To The Understanding – Giving Away Pennies in Oakland


Artwork from The Beat Within:

By: Noel of The Beat Within (United States)

I am 17 years old and yet I feel about 30. I am doing a few years for a robbery and am waiting to turn 18 so I can be shipped from the county juvenile facility to Santa Rita (County Jail), then San Quentin (State Prison), and who knows where after that. I will be out of the concrete caskets in a short while, but I will return to an imprisoned society, an environment with temptations and sin and more opportunities to fail than to succeed. I am trying to develop myself so I will be able to navigate through a seemingly crooked country. I’ve read letters from death row inmates–in particular, one by Ray L. Jasper inspired me to express my point of view. But perhaps he said it best when he said: “I’m just a hobo on the street, giving away pennies.”

The way I see it, like a game of chess the government has thought an incredible number of moves ahead to corner out kings, take our rooks, capture our bishops and knights, lead our pawns astray and checkmate the minds of America’s youth, leaving our queens vulnerable and alone on the battlefield of life. This is why there are more women than men in college. Our men are being taken, or brainwashed into believing a righteous path includes maiming our brothers and abandoning our women, while robbing themselves of their most valuable possession–trust in the human race. Media and advertisements give minorities permission to live this way. Popular TV shows and radio programs trumpet the words of lying artists who say that in order to enjoy life, we should take the easy path and live by what they rhyme. Shows and movies with a more positive message always seem to fall to the bottom of the charts in our “hoods.”

We are taught to maintain our mindsets, to be like the broke OGs and to blindly follow those decisions that we were too young and inexperienced to make in the first place.

It seems murderers and other criminals are rushing, or being rushed, into the game at much younger ages, without knowing what they signed up for. TV, music and peers laud the advantages of a fast and dishonorable lifestyle. The “bad and the ugly” sides are rarely mentioned–the prison time, the early deaths, the lack of true friendships and trust, the cost to–or the total separation from–our family. All this for the sake of “fame,” “rep,” and respect from the charlatans we consider our friends.

Just today one brother honestly stated that he was proud of making it to 16 and only intends to live to see 25, that he has no interest in living to 40 years old. That statement said so much about the mindset of these young “criminals.” We see ourselves as warriors but the battle we wage is against ourselves. We war against society, police, and our fellow brothers and sisters, without even understanding the game. We walk, unknowingly, into impossible situations and expect to win. Some people don’t want to see any other way. The alternate path might appear difficult, but people don’t realize that it can lead to an easier existence. Instead, they do the opposite, take the easy route and live a harder future. The mis-education of our minorities has taught us to remain exactly as we are and reject advice from the wise.

We are the state’s cash cows, the reason why more prisons are being built than schools. The sooner we accept this reality, the sooner we can change it. After all, it is us who live under their control, us who kill each other, us who refuse to learn–but it’s their traps into which we fall, it’s their tools of death we’re using. The death penalty is one of these tools and I am completely against it. People kill and are killed enough in the streets. It’s absolutely crazy how far from altruism, love, fairness and understanding humans have strayed.

Artwork from The Beat Within:

Artwork from The Beat Within:

I am a proud graduate of high school and I recently graduated from a Rites of Passage class offered here. I am proud of my understanding. I was once a very anti-social person–and still am to a certain extent. But, like Tupac, I am a rose breaking through the concrete. My daily routine consists of waking up, doing some yoga, stretching, meditating and working out on beast mode. I also read a lot–no urban fiction nonsense for me. I try not to waste time. I play chess and card games for recreation. I write, clean my room and practice good hygiene. I’m actually pretty busy in here; one would be surprised. I do all this and pray five to six times a day. I have found peace within, so I am usually content, no matter what the day brings. I don’t feel the need to put paws on fellow inmates because I don’t put myself in a position to be targeted. I don’t start problems, I don’t gossip and I control my emotions. I have plans for when I am released from captivity. I just hope my people think the same way.

Mine is an imprisoned generation. I thank everyone who takes time out of their day to stop and add a penny from a hobo to their bank account. I thank the Creator for giving me the resources to learn despite my circumstances. I thank my Queen for giving me life. I thank my family and anyone else who is standing by me in my time of need. I am grateful for every experience, no matter how trying, because it is my experiences that have made me who I am.

This piece is dedicated to my brothers who are no longer with us. Because of them, I will analyze every situation I find myself in, especially those in which my actions might affect others.

(Courtesy of The Beat Within, see Noel’s complete article in issue 19.25/26 p18)

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