By Min. Ron Linzie
As I read the enlightening weekly columns of Richard Johnson from Folsom Prison, I am encouraged and emboldened to also write sermonettes echoing his relevant themes during my own street ministry that helps promote non-violent behavior in our Bay Area communities.
I have been using Johnson’s articles alongside my biblical scriptures and I have found that his messages resonate with our youth.
While walking in West Oakland last week, I was amazed to see people reading the Post on street corners and park benches, discussing the contents in a positive way about stopping the violence that plagues us.
When Richard Johnson advised our community about the need to “Cease the Hostilities,” it caused a ripple effect where people were asking out loud about the “Black Lives Matter” movement and its meaning. They are also asking now, thanks to Johnson –who was known as the “Razor” on the streets, while I was also known as “Poison” – does the “Black Lives Matter” campaign, which sponsors marches against police and governments, also apply to marching in our community to call us out to stop killing one another?
They are daring to take Johnson’s and my advice because we have the accumulated street credibility of having been in and knowing “the game.”
Even though we are no longer a part of the “game,” we know “the game” and all its perils. Thus, we can speak from the position of having been there and done that; we also can speak truth to the powers that govern our communities. We know that it “takes game to recognize game,” which is why I constantly try to educate budding “gamesters” to do the right thing.
When I walked the streets for the city’s antiviolence outreach program, I found that our youth want to succeed and don’t want to fail. I found that they want jobs and education, even though some of them don’t expect to live to the ripe age of 30.
Johnson’s columns give them hope and point a pathway to success. I will continue to meet with clergy and ask churches and families to help raise the money so we can get subscriptions to send his columns and the Post to our imprisoned loved ones.
As I read Johnson’s letter, I am reminded how he, like Martin Luther King, Jr., has the courage to keep the faith and share his belief in God as a beacon light for all of us.