At 5:00 in the morning, every door in my wind slides open and we all emerge from the confines of our cell. With sleep still in our eyes, we stumble out of the main door and into the crop morning air. The destination: breakfast. We are filed out as if we are cattle going to pasture. Sometimes I believe that is exactly how we are viewed: animals going to feed. The scene, although a regular occurrence, will never lose the depressing effect it has had on me and I am sure everyone else.
I am a percentage of one of the fastest growing statistics in America today, the young black male prisoner. I am viewed by society as a failure, an outcast, and for the most part despised by my own community because of the predicament I am in at this moment. Being that black males in general have a 29 percent chance of being incarcerated at least once in his lifetime, it seems as if before long we will all be in prison, and there will be no one left to point fingers at us, besides sisters and of course white America, who seem to live for the day when they can say “we told you so”.
Prison, or what they now like to refer to as a “correctional facility”, is an extreme anomaly. There is nothing corrective about this place, regardless of what the government wants you to believe. This is a human warehouse, and a graveyard for those who give in to the stresses that this environment produces. As long as we eat, take a shower, and stay put, the administration feels they have done their job. Anything outside of those objectives is considered an “extra”, or a privilege. Even a ten-minute phone call or a visit with our loved ones. I broke the law, so I am not entitled to or worthy of love; or so they believe.
Every word I type could be viewed as a form of rebellion, and could easily get me thrown in the hole for over a year. But the hole is just another prison inside of a prison, and I refuse to be silent. They have taken all of my material possessions and even my family to a certain extent, but I will hold on to my dignity and my right to speak until my soul is snatched from me. I told a friend not too long ago, “ The worst thing they could have done is lock me away and give me time to reflect and refocus.”
I believe that “their” job or primary objective is to destroy the black male by any means necessary. I can proudly say the plan has backfired. With each second that passes, I gain more strength and wisdom. Today, I am the ultimate Black Man. This is what prison did for Malcolm X., Nelson Mandela, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Geronamo Pratt, Assata Shakur, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, George Jackson, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King, Huey P. Newton, and me: George Silky Spann.
Although prison has been the birthplace of many great minds it doesn’t have some mystic aura surrounding it promising enlightenment to all those who enter. What is unique about being confined is the atmosphere that can be conducive to significant mental development, or deterioration, depending on how a person approaches the situation. On the one hand there is the individual who is stripped of basically everything material that he/she possesses. This particular person also feels obligated to toss the many masks, character liabilities that have continued to burden him, onto the pile as well. Totally naked, literally, and figuratively, he is prepared for the long journey of self-discovery, which will open the door to a myriad of other tools necessary for this person to become the essence of what a man or a woman really is.
On the other hand, there is the person who gives “the state” all of his materialistic possessions, not voluntarily, but because he is forced to. However, this person refuses to hand over the mask of pride and ego. For one he feels he will need them in the prison environment, and secondly, but most importantly, he is scared to death of what himself and others will see underneath. His decision to keep the masks will prohibit him from traveling down the road of self-discovery because in order to do so, he would have to go alone. That is what he is most afraid of.
It would seem as if I fit the first example perfectly, but hold the presses! I may be on the right track today, but this was not always so. There was a time when I held on to my masks and a certain façade for dear life. Being a former member of a gang, particularly the Six-Duce Crips, I am very much familiar with disguises or what we call “fronts” in the neighborhood. Weakness or backing down was never an option, regardless of how you really felt. When you are involved with a group of young men with low self-esteem who have no direction, naturally you begin to take on those traits. As a result, the negative aspects of peer pressure are reciprocally exchanged and unconsciously passed from one member to the next making any chance of growth or redirection virtually impossible. In other words, everyone is afraid of change because of how they believe they will be viewed by their peers. Little do they know, their feelings are not unique and are actually felt by everyone else in the group.
It took me some time to make the decision to change and become my own man. It was not as difficult as some say, but it wasn’t simple either. I can still remember told me: “One of the most difficult transitions you will make is the one involving your evolution from a boy into a man.” He told me that it isn’t always simple letting go of years of childish ways, because that is all you know. Immature thoughts, including dependence on others, sometimes takes a while for them to be sanded over and replaced in the mirror and make a life or death decision concerning my existence. Either I was going to grow up and prepare myself for a life outside of prison, whether it be physical or psychological, or I would die a miserable death confined within myself. Today I walk an unimpeded path of continuous development and progress, and I come to you a self-governing Black Man unchained and free from the burdens of immaturity.