The year was 1990, it was a late summer evening and we had just pulled off the biggest job our neighborhood had ever seen. ( I was 16 yrs old and I had just found, planned, and accomplished the impossible.) The streets were quiet, it was after midnight and everything was coated with a fresh layer of rain. I remember thinking, even the hood looks clean after it rains. I am very quickly pulled back to reality by these five words I will never forget: "You know what to do!" I am being handed an UZI and the cops are behind us. It is at that moment that I realize what is about to happen if those lights come on, we're going to shoot these cops. I don't have a choice, in all honesty, if those lights would've come on we'd all be dead by now. I don't know why those lights didn't come on that night, divine intervention maybe. Little did I know that night would change my life, it catapulted me into a world it would take me another 23 years to escape.
I got home that night and I sat out on the porch and shook uncontrollably and cried in silence. I shook because I had to bottle up the fear that came at that moment. The couple moments in between the cops being behind us and them turning off felt like an eternity. However it was during that eternity I realized that I would have pulled that trigger, I would have followed that order. You see, it may have been my job but I was the youngest one on the truck by far and had no authority. (Oh how that would change!) I was so lost at this point in my life that I would have done anything for the "Brothers".
After that night I was no longer a boy, any resemblance to that scared kid that started this journey was dead. The choice was made to go all in, to dive deeper into the darkness. I was amongst family, and for the first time in many many years, I had found a place to belong. These kids were just like me, they just needed a place to call home. That didn't necessarily have to be an actual structure, our home was the Nation. Whatever prison or jail in the country, I would be home. Our "Brothers" were everywhere, well so I thought. You see, it was really easy to forget that some of these guys would put a knife in your hand just to see you never go home. They will kill you if you are standing in their way, these were not my "Brothers" and I had to get away. Some of the best parts of who I am, I learned from kids I grew up with: the meaning of friendship, loyalty, and love. I will never regret the time that we shared together. In a way, I will always be a "Brother" and I will always remember my first home.
When I think of home today, that word has a whole different meaning to me. My children are my home, the dwelling in which we spend so many hours together making memories. We are essentially growing up together, we are learning how to be a family. This is all possible because I decided to change my mindset. I couldn't continue to battle my mind and my heart, I had to find a way to get them aligned. How can I change my thoughts? I found that I could not, so I needed to change what I did with them. I have the power of choice. What I do with my energy depends on what I decide to nurture.
I look at my seven-year-old, and can't help but think that I was his exact same age when all of this started for me. This little frail young person who still needs so much protection and guidance. I don't remember being that small, that vulnerable, that innocent. But I was, and I was forced to face this world much differently than most 7-year-olds. Now I can't go into a lot of detail about who the "Brothers" were, but what I can tell you is that as long as I have breath in my body, my children will never know that side of the darkness. I can't protect them from everything, however, what I can do is explain to them what it feels like to dance with the devil and live to talk about it. They will know of all the hardships, challenges, and choices that were made that led me to where I am today.