By Troy Williams
After reading articles written by Richard Johnson (in the Post newspaper), watching the impact of violence on communities across America, the release of hundreds of formerly incarcerated men, and having several online conversations using social media sites like Facebook – I can’t help but wonder if America is hearing the message resonating from within the walls of prison.If you listen close enough, you will hear the affirmation of thousands of modern day slaves bellowing from throughout the new plantation.
With a voice of transformation they are chanting, “Forgive us? We have awoken and are returning to reclaim the dignity we once allowed to be taken. It’s time for change.”
Using examples from his life, Mr. Johnson has advised youth to avoid prison, community to return to family roots, the world to learn from media hypocrisy and Donald Trump and to study the history of Mexicans in what is now called America.
As reported by The Post News Group, “The prison letters from Richard Johnson’s Soledad Prison cell are being reprinted, posted on Facebook and even cited in some sermons throughout the Bay Area.”
It is very important that we as a community capitalize on this positive influence coming out of prison from men like Richard Johnson. Let’s us use his voice, pay attention to his influence and even his alleged ties to the Black Guerilla Family (BGF), to achieve positive change in our community.
On one hand many youth are not listening to their parents, and they do not trust the police for advice. But the moment I, or any other formerly incarcerated man, walk into juvenile hall or speak to youth on the street, there is an instant connection.
The credibility of someone who has been-there-and-done-that spreads far and wide. We are living signpost that read, “Wrong way! Do not enter. Return to you roots!”
On the other hand many Americans are shouting for the end of mass incarceration. Yet, I believe some are still missing an important ingredient in that solution.
We march in the streets and turn to books written by authors who have never spent a day inside the prison system, yet we consider them experts on the issue. We value them for the books they have read, research they have conducted, and data they have compiled – perhaps rightfully so.
Yet many of us still overlook the direct experience of those who have spent decades living inside the prison industrial complex.
How would you feel listening to someone who has read a lot of books about America, never actually lived here, but believes their research supersedes your direct experience of America?
And instead of attempting to learn from your perspective, they insist they know better because they read about it in a book.
This has been the gist of a few of my social media conversations. This is why I am urging readers to value the experiences of others, ask questions, and attempt to understand the prison system from an inside perspective.
If we truly want to end mass incarceration, we have to eliminate the mindset that believes mass incarceration is a solution for crime as well as the mindset that believes crime is a solution.
In order for this to happen, all stakeholders must be seated at the table.