This entry is part of an upcoming book telling the story of Talib’s life behind bars and his eventual return to society. By sharing his personal story, he hopes to shed light on the issues faced by many youth today, and the problems faced by juveniles sentenced as adults as they make their way through the prison system, rehabilitation, and reentry. All blog posts which are exerts from this forthcoming book are categorized under “Talib’s Story“.
When i left NY and got back to DC i knew that something was amiss and i didn’t feel the way about the city that i felt before. I don’t know what it was but there was this feeling of dread and death over the city that i felt as soon as i stepped off the bus. i guess that was that internal navigation system telling me to change whatever plans that i had. people always talk about choices and not having them but when things are not right you know and that is the moment of truth where you have to make that choice. i didn’t choose wisely and as a result a course of events took place that i had no idea would happen.
well to make a long story short and to stay on topic, after about 10 days of being AWOL and in the city, someone lost their life and I was arrested for that offense. i was seventeen at the time and i can say that at that time although things were uncertain in my life, things looked promising and in the blink of an eye all of that was gone. i went back to NY and a few days later i was arrested and charged and sent back to DC to await what would end up being a 20-to-life sentence.
i remember the initial stages of this ordeal and the sense of despair and hopelessness that i felt. the first court appearance that i had was a night court hearing for another offense i had caught and i remember the judge saying to me and the others present that the case that he was presiding over was about to be dismissed in light of the seriousness of the current offense. those were the initial offenses that lead up to the first arrest, nothing serious but because i was now in custody for another offense, there was no need to even go into the detail of it. it was a verbal assault and menacing charge, but when the judge gave his verdict in that case i knew that things were not going to be good for me.
i was sent to a county jail to await the marshals to come and get me and extradite me to DC. that first night in that county jail was my worst night spent in prison. it was a time where i was frustrated, angry, bitter, resentful and remorseful. I sat in that cell and went through it. i was alone, had no guidance or a clue as to what i was in store for. to make matters worse i was housed on a wing by myself due to my age, and the racial differences of that joint, i was the only black guy in the joint and during the day and night i would hear guys yelling racial slurs directed at me from there wings. the police were racist and made no secret of telling me what they thought about my kind. i never responded as i knew that it was a waste of time and energy because i was behind bars and helpless to do anything so i just bottled it in.
about three days later i had a court date, that turned into a media frenzy, and i had to be taken out of the cell and shackled and walked across the street. i remember when they cracked the door and i saw the rays from the sun and feel of the fall breeze, and thinking to myself “this is it enjoy it”. so i went to court and i don’t remember anything being said that day. all i could think about was walking back to the jail so that i could feel the sun in my face. it was a short walk but one that stands out the most in my mind and i have literally run marathons and nothing compares to being taken out of a cell on a dark, gloomy and smelly wing of a old ass prison, from hearing the ruckus and shit-talking, to the serenity of outside under trees with the sun in your eyes. as i came out the court room that walk was messed up by the media. i mean they had people from all over taking pictures and asking question. but in the midst of that something happened that rocked my world.
as i am walking back to the jail i see a friend of mine coming out of the dmv building with his mother. when i looked over at him and he looked at me there was this look of disbelief in his eyes and shame in mine. a while after i saw some of the articles and pictures that were taken from this day and there is one where i am walking into the jail and i am looking back and it looks as if i am mugging into the camera because of the angle of the picture, it as if i am looking over my shoulder. what the person looking at that picture don’t know is that is me looking back at my friend mike and his mother. the dmv building is in between the jail and the court house. so as i am coming out the court house and passing the dmv office he is coming out and by the time that it registers on him what is going on and that it is me i have already walked past him in shackles and handcuffs. so as i get past him he looks to his left which is my right and has this look of disbelief in his face and as i turn to walk into the jail i look back at him as if that was the last time that i would see him.
when i got back to the cell i broke down and cried. i cried and yelled and cursed for about 3 hours. i just lost it. it was seeing Mike and the look in his face that broke me down. about 6pm that night the guard came to my cell and said that i had a visit. when i get downstairs there sits Mike and his brothers Steve and Chris along with their father. i can not describe that night but i was surprised to see them and to hear that they were there for me in whatever way that i needed them. it was a very emotional visit and i knew that at some point i was going to be sent to DC and at that time there was no certainty that i would ever see them again.
well i went back to the cell and on my way there the guard says to me “hey what the hell was you doing in Lake Placid? we got over 500 calls of people that want to come and see you” i thought he was joking but later when i got back to DC the leading investigator went to NY to interview people and she had the records of calls made to the jail and sure enough there were about 525 calls placed to the jail of people that wanted to see me.
what did that say? it says that you never know how you affect the lives of others. it reminds me of a story that i just heard about a guy that committed suicide believing that he was not loved and at his funeral it was standing room only inside that overflowed outside. imagine if he knew and felt that he was loved while he was alive he may not have killed himself. as a result of this experience i have come to learn that relationships vary in meaning and that at every point we are being influenced by them. whether it be in a negative or positive way we are being influenced by them. had i known that there where so many other people expecting great things from me i may not have felt as an outsider or that no one understood. i would’ve never taken on what is essentially the victim role, a role that many juveniles take on as they try to find their identity and place in this world. this is why it is important to validate and validate the sense of worth that they are going to need to succeed in this world.
it is rather unfair how we treat our children and youth, there is a big difference between treating them and teaching them. you want to treat them and hold them accountable to being responsible yet we never teach them how to be responsible. it is time to stop treating them and start teaching them. a guy once stated to me how it is unfair that we describe life as a game, ‘the game of life’, yet you never teach your children rules of this game! imagine the frustration of you trying to engage in a game of baseball, basketball or any other sport/game and not know the rules of how to play. that is a frustrating feeling considering all of the complex rules that are involved in these games.
now imagine sending your kids out into the world ill equipt to play the game of life. the minute you send them off to school they leave the dug and the they are off the bench. unfortunately time out usually starts with punishment at home for some “violation” of the rules that are set at home. the next time out usually ends up in the principals office, than the truancy officers building, juvenile hall, hold up here at this junction of the game there is a new referee. okay he is going to start another game here. do you want them playing that game? okay fail to teach them. here we go the second half is beginning. probation, job corp and if this don’t work lets put him in juvy hall. okay the third quarter is about to begin. after juvy hall guess what the big day has arrived, the 18th birthday, if they are lucky to make it that far and are not killed, strung out on drugs or in prison like i was at 17, and here we need to change referees again. so the whistle is blown and too late. your kid has just fouled out of the game and this timeout is a 10,15, 20 year or worse Life Sentence to the big house. Pee Wee league is over and now it is time to play with the big boys. unfortunately this is the way that the game goes when one is not taught how to play it the right way.
there are a lot of things that i can say about my upbringing that i may not have liked but i remember one conversation that i had with my father that stands out the most. when i got to the point of no return he sat me down and this is what he said, “son, i don’t agree at all with what you are doing but i still have a duty as a father so if you are going to be out here this is what it is like and about. if you are going to do this be careful of this and that etc. but know that at the end of all of this these are the repercussions. ” he wasn’t telling me to do the things that i was doing, just merely telling me the rules. i suggest that this start earlier in life.
parents need to stop trying to make their children replicas of who they are, want them to be, or what they wish they were. parents like this never teach their children, they are always treating their children as if they are the people as i said before, who they are (the parents), want them to be, or how they wish they were. this is why your child is so dam anxious to get out of “your” house. they don’t feel that they have any identity there so they need to get out of there and get somewhere where they can find that identity and they subsequently grow up to resent “you” and everything that “you” stand for.