UP TO THE BREAKING POINT
I grew up running the streets of Columbus at a young age, just me against the world. My family, we were close but dysfunction was our norm. I grew up in a violent home that was centered around selling drugs, which turned me into someone who had no regard for authority. There was never a question about me getting into drugs, it was expected. Drug was the way of life that led me out of school but made me feel belonged to the street life. Carefree but violent, everyone was making illegal money selling drugs. I ended up using cocaine at age 22 as a social user and surrounded myself with enablers that I can manipulate so that I had an endless supply. What started as a street smart that satisfied my need turned into something uncontrollable. I was going places that I did not want to go and doing things that I did not want to do. I was reaching a reall emotional and spiritual bottoms. As I had been in and out of institutions and jails, I knew how to do time. But when I was imprisoned at age 38, I had just the right amount of misery and just the right amount of discomfort, a result of broken heart over a conflict with someone that caused me to constantly fight with others. I ended up in a solitary cell, maced in my eyes that developed terrible infection that left me feel less than human. There I broke down and surrendered.
I thought I needed a Bible and asked for one. I just started reading and jotting down thoughts on the margin, which turned into poetry in spite of my total lack of prior experience writing poems. In reference to Maya Angelou’s, “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings” I call my collection “Songs of a Caged Bird.” As you can see in my poem, I felt that there were concrete guidance of God throughout this time. This one is called, “The Whole Truth.”
Perched up high, in this cage, I see above the razor wire,
no fresh breaths, and only baby steps from the freedom I desire.
To spread my wings, to fly away, tis only but a dream.
To reach within and become my own friend is my own reality or so it seems,
I’d float around for many years, never stopping to make a nest,
now I must sit still, now I must heal and in this cage become my best.
I sit in silence day after day with these four walls that surround,
then one day, the Lord spoke to me, I never heard a more beautiful sound.
He said my child, I will restore all that satan has stole from you,
and in this hole I will make you whole and you will fly away with your heart anew.
When I was released from prison for the last time, my hometown Columbus didn’t have opening in their halfway houses, so they sent me to one in Cincinnati. Within three weeks, I heard about Nehemiah. I had encountered this name through a book about an incarcerated girl and Israel’s imprisonment in exile. This seemed like God’s guidance.
Although I was skeptical of factory work, I found that it was a place of healing and restoration. If I had to describe Nehemiah in one word, it would be grace because when society deems us that we are out of chances, Nehemiah gives us another chance. People here do not look at me with any assumption: even the CEO doesn’t look at me any different. Nehemiah gives so much more than a paycheck. I am moving up. I started working 3 years ago, and now I am an assistant supervisor. I’m in an entrepreneurship program now. “The Songs of a Caged Bird” will be published soon and the proceeds will fund Cage Bird Ministries, a nonprofit I envisioned. With what I had been given, I now try to be a beacon of hope for others.
Although I have made numerous mistakes, each and every mistake I have made has made me a richer person. The one thing I regret is not being nice to people. I was very mean and selfish for a very long time because I simply did not care about other people. Thanks to Nehemiah I was able to turn my life around completely and I thank God everyday for that. My dreams and desires are different now. Recently, I was accepted into Cincinnati Christian University and am planning on starting there to get two degrees, one in Business Management and the other in Bible Studies. I have also reconnected with my mother and now we pull each other up when we fall, and swap devotionals regularly. I never thought a relationship like this was possible with her. I never believed I was truly special until all of the people at Nehemiah built me up and believed in me. This place is remarkable, and so is God.