking for complete social liberation. When I died, my tombstone read, “Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God Almighty, I am Free at Last.” I am a black man who had to die to truly be free. I can read, I can write, I can speak and oooh can I preach. You see, I am so strong that I can afford to be weak, but so weak that I cannot afford to be without God. For I still have battles to fight in the hearts and the minds of those who would enslave me if they could. So you see, I am a BLACK MAN, but the question is, who are you? 

Selena, 28

Selena, 28

Meet Selena…

 I felt like I wasn’t allowed to have human emotions simply because I was a prisoner. My solution to this was attempting suicide.

Selena, 28
Incarcerated: 6.5 years
Housed: Gloria McDonald Women’s Facilities, Cranston, Rhode Island

As soon as I walked into prison, I stopped being Selena and became an “inmate.” During the fifth year of my incarceration, I was sent to Segregation pending investigation for a violation of the prison’s no touch policy. I was a 26 year old adult who was punished for a consensual relationship and spent 15 days alone in a single cell. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to have human emotions simply because I was a prisoner. My solution to this was attempting suicide. Fortunately, I survived.

In the past year, my life has changed for the better. I realized that I’m not alone in how I feel and I’ve been working with advocacy groups to humanize the justice system. I want to be an example of strength and perseverance for others who are locked up. Your life matters. You can channel your experiences into being the voice for those who don’t realize they have one yet. When we come together, people listen. Thank you SO much for the opportunity to be heard!  

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