Meandering around the internet this evening, looking for ideas that expressed the thoughts in my head, I found a young man by the name of Marlon Peterson. I was impressed by what I saw. In the letters I write to Jamie I like to find examples of people who used their experience of prison in a positive way and became people to be proud. There is a positive inside every negative if you look for it, and if you want to find it.
Let’s face it – it takes a strong determined person to not let prison affect them negatively. It’s hard to not leave prison angry at what was done to them inside; being used, abused, fed worse than neglected dogs with medical conditions untreated, sometimes causing permanent problems and even death. There is anger at our justice system over sentences that are ungodly long and often given to innocent people. We know the problems but have felt powerless to change the system. To make it worse, adults are teaching their young the same negativity. More and more people feel they need to carry a gun to protect themselves so neighborhoods, schools, places of business and the streets have become frightful places to be, and it’s escalating. Are these places more dangerous, or are WE more dangerous?
During Marlon Peterson’s stay in prison he made a determination to make changes and he is following through with that. If people only talk about what needs to change but never does anything about it we continue to see a growing mess. I talked with several people last night on this subject. If we wait for someone else to make changes to the slavery behind bars nothing will happen. The government won’t make changes – they caused it to be the way it is in the first place. Politicians are often corrupt and corporations want to make money not carrying who they hurt to get it.
The people who will change it will be the people who are affected by it. The success of the American Indians, because their cause was important to them fired up the passion in other people. There are millions of people in prison. Three times that on parole and probation. A hell of a lot of money is made by fines and other charges that need to be paid that eat up measly paychecks before they can eat.
And there are the children – the future hunted down juveniles detainees who are the future prisoners, hunted down by police who are rarely prosecuted for outright, obvious murder, and we let them get away with it because we feel powerless
We need to envision a different world and work to make it safe for our children and people on the street. So many people carry a gun because they are afraid. I will NEVER carry a gun. There are many things I have the right to do but that doesn’t mean I have to do them.
It is almost the start of a new year as I decide what is important to do and the part I want to play in it. Some people are do things, some people watch and some people stick their head in the sand. Who are you?
I’m going to end this with an except from Marlon Peterson’s website. I encourage you to go there and read more. Pass this on to your friends. I sent it to Jamie. He is fired up to start studying and take control of where his life is going after he gets in only six more short years.
Marlon is the founder and chief re-imaginator of
The Precedential Group, a social justice consulting firm, and a 2015 recipient of the prestigious Soros Justice. Ebony Magazine has named him one of America’s 100 most influential and inspiring leaders in the Black community. He is also an Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar.
Marlon spent his entire 20’s inside of New York State prisons for his involvement in a crime as a teenager. During that time he earned an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice with Honors. He spent the last five years of his incarceration as the head of the Transistional Services Center where he created programming and curricula for men nearing release from incarceration. He also spearheaded and designed an experiential workshop for incarcerated men and college students from Vassar College called, “Vassar & Otisville–Two Communities Bridging the Gap.”
During his incarceration he collaborated with friend, author, and founding principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy, Dr. Nadia Lopez, to create a letter correspondence mentorship program with middle school students. This program set the foundation for the creation of H.O.L.L.A. (How Our Lives Link Altogether). Serving as the founding executive director, HOLLA is a 2016 recepient of an Echoing Green Fellowship under the leadership of the current executive director, Andrew Cory Green.
Since his release in prison in December 2009, Marlon has held several nonprofit positions. He is the former Director of Community Relations at The Fortune Society,and previously served as the Associate Director of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, founding coordinator of Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets, and co-founder of How Our Lives Link Altogether (H.O.L.L.A!). Marlon also serves as board chair of Families For Freedom and board member of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
Marlon graduated from New York University with a Bachelors of Science with a concentration on Organizational Behavior.
Marlon’s writings have appeared in Ebony, Gawker, The Nation, The Crime Report, Black Press USA, Huff Post, and other online publications. He has contributed to Kiese Laymon’s award winning novel, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America and Love Lives Here, Too by former New York Times columnist, Sheila Rule.
THE NEXT MONTHLY ISSUE OF THE ITFO NEWSLETTER WILL BE GOING OUT SOON. TAP THE LINK TO GET IT DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX. EACH ISSUE NOW WILL FOCUS ON A DIFFERENT ASPECT OF PRISON ISSUES EACH MONTH. THERE HAS BEEN NO TALK OF PRISON REFORM SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN WHEN EVERYONE JUMPED ON THE BANDWAGON SAYING THEY WOULD BE THE ONE TO FIX IT. NOW NOTHING IS BEING SAID. IT WILL BE THE PEOPLE DEMANDING CHANGE THAT HAS THE ONLY CHANCE OF CHANGING THIS. PLEASE POST THIS ON YOUR OWN SM AND ASK YOUR FRIENDS TO SHARE IT, TOO. WE’VE SEEN WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE COME TOGETHER AS THE AMERICAN INDIANS HAVE DONE. WE NEED TO MAKE PRISON REFORM IMPORTANT, NOT JUST TALK ABOUT IT. CAN WE DO THAT?
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