Archive for April, 2011

April 14, 2011

FAST TRACK — Kurt Tuffendsam on Mission Rise

Filmmaker KURT TUFFENDSAM talks to RED! about his organization, MISSION RISE, a filmmaking and media ministry founded by Kurt, which is in the process of producing documentaries that capture the work of missionaries around the world.  Kurt and his team are currently editing a 90-minute documentary on Pastor Esteban Mendoza and Agua Viva. Mendoza has been working with inmates in two Tijuana, Mexico prisons. Here is Part 1 of a three-part video with Kurt.

Kurt Tuffendsam on Mission Rise from REDwebzine on Vimeo.

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April 14, 2011

Mistakes 143 – a column by Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell

Peace.  (Hats off!)

I would like to thank professor Jeff Hillard, RED! webzine, the family of William Hillard, and others in the community of Cincinnati, Ohio for their support – and, oh yes, also the students in the Sports in Literature course at the College of Mount St. Joseph.

On the matter of reviving my spirit toward writing again: I am human and I had become content with writing for a time in which I focused on myself and my work on the project, “Do You Want to Learn How to Fly” (DYWTLHTF).

DYWTLHTF has been one of my main focal points. I know now that God has placed – not replaced – me, and shown me that there is nothing new under the sun (from Ecclesiastes). Plus, I’m working out on a basically religious cycle. I’m always waiting for them [a team] to sign me to a 10-day contract in the N.B.A. Rob Stone knows that I always keep it interesting.

But, my preparation now is on the near future and to perform something that has never been done before: to slam dunk a ball while jumping over a car in four different decades.

I first patterned this stylized Dunk in the late 1980s (1988), the 90s, 2000s – while being featured on the cover of my friend Bobbito Garcia’s magazine, BOUNCE.  My re-entry into society in 2011 will make it a fourth decade. Fader Magazine, Mr. Cohen, and Rob Stone – here I come, God willing, in 2011.  Do You Want to Learn How to Fly?

God willing, too, I will be in Cincinnati in several months, then after I complete my terms and condition of my parole I will make it my home for a few years.

I want to give the brothas around me their well-defined needs and my highly admiration for allowing me to stay physically fit. They give me a hard time for being so hard on them, with all the working out I do. “Nutcase” (Erin), Keon, Grubbs, Lil’ Joe, N-O, Lamont, L.B., Tips, and my bunkie – they all put up with my early  morning study and preparation.

Highly glorified is my Lord.  Oh, grandma! – I love you. Peace.

Watch out, Kiki: I’ll be home soon.  Smile.

April 13, 2011

Drawing #2 – HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RED! – by MELISSA VANOVER (a columnist for RED! and visual artist, Ms. Vanover is incarcerated at Ohio Reformatory for Women

April 10, 2011

EXPLORING INNOCENCE (Update 3) by Angela Derrick

Tonight my soul is full. I feel both full and light at the same time, and it all has to do with the conference and the stories and music I heard and the courage and strength of spirit I witnessed.

I’ve been walking through Illustrated Truth: Expressions of Wrongful Conviction, a collection of artwork, poems, letters, and narratives created by innocent people during the time they were imprisoned. This is such a powerful experience. The words seem to reach right into me and take hold of my heart. There is much to be learned from these men and women. They are a reflection of our broken justice system.

It is a triumph that they are free, but the reality is that many of the people responsible refuse to admit their mistakes. Their stories need to be recorded and told. The world needs to know what happens when the justice system breaks down, when an innocent person gets thrown in prison. Police officers and prosecutors and others that are a part of the system need to see the effects of their actions: to see how families get torn apart; see how children grow up without parents. They need to feel what they are doing.  Illustrated Truth bridges that disconnect. 

Illustrated Truth: Expressions of Wrongful Conviction is on display at the National Underground Railroad Center in Cincinnati, Ohio from April 7, 2011 through July 9, 2011. It is a must-see exhibition.

The culmination of the conference was a concert, Let Freedom Sing, which featured exonerated formerly incarcerated individuals who are also musicians.  Eight men took to the stage: Antione Day, Darby Tillis, Eddie Lowery, Michael Austin, Raymond Towler, Tommy Doswell, William Dillon, and Ronald Cotton.  And they rocked it out. (I want to know when the album is coming out.)

I can’t help but think what if there wasn’t an Innocence Project? What if someone didn’t listen when these inmates said, “I’m innocent; I didn’t do this terrible thing they said I did?” What if? Then the world would have been robbed of these incredibly talented men. We wouldn’t know that the system was broken.  Right now there are innocent people locked up. Will you listen? 

RED! the breathrough ‘zine columnist, Angela Derrick, has been covering the major exhibition, “Illustrated Truth: Expressions of Wrongful Conviction,” currently at The Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

April 9, 2011

EXPLORING INNOCENCE (Update 2) by Angela Derrick

I can only imagine what it is like to sit locked away in a cell waiting for someone to own up. Many are still waiting. Some have been freed and still they wait for someone to own the miscarriage of justice.

Here, Cincinnati, Ohio, at the 2011 Innocence Network Conference: An International Exploration of Wrongful Conviction, I was privileged and honored to witness a beautiful, awesome sight: 102 exonerees standing together, the largest gathering ever. It was a vision of inspiration, a triumph of the human spirit.

The Innocence Network is an international network that is made up of 65 individual Innocence Projects in the United States and around the world. At the conference this weekend are guests, representatives, presenters from 20 countries.

Approximately 500 people from a range of countries across the world have attended this major conference.

_________________

RED! columnist Angela Derrick is reporting from the 2011 Innocence Network Conference this weekend, April 7 – April 10.

April 8, 2011

EXPLORING INNOCENCE by Angela Derrick

Tonight, my first dispatch forRED!, as I attend a local criminal justice conference, regards the issue I call “Exploring Innocence.” I sat in the audience of a viewing of Presumed Guilty a disturbing documentary about Mexico’s inept and downright strange judicial system.

Most defendants never see a judge; whatever is written into to the record is accepted as the facts and cannot be questioned and defense attorneys aren’t allowed to introduce new questions. It’s the proverbial “catch-22” with innocent people caught in the crosshairs.

Presumed Guilty chronicles the fight to free Antonio (Tono) Zuniga, a 26-year old street vendor who was pulled into a police vehicle and arrested for murder despite the fact that he had a solid alibi with numerous witnesses to back him up. There was nothing connecting him to the crime, and he didn’t even know the victim.

With a twenty-year sentence looking probable, Layda Negrete and Roberto Hernandez, two young married attorneys, began filming both the proceedings in court and even in the prison. The best part of the viewing was afterwards when we were treated to a Q-and-A session with film participants who answered many questions about the parallels between the Mexican and American justice systems, the film, and innocence. 

Yes, Antonio Zuniga was ultimately freed!  

Tonight was the kick off of the 2011 Innocence Network Conference: An International Exploration of Wrongful Conviction. Many of the leading experts in the Innocence Movement from around the globe and more than 80 exonerees have gathered here in Cincinnati this weekend. I am excited to be attending the conference and will be sharing more.

 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:  RED! columnist Angela Derrick is on assignment for the webzine, sending dispatches from the 2011 Innocence Network Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Her regular column is called “Looking Outward”. 

April 6, 2011

Drawing by MELISSA VANOVER (Ms. Vanover, a columnist for RED! and accomplished artist, is incarcerated at Ohio Reformatory for Women.)

RED! Columnist, Melissa Vanover, is also a visual artist. Her drawing, "With Sympathy," was done in recognition of the death on January 12, 2011, of William C. Hillard, father of RED! editor and publisher, Jeffrey Hillard. Melissa Vanover writes the column, "My Time".

April 6, 2011

Voice of the Nations – A Column by Karyn Alexander

Love and Reckless living: What do they have in common? My Voice of the Nations column addresses this today.

Remember the parable of the prodigal son? He had a good home, good family, impending inheritance, and a future with his father’s business.

He apparently didn’t think it was such a great life, so he demanded that his father give him his full inheritance before his death. Just one day he demanded the money; it seems bold on the son’s part, but the father agreed. He gave him all he desired.

The young man in the story took the money and began to live a degraded life. He spent all his inherited money and lived without standards until he found himself eating with pigs.

At this juncture, the story tells of how the low and reckless living caused him to come back to his right mind. He ran back home to his father in great humility and embarrassment. He asked for forgiveness and received it. The father, in fact, came running out to meet him. The father loved his son so much he was willing to forgive all that had been done.

What did the prodigal do to become reinstated to the father? Just come home and say he was sorry? That seems unlikely. Why in the world did the son make such crazy life choices that led to his estrangement from all he knew? Why would the father forgive him?

We can guess that the son thought there was a better way to live and he was going to find it; of course, with someone else’s money. Live it up…whoopee, life’s a party! He was a prodigal.

It must have caused incredible embarrassment to the father, as I am sure it was rumored all through the town that the son had gone berserk. It caused estrangement between his siblings and even provoked anger and jealousy throughout the family.

Why would a father welcome home, with love, a son like this? The answer is contained in one word: Agape. “Agape” is a Greek word meaning unconditional love. A translation can be: “No matter the condition of the person, I love them.”

It is a different kind of love than you and I know. It is a love without boundaries, even in a situation where a son can live his life recklessly, hurting others, without regard to the father’s rules; A love that accepts a person just for the sake of love.

I had a friend who recently died. He, too, was a prodigal. He initially led an upstanding life, until one day he decided to just throw it all away and live recklessly too.

Why?

I don’t know.

Any of us can choose this at anytime, I guess that is why the prodigal story is an important one. The man in the story came from a wealthy family, one with a business, pride, and the father was an upstanding member of the community. Like the story, my friend came from such a family.

He was married, had fine children, owned his own business, and lived a good life. I think that the syndrome, “the grass is always greener on the other side,” hit him, too.

He began his descent with a slow decline in his relationship with friends and family. Then he simply ran away like the prodigal in the story. He slid into a false belief of, “There are no real life standards.”

As we well know, the universe has its standards. We will all leave this planet at one time or another; so, finding peace with our maker is important. The “Maker” establishes the standards. He is the father in our own life story, and his rules are the law of the land.

In my friend’s life, the reckless living began as he walked away from everything he knew. He walked away from his wife, responsibility, home, kids, and God. He too demanded to use the money given him in life for himself and his pleasures only.

It seemed as though a bit of insanity ran through him as he sought to find a better, more “fun” life somewhere else. He spent all his inheritance on frivolous living. Party on! Just like the young man in the story above, he lived low, thinking it was high, degrading himself, and then out of despair took his own life. Unlike the prodigal, he couldn’t humble himself to his family, so ended “the party,” alone.

What kind of person does this? A prodigal, of course.

You are probably wondering, did my friend, the modern day prodigal, meet the Father? Did the father run to him, too?
I would suppose and hope so. God does judge our actions, and allows the natural consequences of a low life, which could mean self-ruin and despair.  But, in the end, He knows our hearts and rules from there.

My friend left a note saying he was sorry to those he hurt, and he asked for forgiveness, but apparently could not say it in person. He confessed it all to God.

Just like the prodigal in the story, the repentance of the offense was given. Forgiveness and Mercy applied.

It seemed a shame for both men. They each wasted their lives, searching for something they had all along.

The prodigal in the story came back home, realizing that he had a much better life to begin with than what he wasted his money on. In the end, my friend felt the same way, too.

I believe that two things were missing from both men’s lives; perspective and gratefulness. If they had looked around with gratefulness, thanking God for His unconditional love, they could have seen their world in a different way. In doing so, they could have saved themselves and their families a lot of heartache. Instead of running away, they could have been thankful for what they were given. They could have realized before their unnecessary escapades that, “There is no place like home.”

Love and reckless living.

Well, to answer the original question, “What do they have in common?”  Love…God loves us and wants us to live a life of sanity and decency, making moral choices. He wants us to be humble, careful in our decisions and live within his law.

He loves us so much that He will allow consequences for our reckless living, but Loves us enough to bring  us home or at least meet us as we arrive in our regret.

Are you a prodigal? If so, be wise-be grateful- Come home!

Karyn Alexander

Executive Director, Winfield House (Winfieldhouse.org)

KarynBAlexander@aol.com

 Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, giving hope to God’s people.

Voice of the Nations: Rev.5:9 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, people, language and nation.”

April 5, 2011

Mistakes 143 – a Column by Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell

My “Mistakes 143” column on this occasion takes us to another day at the University of Higher Education and lower learning.  It is the “Other University”.

Imagine this: it seems as though when most things change, most things stay the same. Recently, it was very, very interesting – a lot of excitement in this incarceration facility. The “Camp” corrections officers (C-O’s) found contraband and, so, now guess what?  Sixty-five to 70% of the Camp is drinking as much water as they can.

 Those around me heard of this finding, and they heard that there is a strong possibility that the “whole” camp will be drug-tested; they are dirty. Weed (mostly).

Someone copped to the incident. Gang members usually cop to theirs.

Change – the individual placed so many others in danger. First of all, he placed himself in danger, and then the family of the individual that made the so-called drop.

Maybe I am only one of the only individuals that does not smoke anything – myself and a few others are clear of this debacle. My Bunkie is forced not to; he has two (positive) tests. One more (positive) and he is back to the yard with about four months or so added to his sentence and Camp program discontinued. He is not the only one here that has lost time or is living on the edge.

Fire Camp, as we call this facility, is maybe one of the only facilities that is “free”; that is, it is out in an open space, where inmates have total access to the free world. And in which all races, gangs, and ignorant activities exist. It is different from behind the walls. The other night I saw something I thought was special: N. and S. sharing virtuals together. I said, “Look at that. They are intermingling.” Behind the walls they would run a piece of metal, etc. so far up each other it would take a day for them to take it out (they would attempt to kill each other for something small).

Now, the “day after the storm.” This is late February. Officials tested the whole camp on the related issue of contraband I indicated above. Inmates began to harm themselves by drinking bleach and an enormous amount of water.

It was only about 10 to 20 inmates out of 122 inmates that willingly went up there to test and had complete confidence in a positive test. A nice ratio. Even those that have been tested negative over the last two to three months were in question of their test. An ugly sight: the fact that they have already lost time, and especially knowing they are under mandatory testing. Sad thing.

God has blessed me to stay out of the way and allowed my peers to have the floor at this time. As I say, I am just passing through and I do not want any problems.

I am patiently waiting to be inserted back into the game (hoop slogan) by God, so that I can have The Last Laugh. Oh! God allowed Blake Griffin of the N.B.A.’s Los Angeles Clippers to perform a dunk in the All-Star Slam Dunk Contest that, in fact, I “patented” over 20 years ago. Put me in, coach. I am ready!

I pray that my words are able to reach my column in RED! the breakthrough ‘zine because they are the gatekeepers that I have to pass. I know who is running the show. I am about hope and health.

And, by the way, I still have not seen the Blake Griffin contest-winning dunk. And, too, after the testing, my peers are back in business with the garbage. Half of the camp is on the edge of their seats. Hmmm. Another day at the university.

         –Peace–

I thought I closed this message, but in life as I have learned, when the storm comes, it continues. The C-O’s are earning their keep, as today they found more stuff. It’s a pernicious cycle, but I know that God is working in my life.

RED! the breakthrough ‘zine columnist, Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell, is considered by a number of National Basketball Association (N.B.A.) players, All-stars, and peers as one of the greatest players never to make the N.B.A.  A native of Oakland, California, Hook Mitchell, is currently completing a prison sentence in northern California.  While active in the Bay Area as a mentor, coach, youth advocate, and physical fitness trainer, and former legendary streetball player, Mr. Mitchell is featured in the award-winning documentary film, Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius Hook Mitchell.  He is one of RED!‘s most loyal writers and a model of inspiration for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals to observe.

April 4, 2011

FROM DELINQUENT TO DISCIPLE: Essay by Regina Newman on a Memoir by James Robinson, Sr.

Author James L. Robinson, Sr. realized later in life that the ordeals he encountered as a young man were part of God’s greater plan for him. His memoir, From Delinquent to Disciple, startles the reader in the way it depicts a once-devastated individual who was spared and eventually empowered to do great things.

James uses a variety of references from the Bible in his vivid true story. Throughout the memoir he quotes verses that relate to his life experiences and the many challenges he faced. 

One of the first references James uses is in his Introduction. It is from the book of Romans. He pinpoints chapter 8, verse 28, which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and to those who are called according to his purpose.” James explains that he did not always understand the Bible until he looked deeper at what happened to him during the course of his life. 

James’ next biblical reference is from Philippians 4:19 which states, “God will provide you with everything according to His riches and glories in Jesus Christ.” As poor as James was when he was young, he tells the reader that there was never a time he did not have food and shelter and that God always provided for him and his family.  The reader starts to see that James has a strong belief in God, despite the many misfortunes he and his family endure.

Another reference he used in From Delinquent to Disciple comes from Exodus 20:3 which says, “Thou shall not steal.” James describes how he learned this lesson as a young child, but that negative peer pressure influenced him to break this commandment. He relates that one should never allow peer pressure to compel one to do things that go against God’s word. James describes how his friend Carlton influenced him to steal. Even though James was taught by his mother and grandmother that you were not supposed to take things that didn’t belong to you, he fell to the peer pressure and stole things anyway. From boxes of pastry off of a shipping dock to cartons of BBs at a salvage store, James let Carlton influence him in a negative way.  James almost went to juvenile detention after an officer traced him to the stolen BBs, but, as James describes, God was always watching out for him and he was let go.

James started drinking as a teenager.  He quotes Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the spirit.” James describes the many times he drank as a teenager and how he knew he was breaking the law, but did it anyway. He believes that “drinking comes with responsibility and responsibility comes with age.”

Many chapters of From Delinquent to Disciple are about James’ seventeen-year addiction to drugs and alcohol. All the while he is doing the things he knows are wrong, he describes how amazed he is that he came away almost unscathed by everything he did. He continues to credit God for always taking care of him and alludes to his belief that God always had a greater purpose for him.

Next, James quotes the first book of Timothy 6:10 which says, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” In this chapter, James depicts his experience with dealing drugs. He describes how hustling allowed him to pay all of his bills, buy new things, support his drug habits, and still have money left over, even though he knew all along how bad it was.

In chapter 13, James refers to Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Here, James describes how God always kept his best interests at heart no matter what he was doing. He conveys to the reader how he was able to overcome his long addiction to drugs and alcohol. The birth of his second child inspired him to quit drugs and alcohol. He began to turn his life around. He was given the opportunity to teach Sunday school and help some area teens with similar addiction problems. This confirmed James’ belief that God had a greater plan for him. He was able to stay off of drugs and alcohol and begin helping others turn their lives around. 

James’ reference to the 23rd Psalm is very appropriate at one of the darkest times in his life: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me….” This famous verse helps put in perspective how James was able to finally quit his job at Siemens, which he had wanted to do for some time. He secured a long-awaited job at Ford Motor Company, which laid the groundwork for what would become one of James’ greatest moments in his life. As the story comes to a pinnacle and then a closing, James patiently depicts how he helped initiated a successful class-action law suit against Ford Motor Company for racial discrimination, a grueling experience which James feels was one of the greater purposes God had planned for him.

In From Delinquent to Disciple, James L. Robinson, Sr. uses many different verses to tell his life story. Through scripture, James is able to show the reader his deep relationship with God and how, despite many perils throughout his life, God was always with him.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Here is a video interview with author, mentor, and youth advocate, James Robinson, conducted by   RED! in 2010.

Regina Newman has been an operating room nurse for 20 years. She works at Mercy Hospital – Western Hills (Cincinnati, Ohio) and is a student at the College of Mount St. Joseph, working toward a BSN degree. Married with four children, Ms. Newman also serves as president of the Southwest Community Basketball Organization in Harrison, Ohio.