Posts Tagged ‘freedom & liberation’

Hey all! I know that it has been a couple of weeks since I have been here. There are a lot of things going on here. As this is the time of year when everyone is taking off work. The guys are going through all kinds of emotional, physical and mental challenges/changes. This is the hardest time for most guys. It is somewhat mind boggling that there are guys here that want to be with the family that they willingly left. To spend time with the kids that they abandoned. Which leads me into the topic of last weeks class.

What does it mean to be a victim? I know that we have covered this many times before. I think many guys fall back into the victim role, when this time of year comes around. It is easy to hold on to the pain and suffering of what many of us have experienced growing up. Yet, at some point we have to be able to recognize when the roles are reversed. The roles are reversed and one has to know when he has taken on the role of victimizing.

Everyday I am reminded of the ripple effect of what I have done. I can see the ripple effects of what others have done to others. I can see it in the visiting as guys try to interact with their loved ones. The ripple effects are long lasting and damaging. I don’t think that a lot of guys have yet to come to that conclusion. I think that a lot of what guys express, in terms of remorse, has more to do with what they feel is just. Not what others feel as just. They have yet to see that this is bigger than this. That there are others who are suffering from this negative behavior. In a perfect world everyone would get it. The world is not perfect and it sad that most don’t get it.

I just had the opportunity to read another blog where my name was mentioned. Something happened to someone that I know. What happened to this person happened 20 years ago. It had nothing to do with me but he referenced me as being in the same school at the time this event happened. What happened to this guy was not cool, he was assaulted sexually, and it appears that he is open about talking about what happened to him.

What happened was 20 years ago but he still suffers from those events. It is clear that in the 20 years that this happened to him he has gone through a lot of other stuff as well. As a young guy he was different and had issues. Nothing that would be considered abnormal when you are talking about a teenager. So prior to this event he was struggling at home and in school. He was struggling with his sexual preference as well. He know what he was and wanted to be. I think those around him had a harder time at coming to terms with it.

During this time he was sexually assaulted and that is what stands out the most to him. From this point it just got worse. I cannot imagine what he has gone through in the last 20 years but I can say that he still suffers from the ripple effects of what was done to him. All the legal measures could not change nor fix what was done to him. This is something that he will carry with him for the rest of his life. My only hope is that the person that did this to him has come to understand the role that he played in these events.

It is not enough to say that I am sorry. Ones actions has to be in-line with what he says. Until what one says and does align with each other everything else is BS. Many of the guys that I deal with here in this class have yet to align what they say with what they do. It is one thing to say, ” what i did was wrong.” It is another thing to change the wrong behavior so that one does not fall back into that behavior. In order for that change to happen it will require one to challenge their mindset, belief system and values. It will require them to question almost everything that they knew or thought about themselves and those who had an influence in their lives, even some of there parents and other loved ones. This is not an easy thing to do.

The fear of finding out the truth. The truth that one has been taught wrong his/her whole life. That they have been doing things wrong for a long time. That is a scary reality that many don’t want to face. That is not a prisoner issue. That is an issues for most of society. What we learn becomes who we are. No one wants to find out that what they have learned was wrong. Some of what we learn is becomes part of or defense mechanism, what we use to survive. Being in prison and having lived a life of primary crime seems to complex things.

These communities are have another set of rule, subcultures if you like, that some how becomes the primary view that many residents have. So whatever the experience is for them there is the way that life is. It makes no difference if makes sense to those outside of these communities, as long as it makes sense to them. This mind-set and indoctrination becomes so intense that not even prison can change it. A bullet cannot change it for many in these communities. To get shot often build street cred. It makes one a living or dying legend in the “hood”.

So how do you reach some one who considers themselves a victim to all of what they have experience in life. I know I am fond of saying that the only experience worth believing is my own. I can look and learn from others but at the end of the day it is my own experience that is going to determine what I do and where I go in life. If one is not willing to step outside of what they are used to, in order to have new experiences in life, how do they change a mind-set? So, when we have this class there is always a constant struggle to increase awareness. There is always a constant struggle to get guys to see the world as a place that they are part of. That whether they like it or not they have a responsibility to not only themselves but to the world. I hope that someone get it.

I hope that as you all spend this time with those whom you love that you really consider yourselves grateful of that time. That you cherish the moments that you have together. Life is short and we are all headed somewhere. You only get one life. When I think of times such as these. I think about those families that are in mourning. The kids that are without. The family that is struggling to stay above water.

I think about my family and how I have bought grief and shame to their lives. But, most importantly I think about what can I do to change any of it. What can I do to make it better. Not for me but for someone else. With that I leave you all in peace.

Advertisements

Dear followers and friends,

We thank you for your dedication in staying updated with Talib’s blog and story.  Right now our family is readying to attend a quarterly meeting of the U.S. Parole Commission.  At this upcoming meeting we plan to raise our concerns about Talib’s case, his recent denial of parole and set off of 5 years.  In anticipation of this important meeting, we have been gathering our resources, pulling together letters and people who plan to attend by our side to voice their support for Talib.  You too can play a role and help Talib’s voice be heard and our concerns listened to.  Sign our petition to show your support for the U.S. Parole Commission to reconsider their denial of parole to Talib M. shakir.

Here are the details:

http://www.change.org/petitions/u-s-parole-commission-reconsider-the-recent-parole-decision-for-talib-m-shakir

Here’s why it’s important:

We, the undersigned, call on Mr. Isaac Fulwood, Jr., Chairman, U.S. Parole Commission to reconsider Talib Mustafa Shakir for immediate parole. Talib has grown from a confused, misguided youth into a focused, mature adult. He has been a positive influence among those around him, as was displayed in the show of support by the deputy warden, and we are confident that he will continue to display this outstanding character upon release into society.

Talib M. Shakir has served 20 years in federal prison for an unfortunate crime he committed at the young age of 17.  Having immediate remorse for this crime, Talib has been on a path to change his life around for the better ever since.  He has made remarkable achievements while incarcerated, including receiving his G.E.D., barber’s liscense, physical training liscense, and making strides toward a Masters Certificate in Life Coaching.  He has enrolled in numerous college courses as well as facilitated several Victim Impact courses and workshops.  His role as a mentor and life coach has touched the lives of countless youth, inmates, and ex-offenders, many who now lead successful lives on the outside.

We who await Talib’s release from prison have felt firsthand his personal contributions to society and ability to improve lives.  We recognize his high potential for full rehabilitation and fully support his chance at release on parole.  We know and trust that his skills, dedication, and compassion will lead him to continue his positive work here on the outside, where he can be surrounded and supported by his family and friends who miss him dearly.

We ask the U.S. Parole Commission to reconsider their denial of parole atTalib’s July, 2013 parole hearing.  We ask them to go with the recommendation of the hearing examiner, who recommended him for a release date of March, 2014.

You can sign our petition by clicking here.

Thank you for your support!

The family and loved ones of Talib

Today September 25 2013 marks a day of many firsts. A day where someone dreams came true a day where a miracle was performed. It is also the day that marks the graduation of eight men, incarcerated men, who graduated from a Life Coaching Program inside a prison facility. This was a landmark event here for men who have been on a journey to not only change their lives but the lives of those around them.

It was a day where others were about to see the rewards of their investment of time, money and energy. It was a day where some of these men completed something that will lead to a life of fulfillment and success.

I had the honor of being one of those men. I had the honor of living part of a bigger dream. I had the chance to meet my mentor, coach and friends from the outside world, as they shared this day with me. It may not seem like a big deal when you think small. But, if you think that any time that you can effect change in the world today was a very big deal.

These are the men that are going to go back to someone’s neighborhood and either build it up or tear it down. These are men that are going home at some point and either going to influence others in a healthy and positive way or corrupt them. I am sure that these men are going to be productive in their future endeavors.

One of the things that I shared with those that were present is something that I want to share here. It is a small piece on how fleas are trained.

The way that fleas are trained is that you put them in a cardboard box with a lid on it. The fleas will jump and hit the top of the cardboard box over and over again. After a while you will notice that the fleas will continue to jump but not high enough to hit the lid.

When you take the lid off the fleas will continue to jump, but they will not jump out the box. They will not jump out because they cannot jump out the box. Why? They have conditioned themselves to jump just so high, that is all they can do.

How many people do the same thing? They restrict themselves and never reach their full potential. Just like the fleas, they fail to jump higher, thinking that they are doing all that they can do.

When I am asked about Life Coaching and what it is that we do here this is a good way to sum it up. I try to help others who have been conditioned and programmed to think that there is nothing else to life other than what they have experienced.
Most men, the vast majority, have been conditioned to think that there is nothing else to life other than the neighborhood in which they were raised. You see this often with the guys that get the names of their streets and neighborhoods tattooed on their bodies, even their faces for some. What does this say about ones conditioning?

Would it not be better to have a program that is designed to help these men and women recondition themselves? To be able to experience life for another aspect. I think that it is something that can be done and will be beneficial to the lives off all of those involved.

The program the has been created here is a program that will propel the men here that are involved to the next level in their lives. The inaugural graduation marks another phase of the process. Another tool to use to help others reconnect with themselves and others.

 

Recently, I was asked what could I do to help with being in the process of healing and grief from the recent event that has taken place in my life.  I responded that I could look for ways to find faith.  At that time I can say that I was feeling real low in the faith department.

I was given several books, out the blue, that related to someone’s experience about faith.  None of the books that I read really hit home for me.  One of the books that I read was a story of a girl that escaped the Rwanda Genocide called, “Led by Faith”.  It was a very impactful book, but didn’t t speak to my story and what I was looking for.  I have received emails where others mentioned Nelson Mandela and his plight.  A good story but I have read several books by him and it didn’t t seem to be what I was looking for in terms of finding a little more faith.

One day out of the blue I get an email from someone very dear and important to me asking me if I had ever read the book Mans Search for Meaning by Dr. Victor Frankl.  I replied that I had, and that it was a very good book that I wouldn’t mind reading again.  This person had no idea that I was looking for ways to find more faith so I will say that this is an example of the Law of Attraction. The person responds that someone had bought me the book and that I would be getting it in the mail. I was actually excited to get the book again while actually looking for a message.

When I got the book the forward to the book, it is a recent edition, was profound in discussing Dr. Frankl’s purpose for this book. I want to write a little bit of what caught my attention, inspired me and gave me more hope and faith than I have had in a long time.

First, it is important to know that Dr. Frankl’s doctrine of logo therapy is “curing the soul by leading it to find meaning in life.”
Dr. Frankl believed that life is not primarily a quest for pleasure or power, but a quest for meaning.

In the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.” This seems to be his theme as he goes on to describe the prisoners that gave up on life.  Of those that gave up on live are those who had lost all hopes for a future, they were inevitably the first to die.  They died less from the lack of food or medicine rather than from the lack of hope, lack of something to live for.  By contrast Dr. Frankl kept himself alive and kept hope alive by summoning the thoughts of his wife and the prospect of seeing her again, and by dreaming of lecturing after the war about the psychological lessons to be learned from the Auschwitz experience.

Dr. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning:  in work, in love, and in courage during difficult times.  Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.  Dr. Frankl writes that a person,” may remain brave, dignified and unselfish in the bitter fight for self preservation, or he may forget his human dignity he becomes no more that an animal.” He says that only a few prisoners of the Nazis were able to to the former “but even one such example is sufficient proof that man’s inner strength may raise him above his outward fate.”

Profound words spoken by a man that was beaten and tortured. It is further mention that “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you respond to the situation.  You cannot control what happens in life, but you can always control what you will feel and to about what happens to you.”

Upon reading these few pages of the opening of the book it became clear to me that in the end it is I who have the control over what ultimately happens to me.  I can be bitter and resentful or I can continually look for ways to find hope, faith and gratitude. I have always known this and have even applied it in certain cases but I have never had to apply this concept of logo therapy at this level.  Looking for ways to cure my soul while in a bitter battle to maintain sanity.  All of this is a journey, a quest if you like, to find that place where I can summon that inner strength at any given time and during any given situation in a dignified, respectable and healthy manner.

I can not tell you what it is like to be in a concentration camp similar to the ones that Dr. Frankl was held captive in, but I can tell you how it feels to be treated in a less than dignified and respectable manner.  I can tell you that in here I am not referred to as Talib but as 11030007, at the end of the day that is who I am and everything about my existence in here is referred to by that number.  It is labeled on my clothes and all the other property that I own here.

I can tell you about the modern Capos and about the struggle to stay alive amongst a group of men that are all for self.  I can tell you about the mental torture that exists here and how many men succumb to it.  How many men have I seen give up hope in the midst of their struggle.  I have had friends literally hang up and kill themselves.  As they reached the point where life had no meaning.  Without meaning there is no reason to live.  “He who has a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW”.  This is where I was stuck at and life started to look meaningless.  The big WHY is what I wrestled with and as a result of not knowing WHY I lost sight on HOW.

What I have realized in my quest for more meaning, faith and hope is that sometimes the WHY is not important, as the WHY may be outside of ones control.  If that is the case do you let that stop you from forward progress? No because the WHY has to be what you have inside of you and not what others do or don’t do, we will never understand that question.  My goal is to create and live my own WHY so that I can control the HOW. The HOW I respond and feel.

This is how I gained a little more faith!

I am having a hard at answering this question because it appears to me that there is little faith and hope that I can redeem myself.  The funny thing about redemption is that it often takes someone else  to set the stage for it to take place.  Meaning there has to be a willingness on the behalf of others to trust you enough to allow you the opportunity to redeem yourself.  Almost like a champion boxer, as long as he has the belt he can pick and choose who he wants to fight.  So ones chance at a shot at the title depends on his willingness to let you fight him.  So nothing else matters without his consent.

I feel like that underdog fighter begging for a shot at the title, at a chance to redeem myself.  The one that is often overlooked and never taken serious.  Have you ever seen that person?  Often when that person gets the chance to show off their skills they leave a heck of an impression.

I guess freedom is like that and society is that ring.  I liken it to that in some many aspects. There are a lot of men and women that have been in here training for that big fight and redemption.  The fight that no one thinks they can win.  The fight of their lives.  All odds are against them and all bets are on!  These men and women are begging for the chance to show that they can succeed if given the chance.  The sad reality is that some of us are never going to get that chance and the never have that opportunity to show the world what we really are made of.  We will never get a chance to leave our mark on the world.

Everyone that comes to prison is not bad, even though prison is where they send bad people.  I think that the society is starting to realize this, that all people in prison are not bad.  There are some fighters in here, waiting to get out and show the world that they are not bad people.  They are training for redemption!

I thought that the training that I have been going through for the past 20 years would have made me a good contender for a shot at the title, the world.  But, it is obvious that there are still some doubters out there that do not think that I deserve that title shot.  That I do not deserve redemption.  The only way that I can get out and redeem myself is that they have to let me out and give me a shot at that title.  I know that I will leave my mark and a heck of an impression on the world!  All I need is that shot at the title!

This is something that I read and took out of a Spanish newspaper that I want to share…. – Talib

The intense darkness of the night will never outlast the dawn of that will come. As long as there is life there is hope.

The most beautiful things in life are free.
money can buy you a house, but not a home;
money can buy you people that can shower you with accolades, but not a family;
money can buy you books, but not knowledge;
money can buy you food, but not an appetite;
money can buy you company, but not true friendship;
money can buy you conscience, but not the sky;
money can buy you vitamins, but not youth;
money can buy you medicine, but not health.
What money can not buy the Creator gives you for free.

it was once said that education was the true liberator. when i use to hear this as a youngster i use to blow this statement off. growing up was hard in the sense that for some reason it was preached and shown that the more ignorant you are the cooler you were. we have essentially made ignorance a part of our culture. look at the shows that are portrayed on tv, via real tv. if this is a reflection of our society and a representation of what it means to be a successful american than we are way off the mark. even right here guys get caught up in these shows and have all of these dreams and ideas that life is going to be that way for them upon release. it is as if you can not get a slot on tv if you don’t act like a fool or immoral. not one to pass judgment, that is not my thing trust me, but i must say that there has to be a concern as to what it is that is we are teaching each other, this is not a younger generation problem but one that transcends all cultures, races and age groups, ignorance.

people ask me all the time how did i do so much time. and at what point did i have a paradigm shift in the way that i thought and acted. there were many factors that took place but the most liberating thing that happened to me was that i became educated. see that doesn’t mean knowing everything or having a degree etc. what that means is that you decide to become educated in the role that you have to play in life. this role is different with every individual.

incarceration can come in various forms and the worse form is to be incarcerated mentally. which is to imprison yourself. see i am here in prison physically and have been for 20 years but i have been all across the world and back many times. to liberate your mind from bondage is the most liberating thing that one can do for him/ herself. and that is achieved by way of education.

how and when did it happen for me? i recall the time and the moment clearly. i was in a supermax prison where we were locked down 23 hours a day and 1 out the cells to bathe and use the phone. i stay here for over a year. the first week i slept as i didn’t know how long i was going to be there. during this time i began to really ask myself what did i want out of life and what was i going to do with my life if i ever got out of prison. after a while i could not sleep any more. i was tired of sleeping. if i wasn’t sleeping i was working out, fueling the anger that i had built up in me. i was up to about 2500 push ups and sit ups. i would do sets of 100 until i was exhausted. i got tired of doing that. i got word that my stay was going to be extended and indefinite. what a blow!! it was at this time that i asked myself what the hell does it mean to be free. and how in the hell can i be in prison and further in prison, the hole!! i knew that there was one thing left and that was to become liberated by way of education. i had get something that they could not take from me. and that was whatever i stored in my brain and heart!! so i started to read! i read one book after another! not only did i read but i analyzed the stuff that i read. i started to learn arabic and eventually became fluent. but the thirst to be liberated was not quenched and i had to give in to that urge to learn so i learned spanish, which i am fluent in that as well. so that is another half of the world that i have been exposed to! this has changed my world view a great deal, speaking foreign languages.

so what is the point in all of this. as we talk about change and what can be done to facilitate it. EDUCATION!! this is where it starts and it is a LIBERATOR!!

yes i truly believe that one has to be educated to be liberated. see yes i have been physically in bondage for many years now but it is nothing compared to those who are trapped within other types of bondages. those that may have mental health issues, addiction issues, ecomincal issues etc. there are others that i consider to be far worse than i am. yet the one thing that can free a person is education about the issues that are holding them back from not enjoying life, or is contributing to a poor quality of life.

one of the jobs that i have here is i am spanish G.E.D tutor and i see the regret on many guys faces as they struggle to read basic sentences or do basic math. the a big regret that they have is that they didn’t learn how to do this when they were younger. but that is not the biggest. the biggest regret is the reality that there are not that many options for those how can not read and write out there in the world and that at minimum a G.E.D is needed to gain meaningful employeement. and as that sink in the reality is that the only option that they have leads them back to the seat that they occupy now. crime and that life, to those who have no education, seems to be the only option that they have and accept.

so it is safe to say that without education the road is going to be harder than what one may think right now. if there was one thing that i could tell anyone today, old/young, black/white, male /female,rich or poor, would be to never underestimate to power of what it is and means to be educated! everything that exist around you from the computers that you use to the cars that you drive to the prison cell that i occupy for now was designed by way of someone who was educated in that field of study. for the good or the bad education is the key. to be able to fly from the east coast to the west coast is a luxuary that many enjoy. can you imagine life without airplanes and the other modes of transportation that we enjoy. a friend of mine was telling me about a train that runs from upstate ny to nyc in little to no time. we are talking hours from nyc. i couldn’t imagine that because when i left that didn’t exist, but someone had the insight to do that and i sure that someone profited along the way.

so my point is i would tell everyone to not underestimate the power of education and to seek all ways to become better educated, in all areas of ones life. this will increase one quality of life and make life more enjoyable and easier. to the youth i would say that the are building prison at a rapid pace and what you may not know, because of lack of education, is that they get the estimate numbers to build prisons based on the number of kids drop out of school. so for every kid that drop out of school they build a cell for him/her. it seems to be the common thought that if you can not think for yourself we will put you were somewhere else will think for you and tell you what to do. NOW HOW IS THAT FOR EDUCATION!!