I am Izell Robinson, Minnesota inmate number 210006, an innocent man confined within the quadrilaterals of systemic injustice, fighting to be heard and affect positive change.
With that said, I want to introduce a speech that I wrote and delivered a while back called “The Elasticity of Mediocrity,” which means the resistance of averageness.
I have been the answer to Langston Hughes’s question of what becomes of a dream deferred. I am Izell W. Robinson, a man who is much more than the label of a prisoner, felon, or criminal. Most who know me would label me as a persistently compassionate and brilliant oddball. If you asked me who I am, I would tell you that I am a perpetual scholar.
However, today, many people can’t fathom a prisoner as a scholar. My achievements have been absent of a deserved round of applause. Why should my conviction void congratulations of realistic goals I’ve achieved in a difficult situation? I and those who know me would wager to say that the majority of us never expected me to be fitting in prison or let alone to be receiving an earned tech certificate or college degree in confinement.
Yet my entire life has involved me beating the odds and proving the naysayers wrong, especially when many choose to believe that very little good comes out of prisons and partly because resources are scarce to promote any positive change. However, I found determination to seek out the things in my environment that would help me change to be a better and successful.
As a result, I’ve learned that by branding myself as an intellectual, others have gravitated towards me. Therefore, I have felt a duty of obligation to assist others around me to journey beyond the quadrilaterals of their minds and will themselves beyond limitations of mental claustrophobia that has held back many of us from thinking and acting on our own inner greatness.
See, confinement for me has been a humbling experience that requires self-improvement and patience. I’ve constantly challenged myself and others to invest the time and patience into what really matters and gives meaning to our lives, which is often family, relationships, spirituality, educational pursuits, and valued freedom.
Through this challenging recognition of what really matters, many of us have come to an understanding that the biggest bargain is not what we can buy but the men that we choose to become moving forward from a path where we did not recognize the cost of crime. I encourage daily self-analyzation as a motivator of determination for myself and others to be better men than we were previously, whether we are innocent or guilty of a crime that has confined us.
The reality is something occurred where someone felt defended against or injured, and wherever we were to direct cause of that or not, we still allowed ourselves to be in a predicament or environment where we could be perceived as a perpetrator. That’s why we can agree that none of us are above the need of looking into what we must do to make better life choices so that we aren’t committing crime or being put in situations where we are perceived as committing crime.
When asked what I can give to other men in my situation, I like to say determination. To me, determination has been a standard and it has to be a standard in our lives moving forward, because it will assist in adding meaning to our lives. However, we first must know or have an idea of what our objectives for life are. Is it enough to just live? I don’t think so.
I find that most men confined want an outlet to be heard. They want to feel connected to others. They want to express emotions freely without judgment or fear. And they want a chance to show the humanness of their humanity through change and opportunity for better choices. When opportunity is void, hope is shattered and desperation begins to breed a lack of care.
It’s easy in prison to feel depressed and hopeless. Yet in positive programming, like inmate-ran Bible studies, I have utilized these types of platforms to encourage men around me not to sleep their life away by being swept up in the unconsciousness of the norm of the prison environment.
Besides, every time I’m teaching or sharing insight with these men around me, I’m also learning from and with them. So to me, the reality is clear. If we are not vigorously pursuing knowledge, we are staying unconscious to the things in an ever-evolving world that we must be included in. We have to realize that knowledge is that empowerment that wakes us up with purpose and meaning in life.
These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.