We organized a Prison Entrepreneurship Training with #DefyVentures, Black tech founders, investors, social workers and entrepreneurs in Cali. They lined us up across from the inmates and told us to step forward if any of these applied to us:
1) Have you ever seen someone get killed
2) Have you suffered from abuse at home
3) Do any of your parents suffer from substance abuse
4) Has any family member been to jail
5) Have you ever witnessed or been in a fight
6) Have you ever went to bed hungry or cold
7) Does anyone in your family suffer from mental illness
After the 10th question, I realized I stepped forward on each one just like every one of the inmates did.
Would you have stepped forward? Those exposed to the environments we come from are more likely to go to jail for a variety of reasons. I acknowledge I was and still am ONE MISTAKE away from being locked up. I get nervous if I jaywalk. I get pulled over constantly and fear for my life. I choose to channel that energy into giving back.
It’s hard to go back into those environments because it triggers PTSD. Please take a look at these pictures and look into these men’s eyes. They were intellectually curious, and appreciated our presence and prayers that they get out and live free lives and build families. Let’s support them, and the millions of black men and women who had to “grow up fast” and didn’t experience a full, stable, happy and healthy childhood.
I see folks talking about all these emotionally under-developed men but don’t talk about the “why” behind it. How about having to work when you’re 14 just to eat. Having to fight to go to school. Having to hustle to survive. We should surround and nurture our folks who have been in the system or these upbringings. We didn’t choose to grow up that way. This police brutality goes beyond murders, it falsely arrests and targets folks who can’t afford bail for nonviolent crimes they did or didn’t commit. Let’s keep the pressure on them and support our people.