Yesterday I completed Looking Into the Crystal Ball. It is the second music video I have completed for Inside the Forbidden Outside the book I’m writing about the life of Jamie Cummings, from childhood through juvenile detention, the school to prison pipeline, to where he is now – the Allred Unit, the largest prison in Texas with over 3,500 inmates. He has five years yet on his sentence. The third video is completed too, but won’t be put up for two weeks. I’m trying to work ahead so I don’t get so behind when I travel.
Jamie still has hope that one day he will be paroled. Finishing this project I started for him is more important than ever. I have to keep plugging away at it. What began as a book of his letters, because they expressed so much pain of the loss of his life, as well as the truth about our prison system in America. It became a book that required more writing ability than I had at the time. (Writing a book is not the same as writing a blog post, and even that took practice and experience)
After writing the first draft of over 90,000 words, I read through it and realized it wasn’t quite right. It read like a book of blog posts. You could read any chapter separately. The story didn’t connect. Then I started studying how to write and taking writing classes. I learned to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. I had to learn how to write dialogue the same way people speak it. That is not as easy as it seems. Again more practice. I began the second writing of the book using parts of what I had already written and learned to write between the lines. I am still learning. I know what a badly written book reads like when it is not edited correctly. I wanted it to be professional.
It is the music that began to tie it all together. That is why emotional movies have music soundtracks. Without it, a movie would not be able to create the same emotion. Music swells the emotions. It makes you feel. Hearing the music again brings back memories of the movie. All people associate music from their past to memories of that time whenever they hear it. Without music, when a movie is over, it is over. Why not create music that can be listened to while you read a book? Why not create something that is more than just a book? And for quite a few chapters/music I have also written poetry. It spills out of me like opening a vein. I grab paper and catch it before it disappears.
Most writers would not have the ability to do that. Your mind has to be open in a creative space that spills into everything. It can’t be put in a box. You also can’t be like that because you want to. Most people have had their creativity stomped out of them by adults who told them to grow up and get a real job. I may have had a crazy life but it sure beat selling cars for 35 years and then “retire” so I can get old. I refused to be that kind of “normal.”
If you hired someone to write music for you there would be no real connection between what you read and the music you hear. This has turned it into a project that has taken “years” to pull together. I sincerely hope I can finish it by the end of this year. Jamie still has years on his sentence so I have the time to complete it. And then the time to sell it. I am so very happy I am doing this. (maybe I can get a movie deal out of it! Gotta think big!) You can only accomplish what you see. Otherwise dreams just float away.
Play the video again. close your eyes and just listen to it. Do you feel the emotion? Do you see a story in your mind, even if it is about your life instead?
Many years ago I read a very long, thick novel titled, Michel Michel. The Beatles tune, “Hey Jude” had recently been released. I played it over and over while I read. It became the soundtrack for the book. Whenever I hear it I instantly think of that book. Otherwise, I would have forgotten about it, I’m sure.
I have been creating and writing music for a long time. I don’t have to think about the right notes or figure out what to do. It’s innate, like the abc’s. But this music was different from anything I had written earlier. I had to reach far down inside to spontaneously play what I was feeling, not “try” to compose, but instead let my fingers express what I felt. When I am in the mental place I need to be when I write about Jamie – for Jamie – it is an overwhelming sad place. When I try to feel what he is going through, I don’t know he does it, although I know he has no choice. When he tells me he is depressed it is a state of mind I think would scare me very much.
At times like this I get angry at the people who have forsaken him – thrown him away – blamed him, for what, I don’t know. Being young and never taught his life had value? Being a follower instead of a leader and wanting friends and being swayed by the wrong ones? Didn’t many of us go through that when we were young? I did.
Jamie didn’t have the freedom to grow up through his teens and 20’s without having cuffs on his wrists and chains around his ankles. But I didn’t have to pay for my mistakes with 21 years of my life with a family who didn’t care enough to say, “No matter what, Jamie, we love you and we will be there for you no matter what.”
There are criminals and then there are people who grew up without a positive male influence. Did he deserve to lose a couple decades of his life because of it? No. He was just another black boy who couldn’t afford an attorney. ALL of them go to prison.
That is unrealistic, I guess. Even I don’t have a family who loved me no matter what and were there for me when I needed them the most. But Jamie was there when I needed him and I have been there for him. Everything happens for a reason. Jamie gave a reason to play music again after a long illness and I wrote music for him. We were each other’s reason to survive.
Now the book I am writing also has a sound track, and those sound tracks are getting videos. I can only do one thing at a time, including writing these blog posts with the necessary social media to promote everything, so when it is done, hopefully people will pay attention. My plans for promotion go far beyond a facebook post.
If you haven’t already, please subscribe below to ITFO News. Not only does it have news necessary to incarceration, it is a way to keep up on how far I am with the book – and you can share it on your own social media! (hint hint) I don’t have time to publish more than about once a month so I don’t crowd your inbox. I personally hate when a subscription does that. But I am honestly trying to build a mailing list so I can tell people when it goes for sale.
If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Soundcloud – all of my music can be found here plus music I have personally liked that can be played. You can also play my album “Stories without Words”
Jamie Life in Prison at Facebook . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world