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Reflections Behind Bars: excerpts


Gun Obsession

"I guess you could say I developed a gun obsession. My gun obsession started with my dad being killed and taken from me by gun and gang violence. I was obsessed with how such a small thing could take a life and cause so much damage in every way. I promised myself at a young age that I would always carry a gun and wouldn't be killed like my dad. I was amazed at how powerful and respected it made me feel when I got a gun, but now I realize it wasn't true respect or power." 

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War Zone

"Growing up, my household was like a "War Zone." There was chaos all the time-yelling, cussing, fighting, crying, and sometimes even brief moments of silence. In a war zone, there are casualties. At my parent's home, it was no different. I know because I was one of those casualties. I was repeatedly wounded by the emotional bullets that my mother shot at me when I misbehaved. She would call me "stupid, good for nothing, and useless." My father was gone most of the time working in the fields, which meant my mom was in charge of the house and the six of us kids." 


Collard Greens

"I was a collard green rustler. I used to rob other people's gardens for their collard greens; to me straight-out of the garden was as fresh as it could get. There were quite a few gardens in our neighborhood, and I was very careful not to destroy the plants I boosted. My grandmother was a very good cook, and I think about her often still today, especially when I remember eating collard greens and smoked ham-hocks. Delicious. I was blessed to learn to cook collard greens from her as well." 

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"I grew up in a home with no stability. My father was an alcoholic and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. When I was two years old, my parents moved us to Sinaloa, Mexico. We lived there until I was ten years old. It was here, when I was eight years old, that I was first sexually abused. It was a very traumatic experience to be abused by a neighbor and I struggled afterwards. By the time I was 10-years old I had lost my self-esteem.

My father mistreated my mother all the time. I saw so many bad things as a child. My childhood was not normal, but I didn't realize that at the time. I needed my mother and father to love and accept me, but they were never able to, never able to fill the emptiness inside of me. My parents struggled because they were also mistreated growing up by my grandparents." 


Water Hose

"One day, I came home early from school. No one was home. I was bored and curious, so I picked up the water hose, put it to my eye, and turned it on because I wanted to see if I could see where water came from. I remember thinking that I would see the water coming from a lake or wherever, but the water felt like a rock hitting me in the eye. I took off running around the house screaming at the top of my lungs like I was going crazy. 

In my panic, I forgot to turn the water off. When my foster mom came home, she gave me a beating. She was upset that I had made a huge mud puddle outside the front door where everyone came into the house. I was very much afraid of her. I tried to run away a couple of times, but I always came back because I was scared of the dark and of the dogs that roamed at night. I didn't know anyone else and didn't have anywhere else to go. I was scared out of my mind."

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My Fault

"I remember having an unpleasant sensation that somehow my parents' divorce was my fault, that somehow I had displeased them, that somehow I was to blame. Self-deceptions are always the most damaging; that's how the seeds to our problems usually get started-rooted in a desire for love that goes sideways somewhere in our childhood and comes back to haunt us as adults.


And who was to blame? My father? My mother? Their parents? Some distant ancestor who had passed down bad habits and intergenerational trauma? The flawed legal institution of marriage? The mythical American dream? Everyone and no one was to blame, of course. The bigger question is how does a child survive intact?"


The Tree

"In our yard, we had a big tree. It was a safe haven for my sister and me. When I was eleven, I came home to my mom passed out and her boyfriend yelling at my sister. I got into a fight with him that ended when he hit me with his guitar. As usual, my mom blamed everything on me. 

The next morning, I went to the tree and tied a rope to a branch. I wanted to put my suffering to an end and I falsely believed this was the easiest way out. It was only by God's grace that my seven-year-old sister saw what I was doing. When the table I was standing on gave way, she put it back under me as I hung by my neck gasping for air."

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"This is where memories end and my nightmares begin. In the middle of the night following my mother's funeral after her murder, my grandmother Bessie and her husband stole my brother Rodney and me. I mean, she literally took us out of our bed, loaded us into their station wagon, and left Louisiana. I don't really recall the ride except stopping for gas and switching cars to ride with my Uncle Donald. My next memory is of waking up in a place that looked nothing like the place I had left. Bessie lived in a small town in southern New Mexico. Compared to Louisiana, New Mexico was like another planet to me." 

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