By Richard Wembe Johnson, San Quentin State Prison
It’s quite apparent that most of you have come to the conclusion that you have all the answers and have chosen a course that will either end with you in prison or in a cemetery.
Neither should ever be primary options, given that life can hold more for you than those two choices. The fact that I have spent the majority of life inside one institution or another, from Youth Authority to state and federal prison, I have a very clear perspective about what is truly important, rather than what was presumed to be meaningful at one time.
Now that I am older and called an O.G. (which has different meanings such as Old Gangster or Old Guard, Old Game, and, in some instances Old Geezer, and so forth), I know that no G tag will make me be.
The point is at one time I was considered to be a Young G, but the passage of time has transformed that reality. These labels tend to define us, both in and out of custody. We usually try to live up to these stereotypes or depictions, be what they are, with all their unproductive negativities.
For me it took life imprisonment to truly grasp how these acronyms curtail and hold back one’s full development. The essence of being that G is very costly, and more often than not it involves a very expensive price that most can’t comprehend until it is too late.
In prison, as in society, labels carry a stigma that places a spotlight on you that demands a role for you as an individual. Regardless of how connected you are to greater commitments, this labeling stigma doesn’t allow much flexibility for free thinking.
But rather one is reduced to a state of perfunctory acting and reacting like puppets, controlled by the dictates of labels.
You may think this is a new day. It is not – because there’s nothing new about violence, ignorance and irresponsibility. The only thing that has changed is the intense magnitude of it all.
At some point it is of vital importance for us all to outgrow the depiction and fiction of the G’s labeling and replace it with the personification of a wholesome manhood with no restriction: a manhood that defines you as a person with conviction, a human being, a man of substance, purpose and direction, not saddled with distractions.
My experiences have taught me that change is a product that can be freely obtained when it is desired. The hard part is seeing the need for it and then working to achieve it.
You’ve got to want it.
As for me, I remain a work in progress, in perpetual motion. And, as I write these thoughts on a daily basis, I am absorbed in constant introspection and reflections about what is right and pure.
For those who have read my columns, since I have been writing for the Post, you can observe how this experience has made me more aware and in touch with myself.
You also know that I am not a perfect person by any means. However, I’ve come to the distinct realization that it only takes an honest desire in order to make a change for the better.
So, whether you are an Old G or a Young G, the ultimate choice to be what you should be is yours, not someone else’s. No label should make you try to be what you shouldn’t be It will be you who will be paying the cost for that G tag now, or in the future, if there is to be one.
Take it from someone who knows. May you have a happy new year as we prepare to celebrate Black History Month.