I call these guys . . .19 and 20 . . . Giants of the Struggle (against injustices), and I'm proud to call them my brothers and to stand on their shoulders as I get ready for my moment to join them.
One of the other Giants is Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (may he rest in peace) . . . 24 .. 25 . . . who passed away last year (2014) at the age of 76. Just one more set, mmm stretching, until I reach 1,000. Some of you are familiar with the Hurricane's story because you've seen the movie starring Denzel Washington. To refresh your memory, I'll recap his story. In 1966 Carter was wrongfully convicted of a triple murder that took place in a new Jersey bar. He did 19 years behind bars, and was exonerated in 1985. While in prison . . . 7 .. 8 .. 9 . . . though he accomplished a lot with his time, he never accepted prison as his last home on earth (he had a life sentence). Every time . . . 16 .. 17 .. 18 . . . like now, when I reach the 1,000 push-ups milestone, I can't help but think of Mr. Carter and give him an inward salute because according to his biography, he did 1,000 pushups every day . . . 24, mm grahh . . . 25, BAM - 1,000!. Whoo, that last set is always the hardest. Let me towel off right quick and take a seat with you on my bunk. I can take a bird bath in my sink when you leave (smile). Back to Carter, to complement his strict push-up regiment, the Hurricane also TKO'd many guards (he was a former pro boxer), because he was anti-system and refused to work in prison, but I'm not going down that road because 1) I don't have a life sentence (see parole again next year); and 2), in Texas I'll end up in the prison jail (solitary) with some broken bones and with some freeworld charges waiting for me at the local courthouse after I heal.
Carter also didn't eat any prison food, only the care packages he received from friends and strangers. And though I don't go to this extreme, I do skip some of the more popular "good" prison meals, including some of the scrumptious holiday meals, as a silent protest against the system. You're right, I'm not hurting the system one bit, but I am helping myself because instead of being herded to the chow hall like the rest of the cattle (inmates), I stay in my cell and read the written vision I have for my exoneration out loud, as well as my goals. My small sacrifice and my substitute actions do produce a positive chain reaction; it makes me stronger mentally, adds to my focus, motivates me to keep fighting, and I pass on heightened mental energy to you, because as I shared with you in my last blog, the many distant people in my life are all connected by the powerful medium of our minds.
I also believe that when we make a sacrifice for a just cause and sow seeds in the form of righteous actions, God and the universe respond with positive guideposts and gateways to help us reach the destination of our dreams.
Anthony Graves is another exoneree and Giant of the Struggle that I draw inspiration from in my fight. If you can believe it, Graves was in a far worse penal predicament than Carter. Why? Because he endured 18 torturous years on Texas death row. I use the word torturous because just imagine he had to wake up everyday in solitary confinement with thoughts that he may die by lethal injection for a crime he did not commit.
As in my case, Graves didn't have any DNA or physical evidence, so none of the Innocence Projects would accept his case. Had it not been for a class of, not law students, but journalism students, who aggressively investigated his case over a three year period and discovered a treasure trove of new evidence, he probably would have been executed. I recall in 2012 watching the Anthony Graves's story on CBS 48 Hours, and as I sat in the front bench in the dayroom, I was moved to tears when I viewed him going from death row into the waiting arms of his jubilant family as a free man.
I later wrote graves through the KPFT 90.1 FM Houston radio station, where he was a frequent co-host on the Prison Show that airs every Friday night at 9.00pm (see KPFT.org for more details). Graves did receive my letter and responded back by speaking directly to me through the invisible radio airwaves and into my stereo headphones. Graves advice; do one thing every day. Do one thing, no matter how small, everyday to get your wrongful conviction. Simple advice, yet it has proved to be effective because the one thing I have done each day is the reason why God/Universe has placed some amazing people in my life who are doing what they can to fight with me, the reason there is this website; the reason I can write this blog from a prison cell, and the reason our team is growing and each day advancing a little closer to my exoneration.
There is no greater Giant of the Struggle than Nelson Mandela. Early on in my incarceration, I read his biography "Long Walk to Freedom." An appropriate title because his long incarceration walk/journey was 27 years. Mandela's wrongful conviction was unique because he was a political prisoner in South Africa, where he was confined in inhumane prison conditions just for his beliefs. When I think about adversity, bigotry and cruelty Mandela experience in prison, it makes my prison journey, in comparison, seem like a cakewalk.
And Mandela didn't just survive prison, and re enter his society as a productive citizen, he went from being expatriated to prison to being elected President of South Africa. Ooh, I get chills when I think about the magnitude of his accomplishment. When I doubt myself and some of the big far-fetched dreams I want to pursue when I'm released, all I have to do is think of Mandela and I am reminded that nothing in life is impossible for an ex-prisoner.
"There are two places a man can become anything he wants in life; a university or a prison."
This profound quote is from another Giant of the Struggle, Malcolm X. He was found guilty of his crime, and had a rebirth in prison that transformed his thinking and life. He went from a criminal in a cell to a civil rights leader who made a positive difference in many peoples lives. I believe it was by divine design and destiny that I read this quote at the beginning of my prison sentence because from that point forward I didn't interpret my unjust circumstances as doing time in prison. I viewed prison as a type of quasi university where I could become anything I wanted to in life. I HAVE AND I AM. Though I was innocent when I was arrested, I was headed down a destructive path, and as a misguided adolescent, at the time, I was wandering through life aimlessly with no purpose. As I continue to do one thing everyday and fight for my freedom and exoneration, I want nothing more than to create my legacy and add my chapter of positive change as a GIANT OF THE STRUGGLE.