Prison Radio
United Black Family Scholarship Foundation

Hi, my name is Brian Thames. My last name is spelled T-H-A-M-E-S. And the questions that I am responding to are [question] number three.

First, ‘How do you believe your unique perspective as an incarcerated individual can enhance your contribution to the nonprofit sector and address social issues effectively?

Well, I haven’t personally or particularly created any nonprofits; 501.3C. I haven’t created anything, but I have my own thing that I would like to contribute directly related to social issues. In short, I’ve published five nonfiction books since I’ve been in prison. But the most important one, I would like to be free in order to make sure that it has the desired impact.

And I have written the Black Manual, “MAN”; M-A-N in caps. And the subtitle is, “Surviving Encounters with Law Enforcement, Hostile White Folks, and Others with a False Sense of Superiority”. In spite what that subtitle might sound like, it’s not antagonistic whatsoever. It’s just what it sounds like. It’s a manual. By me writing this manual, it’s dealing directly with the social issue and a phenomenon. People of color, men in particular are being killed, and sometimes tortured before death, by law enforcement or others with the mentality of law enforcement or a Messiah complex.

I think that my contribution is not necessarily helping others get on their feet, but helping others to learn and practice making better decisions to aid in their own survival. That’s really the gist of that. So like I said, I have not created a nonprofit. But I do firmly believe that there is a lane for me to support others in that regard. And you know, regarding my perspective as an incarcerated individual in relation to what I just said, I mean, I’m in a fishbowl now, but I wasn’t always inside the fishbowl. I was outside of the fishbowl, you know, for a portion of my life. So, some of the things that I’ve seen on TV now, I’ve experienced first and second hand, as far as the brutality in relation to the demographic that I described.

And like I said, I’ll keep things nice and short. [Question] number 10 is really related to making amends. ‘How do you envision the conference topics assisting you in this process?’ Well, one of the conference topics, there were two that really stood out to me. One is leadership and the other one is communication and access while incarcerated. I mean, this is a form of access right now. You know, calling in to this organization. This is, this is access. I mean, I wish there was more. But the biggest impact for me and where I would like to lend impact is leadership. Because for, again, a large part of my life, my young life, I was a leader in destruction. I was a leader in being a jackass. I refer to people, well, I refer to myself now to people as a recovering jackass. And that’s what I am, I’m a recovering jackass. You know, because I think of it in terms of an alcoholic or drug user, drug addict. They never really, if they’re going to be honest and say, ‘Well, I’m off drugs. I’m off alcohol.’ It’s always, ‘I’m in recovery, and understand that I’m in recovery, because if I’m not mindful, and if I don’t maintain, then I could essentially fall off the wagon.’

So since I was very good at being a leader of destruction, I think that one of the things that could assist me, and where I could assist, is learning to be a leader in the manner in which I’m describing now. Because this making amends commitment is not just making amends, it’s a debt. You know, me being in prison, that’s only part of paying my debts to society because I’m guilty of the crimes that I was convicted of. I mean, I regret what I did. But, part of making amends is paying a debt continuously. And one of the ways that I can continue to pay this debt until I leave this earth is to be taught and learn how to be the type of leader which can lead people, at the very least, down the opposite path that I took as a younger person.