Saturday, July 12, 2008

Day 30 Walk 4 Life at 5 Points

After the whole encounter with the police and all on day 29, Teresa had driven me to a meeting point where I was met by Esther. I never met Esther but was greeted like I was meeting with a long time friend.
I was way off my route but I knew it was for good reason. We bid our see you laters to Teresa and quickly drove to meet another comrade Judy who I had met before. I met Judy and her husband in La Grange, Georgia at the march I had participated in there. I met Esther through Judy. We ate dinner with Judy and her husband which was really good. It was so good I went for seconds but had to take it to go. I was staying at Esther's house and she had to get to her home to catch an important phone call. No she did not do the cell phone thing. Understand when I say I took my dinner to go, I mean it. I had to just grab the plate. I even took Judy's silverware. We were in such a hurry I even took her cloth napkin which made for a good laugh.
We got to Esther's house in time for her to get her phone call which she passed off to me. The important phone call was from Jeff. Jeff sits on Alabama's death row. After speaking to Jeff Esther and I spoke for a while then went to bed. It had been a long day and day 30 seemed like it was going to be a long one as well.
I woke up pretty early considering I didn't sleep many hours. I couldn't get right to sleep thinking about Jeff and the conversation we had. It wasn't a long conversation but we covered a lot, he also drilled me for what I was about to face this morning, a classroom full of teens and pre-teens.
I really wished I had been able to record the conversation I had with Jeff or better yet I wished that every member of society that was pro death penalty would find the courage to speak to at least one human being that has been condemned to die. Men and women on death row are always made out to be monsters. Well I'll say this much, Jeff is no monster. Here this brother sits waiting to die, nothing to lose in truth and all he wanted to talk about was his concerns for kids out in the free world. Jeff's compassion was definitely heart felt. He wanted nothing more from me than to make sure I would do what ever I could to reach as many kids as I could so that they wouldn't wind up in the belly of the beast. I had never spoken to Jeff before in my life but let me tell you, we spoke as though we had known each other for years. I instantly had love for this brother.
I had enough time to for a brief walk in the morning before eating breakfast then we were off. Judy had set it up so that I could speak to a class of 8th graders at Five Points elementary school in Five Points, Alabama. As I walked I prayed like there was no tomorrow and I reflected on everything Jeff had told me the night before. This lecture meant the world to me. I love kids. I love kids so much I would do anything to steer them clear of the path in life I fell upon. It's a big part of my mission, to keep as many kids as possible out of the grips of our system, out of the mouth of the beast.
I was a bit nervous entering the school that was up until we made our way into the office. I spent more time in school offices in my days than I had in actual class rooms so I felt at home. There were kids in there as well and being around kids makes me feel good. I could tell they knew who I was already, the big smiles made me feel real welcome. I was ready.
About 30 8th graders, four teachers, Judy and myself hung out for about an hour and a half. I could have hung out there with them kids for hours no problem. As I said before I love kids.
When I was asked to come to Five Points I was told there had been some racial tension. I was asked if I could possibly speak on this to see if maybe I could calm things down. I am no expert on racial issues but I had a number of situations in my life that definitely had prepared me for such a talk. I had just walked in La Grange, Georgia trying to ease racial tensions there so I shared about that. I also shared my first hand accounts of dealing with racial discrimination. I had dealt with racism as a child and also in prison I had been in a prison riot that was all about race.
The kids were open to every topic I touched upon. I first just gave them a brief about my life. How I ended up on the streets, in prison and how I ended up there in front of them. This brief covered an array of topics such as racism, drugs, violence, gangs, prison life, the culture of hip hop, the importance of education and yea capital punishment.

Some may be thinking what did speaking at an elementary school have to do with walking against capital punishment. Some may also think the kids were to young to be hearing about such a topic which couldn't be furthest from the truth. I really believe speaking to kids in this age range is vital seeing statistically a number of the kids in this classroom I stood in would inevitably wind up caught up in the web of the system. At least two of them would be facing capital punishment unless they could be reached.

The walk was about unification and with high racial tensions unification at Five Points was needed badly. The walk was also about educating people on the truth about the death penalty. Seeing these kids are at the moment directly affected by this inhumane act meaning money that should be going to our educational system is diverted into the criminal justice system. They have a right to know this. They also had the right to know the statistics. That at least one of them would wind up on death row unless they took action now. They listened, they asked questions and in the end we all learned something.
I told every child in that class room that I loved them and I meant it with all my heart. I wondered how many of them had never been told they are loved and cared about. See I was never told I was loved and cared about when I was a shorty coming up. When it comes to kids I am no expert, didn't go to college to study child psychology or anything like that. What I do is try to give kids everything I felt I needed as a kid growing up. I give them attention even if brief cause trust me, a brief moment can go a long way. Besides telling them I loved them and cared about them I hugged every kid in that classroom. Hell I scooped up a few and gave them seconds, a couple got thirds. Physical affection, yea I starved for it as a child. It was a great morning.
I was probably older then a number of these kids parents yet we connected. That is the beautiful thing about the hip hop culture. Hip hop breaks down racial barriers as well as age. I did a couple of accapella's for the kids. Even those that may not have been into hip hop listened closely with eyes wide open. A bond was built that was strong. I thought about Jeff the entire time I was up there. I also thought to my self, politicians, our leaders should be doing this like all the time. Not go into fancy schools but poverty stricken schools like this one. Ones with metal detectors and guards at the entrance. They should walk into these schools on a regular seeing these schools are a direct product of their decisions. If they used half the money and effort they use to lock human beings up towards better education, alternative education we would have have the problem solved. But they rather run around acting like tough guys shattering lives.
It was hard to say goodbye to the kids without question. I just wanted to stay and build with them but we had to go. They were going to lunch I believe. On the way out though I was asked to slip into another class room. I didn't have a lot of time but I got to spend like 20 minutes with a room filled with 7th graders. it was my pleasure. I could still see all them smiling faces.
I know some of the kids I got to meet will go on to high school but some will still be at Five Points next year. I hope to return and I'll tell you what, I would go to the high school to see the kids again. I love them for real. I think of them daily and pray for all of them daily.

It was hard to leave Five Points. The kids just showed so much love for real. We were on a schedule though. After leaving the school we rushed back to Esther's house where I had stayed. Esther set up a meeting with Charlotte Clark Frieson from the People's Voice newspaper. Before Charlotte arrived I had time to grab a bite to eat and talk to Jeff on the phone again which was good medicine for me. I actually got to speak to Jeff for nearly a half hour or at least it seemed so. I liked kicking it with Jeff we just had that connection.
Charlotte arrived shortly after I got off the phone. What a joy it was to meet and build with this woman. She was intelligent and her energy was incredible. The interview lasted nearly an hour I would say. She took some photo's and then we bid our see laters. She was awesome.
After the interview I only had moments left to build with Esther before heading out to my next stop. Words are hard to find to explain what Esther meant to me. She was simply amazing; another angel walking the earth. Esther really touched my heart. She gave me some great food for thought and she made one mean cup of coffee.
After one last cup of coffee Judy was set to bring me on to my next destination. A great example as to the direction the walk was taking took place in these moments. Though we were a bit behind schedule Judy got the idea to stop in on a local paper that hadn't responded to her announcements that I would be in town. We walked into the offices of The Valley Times. Judy quickly briefed everyone in the room where we stood and turned the floor over to me. I said my piece and in an instant we were appointed a young journalist. We went into an office and did the fastest interview I have ever done. I could tell what we were doing touched this young writer. His eyes really lit up as I rapped a verse for him. After answering a barrage of questions we stepped outside where I walked for him as he took some pictures. We bid our see you laters and Judy and I were off and running.
This is the direction the walk took. It wasn't that I lost control, the fact is I never controlled it from the start. I felt guided from the very inspiration of the walk so I didn't fight it at all, I just went with the flow. My willingness to go with the flow, to except everything as a blessing made the walk what it was up until this point and I could be nothing but grateful.
The press at times were not there for the walk as they said they would be but for the most part they were good about it all. We got more press than we had expected. The people themselves were coming out of the wood work. What we lacked in numbers was made up for by the efforts of those that did come out and help.
After this last interview Judy rushed me off to my next stop. I was to meet with a man they called Chief. Chief agreed to put me up for a night and being he was a film journalist he agreed to interview me. The only catch, I had to go to Tuskegee, Alabama.

Judy and I had great conversation on the way to Tuskegee. Before I knew it we had arrived. I quickly took my gear out of her car loading it into Chiefs car. I quickly was made to realize why they called this man Chief, see he was the retired chief of police. Judy bid her see you laters and was on her way.
After retiring from law enforcement Chief started his own TV show called the Reveler. I was actually dropped off at a location where he was filming a political debate. Chief put me to work right away helping him with cues. Funny even holding up cues the politicians wouldn't stop talking go figure that.
As I sat listening to these politicians debate and talk themselves I wondered what on earth I was doing there. My mind started running. I had been off my route for days and though it had been productive and I felt I was following God's lead I began to feel anxious but relief did come.
After the debate the politicians left quickly. Before the attendees could get out of the door Chief announced who I was once again and let me briefly explain why I was there and how I got there. This was enough to get the attention of a few people that seemed to be involved in the struggle I am fighting in. Meetings were set up and everyone went there way.
We got to Chief's house a bit late but I stayed up first talking with him for a while and then I got some work done before passing out for the night.

On this day I walk talked and worked for Larry Rush (On death row for over 20 years.)