Posts tagged ‘positive life choices’

December 11, 2013

Maurice Clarett: ESPN Interview

This excellent interview with former football star for The Ohio State University, Maurice Clarett, aired on ESPN radio’s SVP & Russillo Show on Wednesday, December 11, 2013.

Here’s the link to the program: SVP & Russillo.

It was heartening to hear Clarett describe the positive life changes he has adopted since his prison sentence ended not long ago. Talk about transformation and healthy life-choices made in recent years: the former thug and potential N.F.L. star spelled out the positive changes he’s embraced that can be traced back to the sequence of infractions and crimes that culminated in his prison sentence.

During his football heyday at O.S.U., Clarett was involved in multiple questionable life-choices, which endangered not only the lives of others around him but his own life.

Clarett very capably describes the moments when the fortress of collegiate stardom came tumbling down. This is a must-listen-to segment. Cudos to Scott Van Pelt and Ryan Russillo for inviting Clarett into the ESPN studio.

Clarett is featured in the upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 series documentary, “Youngstown Boys.”  The documentary airs Saturday, December 14.

 

July 20, 2013

MY TIME – Column by Melissa Vanover

 

Before my incarceration, I was not very educated. I dropped out of school in the eighth grade to give birth to my daughter. After that, my life eventually spiraled out of control and into a life of organized crime: fast cars and even faster men.

All I had wanted was a better life for my children than I had at that time. I seemed to make all the wrong choices. I put myself and my children in dangerous situations. I simply wasn’t thinking! I was too caught up in the “good life,” the life of the world. That world ended up being not so good afterall. It was a lifestyle that led me to prison to serve a sentence of 25-years to life.

Since my incarceration, I have grown up a lot in these past 15 years. I finally earned my G.E.D. and completed several group programs to help better understand myself; these programs included topics and experiences covering “Who am I,” depression, self-discipline, victim’s awareness, eating disorders, “Cage of Rage,” and “Thinking for a Change.”

I have also increased my occupational skills. Although not licensed, I have become quite the “handywoman.” I have done plumbing and general maintenance, such as building things and repairing just about anything, painting, and laying tile. I can drive a forklift and I can weld.

For the past year and a half, I’ve had on-the-job training as an electrician, which is something I absolutely love. My crew saved the state of Ohio thousands of dollars by taking on the project of wiring and putting up security cameras in all the housing units. It has been great experiences to have under my belt.

I can also operate a ‘scissor lift’ and I have had the exhausting opportunity of using a jack hammer when tearing up and replacing a concrete step. Doing all this hard work has humbled me.

I attended church at home years ago. But I was never serious about it. Again, as I’ve written before, I had my spiritual breakthrough in 2001. Now, I’m serious about my salvation, and I know I’m not perfect and I do fall short sometimes. I fight it, but God knows I’m worth it. And I’m so thankful that He will never give up on me. I just need to learn to be more like Him and less like “myself,” and that I should never give up on Him.

May 27, 2011

The Language of Gardens – by Karyn B. Alexander

“Be a fruitful garden” is the claim I want to make this week in my column, Voices of the Nation.

What you plant will surely grow. In fact, I might be a very fruitful garden.

The old saying, “What you sow you will reap,” is a definite truth.

The spring rains are finally here and I am considering what to grow on my farm and in my garden. I ordered scores of trees to screen the strong winds from my house. I want to plant fruit and nut trees along the drive as well.

I started a small vineyard last year, and will continue to add to it. I love the idea of being self-sufficient, not depending on society to provide for my family. I am gainfully embracing the thought of becoming a real farmer-gardener this year.

Last year’s attempt to farm was pretty funny. My land is mostly forest, with a portion of fields of hay not prepared for crops. I had a farmer friend plow a small area for a vineyard last year. I bought and mixed just the right fertilizer to ready the land for my vines. I asked the county environmental worker to come and take a soil sample to make sure I added all the right fertilizers in just the right order.

We spent the better part of a day, hauling rocks from the site and watching the farmer till the land. He had to go over it several times to break up the packed and unused dirt. It was very exciting and I took a lot of pictures of him on his tractor, of my dogs jumping into the freshly plowed dirt, and of myself wearing my straw hat.

As the tractor left, I was on my own to plant and care for the vineyard. I don’t know if I had been that excited in a long time. I put each plant in with care, watering and patting them into place.

After finishing, I took a shower, made a country dinner, and felt as though I ruled the world. I even shared a glass of champagne with my daughter that night. It was a true celebration.

Over the next few mornings, I was surprised that even though I watered and tended my vineyard, birds, animals and even insects had arrived to ruin my utopia.

What was I to do? Each morning, I woke up to plants missing, some uprooted, and even lifeless wilted sticks that had not rooted.

Earlier, I said it was “funny,” but not really; it was just an unexpected failure. I had tried so hard. The summer brought such a drought that I finally pulled all my vines and put the survivors in pots. They are now in my hallway awaiting another go-of-it for this spring.

As I thought about my failed attempt at farming, I likened the process of plowing, planting, tending and failure, to some of our patterns of communication.

Being an observer of relationships, I find that reaping and sowing is surely not just for gardens.

I know we all try our best to provide fertile ground for words we convey, but sometimes the birds of anger or resentment fill our sentences. We sometimes plant ideas or suggestions with others, either tending or not tending to our tone, cadence, and volume. We often allow weeds to come and choke the healthy meaning out of our words, and we do not nurture or even notice the environment that we provide for the most precious plants we own: our loved ones.

This spring I am going to try harder with my garden. My vegetables and fruits will be guarded from pests and insects, while my words and actions will be nurturing and fertile.

I will work hard to provide a healthy environment for much fruit to grow, both real and relational.

What is that nursery rhyme?

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?”  I say, “With tender loving care.” This year I will bear much fruit.

Be a fruitful garden!

 _________________________________________

Karyn Alexander

Executive Director, Winfield House

KarynBAlexander@aol.com

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

Voice of the Nations, Rev.5:19, “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, language, and nation.”

May 26, 2011

Here I Come, World – by Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell

Editor’s Note: This is one of the last columns that RED! writer, Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell (#30-AT), wrote from an incarceration facility in Lewiston, California.  He was released on May 16, 2011. We are happy to publish it. His column from that facility – “Meeting of the Minds” – is forthcoming in RED!

                                                                                           _____________________

This has been a pleasure! Here I come, world. All my time on this jolt has been spent on  making amends with myself first, then I have been seeking God’s help, protection, mercy, grace, and love.

I had to be selfish on this one, because I have a certain feeling about my being incarcerated this time. All  praises to God! God is blessing me with the understanding of who I am and the minute elements of life I face. Amen.

God! There is no god but Him, the living, the self-subsisting, supporter of all. No slumber can seize Him, or sleep. His presence occupies all things in the heavens and on earth. “Who is thee that can intercede in his presence except as He permiteth? He knoweth what, before or after or behind them. Nor shall they encompass aught of His knowledge except as he willeth. His throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them, for He is the most high, the supreme (in glory).”

This particular column – “What a ‘Changed Me’ can provide for my family and society” – is a very intricate column for me, as I close out my ‘Mistakes 143’ entries. God-willing I will be back to provide for my family and society, and it’s a ‘very changed me’. I can’t write about how I feel, because this meticulous and precise point in my life has to be operated with my bodily functions and activities – Show and Prove!

But, I have others around me that have a few words or two that they would like to share with the world.

I wanted to leave these beautiful brothas that I have been blessed to be around at this present stage to do something about our retribution and debt to society. Give back by the smallest and most precious act that man has to offer, kind words from one’s hurt. (Even though a few articles ago I wrote about our vices, does one bad or good act truly define the true person God has bestowed in us?)

I’ve been studying the word “trust” and we must not only speak the truth as far as we know it, but we must always try to hit the right point. We must not speak unpersonably, and when we do speak, we must not beat around the bush, but go straight to that point which is right both in deed and in word. Then God will make our conduct right and cure any defects that there may be in our knowledge and character. Mistakes 143. With our endeavor directed straight to the goal, we shall be forgiven our errors, shortcomings, faults, and sins of the past. (I am growing, world.)

I pray that this will allow us to understand that God is with us (He has our backs) in difficult times. Even our times of difficulties are accompanied by a promise that “change” can come and be accompanied by God’s presence. God has shown me both sides of the life behind bars, the beauties of the street, and the effect of helping society in my coming out of prison at the time of my last sentence; but, I “dropped the ball” and now I’m praying to be back in the game – coach (God).

This issue will show that prison has compassion and is not all bad; we have just made poor decisions. Hope, yes. Hope is always at the end of the tunnels.

Firefighters say, “Look up and live!”

I’m seeking retribution from God and society because I truly believe I can and will make a big difference in the world.

But, I’ll say this – and others may oppose my opinion: Please don’t challenge my opinion. For certain, I appreciate CDC and Cal-Fire for this experience, fee, skill-buidling, and education. These are some of the things that can’t be taken from us, after we acquire them.

Case in point: on 4-15-11 my Fire Crew was called to an incident on (California) Highway 299: the rescue of a young man who lost control of his car and crashed his car following his father. I was one of six on my Fire Crew to be on the lift crew (rescue and relief). And earlier in the month, my Fire Crew went to an out-of-control fire in which one of the fire crews – 3 members – from Trinity Fire Camp was located. This was another incident.

Currently, all fire crews are in training for the fire season, in which all prison firefighters in the region showcase their training skills in front of big-wigs. This firefighting is serious business. My crew (Crew 4) has one up on a lot of the crews, as the past month or so we have been working with our fire-packs on, and we are blessed to be working for the Fire Captain (Mike Wurth); he has done an excellent job training us. He involves himself with the crew and works just as hard as we do, which allows us to have a different form of respect for him. He is not like other fire captains, or as my peers call them, “slave-drivers.”

I appreciate the hard work, as I can use my philosophy of how one can serve time, and work it to death. (I see the Big Picture; I respect all the captains here because this is their life, and I have learned a lot from all of them. I thank them for the lessons learned.)

Captain Wurth has had our crew hike, cut fire-lines, and work on the grade with our 30-pound packs every day for five or six hours a day. Excellent training for me. We are “Grade 1” firefighters, the ones that are called to cut a line around a fire for $1.00-per-hour. It’s not about the money for me; it’s about the retribution.  Look up and live!

Oh! I am in training for life, and my next stage of life is, “Do You Want to Learn How to Fly?”

It’s a PROCESS. 

(Our) Crew 444 (Catching, Nutcase, Billy Birdsong, Dutch, Rudy (“Lunch Box”), Hank, H-O #30AT, Smileone, my bunkie Adam, O.G., Chase (“youngster”), Revis, The Youngster (Sal), and my man (Trev, Roy Young, Jr.) from the Bigga the Bigga De Ol 94 in the eastside of Oakland. I call Trev “the madman, mastermind.”

These brothas have helped me build tons of interpersonal skills and CHARACTER. I want to tell them that C-Bug (the boss of all bosses) would be proud of me, as I have an Oscar on the one – role-playing.

I thank God for allowing me to understand that brothas here may want to write something, but can’t; the want to, but can’t deal with a black man (peer pressure and ignorant to life and its existence. Gangism, racism, and fear to stand up for the truth which they just can’t see right now. But, I respect all of them, their practices, their mentality, and their understanding. Amen.)

Life is great, and I want to shoot this one for my Dream Team: Nutcase (Erin Catching), N-O, Tips, and Keon (I look up to Keon) for helping me. I work each of them out, but I am reaping the rewards; by the grace of God I will be performing the Leap of Faith – Four Decades (leaping over cars to dunk a basketball).  Do You Want to Learn to Fly book will be out upon some negotiation with apparell companies for my theory. Only if Mike Skolnick and my family at Fader could be a part of this one….

Here I come, world. 

_______________________

RED! writer, Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell is now living in Oakland, California.

Mr. Mitchell gathered and helped edit a series of writings by inmates at the facility in Lewiston, California, which RED! is currently publishing. The series is titled, “What a ‘Changed Me’ Can Provide for My Family and Society.”

May 25, 2011

Viewpoint by Calvin E. Nunley III

Prayer, faith, works – Freedom, Plan, Action.

These words that I have written are in two separate sequences. While either set of words may be viewed as having little to any relationship, they may also be bound to one another to work in conjunction for a great cause and to great effect.

Society has been long overdue for a make-over. As such, in a contribution to a cause, I am more than ready and willing to give great efforts. Not only will my effort be given to changing my previous courses of action, but I have begun to take some inventory or necessary changes to my community – changes in the direction of values.

By first monitoring and evaluating my own children’s and relatives’ level of awareness with input and feedback, I could then lead more children and young adults in a more positive direction.

I am more than certain that prayer, faith, and works will be very essential to freedom, plans, and action.

Calvin E. Nunley III is incarcerated in Lewiston, California.

Mr. Nunley’s short essay is a part of RED!’s “Action Words” section, which consists of writing and art by incarcerated individuals internationally.

May 25, 2011

How Can a Changed ‘Me’ Help My Family and Society? – by David Jennings, Jr.

I’ve been incarcerated 36 months and I have a month-and-a-half remaining. During the onset of this term, I realized that, with this being my first time in prison, a door had been opened up for a return into this system multiple times, or a permanent residence in this system.

I was 26-years old at that time and I knew from Day One that this wasn’t something I wanted to make a lifestyle out of: prison. I’m the father of three boys, ages 3, 4, and 5, the youngest of whom I haven’t even had the chance to hold in my arms – because of the error in my thinking – in order to tell him that he has a father who loves him. He was born while I was fighting my case.

I have two uncles who went through the system before me. I wondered if I was in the same cell or walking the same yard they had experienced. It hit me that one or all of my sons could wonder the same thing about me when they grow to be the age one reaches when one could be put behind bars; if they would be in the same cell in which I had been; or walking the same yard I walked; or might have any of the experiences I’ve had while going through the system. I thought about those things, and I didn’t want that for them. I knew I had to change my thinking.

When I lost my freedom, the mother of my children promised me that she would wait for me. That lasted about a year. We wrote back and forth, speaking about how much we loved each other, how much we missed each other, and what we were going to do for each other when we were reunited. Then came a period of unanswered silence. I would write her, begging her to write back – but, no answer, which lead me to curse her out in letters. And still no answer. I didn’t want to accept that she moved on. Well, I got a letter in which she told me that she, in fact, had moved on.

I felt victimized. How could she lie to me? How could she do me the way she was doing me? Then I realized that I had done it to myself. I used to be real selfish on the streets. And I was continuing my selfish thinking in prison. I acknowledged that negative thinking, and I have taken responsibility for my actions. I got myself locked up. I’ve taken myself away from my family. Through my selfish actions, I caused her to need someone to be there with her to take care of her needs, as well as the needs of my children. This is in no way, shape, or form meant to be a sob story. But, to be honest, this is an example of the error in my thinking.

My point is that my personal experiences have taught me so much. Accepting the responsibility of my actions has truly been an eye-opening experience. The consequences of one’s actions run deeper than what appears on the surface. When I saw how much I was responsible for, I realized that I was changing, because I made the choice to discontinue pointing the finger elsewhere. No longer thinking selfishly as a child does, I’ve grown into a man. Now, as a man, I pray to God for my family to be restored. I pray that I can be the leader my sons and their mother need. I pray to continue growing. I pray for success.

I’ve put my faith in God and He’s the one who has changed my thinking. All I did was listen to what he’s been saying to me through my experiences. I have faith that He’s going to restore my family. If it happens, then there is nothing He can’t do. All of the people around me will hear of what He’s done for me. For I will always proclaim His goodness toward someone who didn’t deserve it: me.  Amen.

David Jennings, Jr. is incarcerated in Lewiston, California.

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