For most of my life, I was the guy most wannabe thugs wished they could be. Officially declared a “menace to society”, I was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for my role as mastermind of a series of daring bank robberies in the 70s. Two involved shootouts. One with the police. The other with a citizen in a bank parking lot where I narrowly missed being killed. While confined, I took part in an even more daring prison escape.
Despite this seeming penchant for violence, I consoled myself with the notion that I was merely a poet trapped in a gangsta’s body and oddly enough, this wasn’t far from the truth as I had evolved from a family of teachers, four of whom taught English. As such, I learned, early on, to respect and to appreciate language since my grandmother was very strict and would not tolerate improper grammar under her roof.
From the start, there appeared to be a household conspiracy to convert me into a writer. By the time I was ten, I possessed a private library fit for a scholar, had a new typewriter, a big desk, and plenty of blank paper. By 11, I had mastered the dictionary, was a whiz at Scrabble, and was a honor roll student in school. At twelve, I had completed my first novel.
By my 13th birthday, I had discovered hustling and I immediately dropped out of school and adopted “the streets” as my home. By 14, I was in reform school for assaulting a police officer. While there, I was a star journalist, the first black deemed smart enough to work in the print shop and on the in-house newsletter. I served one year and a day.
Upon my release, with hardly any delays, I embarked on a personal crime spree, and at the age of 15 years-old, I was sent to prison where I was the youngest convict there.
While in the Youth Center, I acquired my high school diploma at 16 years-old, wrote my first play, turned militant, and when released at 19, went to New York to join the Black Panthers.
In New York, I discovered heroin. Writing and the revolution would both have to wait as a drug habit left little room for anything else. When I tired of being a junkie, I kicked my fascination with getting high, but years later would emerge as the “alleged” kingpin of a notorious heroin distribution ring.
Finally brought down by the FBI and DEA in 1997, I again was sent to federal prison. This time I would be gone for a decade, but once more I turned back to what I had turned my back on: writing. I studied journalism, started a writer’s colony, mentored other aspiring prison writers. I edited and founded various newsletters, performed freelance editorial services for outside writers while quietly perfecting my craft.
Hailed by some as one of the greatest prison writer ever, I was interviewed by numerous TV and print outlets. My writings have even been studied in an English class at an university where I was invited to lecture.
While in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, I published two novels, but soured on traditional publishing after a deal gone bad with a well-known publisher. I also developed two programs. One, PROJECT UPLIFT, which deals with drug-dealer addiction. The second, GIRLSMART, a community service program concerned with at-risk, teenaged, black girls. This program is a counter to the video vixen syndrome where sistas opt to employ their booty rather than their brains.
I have finally gone from wrong to “write!”