Incarcerated: 9 yrs
Housed: Trenton, New Jersey
I often hear from older guys that I have an old soul. I would assume this is a direct reflection of the extensive hours I spent with the elders in my childhood. I dealt with anger problems throughout my childhood. Looking back, I did not know how to communicate how I was feeling, nor did I understand why I was feeling that way. Anger was the outcome. I witnessed many of my family members abuse and sell drugs, and face a fatal end due to overdoses. I now understand the financial difficulties, the strained relationships, the inconsistent relationship with my father due to his recidivism, and the struggle and hopelessness that impacted my behavior. It pushed me down the same destructive path. I had many interventions and heard how smart and talented I was and how I should break the cycle. My most prominent influence was my 7th grade teacher Marcus Anthony. He saw my potential and dedicated his time and money to change my life. He drove to my house, he would write letters, and was always willing to go the extra mile to make sure I had a fighting chance at life to beat the odds. One of my biggest regrets in life is letting him down, regardless of the fact that I have maintained my innocence with overwhelming evidence to prove it. He foresaw my future if I was to return home to Newark, New Jersey, and sad to say, he was right. I haven’t spoken to Mr. Anthony in several years, but the love and appreciation I have for what he has done for me despite my current circumstances, is for life. I hope he is in good health and good spirits, and I look forward to one day showing him that his efforts were not in vain and his time was not wasted. The life lessons he taught are forever internalized, and the work ethic he instilled in me can be seen through some of the things I have accomplished – in arguably one of the worst places in the country, prison. In here, I became a barber, I speak multiple languages, I am an artist, a poet, an inventor, and I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Despite my circumstances, the biggest contributing factor to my self-reflection, self-rehabilitation and hopeful outlook on life is Islam.