On Saturday morning, August 2, 2008, I was on the prison yard when unexpectedly an announcement came over the facility loud speaker which said, "Attention on the yard. All yards are closed. Report to your housing units. All yards are closed."
It was around 10:15 AM and yard typically does not close until 10:45 AM. As I returned to my housing unit I noticed there was an ambulance parked at the health care building. I deduced there was a possible nexus between the ambulance and the early yard closing.
At the time I was speaking to Helen on a telephone located on the prison yard. She, too, suspected that something was wrong and immediately asked me if everything was alright. She knew it was abnormal for the yard to close early so abruptly.
Having heard the urgent tone of the loud speaker announcement also added to her concern.
Later that morning I learned, according to staff accounts, that a prisoner had stabbed another prisoner while in the shower, puncturing his heart and killing.0 The victim and perpetrator were both Black.
Unfortunately my instinct about the ambulance I had seen earlier was correct. I will admit, however, I suspected it may have signaled someone needing medical attention. I did not think it was a homicide victim.
The incident was a reminder that prison is not a safe place. While prisons may be absent of guns or sophisticated other legal weapons, it is not devoid of improvised objects that prisoners use to create weapons for whatever reason. It is a reality that exists in every prison.
News of the prisoner's murder quickly swept across the prison and evoked a host of discussions. Disturbingly, what I did not hear was colloquy about the issue of the need to curtail the cycle of violence or ignorance that results in this type of destructive behavior.
At a time when the absence of males of color in society has reached catastrophic proportions, this issue is all the more important. Our communities are being devastated by the absence of males. Consequently women, children and families are suffering and struggling for survival. Some more poorly than others.
The murder of the young man on Saturday represented so much more than the death of a prisoner. It was an attack on the heath of the community. Man is a symbol of the seed that is germinated in the sacred wombs of women. Without it civilization can not endure.
Educating people about the value we each contribute to the pr
eservation and perpetuation of humanity is vital to helping end the violence gripping our communities. It is only when people do not acknowledge and respect their own self-worth, and that of others, that they can rob another human being of the precious gift of life.
Transforming each situation into a learning opportunity helps us change the world in some small way. It can help us alter the trajectory of destructiveness and help us embark on a path of restoration and healing. We simply have to be the catalyst that initiates the process.
There are no guarantees that a prisoner will return home to his/her family physically unscathed, or even alive. What we can guarantee, however, is that through striving to make a difference we can work to prevent future recurrences of senseless homicides and help shape a new consciousness. We can also help release the mental shackles that are fostering ignorance and self-hatred.
In so doing, we will promote the sanctity of life.
The Struggle Continues,