Category Archives: Ambition, Dreams, Opportunities

Celebrating Success

Celebrating SuccessControl by the media and lazy group think which promotes the idea that it’s easier to accept the official version than to question things on our own. Too many people take a negative approach toward men incarcerated as if by virtue of finding yourself in a adverse legal situation automatically reduces you to a less than.

Perhaps this is one of the side effects of runaway capitalism — the tenet that if you not producing or at the very least fully engaged in the rat race, you’re no good and a waste of time. One of the reasons the first question most people ask when they meet you is what you do. And if it seems you don’t do nothing, at least nothing significant to that person or society then you are nothing.

So every chance I get I want to trumpet the success of formerly incarcerated men. Nothing spoils the doomsday sayers day more than a fat dose of success.

Exactly what K.B. Webb, one of my former cellies who I co-authored a book with back on the Wynne unit is doing — succeeding on a grand scale. In a mere six months, the brother has started his own business Chiselers Fitness, found employment as a truck driver, reestablished a relationship with his son and is diligently rebuilding his life after spending 8 years locked in a cell being treated as less than.

I wonder what all the talking heads who seem to only want to increase penalties for this or that, while labeling every man in prison as a current or future Charles Manson. Which is nothing but a bunch of hogwash and propaganda that politicians and wannabe TV personalities spread to make a living, seem important, and keep a job.

A real success story like this will never make it onto the nightly news shows that are only interested in scaring the people with horror tales to increase their ratings. Yet somebody has to tell the world “the rest of the story”, and since they won’t, I will!

Check this brother K.B. Webb and Chiselers Fitness out on Facebook and Instagram because he’s the truth. When you’re in the Houston area, look him up so he can help you drop a few pounds, mention the “Prison Griot” and he’ll probably give you a discount. Real talk.

Where Failure Ends and Success Begins

Someone, who someone else felt was wise enough to quote, said ,”You only truly fail in life when you stop trying”. I mean that’s not rocket science, so I’ll go with that.

So much that throughout my sojourn in prison, as I continuously try to go against the grain and create a masterpiece out of dust, I’ve adopted this quote as one of my life’s mottos. I mean why not. Corporations have mission statements and mottos, think Google’s, “Do know evil.” And human beings need them to, at least I think so. I also like this quote because in my book inactivity is death. I mean dang, do something even if that something doesn’t work at least you tried.

With this in mind I recently had the chance recollect on some of things that I have tried to make happen over the years but didn’t succeed at. At the time I counted them as failures but today I’m not so sure .

What got me to thinking about this was that the prison where I

am recently had its annual shakedown. For those not in the know, all

prisons in Texas have periodic shakedowns where the COs search inmates personal property for contraband and other prohibited items. How it usually works is that we are confined to our cells from seven to fourteen days and required to pack all of our property in nylon commissary bags and then take it to a designated area where several officers search it, piece by piece. I am pretty sure it goes without saying that it’s a rather dehumanizing process to have all of your personal items, pictures, letters from family, friends, books etc. searched through by a stranger who then decides what you can and can’t have .

Unfortunately it’s one of the indignities that you learn to live with, as being in prison can often be described as the forced endurance of one series of degradations after another.

For me I use the days leading up to the shakedown when we are confined to our cells to go through all my things myself and see what I really need and what I can live without.

In the process of doing so I came across three projects I had worked on in the past that I wasn’t able to do with what I initially set out to. The first was a cell phone wrist watch that I designed and actually tried to write my own patent on. While still in the patent pending stage, I submitted my invention idea to a few companies including Motorola and LG communication and collected a folder full of fancy rejection letters written on 100% cotton paper. And not long after that, the US patent office hit me with my first office action which unfortunately I didn’t have the technical knowledge to overcome and ended up abandoning my application.

Yet now that the Thomas Edison bug has bit me I feel like I got a few more better mouse traps up my sleeve and I am just waiting on the right opportunity. Plus I learned three crucial things about inventions and patents in the process 1. You need to do a exhaustive prior art patent search before filing. 2. Make sure your patent application is airtight with adequate claims. 3. A working prototype works a hundred times better than a pretty picture.

Now don’t get me wrong, this was pretty expensive knowledge considering the filing fee and research time. But when I invent the next I-Phone, it will be well worth it.

Besides this particular incident with inventing there was the time back in 2002 when I was watching a Nike commercial and thought, “Dang, I can come up with something better than that.” That thought prompted me to write the “No Limit Commercial”, which I copyrighted and submitted to Nike’s co-founder and billionaire Phil Knight. Nike told me I had to get with their advertising agency who really didn’t like the ideal of little old me poaching on their turf by suggesting ideas to their number one client. But like they say, it’s haters everywhere in the corporate suites.

Not easily deterred, lightening struck a third time when I designed a pair of tennis that I felt would fit well with either Tommy Hilfiger or Phat Farms casual clothing lines. But the fish weren’t biting.

Still each failure left a small seed of success. Seeds that I’ve been able to replant and try again with. While the validation of having come up with a great product would’ve been nice, not to mention the monetary payoff cause you already know a brother gifted but broke.

Damn, don’t that sound like a T-shirt logo? But on the cool I feel like these still births are paving stones on the road to success. And that the ability to make love to your intellect and birth your ideas is a reward within itself.

No Limit Commercial

Tennis Nike

WatchWatch 2Phone

Don’t Forget To Check The Scrap Pile

Have you ever seen a junk collector or metal recycler? If you have then you probably noticed them picking up old broken stoves and refrigerators, A, C units, sometimes discarded furniture and other items. All things that another person judged as useless, unfit,  outdated, and a waste of vital space. So they threw them out.

While you and I may drive by and see only useless junk, a collector sees potential, not to mention $$$$. Because he’s not looking at what is, but what will be. You see, it’s all in a matter of perspective. The person who threw it out was looking at the past and present, while the collector has his eyes on the future.

That’s how I liken my prison experience. As I look around I see a sea of human, wreckage-wasted lives and unused potential. People who just like that junk on the side of the street society have been declared as unfit, useless, outdated, as vital waste of space and resources.

But every now and then, I run into men like myself who do more than refuse these harmful labels. They scoop them up and hurl them right back into the faces of the senders. So fast that they begin to wonder how did he do that, he’s a convict? Who does he think he is anyway? I’ll tell you. He thinks he’s someone with more potential in his future than calamity in his past. Someone who knows that it’s not what you say about me that counts, but what I say about me. As British author Zadie Smith so eloquently states, “I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines ME.”

For that reason I was excited when I ran into a group of incarcerated brothers who have created a community service problem solving organization called OnDaVerge.com and I wanted to share it with you that you can be inspired as well. Check these brothers out as they are doing big thangs.

http://www.ondaverg.org/

From the brochure:

On Da Verg.Org is a community service organization geared towards educating & assisting people in problematic situations about proven methods they can use to alleviate their burdens. We also offer vital resources to prisoners, their families & children of incarcerated parents.

Founded in 2004, On Da Verg.Org’s pioneers have designed and developed informational products called Solution Based Models, which are the blueprint or problem or crisis resolution!

At this time, our main focus is on youth ages 12-19 who are faced with various negative circumstances, and at-risk. Our models also assist the parents & guardians of troubled youth, providing easily understood steps to totally eradicate the problem at hand. Our social networking spectrum is wide-ranged & very resourceful, as we direct parents & guardians to the proper agencies who specialize in dealing with specific problems.

Our On Da Verg.Org team is filled with crisis survivors and our crisis response team have effective tactics to intervene in certain problems when necessary.

Everyone is looking for solutions to problems. The problem is, ‘Solutions’ are very limited. This creates a Demand!

Perfect Business Model. The illusion in the world is that everyone is solving their problems. Fact is, almost no one is solving their problems effectively. 99.9% are actually trying to avoid their problems. The
average person’s life is rife with problems. This is what makes the name, On Da Verg.Org what it is? People are constantly on the verge of some extremely important decision(s)….

 

On da verge broch 1

on da verg broch 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Pursuit of Excellence — My Master’s Degree

Pursuit of ExcellenceIf you have read my blog for a while, you already know that I am a former 8th grade dropout who didn’t began the process of educating myself until I found myself wrongfully incarcerated in 1997.

Beginning in the county jail, I earned my GED from Houston Community College. From there I embarked on a long and tortuous journey to receive a formal education.

Once I arrived in prison I didn’t want to get caught up in the usual nonsense and unproductivity that my current environment seems to mandate. So I threw myself into education whole heartedly As a result I was able to earn a few associates degrees, one in language arts through Trinity Valley, and two others in Business Administration and Humanities in Huntsville on the Wynne unit.

But I wasn’t finished there. While still on the Wynne unit I began taking classes from Sam Houston University in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology.

Unfortunately my education dreams got side-tracked when the state of Texas cut the budget at all state colleges. Being a public college, Sam Houston took a major financial blow and promptly decided that with funds in short supply spending money on educating inmates was a unconscionable expense. The crazy things was no one even considered the strong rehabilitative value of these programs which have been shown to cut recidivism.

As the ax fell myself and several other former Sam Houston students pursuing their degrees found ourselves in limbo.

Luckily after two years of educational purgatory the pearly gates of higher education finally opened to me. When I was finally transferred to my current unit which offers a bachelor’s degree program as well a Masters one through the University of Houston Clear Lake.

I have set it as a personal goal to have my master’s degree by the time I’m 40. Being 35 and a ¼ as I write, this means I have 4 years to do it.

I am convinced I can do it. But for me, the ironic thing is that out in society I grew up less than two miles from University of Houston’s main campus, but had to come to prison to attend. Go figure. Like they say, better late than never.

And today I am happy to report that I am headed head first into that place called graduate degree land. Hip Hip Hooray!!!

Will The Real Heroes and Role Models Please Stand Up

In the United States we tend to look at celebrities and sports figures as Heros. Even though the antics of a good portion of these individuals constantly reveal that majority of them are anything but .

For instance I am a Miami Heat fan who likes league MVP Lebron James, but I don’t consider him a hero or role model. For me he is a young athletic man who plays a game that a lot of people like extremely well and earns a large income as a result. Nothing more or less. Same thing with rappers, singers and so forth. Since when does talent, record sales, and box office reviews equals morals and character?

What got me to thinking about this subject was that awhile ago myself and few more guys were in the weight room working out when another guy begin to make a point by quoting rapper Lil Wayne. Another guy jumped in and cut him off, he was like, “Man, wait one goddamn minute, who the F— is lil Wayne that you basing your life on shit he say? What college did he graduate from, what movement did he start, how many people has he helped, or how many lives has he changed for the better?”

I listened to this dude rant and nodded my head in agreement. But that got me to thinking about what a hero or role model is and isn’t. I mean, normally we quote people who have really changed our world, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus, Thurgood Marshall, President Obama, Winston Churchill, Malcolm X, Fredrick Douglas, to name a few. Yet here was a young man basing a large portion of his thinking on something he heard Lil Wayne say on a rap song.

As I gave it some thought I came to the conclusion that a true hero is someone who improves the lives of a significant number of people in a measurable way, while often being unsung and derided in the process.

Think of the mostly faceless and nameless college students of CORE and SNCC who came together and helped to desegregate the South with their sit-ins and Freedom Rides. Besides a few of the leaders, I bet you can’t name even one, yet there were literally hundreds.

True heroes. Or someone like Sojourner Truth who wasn’t content to simply escape to freedom herself. She continued to put herself in harm’s way by going back to help some 300 others. Knowing all along that should she be caught, the penalty would certainly be death, but only after being raped and tortured. That’s a hero. Not someone who makes 20 million dollars for their latest action movie, lives in a mansion, has 13 luxury cars yet hires illegal immigrants to raise her kids and clean her house in a effort to save money. I mean come on people.

And while heroes heroics tend to have an effect on a large number of people, role models can be just plain everyday folks who work with what they have while living their lives with respect and dignity.

With this in mind it’s my pleasure to introduce you to a few of my heroes and role models.

Claressa Shields

Claressa Shields

Claressa grew up in Flint, Michigan in a low economic area surrounded by drugs, gangs, violence, and negative influences. Raised in a small house with several other siblings, her mother was a real heavy drinker, she said, “Growing up, I could never get my mom to stop drinking.” She was also picked on by older bigger girls in her neighborhood. According to Claressa, “I was smart, but skinny. There were always girls who would pull my hair and try to bully me for no reason. I felt like nobody could hear me or understand me, so I stayed to myself.”

Her sense of having no voice had began even before she was a teenager. At the age of 5 she was repeatedly raped by a friend of her mothers. To get away from the sexual predator whom her mother was still involved with, she had to move in with her grandmother.

All in all this brown skinned girl had had a hard life. But God. Her luck begin to change when at the age of 11 she wandered into a local boxing gym and asked to train. At first the coach laughed to himself and thought she was just joking. Not wanting to make a big fuss, he figured she would mess around for a few days, a week at the most and then be on her way. But before long he noticed her dedication and the disciplined approach to training that she exhibited. That, and the fact that she was whipping up on every boy her size and bigger in the gym. The girl had fire.

It turned out that Claressa’s inner pain had found an outlet in the form of a pair of boxing gloves. She said, “At the time I felt like I was in a real dark place; I was just real mad. And then I started boxing, it kind of brought light into my life, into that dark room. It opened a window.”

Before long Claressa was considered one of the best female boxers in her division, eventually qualifying for the 2012 Olympics where she not not only competed but won a gold medal. The first for a African-American female boxer in her entire state.

The girl from the bottom had made it to the top on the world’s biggest stage. She said, “I don’t walk around carrying a burden like, oh I was raped; oh, I was molested; oh, my mom didn’t believe me, because to me, all that is in the past and I overcame it. God let all that stuff happen to me because he saw that I was strong enough to handle it. He knew that I would be successful. His purpose was that all this would happen, and when I make it, when I win a gold medal, I’ll be able to tell my story, and they’ll be able to see that God is real.” Claressa Shields – a True Hero.

Ms Latiker

Ms. Latiker standing in front of a a memorial she built to memorize the 370 young victims of gun violence killed Chicago in 2012

Chances are you’ve never heard of Diane Latiker. Our President probably hadn’t either when Ms.Latiker typed him a letter. She wrote, ”Being a organizer from Roseland, I’m sure you understand the need that exist concerning the violence that’s taken the lives of thousands across our nation. We need your help Mr. President.”

You see Ms. Latiker is one of our unsung real heroes. In the city of Chicago, a city with a gang epidemic as well as the highest murder count in the nation, 507 in 2012 alone, she decided to do something heroic and step into the gap by starting ”Kids of the Block”, a youth mentoring and after school program for underserved poor kids on the cities’ Southside. Since she began, some 2000 kids have passed through the doors of her organization.

While Ms.Latiker and the world may never know for certain, she has undoubtedly saved many of these young people’s lives. All with no radio or TV shows or fanfare. But that’s what a real hero does, continues to fight the good fight even in the face of seemly insurmountable obstacles. All the while Screaming “No retreat, No surrender. Victory or death.”

Catherine Rohr

Catherine Rohr

Another hero I want to introduce you to is Catherine Rohr. An attractive young white lady who once earned millions of dollars as a Wall Street investment banker. A job she gave up to teach MBA style entrepreneur skills to incarcerated robbers and murders.

At the age of 25, Ms. Rohr became a born-again Christian and took a trip to several Texas prisons with a church group whom she was visting. It was during one of these trips that Ms. Rohr got the inspiration to teach business classes to inmates. According to Ms. Rohr, “these men exhibited many of the same qualities she looked for when she met with founders and investors.”

Fired up, Ms. Rohr quit her cushy investment banker job, moved to Texas and started the, “Prison Entrepreneurship” program, or PEP for short, with her own money.

In a five year time PEP had graduated 500 students, 60 which went on to start successful businesses. Even better was that compared to the national average of a 40 percent recidivism rate for PEP graduates, it was only 10 percent a significant improvement

Eventually Ms. Rohr left Texas and moved back to New York, raised 1.5 million and began a new prison entrepreneurship program called “Defy Ventures”, a program that is doing for convicted felons in New York, what PEP is still doing for men in Texas — changing lives forever.

 Quanell X

Quanell X

The last unsung hero whom I want to give credit to is local community activist Quanell X. He grew up in Southeast Houston in a predominantly black area known as Sunnyside. A recent report on America’s best and worst neighborhoods named Sunnyside as the 6th most dangerous neighborhood to live in in the entire United States. So it’s no secret the types of activities that you can find going on in Sunnyside and areas like it.

As a black male child searching for his way in the world this is where a young Quanell cut his teeth. And it wasn’t long before he was on the path of death and destruction that seemed the only avenue open to a entire generation of black youth. But after his young brother who was also in the, “game” was found murder execution style along with his girlfriend Quanell decided to change his life for the better.

Initially he found salvation in the Nation of Islam. Articulate and well spoken he quickly rose in the organization until a split caused him to go his own way. For awhile there after he was affiliated with the New Black Panther party before eventually forming his own community support activist organization.

Today Quanell X is considered the number one activist in Houston’s black community who even has his own nightly TV segment called Face-off on the local Fox News affiliate. As the first person most African Americans call when they need someone well spoken, fearless, and knowledgeable to speak truth to power he is at the pinnacle of success.

While many people dislike his confrontational in your face style, very few can doubt his effectiveness. And knowing Mr. Quanell personally, where he comes from as well what he was once about, it’s a joy and inspiration every time I look up on TV and see this former SA Fool immaculate in his tailor made suit, telling the mayor, Police Chief, FBI and whoever else that we won’t rest until justice is served.

Help Wanted/Position Open

Position Open

ONE PERSON, MULTINATIONAL, AMERICAN BASED CORPORATION WHICH HAS BEEN INSOLVENT FOR OVER A DECADE, SEEKS A QUALIFIED CANDIDATE. THE PERSON FOR THIS POSITION SHOULD BE EDUCATED, INTELLIGENT, WELL-SPOKEN, PREFERABLY GOOD LOOKING, A TURN-AROUND SPECIALIST AND AN ADEPT PLAYER OF THE GAME OF LIFE WITH THE ABILITY TO ENCOURAGE, MOTIVATE, AND INSPIRE WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY TURNING A MERE IDEAL INTO A PROFITABLE BUSINESS BEGINNING WITH LITTLE OR NO CAPITAL. BASICALLY SOMEONE WHO CAN TURN WATER INTO WINE, AT THE VERY LEAST A SWEET FORM OF GRAPE JUICE. HOWEVER, THIS IS A UNPAID POSITION WITHOUT THE FUTURE PROSPECT OF PERSONAL FULFILLMENT AND GREAT MATERIAL RICHES, OR WITH BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS, DAZED DREAMS AND BANKRUPTCY, DEPENDING ON FACTORS, BOTH KNOWN AND UNKNOWN, THAT MAY OR MAY NOT OCCUR.

ALL INTERESTED PARTIES
APPLY IN PERSON AT THE
LOST CITY OF ATLANTIS
BETWEEN 8 and 5 PM
MONDAY—- FRIDAY

Is it just me or does this often seem like the job description of life when we are asked to do the impossible?

Well, Well 2013

Happy New Year 2013
If you are reading this it means the Mayan prophecy about the world ending on December 2-1 didn’t happen. Go figure.

Seems we can’t get out of here that easy…or in the words of the immortal Chris Rock, “brother can’t get a break.”

With all the crazy things happening in the world the scroll seems to definitely be rolling up, but I don’t know the exact date. Sorry.

Until it happens we got to keep on keeping on. Last year at the beginning of 2012 I wrote a comprehensive list of goals — many of which I am sad to report are still in limbo. But isn’t that the whole idea of “BHAG’s”

BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOALS

And being a BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GUY—literally how could I not go for the gold.

So while I am readopting my list of goals from 2012,(which is kinda like re-gifting to yourself) -This year I am taking it to a new level by adding NEW-AGE-VISUALIZE-IT-THINK-IT-INTO-EXISTENCE-lingo into my arsenal of success tools-By creating a vision board filled with magazine pictures of all the things I want to own or accomplish in life. Think of it as a primitive form of Pin-interest

So meet me back here, same bat time, same bat channel at the beginning of 2014–and I’ll let you know the results. And while you at it why don’t you use 2013 to set your own “BHAG’S”.

After all the Mayan’s were wrong we gotta do something with the time we have left. See you next year!

Happy New Year!

 

The Young African-American Survival Guide – Go Get It for Free!

I can’t explain how good it feels to do some good from a bad situation which is what I feel this book will do.
As a result of my own struggles and troubled childhood, I have developed a strong desire to work with disadvantaged African-American youth from inner city communities, particularly those from single parent homes, to encourage them to make better life decisions.

Using the gift I’ve been given, I have written an illustrated book of some 200 pages, a workbook for Africa- American youth, entitled “The Young African American Survival Guide for ages 8-18”.
The book is built around the topics of sex, drugs, hustling, education, gangbanging, and violence.

The book is certainly needed in many African-American communities:

• 67 % of all black children are born to single mothers
• African-American women and their children make up 60 percent of all new AIDS/HIV cases in the United States
• 50 % of black female teenagers have contracted a sexually transmitted disease by age 18
• At birth a black male child has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison
• In 2002, 1,772 black youth died from gunshot wounds
• 1 out of every 21 black men will be murdered. The murder rate for black males is 10 times higher than the murder rate for white males
• 40 % of prisoners on death row are African-American
• 64 % of black students cannot read at grade level in the 4th grade, compared with 29 percent of white children

For many of us, these are only numbers, and essentially not our problem. But it’s the human beings behind these numbers that concern me and all individuals who have love and concern for their fellow human beings.
I decided to try to make a difference, even if it’s just a small one, in the life of some inner city child with my book “The Young African American Survival Guide”.

Access my book for free on Prisonsfoundations.com

The Naked Truth

Naked Truth

People were horrified, and rightfully so when R Umar Abbasi, a New York Post freelance photo journalist, took the picture above, seconds before the subway train plowed into 58-year old Ki-Suck Han after he was pushed onto the tracks. What pissed people off wasn’t just the fact, outrageous enough, that the NY Post decided to run the picture on their front page. But that the photographer was busy taking pictures instead of trying to help. One twitter writer commented, “To say the cover of @nypost is despicable would be an egregious understatement. Love of capital over care of humans, wholly disgusting.”

My question is what makes this particular incident of human insensitivity more egregious than all the others. How about the top rated A&E show, “Next 48 Hours”, that shows murder victims and the aftermath. Has anyone ever given any serious thought to the fact that something is really wrong with a culture that’s entertained by by murder. What about shows like “Jersey Shore, Basketball Wives, 16 and pregnant,” that glorify behavior and mind-sets that would’ve once been considered shameful? Then there are video games like “Grand Theft Auto” that promotes a lifestyle that keeps reporters and prisons full as supposedly harmless.

While I am far from a moralist, or someone who believes in censorship and telling people what they can and can’t do, or watch and not watch, I believe in being honest with myself.

As such it doesn’t surprise me that a photojournalist caught up in the day-to-day rat race of economic survival would chose the shot of a lifetime — and the pay dirt it would bring over saving a life. Just like it didn’t surprise me when a rich man – ­Mitt Romney – talking to other rich people told us exactly how he felt about 47 percent of the country. It is what it is. In my opinion this is the true face of America, the world’s greatest incarcerator, where the poor are ostracized, and nearly half the people don’t have health care, and the other half gets upset when someone tries to give it to them.

It hurts to look at the naked truth either in ourselves or others. So we continue to be a nation of pretenders. Smile and everything will be okay – this is America, the greatest country in the world. Even if we have a debased culture, it’s cloaked in luxury cars, designer clothes and suburban homes which for some people makes all the difference. In their minds, filth not seen is the same thing as filth that doesn’t exist.

Jesus called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs that look good on the outside but inside were filled with ugly dead man’s bones. Is the whole USA nothing, but a white-washed tomb? One that horrifies us when something, or someone, like R Umar Abbasi’s decision to take a prized picture over trying to save a man’s life forces us to take a peek inside?