Prison Radio
Peter “Pitt” Mukuria

Revolutionary greetings, this is comrade Pitt here at Red Onion State Prison.

I’m calling in with a commentary based on this story that a comrade of mine shared that I’d like to share. It’s title- she started off with saying,” I wrote something this week too after a 27-year-old was stabbed 37 times for stealing something he probably didn’t steal. The message of despair that filled up my JPay inbox inspired me to write this.” The title of it is called “On Life and Death” by Rebecca Hensley.

I remember when I got the call that my son [inaudible] for a black-for a black gang of Fort Lauderdale was dead. I hit the floor like a fallen tree. The fall [inaudible] my head my brain reeling. And the body was at the morgue and because he had already been identified, they would only let me see a photo of his face already deformed by rigor mortis. A young female doctor about to do an autopsy told me he was a handsome man. It was February 27, 2000. They kind of day no mother ever wants to see. I know because I have a tattoo on my shoulder with his name and the date. And it was two weeks before his 23rd birthday.

When I was invited to write a statement on life and death—as folks inside Angola try to deal with the most recent brutal and senseless death among them—my thoughts went straight to my son. He’s not the only one I’ve personally known to die of a violent death. I was 18 when a schoolmate was stabbed to death by her mother’s boyfriend and stuffed behind the couch. My father was- my father and one of my husbands committed suicide. The first ex-prisoner I ever met back in 1971 was stabbed to death a couple years after I met him.

And I heard many years after we broke up that my first ex-prisoner lover was stabbed to death by his girlfriend by somebody in Oklahoma who was never identified.

But to carry a child in your body and feed him at your breast, and watch him grow to six foot four, and face the world with his shoulders back and his eyes steady, and have him reduced to a tattoo on your shoulder. It’s not something you get over. Nine months later, I was taken to a Christmas breakfast by a young man I didn’t know who told me that my son was murdered because he didn’t want to sell drugs to kids.

The most die-hard criminal I ever knew called him a gangster with principles. But the point of my telling all this is that three days after Eli left the earth, I looked out into the backyard of the house I was living in and saw him sitting in a cedar lawn chair under the hot pink Bougainvillea blossoms hanging from the fence. I walked out to him as if he were the most natural thing in the world. “Why didn’t you come into the house?” I ask him. He hung his head and looked up at me, “Because I thought you would be mad at me,” he responded. “Oh honey,” I reply. “You can come anywhere I am, anytime you want for the rest of my life.” As I reached down to put my arms gently around his neck, he put his lips close to my ear and whispered, “I thought I had more time.”

There is a nightmarish violence all over this planet. It’s more common in prison than anywhere. But it can show up unexpectedly at a moment’s notice anywhere. Young people, old people, rich people, poor people, all kinds of people, in all kinds of situation who think- who all think at the moment that they have more time. But the fact is that no matter who we are or where we are, we only have today.

Many people in Angola are saying over and over right now, “Tomorrow is not promised.” Well, there’s another way to say that: today is actually all we have anyway. Yesterday’s gone forever, tomorrow’s not promised. But how we are spending today. What are we planting in the garden of our lives right now? One of the universal laws is that whatever we plant good or bad, it grows. Bad things can happen to good people. Senseless things can happen to anybody anywhere.

But I try hard to not- to not make sure they happen to me by planting things my garden that I really don’t want to grow there. I didn’t always believe that what goes around, comes around. For many years in my life, I routinely did things to others that I wouldn’t want done to me. But once I realized that whatever I plant grow, I quit. Life is hard enough as it is. I don’t need to make it worse. If all we have is today, how can we live in such a way that wherever, whenever, and however we die, we die with dignity. Dignity is not decided by the details of how we die, inside the walls or outside them. There are many choices we don’t really get to make, but if I were to be my best self today to have integrity, to make community better because I’m in it, today. The time I’m here will be well spent and well remembered.

That was a story that a comrade of mine shared. And I thought that story is quite interesting and it made me quite think of how I live my life each and every single day. And I hope that this story kind of inspires you to, you know, basically appreciate life. Appreciate the people you have, appreciate today and, you know, live the best of your life for each moment. Because tomorrow is not promised. And that was my commentary.

You can reach me at Peter Kamal Mukuria, state number 1197165. Red Onion State Prison. PO box 1900, Pound, Virginia, 24279. Or you can also reach me via Jpay.com/email. And you can also look me up on Instagram, Instagram @PittPanther P-I-T-T-P-A-N-T-H-E-R PittPanther_art, A-R-T. PittPanther_art. Thanks for your time.

(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.