My Name Is Jamie

( Sonni’s note: This is the first thing I posted on this blog in 2014 and it has been read about 1000 times. I decided to post it again because there are so many new people who come to this blog. it is hard to get a sense of who he is or why I do this so I wanted newer readers to have the opportunity to know I write for him – why it matters so much. I am going to repost some early posts. You’ll know by the dates. I hope you go on to read the chapters of the book I am now writing, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. You can sign up to be on the mailing list at the bottom of this post. The success of this writing, and the fact that he wants to go in the direction of helping kids avoid making the same mistakes, and wanting to help others have a better life, using this book will be an important tool. You can help it be a success by sharing it with other people. I hope to be done writing it in the next 6 months, and the process of publishing will take at at least a year longer than that, if you are familiar with publishing. I think he is a very special man with a lot to give back to society. help me help him. It is extremely hard to have a successful life when inmates reintegrate into society after a long time because so many things have changed. What he has learned about his life while helping me to write this book, because he has had to look honestly at himself, is helping him to keep his determination strong to change.

There are many piano pieces throughout this blog. There is a reason for that. My life and Jamie’s life are intertwined. He has helped me survive and I have helped him. Everything happens for a reason. The people we meet are not by accident. He gave me the reason to start writing music again.

My Name Is Jamie – by Sonni Quick copyright 2014

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My music pieces are improvisations. There are many throughout this blog. This piece of music is an early recording, before I had the means to record the way I do now. I wrote this after my liver transplant, when I was able to sit again at my piano. My playing changed. I used to write songs with lyrics, and do copy music of other artists. I lost the ability to sing, my vocal cords are shot, so the meaning needs to be expressed solely through my playing. I can’t explain this right, but when I lived through the transplant, my music changed. I no longer wanted to sound like someone else. My dream as a child was to play the most beautiful music in the world, but I didn’t know how to play what I could hear inside. Now, it may not be the most beautiful in the world, but to me it expresses what I feel inside. I crawl inside my piano and play it from the inside out. I kn0w. I sound a bit nutty, but it is the only way to describe it. Every time I sit down to play I have no idea what I’m going to do. I don’t listen to it while I play. I just play. I don’t listen to them until a few days has passed so I can listen to them as a stranger would hear them. I don’t remember them. It’s an odd experience. I can’t play them again unless I went back and charted them, which I may do someday. I hit an occasional wrong note. Oh well. My fingers play what they want to express. I play when I am feeling emotional. This piece is the first piece I played this way. I just let my fingers play what they wanted. This is the emotion I was feeling after reading one of Jamie’s letters. The emotion of Jamie’s loss. During the short time he was able to call me last year and I played this for him over the phone. It will be a long time before he can hear the other piano pieces i recorded for him. Sometimes I record a piece and give it as a gift. On the list below you will see one called Graduation Day. Currently it is my newest piece and I just sent it to my niece. I recorded it during her graduation. I want to off some of this music with the book when it is published. )

I sit here in my prison cell, as I do every day, trying unsuccessfully not think too much. How can I pass this day quickly? How many hours can I sleep? How can I pretend that I am somewhere other than this place, trying to wish my life away? It’s sad. What a waste of my life. How did I let this happen to me? This isn’t where I was supposed to be. I want to be with my family. With the woman I love, and with my son and her other children. I think of them like they are my own. I try to not think about that too much anymore. I’ve lost so much I will never be able to get back.

From one human being to another, Jamie – I love you. Not a romantic love, but the love for you as a human being. You inspire me with the strength you have shown in making it through these things that have been done to you in the false name of Justice.)

I can never get back the time. They are all growing up without me. I’ve let everyone down. I know I’m not a bad person. I try to do the right thing, but sometimes, in the past, I did things on impulse. I never thought about what it would do to my life. I never thought I would end up here. Unless you’ve been here you have no way of understanding. This is a nightmare I can’t wake up from.

I often think I won’t make it. I feel like I want to explode inside. I tried to kill myself more than once, but I didn’t succeed. Sometimes I feel like I am under my cell, under the floor, and everything is on top of me. I feel like will never get out of here. I don’t care about eating most of the time. I’ve gone on hunger strikes. But mom, the woman I call mom, always talks me out of it by telling me that my life matters even if I don’t believe it does. You wouldn’t want to eat if you had to eat the food in here. Sometimes all they feed us is peanut butter.

Sometimes I don’t take my medications for epilepsy. The medical care in here is another story. One time I had a seizure and I woke up on the floor with my hands and feet in cuffs. There was no concern for me. They were afraid that they were going to get hurt. Amazing. Anywhere else a person would be taken to the hospital, but not here. Another time I fell off my bunk and broke my front teeth. I have had so many seizures and many times the guards let me lay here because they don’t want to do the paperwork. They do give me my seizure medication, most of the time, but I’m not too sure what it is. I’ve heard that drug companies try out new meds on us with the government’s permission – we have a debt to pay society, they say. But how many seizures can one person have and not have their brain all scrambled? People on the outside don’t treat their dogs the way they treat us in here. What does it matter? I don’t think it matters to my family, either. No one ever writes and asks me how I’m doing. I’ve given up waiting.

I know, I’m feeling sorry for myself. They didn’t put me here. I did. I was wrong to think they would care. Eight years in here. It tears my head up thinking about where I could be. Where would I be right now? I’d like to think I would have done something good with my life. Would Megan and I be together? Would I have been able to take care of my family? Would something else have happened to me because it was my karma to be in here? Eight years is very long time. I have nine more to go, unless they let me out of here someday. I’m not hopeful. My family doesn’t pay me any attention because they say they feel too much pain knowing I’m here, or they say they didn’t make me screw up, so they ignore me instead. It makes it easier for them. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s kinda screwed up, isn’t it?

There isn’t much I can do in here except think. I lay here hour after hour just thinking about things. Some of my memories are worn out by now. I try not to think about the memories that bring me down, but they seem to sneak in anyway. I have so many regrets. I try to replace those thoughts with good ones about the future. Sonni, who I call mom, tells me that the mind is very powerful and I can shape the future the way I want it to be. I need to think of the life I want to have when I get out of here. Focus on what CAN be, not what was in the past. The future hasn’t happened yet so i can shape that the way I want it to be. It’s hard not to get depressed. I have to work at that. Some day this will be over. i can do it.

Sonni, Megan's mom
Sonni, Megan’s mom

Sonni might not be my mother, but she is the one who has been here for me. She treats me like I am her son. She keeps my head on straight when I’m really feeling bad. Over the years she has been my lifeline. She’s the one person I know I can count on. She helps me buy the things I need at the commissary and sends me books and magazines. But most of all she writes to me and I am so grateful for that. She’s done so much for me when she didn’t have to. I don’t know why she wanted to help me, but I’m glad she did. She’s my son’s grandmother, so she will always be a part of my family. I know I am important to her. But it’s a shame when you have a large family like I do. They live close enough to visit, but they don’t. I don’t even get a birthday card. It’s like I don’t exist anymore. Sometimes I am so hurt and angry. that is the hardest thing I have to overcome – my anger. I used to think it was my fault. Maybe it was because I gave my mom a hard time when I was growing up. Maybe she is just too busy working two jobs and she used to take care of my nieces when their mom was in jail. So maybe my family just doesn’t have any time for me.

I can’t say that my mother never visited me. She and Megan drove across the whole state of Texas when Jamie was little more than a baby. It was the only time I saw my son for 6 years until last October.

jamie-meg

photo43

Megan brought all the kids to see me. It was great. I felt, for a little while that I had my family around me. It gave me good memories to think about over and over. I think I almost wore them out! For a long time I was moved around Texas and the first two were really far away. I’ve been in 6 prisons so far. But even when I moved closer it didn’t make much difference. My mother did come some months back. I was really surprised. She brought my nieces with her. She told me that she would be back every week. That made me feel really good, but she didn’t come back again for a long time. Megan brought my son Jamie Jr to see me in 2013 after much begging. She also brought the other kids. That made me so happy. They were so small the last time I saw them. They grew up.

IMG330 Antonio Alexander

i0000010 Alyssa

photo-29 The next month, November, Megan came back and brought Sonni, who from now on I’ll just call mom. That’s what we use in our letters. She lives in Pa. After all of the letters we’ve written, we finally got a chance to see each other eye to eye. She put her hand flat against the glass and I put my hand up to hers. I could feel the caring through the glass. I haven’t seen them since. Mom hasn’t been back to Tx yet. Soon I hope. A man named Melvin, who is a member of the SGI, the Nichiren Buddhist organization that sends me the reading materials about life that I am studying, has visited with me for awhile coming every couple months. It is teaching me how to change the things inside me that cause me unhappiness.

I met mom before Thanksgiving before I got busted. I was only 22 then. I’m 31 now. She took my picture when I walked into her room at the hotel. I was embarrassed and couldn’t look up into the camera.photo-44The next morning we all went out for breakfast. I wish I could turn back the clock and do things differently. Megan had just found out she was pregnant, but we didn’t tell anybody yet. It was only a month later that I got arrested. I was surprised when I got that first letter from her. I am so glad she took the time to write to me, and over time we got close. A lot of dudes in here don’t have anyone to write to.

I wish I could see my son more, but I doubt it’s going to happen. Megan’s life is too full of drama. It keeps her from being able to make the drive. It is a full day of driving so I guess it isn’t easy. I’ve given up expecting more. What I don’t understand is when they say things like, “Just because I don’t write you doesn’t mean I don’t love you” or ” I don’t write to you because it hurts me too much.” Hurts them?? They make it sound as though they are the ones being punished. It hurts me so I’ll hurt you more?? And someday, when I get out of here, am I supposed to open my arms and be glad to see everybody? When someone you love doesn’t write back to you, you make up all kinds of things in your head. It’s hard for me to believe they care.

If I could go back and do that night again, I wonder where I would be? If I had thought about that the night I chose to follow my friends maybe i would have had better common sense? I went out with my cousin and some friends. I was in Megan’s car. She tried to get me to stay home that night. We were smokin’ some weed. We just went out to party. This wasn’t supposed to happen.One guy made a joke about robbing this place. I think in a way I was shocked, but at the same time I didn’t try to stop him. I didn’t leave because friends don’t leave friends behind. I played a part as well by helping him. I was driving. He had a gun in his backpack. It was all so stupid.

You know the court appoints a lawyer for people who don’t have the money to hire an attorney. They aren’t on your side. This lawyer gets paid about $200, at $75 an hour, to help whoever needs help. But they don’t really care about helping you. They work for the DA so whatever deal the DA wants, that’s what they tell you to do. The first deal he came to me with was 45 years! No one got hurt. Yes, it was wrong. I accept responsibility for that. But a white guy could murder someone and not get 45 years. But when you can’t afford a lawyer and you’re black and live in Texas, you’re screwed. So I told them no deal and they set another court date. Then they enhanced my case to make it 15-99 years. Fifteen minimum until I probably die. This was to make me take the deal. They also don’t want to take the time and money to go to court. It’s called, clearing the docket. So then this lawyer said they would offer 17 years and I should take it. He never discussed the case with me. He didn’t know who I was. He didn’t care. He wasn’t there to help me. I didn’t have anyone I could talk to who would help me. This was a first offense. I did go to juvy on a nine month sentence when I was in tenth grade, but it wasn’t because of a crime. The school to prison pipeline is very real. That’s another story.

That was more than 8 years ago. I think I have a long way to go. They don’t like to let people out of here. They keep knocking us down so we never make the level to get out. Guards file false charges. One accused me of blowing her a kiss. If you saw her you would know that would have never happened. She was big and fat and ugly. Besides, who would be that stupid. But she wrote me up for it and got me in trouble.
Prison recreation cages
Most of the time I spent in ad seg (administrative segregation), which is solitary with another name, and I can’t even leave my cell for meals. They let me out of my cell for an hour to go outside by myself to the cages if the weather is okay. A few times a week I go to the showers. They put my food through a slot in the door. Ad seg is also called G5. Recently I made it to G4 and I could go to chow. But a guy jumped me there. A guard saw it and said it wasn’t my fault but they still took my G4 away and put me back in G5. Now I have to wait another 6 months to a year to get out again. It has happened every time. Last time it took me more than two years to get back up to G4. When I do work my way up it is never for long. They always find a reason to send me back. because of that, in all these years they have never been able to make even one phone call. I would have to be G2 for that to happen. My son was born after this happened but I can never call him, never wish him happy birthday or tell him I love him. That sucks. It also means I can’t go to school. Without a GED I can’t even work at a fast food place. I couldn’t live on that anyway. This is why inmates can’t make it when they get out and why prison doors revolve. Let one person out while it brings another back in.

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In Prison – Streaming Tears Like Blood From A Wound

December 3, 2009

Hello mom,

blood tearsI’m sorry it took so long for me to write back.  Things are not so good on my end right now.  I haven’t heard from Megan in like a month.  I’ve beat myself up about that and went downhill at the same time.  I don’t know what’s going on.  However, it’s not like her, mom.  The last time she went without writing, something was wrong.  I don’t know what it is but I feel like she’s losing her love for me.  In a way I kinda understand it.  Then again I don’t.  I guess because I don’t want to let go of her.  Mom, I promise you, your daughter is the only woman I have ever loved.  Not just because she and I treasure a son together.  We have that bond I feel that loves and respects each other.  To me that bond is so strong, taking it away would be like taking away half of me.  Why?  Because she is the other half of me, mom.

“Tears Like Blood From a Wound” – by Sonni Quick    copyright 2015


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My eyes are always streaming tears, like blood from a wound that can never heal, just thinking about life without her and the kids.  I’m really hurting right now, because like I said mom, I’m downhill right now.  I’ve been in a fight.  This happened almost a month ago.  I’m on a 24 hour lockdown now for a year.  However it’s good because there really is nothing to do that can get me in trouble.  They don’t let us out the cell for any reason.  Everything comes to us unless we really need to go to medical.  If they take us we’re in cuffs.

Anyway, this is how I got into the fight.  Me and some of the officers have had our run ins.  Some of them have grudges and continue to hold it against me.  It just so happened there was an officer at the pill window the night this happened.  There was this dude in front of me calling out the officer’s name.  The officer came over to write me up.  I told him it wasn’t me.  He said he didn’t believe me so we went back and forth about it.  I didn’t tell him it was the dude in front of me.  People have been known for getting beat up bad for telling.  I’m trying to stay out of trouble. So I go to the dude and try to talk to him about it.  I end up getting punched in the mouth.  I was shocked for a minute because all I wanted to do was talk to him.  Anyway, I let my anger get the best of me and fought back.  The real reason I did that is because in here, if you don’t fight when it comes your way everyone looks at it.  Then it’s hell from then on if you know what I’m saying.  After they run court on us the the dude apologized and said he tried to take the case.  The rage in me wanted to jump on him. I felt he took a lot from me, mom.  I only had five months left to be able to get contact visits so I could hold my family.  He took that away from me.  Now I have to wait another eighteen months. No matter what I do there is always something there to take it away from me.

(Sonni’s note: This letter was written more than 5 1/2 years ago. If every woman could have a man love her as much as he loved Megan she would be very lucky. Lost love in prison. Time stood still for him. If put this in the past tense because he has had to find a way to continue on without her. When he says that she is the only woman he has loved he is right. She is the only woman who was in his life, and she was good to him. She loved him and she wrote for a long time, but life had to go on for her. He doesn’t blame her for that but it still hurts his heart. But from her point of view, being responsible for his happiness knowing she had to move on ended up making her resentful and angry. Promises to wait for 17 years were made without understanding it won’t be possible to keep the promise. So life went on for her and it stopped for him. All he has is memories of her and the life he they could have had. Was that life even possible? He spent four years in juvy, had no education and no real life experience. How could he possibly take care of a family of five with her two other kids? Love alone isn’t enough. She now resents my relationship with him. She thinks its weird. She doesn’t want me to ever mention his name again.

The fact remains that it isn’t just the two of them. There is a nine year old boy I know needs to have his father in his life as much as possible. When Jamie thinks of his future, it involves being able to be a father to his son. His son needs to understand there are consequences to actions. Being black means those consequences can be very severe. 1 out of 27 adults in Texas are locked up. And of those, there are six times more blacks than whites. The odds for a black man are not good. What this means is that ONE out of every THREE black men see the inside of a prison cell. Most of all, my grandsons need to understand how much racism there is in our police and our justice system and know that fairness doesn’t apply to them. Unfortunately they live in one of the most racist states. I have three grandchildren who are half black and two of them are boys. The youngest one is a couple years younger than Jamie. I also know that getting out of prison is only one battle. Reintegrating into society again and being able to survive is probably tougher than being inside. The term, being “institutionalized” is very real. Being free is not always a good feeling. This is why I work so hard to be there for him. He deserves another chance to be happy.

I have told this to many people, many times: “The only legacy you ever really leave behind when you die is the affect you have had on other people.” You live on through them.

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Thank You For Supporting, “Inside the Forbidden Outside”

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Inside the Forbidden Outside

Many people have followed me, Sonni Quick, on this journey I’m taking, writing about the life of Jamie Cummings. “Inside the Forbidden Outside”. chapter one which had the previous title of “Inside Out”. You’ve encouraged me and told me to keep writing. Some of you have given me guidance and writing tips as a new book author. You told me it was a story that should be told. Some of you have told me you cried tears. You had no idea what being in prison really meant, because only knowing what TV and movies portray is not the whole story. Only people who have been where Jamie is will know for sure that what I say here is the truth.

Tears weren’t cried because Jamie is in prison. Tears were cried because his anguish was felt; his loneliness and depression. The loss of his family and his son from his life, with no one making the effort to bring him to visit. It is easy to see what he is going through through in his head, trying to understand what happened to his life that brought it to a screeching halt inside the thick prison walls.

Over the nine years I’ve known him, trying to hold him up, made me want to reach through the prison bars and wrap myself around him and hold him him, telling him it would be over someday. Reading and knowing about the stripping away of human dignity is hard to read.

There are many different reasons why people are put in prison. The reasons for what they did, and having those reasons used for corporate gain has put millions of dollars into many people’s pockets. Now American private prisons are spreading outside our borders and we are teaching other countries how they,too, can exploit their citizens the same way we do.

Imagine yourself in his circumstances. You can’t say it will never happen to you, because it can, easily, just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. These are the things you seldom read or hear about in the media. The government has to justify why there is no money for education, yet hundreds of millions of dollars are available to build new prisons to satisfy the unending thirst of American corporations that want to use prison labor to manufacture their products. Lower taxes for the rich will not create jobs for the people, but it will provide more prisons to house more inmates to manufacture items that are available on our store shelves. Inmates also produce a great many items our police force and military needs to continue to do what they do. A subject to explore at a later time.

I posted a two minute video recently. It is not of Jamie, but it is of a man who spent 18 1/2 years in a solitary cell not unlike the cell Jamie has spent years of his own life. Jamie’s sentence is 17 years and he has done more than 9 so far. Not all of it has been in an ad seg unit (administrative segregation), but it has been determined the human mind can only safely stay in deprivation like that for 15 days before there are possible alterations in the mind. There was a politician about a year ago who voluntarily went into a solitary cell for ONE DAY and wrote about how horrible it is. I say, stay in for 15 days. Maybe then some laws will change. Keep him there for a month, not even
years which is so common, and he will be screaming to be let out just like all the others.

Even though I believe what happened to Jamie’s life, beginning at a young age, was unfair, coming to life through racial inequalities, life isn’t fair. I also believe if he had not been with this particular group of friends that got busted that night, which you can read about in Jamie’s Prison or read the post Juvy to Prison. Something else would have happened to produce the same result. He didn’t learn the life skills he needed. He needed to “belong”, and was easily swayed by the wrong people.

So, what to do about all of this now? How do we make something positive from something negative? The change in the life of a single human being can change the world. Because there are 10 strikes against any person getting out of prison, beginning with of the lack of acceptance by society, it is extremely difficult for them to survive and create a life of value. No one wants to employ an ex-offender and no one wants to rent an apartment to them, either. Many of these people, men and women, have families they love and need to take care of. They paid their price to society and have earned the right, at the very least, to gain their self respect. Society wants to keep punishing them for the rest of their lives. Ask yourself why? For this reason many ex-felons have to resort to other ways to make money, because they have no other way. Our prisons didn’t teach any way. Do you understand the dichotomy of the situation?

What happens to an x-offender, who, from his teen years has not been able to get an education? When he is finally released in his mid to late 30’s, or older, and has no work history, but wants to work, where is he going to find that job in a unwelcoming society who is afraid of him simply because he has been to prison? God forbid, he could be dangerous!There are many people who have never been to prison who can’t find work. If they have a hard time, how does an ex-offender find work? Many of these people, who haven’t been incarcerated apply for government assistance, live in public housing or section 8 housing, get disability, or use WIC (Women, Infants and Children) or food stamps to help supplement the rising cost of food. Most people don’t go to the government for help because they are lazy, but because they have no other choice, as the media would like you to believe. NONE of these options are even available for an ex-offender. Jamie won’t even be able to apply for disability because of epilepsy until he has been out for one year. How does he survive that year?

Jamie is black. I am white. We are connected by the blood of his son, my grandson. He is part of my family. he calls me ‘mom’. Because I have taken the time to be his family andf because he let me inside his head to feel the pain as he tries to understand the causes he made for his life to produce the sharp left turns that led to prison.

What should he and I do with this knowledge? I believe it can and should be used to help people. Help kids understand what the end of the path leads to if they choose to go down the wrong one. Young people have no wisdom to draw on. They can’t understand something no one has taught them. There are many ‘Jamies’ out there. His life story can also help educate people so they can have a better understanding of our prison system and why America has only 5% of the world’s population but imprisons 25% of the world’s inmates. His life story can also help inmates who want to do better, to understand their lives have value. It’s all about choices. Cause and effect. Not all inmates are inherently broken. Some just made a bad choice and have paid for that mistake. Many deserve a second chance and need our help, even if that help is only having a better understanding and acceptance of their value as a human being.

This is what I need from you that would help me in my quest. Please, go to different posts and pages on this website http://mynameisjamie.net and post them to your own social media. Go to posts that talk about the book and send them out. The category still says “Insideout” for now uieven though the title has changed to “Inside the Forbidden Outside”. Encourage people to fill out the contact form to be on the mailing list for the book. If you don’t use social medial there is a tab where you can send out emails.

I have a dream. That dream is watching Jamie have the kind of life he can be proud of and being a father to his son. Will you help me help Jamie? My dream is that this book will sell, but I can’t do it by myself. It will be book sales that will enable Jamie to survive in this society he will hopefully, someday, in the near future, enter into. Inside the Forbidden Outside is still being written. There is still a lot of work to be done, but when you self publish writing and promoting have to go hand in hand.

I know I’m asking a lot from you, You have my sincere appreciation.

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Sonni Quick piano music complete list