>When Words Make A Difference.

>Check out this incredible e-mail I received from a very supportive reader. I asked her permission to put it up on the blog. She not only concurred, but she’s allowing me to include her name, Lisa, as well as her e-mail address (Lisa77000@lycos.com). My posting her letter is by no means an attempt to big-up myself. I’ve always known that books and words can transform a life…they did for me at a very early age*. This is someone else’s turn to express a similar feeling:

Peace my Sista, I wanted to drop this on you, just so you’d know.

When I was in the lowest point of my life, I was in the Texas State Jail in Dayton, TX and they had one copy of your book “Child of God” in the whole jail. That book stayed out of the Library but word of it flew out threw the prison and EVERYBODY wanted to read it.

Fortunately for me I had family that sent me books and magazines DAILY, along with DAILY letters. I felt so bad for some people, when mail time came they would cry, they never got their names called. They would come and ask me for magazines and books to read.

So I asked my family to send every copy of that book and every book you wrote that they could find. They did.

Unfortunately for me, I was always questioning the things that they did, the way they treated us, my lawyer was always visiting, filing papers with their Ombudsman and the State Facility Regulators. I wasn’t crying innocence, I was just trying to do my time, pay my debt to society. But they wanted to treat me inhumane. My family flew into rages and let their asses have it, so they sent me a note rejecting the books on the subject matter. Even though they carried it in the library. I took it thru the legal library and to court, they still denied it. I am now out but still fighting jail censoring books and mail. They used to read my mail, read my magazines take the samples for themselves, give them to me in shreds. Its cool because I way beyond the personal stuff they did to me. I am just letting you know about your books. They inspired people to read that had never looked at a book before. I used to tell them, don’t cry, they may have you here, but not your mind. I’d give them a book and say take a break from your life and go to Paris, go see what some else’s life is like.

Finally I did get a lot of books in there and I left them there to free minds, but they never would let yours in, I guess I wanted it too bad. They even let all the E.Lyn Harris books in! So I knew they were lying.

If you know anyone locked up, please…send books, send poems, send WORDS. These items are not just ink on paper—they are liberators. Be present in their lives, if you can. So often we are quick to judge a situation without offering the solution. There are many, many stories of previously incarcerated brothers and sisters (across the racial spectrum) who came out and made a difference because a book(s) they read inside changed their lives. And because someone cared and didn’t give up on them.

My close friend and little brother, Bryonn Bain

…is the co-founder of The Blackout Arts Collective, which has a campaign called Lyrics on Lockdown that uses hip hop, spoken word, theater, dance, and the visual arts to raise awareness and mobilize action to abolish America’s prison crisis. They go directly into prisons across the country bringing the arts to those incarcerated, often helping those locked up tap into their own artistic abilities.

I am also on the board of The Omega Boys Club, an outstanding San Francisco-based non-profit organization headed by Dr. Joseph Marshall, Jr.teacher, activist, author


…and, without a doubt, one of the most extraordinarily selfless human beings I’ve ever had the honor of knowing.

Omega’s purpose is to keep people alive, free from violence, and free from incarceration. The primary means of doing this is through the power of words and education.

The Omega Boys Club has saved young people who have been gang members or living inside a world that seemed to offer nothing but bleakness, jail, and death. Through its programs, these kids’ possibilities are turned around, and, once they complete the courses, their full tuition to college is paid for by the organization. To-date, one hundred and three Omega students have graduated from college.

In 2001, Dr. Marshall received Oprah’s “Use Your Life” Award (which came with a check for $100,000 and two SUVs to drive the kids to and from the club) for his and Omega’s commitment to keeping young people alive and free.

Donations can be made here. It can be as small as $5.00 or as big as you can afford. Every bit you give goes towards helping a young person have a chance at a productive, fulfilling life. The kids who benefit from Omega’s assistance go on to become positive-minded citizens who reach back and do the same for other kids who face similar adversity. Some even come back to Omega and teach. As Dr. M. always says, “the more you know, the more you owe.”

Not every soul behind bars is beyond redemption. Some are even wrongfully-jailed. Not every troubled person is a throwaway human being. Try not to close your minds and your hearts. There is the capacity for greatness in all of us.

*[The book Daddy Was A Number Runner was hugely significant to me. It was the first book where I saw people that looked like me, talked like me, and came from what felt like a similar background. It is the book that made me believe I could perhaps someday be a writer because people were willing to read stories about people of color. The book impacted me so much, I named my character Sukie in Child of God after the character Sukie in Daddy Was A Number Runner. It was my way of paying homage. A few years ago, the author of the book, Louise Meriweather, and I were both attending and speaking at an event at The Princeton Club in New York. I got a chance to tell her, before God and everybody, as I stood speaking at the podium how much her book meant to me and how much it had changed my life. I was shaking so, it was a wonder I could speak. Her words had moved me so much as a pre-teen that the feeling was ingrained in me on a cellular level. Getting the chance to tell her how much her writing meant to me was one of the proudest, most humbling moments I’ve ever had. I will never forget that day for as long as I live.]

The Omega Boys Club
Street Soldiers Radio Program
Amazon.com: Street Soldier
Blackout Arts Collective.com
AFSC.org: Lyrics On Lockdown: Prison Abolitionists Use Art As Activism
Bryonn Bain.com

One thought on “>When Words Make A Difference.

  1. >I read this post earlier today and didn't know how to respond. I am reading it again and still don't know. I think what touches me most about this is that Lisa was one of the blessed ones that had family on the outside who cared and enough will and determination to fight for what she believed in. She refused to be a victim and definitely didn't allow herself to be victimized. Kudos to her and I am glad she's now free.As far as My Daddy Was A Number Runner — well, let's just say there were one or two in the family so this book has always been a favorite.I am going to have to look into the Omega Boys Club, sounds like a great organization.Juan


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