Yesterday, on Thursday, July 9th at 7:00pm, I participated in a special program with a local radio and television station, WHUR, HUR-Voices, and WHUT-TV. We had a thought provoking conversation about how to combat youth violence. The panel discussion entitled, ‘Not One More’ provided me with an opportunity to share my personal experiences as a rebellious youth who committed some very serious violent crimes at the age of 19.
During my intro, when I gave my brief bio to justify my presence on the panel, the host asked me flat out, “What did you do?” I responded, “Murder…I committed murder.” It was as if I heard the words echo all throughout the station where I sat onstage alongside a woman whose nephew was recently stabbed to death and a young woman who was an aspiring police officer. Other panelists included police officers, professors and various criminal justice experts. There was also a student researcher studying the “School to Prison Pipeline.”
It never fails, every time I reveal the gory details of my past I feel naked and ashamed. Maybe that’s my remorse in its purest form. I struggle with whether or not I will ever come to grips with it.
I remember a quote I read from Malcolm X. He said that he was so open about his past because he finds that when he puts it all on the table nobody can dig it up and throw it in his face.
Every time I attempt to speak to the decisions I have made, how I transformed my life, and the work I am striving to do today, the person I was in the past and the choices I made in the past inevitably come up.
I need to get to a place where I am comfortable with admitting publicly what I have done to bring harm to others. I need to just put it all out there rather than beating around the bush. When I admit to serving 18 years in prison the lingering question is always, “What did you do?”
As a panelist, I wanted to just talk about the mindset of a young person who seemingly has no value for human life. I wanted to raise awareness about individuals who can be brutally violent even though deep inside they are really just hurting, possibly very afraid young people. Their lack of values, resources, and role models leave them blinded to their own opportunities to choose alternative means of survival. I think I conveyed some of that, but all I seem to remember is the host asking me, “What did you do?”
Was my response to the question and the gasp from the audience completely imagined?