Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Day 26 Welcome to Georgia

I woke up really early on day 26. I actually passed out pretty early. After a long day of meetings and interviews the day before I was brought to Jubilee Partners Christian Community in Comer, GA by Connie who I have spoke of in my earlier blogs. On the way to the Jubilee Community I got the chance to really get to know Connie who I met through The Journey of Hope. Connie does a lot of work for the Journey and also helped me so much on the Walk 4 Life, she is a God send. She is truly an amazing person. I have to say I really needed this time building with Connie and I also needed the time I got to spend at the Jubilee Community. I was gaining a wealth of knowledge on the walk and I was growing spiritually by the day but I needed a break to reflect and process some of this newly found treasure. My time with Connie and the night spent at Jubilee was exactly what I needed.
As I said I woke up early like 3am and I worked on my blogs and answered the never ending e-mails till about 7:45 am. I was then invited to a morning church service. My hearing was really bad but it didn't matter the spiritually in the room was strong and very heart felt. It ended with everyone in the room hugging each other it was just amazing. I was then invited to breakfast at the home of Don and Carolyn Mosley who live at the Jubilee Community.
Don Mosley was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia and a regional director in South Korea. With a background in history, math, engineering and anthropology, he helped launch Habitat for Humanity during the 1970s. He has been on its international board of directors a total of 10 years, a record length of service that reflects his enthusiasm for building homes for poor people around the world. He and his wife, Carolyn, are leaders of the Jubilee Partners community in Georgia, which has hosted about 3,000 refugees from more than 30 countries around the world. The main goal of the Jubilee community is to express Christian beliefs through compassionate service to others.
Don had to be one of the most interesting people I have ever met in my life. At breakfast he talked about his friendship with former President Jimmy Carter. He had just returned from a trip to the Middle East with Jimmy Carter. A trip that was making headlines at the moment. I was speechless. This man had some incredible stories. I could have talked to him for days but he had a meeting to attend and I had some walking to do.
I didn't do any filming at the Jubilee Community at all because I chose to just take in the scenery as I meditated and prayed. I basically walked around the property which was deep in the woods of Georgia, it was beautiful with a lake and gardens all over the place. I used this time to regroup. I processed a lot of what I had experienced thus far on the walk.
At lunch time I was asked to speak about my past experiences in prison and to share about the walk which I was honored to do. I gave a brief history of what lead me to a life on the streets and behind bars and got deeper when I spoke about the Walk 4 Life. As I spoke about the brothers and sisters waiting to die in cages I couldn't hold back my tears. I appreciated everyone that was there lending me their support. It felt good to be amongst compassionate, loving and caring people that understood how I felt. They respected me for who I have become, who I am. Understand I am not used to this at all. I am more often times than not still looked at as the way used to be, still looked at as a criminal.
I was empowered and charged up after my time spent at Jubilee. I vowed to return which I will most definitely do in the near future. I think what they do there is incredible and I would love to volunteer to help for a time.
As arrangements were being made to drive me to where I was supposed to be, (back onto my route) I was informed about a different walk that was taking place in La Grange, GA. Don Mosley and his wife were attending this walk and seeing they volunteered to drive me back to my route I decided to put my route off a bit more and attend this walk in La Grange that was about trying to bring harmony and peace back into a racially divided community. I felt it had everything to do with what I was trying to do with the Walk 4 Life, trying to unify people. I was pumped up about attending this walk and I was also charged up about getting to spend more time with Don Mosley.
Don Mosley in action!

On the drive to La Grange which was again way out of my way Don and I talked non-stop, he was truly an amazing person. He had dedicated his entire life to helping others, his wife standing strong by his side and doing the same. He has even went to prison for what he believes in. This man is someone I will look up to for the rest of my life. Don not only blessed me with his company and his kindness helping me out on my walk, he gave me a gift I will cherish. He gave me a signed copy of his book I am so looking forward to reading when I finish this walk. God bless Don and his wife Carolyn.

When we got to La Grange I got to meet another amazing couple that ran another Christian community there in La Grange. Anton Flores and his wife greeted us with open arms upon arriving to La Grange let me to tell you I felt very welcomed. They were truly amazing people. I was speechless at the work they do for immigrants in this country. Anton like me is originally from Brooklyn, New York. He is also Puerto Rican like myself. If you know anything about Brooklyn, New York you know we Brooklynites stick together no matter what. It's a bond that is talked about world wide.
We broke bread together as we spoke about the racial problems in La Grange. There had been a wave of home invasions targeting the Latino community seeing a large number of Latinos are illegal and tend not to report crimes to the police out of fear of being deported. Some African Americans homes had been targeted as well and it was suspected that young Black youths were responsible for the invasions. The community was on edge and the racial tension was mounting and Anton decided to take action. He called for unification. He was asking everyone to meet on the streets to try and find solutions to the problems. He had printed up cards to hand out and briefed all the volunteers as to what we were to do. We were to greet people on the streets and speak about the issues. We were to knock on doors inviting people to come out and meet each other and talk about the problems at hand.
Anton Flores in Action!

We weren't many, but we were ready to hit the front lines. Armed only with flashlights, reflective vests and cookies we hit the streets. Understand that though we were walking in peace our lives were on the line. Those that were taking part in the home invasions were armed. A young brother had just been recently shot during a home invasion right where we started this walk. We visited him and he showed up his bullet wound with a smile on his face, I was amazed by this brothers spirit.
I personally took action first approaching a small group of Spanish brothers hanging out in a parking lot drinking some beers after a hard days work. At first I thought they could care less, but I was wrong. I talked to these brothers for like an hour, rapping for them in Spanish and talking about unifying the people of all poor communities. At one point I stepped away from our little cipher to approach two African American brothers I spotted walking to their car. I started telling them who I was and what I was doing there speaking fast on George L. Jackson and the Black Panthers. I spoke on the struggle that lead Huey Newton to build the Panther Party to battle oppression and racism. I spoke on how this struggle was still very much alive and how we needed to come together instead of killing one another. I spoke on how the Brown and Black struggle is one and the same and how this struggle was now also a struggle that included Whites and all races really. It's a struggle of class. These brothers listened and also agreed with much I had to say. I kept their attention for some time with my fast New York speech. I rapped a bit for them and they knew without a doubt I was real with mines. I gave them End the Death Penalty buttons and a hand full of material and asked them to spread the word, that we needed unity to overcome. We exchanged pounds and embraces and they headed out smiling. God is good let me tell you. He was working through me.
I approached a number of people as did all the other volunteers. There were a number of happenings that night walking in La Grange such as the police being called to check out a possible home invasion ready to take place. We were truly on the front lines risking our lives for we all felt was right. I definitely believe this walk had everything to do with what I was trying to do with the Walk 4 Life. Seeing there were casualties already in the crimes taking place, someone could very much so end up sitting on death row. My hopes was avoiding this from happening. I hoped what we were doing would reach one of the young brothers partaking in these home invasions and have him think twice before it was too late. Even more so I hoped maybe some of the young brothers would be inspired to protect their community along with Anton instead of being an addition to the problem.
See I know what it's like to become desperate on the streets. Desperate enough to arm yourself and desperate enough to pull out that weapon and use it. I have been there. People that have never been put into a life situation where it makes you so desperate find it difficult to understand how someone can turn to such extreme measures, I find it very easy to understand seeing I lived it. I was a kid that was left to slip through the cracks. I took to the streets because that was the choice I was left with. Once on the streets options are very few to the eye. There is help out there but honestly it took me over 20 years to find it. Even when I did find the help I desperately needed it wasn't an easy path to walk. With the lack of compassion and forgiveness in this country it makes matters all the worse let me tell you. People are to hung up on punishment, payment and individual responsibility instead of correcting and rehabilitation. Well when I see a grown man with a 5th grade reading level sitting in prison waiting to die by execution I wonder where the responsibility taking is. Did this individual fail or did we as a society fail; to busy to care for our children leaving them to make choices seeing we have free will when the fact is they haven't been taught properly as to how to make sound choices. I know I didn't have the proper tools to process the situations life handed me as young man growing up. I was treated less than human as far back as I can remember then was told I needed to except responsibility for my choices and actions when every choice I could see would have had the same end results. I have over time excepted responsibility but I can't over look the fact that I was failed, I was a victim of a cold society that is geared more towards profit over anything else including human life.
Anton and his wife were kind enough to put us up after a night of walking. I had a hard time sleeping thinking about the people in La Grange. Talking to the young Latinos that shared their incredible stories with me had a huge impact on me. How they work their asses off to send money to their families back in their impoverished countries as they try to survive here in America a country they look up to yet treats them like they were less than human, treats them like criminals. I learned a lot from these compassionate men who even in their dire situations reached into their pockets and insisted I accept donations to help me continue my fight. God bless them. We could all learn something from these brothers that seldom think of themselves. Yea I thank them and give thanks to all the beautiful people I met on this day. God bless us all.

We constantly fail our children here in America. Who will except responsibility for this fact?

On this day I walked, talked and worked 4 James Robinson Jr and Leon C. Cooper (CA death row)

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