Books Ignited a Flame in Me

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[Education] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 63]
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Books Ignited a Flame in Me

While growing up in Newark, New Jersey, I always heard of the stories about the riots, the grassroot movements, and life in the aftermath of the 1960s and 70s. However, I was a young kid who only cared about getting high, gang banging, and wanting to be recognized as being big and bad. Well I got recognized alright, but for the wrong reasons. In 1999, at the age of 20 years old, I was convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

In the first few years in prison I was still acting a fool, still trying to be recognized as big and bad. But it wasn't til 2005 when that revolutionary spark first ignited in my mind. It all started when I went to solitary confinement for a fight I was involved with. While in solitary confinement I didn't have nothing to read or anything to keep my mind occupied. So I spent hours at a time just standing at the door yelling and cursing out the pigs as they went by for their counts. Anyway, I guess my next door neighbor got tired of listening to me yelling, so he knocked on my wall and ask if I needed a book to read. So I said, "yeah, sure why not." He passed me a book called Assata by Assata Shakur. Before this I never knew who she was or even read the book, but being that I had nothing better to do while in solitary I read it.

While reading the book, flipping through page after page, Assata's story spoke to me. I felt and recognized her struggle. Within two days I finished the book and now it was me knocking on my neighbor's wall, wanting more to read. My neighbor was an older brother, and throughout the year I spend in solitary he kept feeding me books such as Blood in My Eye, Soul on Ice, and other great books. My neighbor was a firm believer in the ideology of the Black Liberation Army and the Black Panthers. Being a Latino myself, he also taught me about people and groups such as Che Guevara and the Young Lords Party. Now, instead of yelling on the gate for hours on end, my neighbor and I would spend hours talking to each other, building and helping me become more conscious of myself. He helped me realize that me wanting to be known as big and bad was just that egotistical force for recognition, which will one day lead me into a brick wall.

After my sanction in solitary confinement was complete, I continued my studies while on mainline. I read up on people such as Mahatma Gandhi, Mao Tse-tung, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Marx and many others. Gang banging wasn't even on my radar. That one spark became a single flame, changing the way I think, the way I talk, and the way I conducted myself. Throughout the years since then, that flame is now a hungry fire inside of me, like the heat of earth on fire. My sole mission is to help educate those oppressed about their political and social conditions that we live under! Because as my neighbor taught me so long ago, "Each one teaches one!" Power to the people!

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