BROOKS FREMONT CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, MI — I read Bryan Stevenson’s book, “Just Mercy,” and the story seems very similar to mine. I would like to quote you from his book. “My main years of struggling against inequality, abusive power, poverty, oppression and injustice has finally revealed something to me about myself. Being close to suffering death [and the cruel and unusual punishment inside the prison system] did not just illuminate the brokenness of others in a moment of anguish and heartbreak. It also exposed my own brokenness. You can’t effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression or injustice and not be broken by it. . . We are all broken by something; we have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the conditions of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken nature and the compassion that remains . . . Or we can deny our brokenness, our compassion and, as a result, deny our own humanity.”
I definitely wanted mercy for the residents of Benton Harbor, MI, and would have done anything to create justice for my fellow brothers and sisters, Black, White Brown, Red, Yellow and all others. I cannot pretend that the people’s struggle was disconnected from my own. We have choices. We all owe the people who have fought inequality and oppression and for justice.
I have been threatened, terrorized, wrongly accused wrongly, condemned, but I never gave up. I survived the humiliation of three trials and several different charges against me. I survived two guilty verdicts and several wrongful condemnations by the State of Michigan, and while I didn’t survive without injury or trauma, I still came out with my dignity.
I told people that I have overcome what fear, ignorance and bigotry and oppression has done to me. I stood strong in the face of injustice; this made the rest of us a little safer, slightly more protected from the abuse of power oppression and the false accusation that almost killed me.
I suggest to my friends and family that my strength, resistance and perseverance were a victory worth celebrating, an occasion to be remembered. The establishment tortured me but I am still standing. The establishment lied on me but I am still standing. The establishment sent me to prison with absolutely no evidence to convict but I am still standing. The establishment gave me 30 months, which would be a death penalty for a 66-year-old man, but I am still standing. The all white jury was motivated by something other than the truth but I am still standing.
Let’s make this struggle a victory for us all who in the struggle against the oppressor, and the corrupt criminal justice system, in every town and city in America.