I"m now honoring the anniversary of my first year home from prison. I must look at the past year objectively to learn from my mistakes and improve upon my progresses. I am doing this for my own growth, and to hopefully make the lives of other convicts better when they are released from prison.
I was released to a poor household. My family was angry at me for coming to Illinois when I got released. I still don't understand that because with the exception of my cousin Regina they left me in prison to rot without writing to me, accepting my phone calls, nor visiting.
My support unit immediately after release consisted of First United Presbyterian Church and my girlfriend. Regina did send me a box of clothes. My wardrobe came from the church's thrift shop. I'm still looking good though. I ate from a food pantry hosted by Collinsville Area Ministerial Association (C.A.M.A.) in the church basement and with Link (food stamps.)
I started earning money first as a handyman then I entered a contract with a property owner that stipulated I was the repairman for the property. Meanwhile I was working on various projects.
1. I created a blog in hopes of reaching others to share some views that could make our society a better one.
2. A talent show to create publicity for the church and to raise money for C.A.M.A.
3. An Open Mic Night Event to recruit talent from.
4. Promoting the "Think Outside the Cell Series" in which I earned my place in by winning a writing contest while in prison.
5. I created the United Coalition of Advocates for Prisoners Facebook page to enable prison activist groups to come together to work out a strategy that will create the changes we all pursue and to raise money to support the groups through the sales of books and ebooks.
I made a lot of mistakes while working on these things. The biggest one was not realizing that women in society are not like the female officers who work in prison. In prison, if you wanted women to like you, you compliment them profusely. When you do that in society women react to such treatment very differently. I also forgot the fact that I survived in prison by acting like a maniac. I was feared by most inmates and guards. The women who accepted my advances and watched me relieve myself were probably just relieved that I wasn't trying to kill them.
The worst of this after my release was the way women treated me once they realized I was an ex-con. Before knowing this they were very receptive and even initiated communications. And let's not forget I've dealt with more racism here in Collinsville than I ever did in Virginia. Mind you, they were still having Klan meetings there when I left free society in the year 2000. People have thrown accusations around and were believed just because I'm a black ex-con. Since this is a small town, once a few people form bad opinions of me, I'm pretty much blackballed in many circles.
I joined the Collinsville Jaycees not long after my release. I ruined my standings with them due to sheer ignorance. Living my life has made me a very hard person. I can say anything and handle anything. I guess I expected the same from others. That was expecting too much. Many people found me offensive. Miscommunicating didn't help matters any. I soon learned that discussing matters as a member of the Jaycees was usually interpreted as officially volunteering the organization in some form or another. The Organization didn't like that very much. After a while, I just got tired of making an ass out of myself and I stopped attending the meetings.
My next set of big problems began at church when I was told I couldn't be in the presence of the church youth. I couldn't handle that. I felt that I was being accused of being a potential child molester. It took every ounce of strength I had to not brutally attack someone. I tried and tried to resolve this matter with the top church authorities to no avail. The very people whom I considered friends had these fears too. I was also accused of stealing money that disappeared from church even though I hadn't been near the area of the church where the money was stolen from in over a month. After my last futile attempt to work this out, I lashed out. I made it clear that I had no need to do anything inappropriate with a young girl in the church because I could have a half dozen adult women in the church if I wanted them.
Of course that was the wrong thing to say. An investigation started. All the women who had been so eager to flirt with me claimed that I made unwanted advances toward them. It all got worse from there. The fundraiser talent show I'd worked so hard on was sabotaged by the distribution of false information to church elders and rumors were spread about me to which I was never given the opportunity to confront my accusers nor defend myself.
Right after all this occurred I took a job at Domino's Pizza. That lasted less than 3 weeks. The first problem was that I had a GM who insisted on asserting her authority even when it wasn't needed. Next, after people learned about my past everything I said or did was taken out of context. The straw that broke the camel's back was a complaint from a customer who started flirting with me while ordering a pizza. After she learned I was an ex-con through a second discourse, she freaked out. She called the store, the cops, and the main office. The responding officer didn't even write a report (or so he told me). He said the woman was a little off. I was suspended. I resolved to quit before Dominos' investigation ended.
Since I'd broken my wrist in June and had no health insurance (I still don't.) I was in major debt by this point. I had no way to fix that so I payed installments that I could afford. Not to mention the debts I'd made by borrowing money from friends.
I still worked as contractor, but a good portion of my pay was withheld because I borrowed from the property owner. The funny thing about all this is that I broke my wrist on his property. I was not working at the time though. Everyone I knew wanted me to sue him, but I wouldn't. I'm just not the type of person who can be disloyal unless I'm betrayed first.
From here things went rapidly downhill. I only managed to stay afloat all this time through the help of friends. My market agendas were progressing fairly well, but I was steadily falling deeper into personal debt. That was a pain.
There have been some good times too. I won the Saint Louis Poetry Slam Competition in September. Not long after that I did a Radio Show with Kevin Womble.
I expected my big break to come when I began planning the Holiday Art and Author Festival with the Collinsville Library. I invested a lot of my own money in the event. Most of it was borrowed. However, I learned at the last minute that I would not be allowed to promote myself alongside the event. This is bad because I attempted to work all this out when the venture was first put on the table, but the attempt was ignored. The fliers Domino's Pizza agreed to distribute weren't produced until the day before the event. To make matters worse, the books didn't get to me in time to sell them at the fair.
I came away from that even deeper in debt. The world feels different now that I'm finally climbing out of it.
It's been roughly two months since the festival. Since that time I have had no luck with finding a job locally. I have entered a contract with Resilience Multimedia as a National Sales Representative. I am thankful for that.The work is new to me, but I have gotten the attention of several government officials and state administrative officers. With them, I'm exploring avenues through which we can get our books into prisons. The Think Outside the Cell projects have produced books that will enable and encourage inmates to improve upon themselves and to be more productive after reentering society.
My prisoner advocacy efforts consists of this primarily. My efforts on the web have taught me many lessons about taking people at face value.
I'm scheduled to appear at a symposium in New York at the internationally recognized Riverside Church. I'm really excited about the chance to stand in the footprints of Dr. Martin Luther King. A professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice is making arrangements for me to give a lecture and have a book signing at her school while I'm on this trip.
None of this makes things better at home though. The relationship with the woman I came home to has been on and off a lot for various reasons. We still love each other, but it its time to admit that we have very little in common, and that I have needs that she isn't capable of meeting.
Which reminds me, my blogs on Romantic Monday are just as much fantasy as they are true. My readers expect great romantic so I give it to them on Monday above all else.
So here is the life of an ex-con a year out of prison. I've done a lot, but I can't say that I'm happy about where I am right now. In so many ways I'm still in prison. I'm just climbing out of debt. I'm behind schedule on the goals I set for myself. I'm still working on things that could have been accomplished last year--had other people held up to their end of deals that were made.
There is a bright side however. I am wiser. I'm just as determined as I have always been. I refuse to give up. I have to be an example of what an ex-con can be if they put their minds to it. Someone has to do it. This is why I am so open. If you don't know the whole story, you can't appreciate the struggle.
Things will be a whole lot better very soon. I'm so full of joy I've even been calling people I haven't talked to in months (the ones I still like anyway) to thank them for their support that helped me along the way. I want my oh so not clever adversaries to know that a few battles is not the whole war.
So this has been my first year home from prison. I could have made it better, but I didn't. I will do much better this year though.