Mike G., 28

Mike G., 28

Meet Mike G…

 “Today after a lot of healing and participation in self-help groups, I finally feel free.”

Mike G., 28

Incarcerated: 8 years

Housed: San Quentin

Growing up my childhood was very unstable, my father was an alcoholic, it took a toll on my family. At 11, my older brother and I started running the streets, he was 14. We were very close, I looked at him as a father figure, he was all I had. When I was 18, my brother was murdered. The only father figure I had was snatched from me in a very traumatic way. I was the last man standing in my family, it was my responsibility to look after my mom and two sisters, but I couldn’t, I was a mess! After my brother died, something changed in me, I was in a very dark place, the pain I felt was eating at me. I never gave myself the chance to grieve and deal with my emotions. I was a ticking time bomb, and unfortunately, I did blow up. Today after a lot of healing and participation in self-help groups, I finally feel free. Ironic right? I feel free while in prison, but for so many years I built my own prison inside of myself. And today I feel blessed, I have a beautiful family that loves me. One thing my brother’s passing did for my family, is that it brought us closer. Being vulnerable is something new for me and it’s liberating. Thank you for this opportunity to be heard.

 

Michael, 40

Michael, 40

Meet Michael…

“What I do know and am sure of, is that night despite being discarded by family, left to fend for ourselves, scared, uncertain of our future, and up against the world. We banded together, faced whatever came our way, and prevailed as a family.”

Michael, 40

Incarcerated: 12 years

I’ve never felt so afraid, rejected, or abandoned in my life. The things I’ve endured no one, let alone a child, should have to experience. What makes matters worse is that my younger sister Connie, and little brother Josh, are also with me. We were in Sacramento, California, starving in an abandoned duplex our mother was renting before her arrest. The electricity was just shut off, there was no food in the refrigerator, and we were camped out in our mother’s room. The three of us were cold, hungry, and confused. What was I going to do? How were we going to survive? My 14 year old brain was overloaded with questions that I didn’t have answers for. My mother has been incarcerated for a few months now and our aunt, who was supposed to be caring for us, had abandoned us a couple weeks earlier. I was so hurt and angry at her. My other two siblings and their father had driven away leaving us all alone on the porch. I’m brought out of my thoughts by brother Josh’s voice, “I’m hungry, what are we going to eat?” Before I can answer, my sister Connie says, “Mike, I know where some money is. Remember when I dropped a dollar in one of the bedposts?” As she says this, she jumps up and heads to the room we shared before our lives were turned upside down. The three of us went to work on that white headboard with red trim as if we were a demolition crew. With the help of a wire hanger and some scissors we retrieved that dollar bill as it was a long last treasure. Along with some loose change we scraped up from all over the house, we were able to buy something to eat for the night. I’m not sure exactly what we bought from the store other than a bag of potato chips. What I do know and am sure of, is that night despite being discarded by family, left to fend for ourselves, scared, uncertain of our future, and up against the world. We banded together, faced whatever came our way, and prevailed as a family. I’ll never forget that night and 26 years later, myself, Connie, and Josh continue to beat the odds, we are there for one another, and we come out on top.

Kahniaha, 26

Kahniaha, 26

Meet Kahniaha…

“I don’t know if he’ll ever know how much he means to me, knowing he is waiting for me keeps me pushing forward.”

Kahniaha, 26 

Incarcerated: 2 years

Housed: Monmouth County Correctional Institution, Freehold, New Jersey 

My mother was 41 when she had my youngest brother, Damarian (I call him Pedro). I had graduated high school and was on my way to Morgan State University when I told her I would not be babysitting and changing diapers for her. I’m sure my mom was confused because my family considers me to be, “The Child Whisperer” since all the children love me and I always babysit. When he arrived six days before my birthday, I didn’t even hold him. When he was six months or so, I started to warm up to him. When he started using his walker, he would barge into my room or bang on my door. When he was about ten months old, I decided to experiment with him. I majored in psychology and I was taking a course on childhood development. Pedro just so happens to be the perfect age to test the theories. So when I moved back home, everyday before and after work I would spend an hour or two with Pedro, going over the contents of a big yellow container meant to teach young children. It had animal books with the sounds they make, colors, shapes, numbers and the alphabet. I was thoroughly impressed by how quickly he picked up on everything. Teaching him became the highlight of my days. Once he mastered the yellow container, I started to teach him the basics in Spanish. By the time he was two he knew animals, their sounds, his alphabet, numbers 1 -20, colors, shapes and body parts. He even knew everything in Spanish. When he went off to Pre-K, his teachers would always speak on how smart he was. I was so proud of him! I would take him everywhere with me and show him off as ‘my son.’ He’s now seven and I have been incarcerated for the past 21 months. I draw him pictures, talk to him on the phone and teach him the best I can through letters and visits. A couple of months ago he came to see me, I had him spelling words and doing math problems. The guard made an announcement that we had five minutes remaining. Pedro began to shut down. I asked him what was wrong. He told me he missed me. I told him I missed him too, and I started to cry. He then said, “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.” I watched him fight his tears as the visit hall was being cleared. It broke my heart, but at the same time he gave me strength. I don’t know if he’ll ever know how much he means to me, knowing that he is waiting for me keeps me pushing forward. Pedro, 7, said, “It’s going to be okay.” And I, 26, believe him more than anything or anyone. It will be okay and we will get through this!

Receive more inspiring stories and news from incarcerated people around the world.