By Clinton Walker
We have all heard that ancient adage "You reap what you sow". It's the grandfather of sayings, like that of which the Godfather of Soul forewarned with the "The Big PayBack." It's the bywords of sayings like "What goes around, comes around" and " That's what you get!" The adage usually has negative consequences and is spat after witnessed acts of bad behavior that are rewarded with what some believe is universal karma: a slip and embarrassing fall after an attempted kick to a bent over bottom, the witnessing of an ice cream scoop splatting on the gravel ground after being used as a tease tool, or Spider Man shrugging off a fleeing robber only to learn the same robber later took the life of his Uncle. "You reap what you sow" has an undertone of warning.
To CADBI members, family and loved ones who fight against this capitalist Eden called hell, as we await the chimes of freedom’s bell to signal the end of Death By Incarceration, I caution you to take heed to those possibilities of negative consequences. You have planned, organized, negotiated, fundraised, offered time and personal joy, cried and smiled forced smiles, confronted and begged politicians, quarreled amongst each other, cared for and loved each other. You walked tired legs with sleepy eyes to the next meeting and rally. You have tossed in a fortune of sacrifices in the Fountain of Sacrifice. And since what feels to be the dawn of forever you've put boots on the ground, fertilized the soil, raking & plowing, scratching & clawing the unhealthy, unkept, malnourished inhumane ideas and thoughts that tolerate DBI. You've been in the field, dropping seeds whenever and wherever you could in the name of healthier prisons and second chances. You did this all for those you hold close to the breast. Yet I wonder, as the harvest now seems a lot closer than far, if the crops are prepared for your gathering.
This moment is the most progressive carceral-political moment I've witnessed in two decades. Arguments in the courts are being heard concerning the different unjust components of DBI. The public climate concerning DBI has warmed to a considerable degree. In turn, politicians are willing to push the envelope on major prison reform, allowing a bill of parole eligibility for most Lifers to have a real chance of passing (Fingers crossed, eyes shut tight, prayers to the Creator).
Men throughout the prison system are excited and full of more hope than can be contained. Their prescriptive programs are complete, and endorphins produced by fantasies of freedom intoxicate the mind. The blooming from concrete ground and razor wire gates is in sight. Many of us men and women are ready to jump aboard the freedom train to a less restrained life, but it is in these times that us confined men and women are to be reminded how that ride has never been free. A currency of dedication, sweat, and tears by you all has been paying that toll for some time and it must be reciprocated.
This is a time when we must be reminded that along with enjoying the many wonders of life when we are finally out this hell, we have an obligation to try our damnedest to correct wrongs we've done. We have an obligation to you to help rebuild communities that we helped destroy. We have an obligation to continue the fight that y'all have been fighting. We have to be reminded that it is not an option. The freedom train was never to be a free ride. You must demand our loyalty to the struggle. You must demand that when the harvest comes it cannot only be about us no longer having to hear the sound of a count bell, or finally being able to indulge in the blissfulness of sexual pleasures.
The importance of your demand cannot be stressed more. It is only you, the ones that cared enough to fight in the tranches, that have the ability to root us to the struggle against injustices upon our release. It is you who we owe.
And it is you who we'll even consider giving our ear to. My hope is that you recognize and exercise your power of demand.
It would be a mistake to assume that those who endured decades of strife will automatically pick up the shield and sword to join the field. I'm here and I hear the confessions of just wanting to be free, which often translate to just wanting to find a job, a significant other, and be left alone. After reading the mission statements of CADBI, I understand the movement as bigger than those aims.
If it's true that the way to determine sincerity is through one’s actions, then preparation should be the barometer between the two. Believing with blind faith is not wise. Hard questions need to be asked of us. What do we plan to do to right our wrong and how do we plan to do it? Those who fight hard in our corner have a right to ask in detail with conviction of how, why, what, where and when in regards to our plans of giving back to community.
What I'm stressing here is that your sacrifices must not be in vain. Reaping what you sow may have a negative connotation, but negativity holds no ownership to it. Like the sprouting of a dandelion from spores pollinated from seasons before and once more, once matured, allowing the earth's wind to scatter its seeds in the form of a summer’s snow cloud, so too can the reaping of your sow, not be of negative consequences, but a beautiful illustration of what second chances look like after manifestation.
Clinton Walker is a an avid reader, a writer, and a poet. His poetry has been published in Apiary Magazine. He’s also a self-proclaimed singer, though many who have heard his vocals would strongly disagree. Though he’s had few opportunities for academic achievement, he takes pride in the fact that he’s been able to develop a strong mental strength and character despite the horrors, hardships, and assaults of the prison system. Originally from Philadelphia, he’s been serving a Juvenile Life Without Parole sentence for the last 19 years.