When the light comes out
The year was 1995. I had just been transferred from the Clinton Dannamora minimum security prison to the notorious maximum security prison Sing Sing. The reason for my transfer? I was in search of me. My goal? To enroll in college and study Psychology. I was somehow very certain that the answers to who, what, where, when and why I was all that I was or was not would be found in the understanding of human behavior.
So, first let me back up a bit. In 1991 I was about to turn 21 years of age but there was no party awaiting. No over indulgence in alcoholic beverages as my legal right of passage to legally drink. No, this was not the usually turning of 21 that would forever shape my life. Where was only a prison sentence of 12 1/2 to 25 years awaiting this male passage to manhood. As promised, the judge rendered that exact sentence. As wrong and unjust though it was I would be locked in a cage, misnamed a cell, for at least 12 1/2 years.
On my sentencing date I concluded that I would not be serving this unfair and unjust sentence. For christ sake I hadn't even hurt anyone. I knew at least three murderers who were receiving half of my minimum or less. That was fine. I would show them, as they had cheated in my trial. I was going to cheat them. How would I do that you question? Why suicide of course. The ultimate silencer, the perfect pain reliever, the cheat of all cheaters. It was all planned I would let them sentence me, let them play their game. Then I would go upstate to their nasty, hateful slave plantation and then I'd hang from an old southern tree by way of 300 pills.
It all happened so fast in a flash I was sentenced and ship upstate all in a week. From my first week at the Downstate Correctional Facility I was collecting my pills. Everyday that I came out of their cage, which actually had a door as opposed to a gate of bars, there was a song being played from one of the other cages and unbeknown to me my subconscious mind was listening.
On the appointed day which was actually unofficial, the sun was shining brighter than ever, birds were singing and I was mad. Why the heck was the damn sun shining and the stupid-ass birds singing, this was death's day. I turned back into the housing unit more determined than ever to get them bastard's back, to cheat them out of their stupid unjust sentence as they were cheating me out of life. Then I heard it, for the first time I heard the song, the words, the melody, the pain and the hope. "It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die, 'cause I don't know what's out there beyond the sky. It's been a long, long time coming but I know change gone come." I stop right dead in my tracks like a dear caught in a car's headlights. And I listened, I listened with every viber of my being. I listened with my ears, hands, minds, my heart, hell I listen with my toes. This man who I later learned was Sam Cooke was in that prison singing to me, saving me.
When I looked around, although my vision was blurry from tears I saw something different, I had heard the gospel. Change was coming and it was coming to, for and from me. And then the lights came on.
I didn't belong here, I was better than this. I could be better, I could and would do better. I would win. I would beat the odds. I could change my life. I would build a new life. A new life, a life where I helped people, where people respected and even loved me. The world would know my name, I would use my talents and gifts to touch and help others. I would learn who I was, what I was, where I was, when I was and why I was all that I was.
It was settled, I would live, I would change, the lights came on in my head, this brilliant heard on my shoulders and I could see. In order to cheat the cheaters I had to succeed, I had to beat the odds and I would.
What did it all mean? This was the test of test the challenge of all challenges. And from within the darkness in my heard came a light that lead me to freedom.