Prison Radio
United Black Family Scholarship Foundation

What does it mean for me to learn how to establish my own public service organization?

So this question is very important because for me to learn how to establish my own public service organization, it allows me to bring back to my community vital information, vital resources that are lacking in the community today, especially African American communities are low, thriving communities. Networking is another big thing. But I believe that having my own public service organization, will allow me to rub elbows and meet people that are already in the field of helping people and we can come together to solve common problems and issues that’s going on in poverty-ridden communities. That also will help me to expand the help that’s already available to those by continuing this network, and just creating think tanks. So establishing my own public service also will allow me to in my unique way, to help as I see fit the many problems and issues that plague, the neighborhood not only that I grew up in but other neighborhoods that are similar to the neighborhoods that I grew up in which were urban neighborhoods that lack resources, like jobs, like mental health availability, and so that in itself, I knew that those are the things that I needed. And the only way for me to be able to help that would be to have my own public service organization.

How do I perceive the skills within United Black Family Scholarship in aiding the entry of, for me back into society? Well, first of all, the information that I’m receiving is very vital and key for me to bring into society, because not only am I getting trained in the field that I wish to partake in, it also is giving me more insight and development into actually being prepared for society. The more that I increase my own skills, I’m able to help others increase their skills. I’m able to take what I learned and apply the concept of each one, teach one. And each one teach one would mean me spending the necessary time and effort in learning the whole nonprofit and public service sector.

In doing that, it allows me to expand not only the knowledge that I already possessed, and the experience, but it will allow me to be trained under those who have been doing it for years before me. And I believe that this organization, it creates a platform, it creates the necessary tools that I need in order for me to actually fulfill my goals. And in fulfilling my goals, my goals are to go back to my community, and educate based on everything that I’ve been through in my incarceration, everything that I’ve learned and to take this lesson, and to use the wise and just to, so to speak, broaden my voice. And my voice is simply saying, in reentry, it’s so important to those that were formerly incarcerated. Because going back, to survive, you need the necessary skills, you need the necessary mental health development, cognitive retraining, you need resources, you’re going to need employment. So I believe that this program is allowing me to understand that I have to surround myself with qualified people, a team that believes in sharing the same mission and vision that I see as far as helping others. So, as I consider my time in prison, my age, the time that I’ve been in prison, I see that the nonprofit sector is geared to individuals just like me. I’m 44 years old, I’ve been incarcerated for nine years four months, and I’m soon to be released.

As I look back in hindsight, I’ve seen what it took- the effort, the time, and the understanding of what it means to prepare myself upon release. What does that look like? That’s a question I asked myself when I first was incarcerated. What did change look like? What does re-entering society look like. And for me, it was simple. I’m going to need to go deep within myself and learn more about myself. I’m going to have to increase my education, increase my vocational skills, I’m going to have to deal with any mental health issues that I had, any substance abuse, I’m going to have to have a network upon release, a support system. So many people don’t have a support system that’s incarcerated. So I see that nonprofit can be that… can be that extended family that one may need that can give a person direction, guidance, and help facilitate that transition back into society. So for me the growth and the maturity came in with understanding that I’ve been suffering in silence, and that’s ok to not be ok, and it’s also ok to ask for help.

And so once I began to ask for help, once I began to take self help books, substance abuse, mental health, being in Shakespeare plays, continuously advancing from earning my GED to earning my Associate of Arts degree in Political Science. I know that it took maximum effort for me, it took every single day of not only doing it for myself or doing it for those that I care about, to also look around and see that there are other men that were on the same journey. And sometimes it’s us, that needs to help us. 

And so, as I began to help myself and others were able to see my change and my growth, there became this attraction to change. And so, many people asked me, Well, how did you do it throughout your whole incarceration? Not one single disciplinary infraction? How did you advance in your education? And I always tell them, there was a decision to change, a commitment to stay committed to that change. Because I couldn’t remain in the contemplation stage of change, continuing to use, I had to take action. And so in there, I came across a lot of incarcerated gentlemen, such as Ivan Kilgore, who are already in the nonprofit sector margin as far as helping others. And so that inspiration allowed me to go even deeper within myself. And me and my mother started Battle Over Ministries out in Oakland, California June 15th. And so we’re geared about rebuilding families. We’re about successful reentry, through employment, through counseling, and through many other services such as housing referrals, and many other referrals. And to see what that has already done while I’m still incarcerated for other men that have gone on parole before me. It not only motivates me to get more training. It not only motivates me more to network with others, it allows me to fulfill my passion, which is to see others grow just as much as I’ve grown through the years. With age comes maturity-if you do the work.       

These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.