Miquan, 33

Meet Miquan…

Miquan, 33
Incarcerated: 8 years
Housed: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, New York

Miquan: I was 15 my first time being arrested. I pretty much grew up in and out of the system. Due to my learned behaviors and falling victim to the negative aspect of those behaviors. This is my first time in a maximum security facility. I never wanted to graduate to this, but you live and learn. I don’t glorify the negative things, but it’s a reality growing up in poverty. My reality is to transform negative into positive.

My father was incarcerated when I was young. He is still a great guy. I had a lot of great people in my family. I had a stepfather who taught me how to read and do things I appreciate to this day. I love him like he was my own father. How would my father feel about his son giving another man that type of appreciation? Having a dysfunctional upbringing, not having my biological father and mother, it did affect me. I was confused. As I got older and matured, I told myself I wanted to be the person to bring everybody together and to love those who loved me. I’m fortunate my mother and father are still there. My mother was always a churchgoing and righteous woman. My father also, even though he made many mistakes, he was always a righteous man. One of the biggest things my father gave me that’s kept me going to this day, is knowledge of myself. 

Diane: How did your dad’s incarceration impact you as a child?

Miquan: When my father talked to me on the phone and used certain words like “knowledge” and “wisdom,” I became interested and fascinated. As I got older, I became more conscious of what he was saying, but the hardest part was the understanding. It was the best part too. The understanding is applying what you know. Applying our wisdom to what you know. Applying the change of what you just learned. A learning experience, being the best teacher. A lot of things I began to learn while talking to my father while he was doing his time. I believe he did about 10 years, so by the time he came home, I was a teengager. That’s the positive way it affected me. The negative way is hearing a lot of the stories on the streets of who my father was or people wanting to emulate or glorify the negative qualities of him. I guess somewhere along the line I tried to live up to certain things, because that’s my father, but I wish I would’ve done things differently and only took on the positive things he taught me. I’m not here because of him, I’m here because of my own choices. Through it all my mom always stayed strong. I’m fortunate enough to say that for most of my cousins and my siblings, I’m the prime example for, “don’t come in here.” I’m fortunate for that because in here, it’s a whole different world of survival. I think one of the worst things is having a sibling in here because not only do you have to defend yourself, but they have their own mind and their own way of thinking. If they don’t have self control, you end up in situations helping out your siblings. That’s scary too. I always call them and talk to my younger siblings and tell them to be greater and better than me. Don’t be like me, but listen to the positive things I tell them from my life experiences, because that’s what a wise man does. A wise man learns from his own experiences as well as others. As a people, or as humans… “hue” means color. We’re people of all different types of nationalities, heritages and ways of life coming together for a common cause. The “man” part means intelligence. We have to learn from our human experiences. 

Diane: Is there one incident you remember that had a big impact on you?

Miquan: I would say my situation that led me in here. This is the longest I’ve ever been away from my family and my loved ones. I had to figure things out for myself, being in an environment where there is a lot of turmoil and struggle. If you’re not strong…they say that the strong survive. This situation impacted me so much because there were many times where other lovers supported me, I felt at times so weak and vulnerable and I overthink things. Many times, I wanted to give up and become a savage in pursuit of happiness, but that’s not the righteous way. So, I always speak on knowledge  of self because having a strong foundation, dealing with self, and seeing the good in people, even if they did me wrong. Love is the strongest force in the universe. It connects all living things.

Diane: What do you love that would tell us more about you?

Miquan: I first had to learn to love myself. My ego would say that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. We were all born in perfection, but you won’t see that until you learn to love yourself and love all your imperfections. Even with my situation, you have brothers and sisters who are incarcerated all over the world, and they might not love themselves and that’s the thing that’s stopping them from being the best that they can be or stopping them from seeing their potential and their talents and being something greater than what they ever expected to be. Once you’re able to love yourself, then you’re able to love someone else. There’s a quote they say, “Hurt people hurt people, and healed people heal people.” That’s one of the things I love to do. I love to do my best to help heal someone else with my words of wisdom. This platform right here is a way for me and other brothers and sisters to get that positive light out there that we feel no one sees, because we’re in here.

Miquan: To the youth and the outside looking in. If they’ve never done prison time, without a strong support system, it’s very hard for brothers to make it in here. At times, we have stereotypes of gangs or things of that nature. That’s not the case. Brothers of different cultures come together to survive. These are some of the brightest and most well-mannered men or even sisters that you can meet. The way the system portrays us is that we got incarcerated for what should be held against us forever. I know a lot of men that are serving many years and they change. While many of their family members die while they are incarcerated. They have no one to hear their voice or see the change in them. That is why this platform and just me being invited to talk here, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t speak on things that matter to me. Humans of San Quentin, when I got their email and letters and everything, I really took interest because I want to be somebody that speaks up for incarcerated individuals. To give a different perspective, a different spin, yes we made mistakes, but a lot of us have changed. There are those that may seem like they haven’t changed, they may just be struggling with the fact that they feel like their back is still against the wall, no one is listening to them, nobody is hearing them out. 

I want to give a shout out to the Humans of San Quentin for giving me this opportunity, to speak a little bit about my story, and how being incarcerated has affected me, the positive, negative, and more or less changing for the better. Changing the negative into positive, being powerful. To Sing Sing correctional Facility, I want to shout out to all the brothers that are staying strong in here, no matter which nation or portal. Keep loving yourself, and don’t give up. Self liberation.

Eric, 52

Eric, 52

Meet Eric…

And you know, I like to get A’s. I’m an A student. I work hard and I started having this pride about submitting my work, I’m eager to know how I did. I say, “I know I perfected, I got this, I aced this.” So now I understand why the recidivism rate is lower. You develop character, you change your thinking.  And you’re escaping, like I said earlier, the ills of prison and you’re removing yourself from that environment. And you become mature.

Incarcerated: 10 yrs

Housed: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York

Diane: Tell us about your family.

Eric: All my family members pretty much dwindled during the course of my incarceration. My mother has passed. She’s a 9/11 survivor. She worked at Meryl Lynch across the street from the towers. She inhaled the polarized glass fumes that subsequently caused fungus in her lungs. She passed from COPD due to complications of 9/11. I do have a brother. He’s out of state in the Navy. He’s touch and go, though. I’ve pretty much been all on my own during most of this bid. Despite all that, I’ve had to kick off the dust and move forward. College was definitely a way to escape the ills associated with prison. I don’t hang out too much in the yard. I only socialize with people that are like minded and want to go in the direction of making the best of this experience. We try not to go out the same way we came in.

Diane: Is there anything you want to share about your mom? 

Eric: Before she passed I remember being at her deathbed. I was able to get that visit. She said, “I’m very proud of you.” She knew that I was pursuing my education. She said, “You know, I’m sorry that I failed you.” 

I said, “No, you did not. It was all on me.” She did nothing for me to move in that direction. I said, “Mom, I’m gonna be okay.” And she passed like that. 

Diane: What made you enroll in school?

Eric: The parole board looks at education as a way to lower the recidivism rate. I wanted to assure them that I’m not coming back. I went to school solely for that purpose. It wasn’t that I had a passion to learn about things, right? But as I started, my thinking started to change and I started to have to critically think. I had to be responsible. I had to do my papers. And you know, I like to get A’s. I’m an A student. I work hard and I started having this pride about submitting my work, I’m eager to know how I did. I say, “I know I perfected, I got this, I aced this.” So now I understand why the recidivism rate is lower. You develop character, you change your thinking.  And you’re escaping, like I said earlier, the ills of prison and you’re removing yourself from that environment. And you become mature.

Bruce, 52

Bruce, 52

Meet Bruce…

It was during this time that I made a conscious decision to embark upon a journey of growth and self development. I enrolled in every therapeutic program that Green Haven Correctional Facility offered. There I pursued higher education, earning college credits and giving presentations on the importance of personal development.

Incarcerated: 26 years

Housed: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York

When I entered the  prison system in 1996, I met a group of older brothers who introduced me to ‘The Resurrection Study Group’  which focused on Afrocentric values, history and culture. When I began attending classes I was encouraged to engage in deep reflection and introspection. It was during this time that I made a conscious decision to embark upon a journey of growth and self development. I enrolled in every therapeutic program that Green Haven Correctional Facility offered. There I pursued higher education, earning college credits and giving presentations on the importance of personal development. I made a conscious decision to not be bitter but to be better, I told myself I would not serve time, but rather I would have time serve me. While earning my AA from Sullivan Community College and my B.S. from Mercy college I  had the rare opportunity to present a Tedx Talk. I also continue to work with the nonprofit, Children of Promise (cpnyc.org) which caters to children of incarcerated parents. I am grateful for the elders who reached out to me early in my incarceration.