I lived in Walker Mill, Maryland and Dwayne lived in Suitland, Maryland when we shared that memorable night in 1996 together in a holding cell. We both went to Suitland High School, where the basketball team and Math club were our claims to fame. We were both a couple of really bright kids, and whenever given the opportunity we would prove it by lighting fire to some argument about girls, sports, or even the reason why working at the chop shop was probably smarter than selling drugs.
How did we end up getting sentenced to serve 8 and 9 years in adult prisons while we were teenagers? I get that question a lot. "What was the problem? How did you two end up there?"
I love those questions. Its amazing how the answer changes depending on whom I'm talking to. In one room I get a chance to talk about options.
You see, the problem was not that we did not have options; the problem is that the exposure to how real those options were were never the highlight of topic...in any environment. You really can't expect to do more when more hasn't been defined.
In other rooms I get a chance to talk about the lack of guidance when it came to addressing real life decisions. How many men that looked like they could be my father took the time to show me how to make good decisions. I mean, the guys who I wanted to prove my manliness to were probably not the best of role models.
Either way, its the forever changing answer and sometimes I look at the young people that I work with at New Beginnings or at Free Minds and I see the same tragedies. It hurts to look into some of these guys' eyes and see Dwayne and I all over again.
This is why our fight for better re-entry, keeping our families connected, better defense in the courtroom, and even to be better fathers is personal to us. We haven't made it. We haven't even put a dent in the amount of lives that we want to assist.
You see success. We see the journey getting brighter and brighter. Keep fighting my brother...