"I didn't want to tell you all because people would make fun of me." Were the words from the young 20 something in my prison class this morning.
In talking about hopes, dreams, and goals there were things shared that came through masks that had been put on many years before. In many of these young men's lives a chance to share a different future is not something easily shared.
One young man said "I loved animals but once I recieved my first felony my dream of being a vet was gone." I learn more from young African American males in prison than from anyone else I spend time with currently.
I wonder if I was brought up in the scenerios they were how would I have turned out? How can I help those that are going down the same path?
In a book I am currently reading The New Jim Crow Mass Incarcaration in an age of colorblindess the statistics are stagering for how many african american males have a felony. "The US imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of Apartheid. In Washington DC it estimated 3 out of every 4young black men can expect to serve time in prison."
Withese statistics it is not suprising that many of these young men have a hard time sharing hopes, dreams, that do not involve a life of crime and/or violence. There aren't that many role models for a different path or a different way of life.
But when the masks come of it is amazing, it is a priviledge for these young men to share the person that God created them to be. It is inspiring to hear the stories of hope, naivity, and innoncence as the dream for different tomorrow.
I don't know if it will happen but for that brief moment in a concrete building surrounded by despair both physically and emotionally beauty creaps out.
After the words "everyone will make fun of me... the next words is want to write plays and movies. I already have begun to write. This comes from a late 20 something who escaped his house due to an abusive father and lived on the streets. Immediately there was silence as the guys looked at each other. You write plays they inquired. Yes and don't ask me about it again was his response. "I may joke, keep things light, or not take things seriously but deep down I am hurting."
There was a sense of relief that came from him as he said this. I wondered when the last time if ever he took of the mask? "I want to help out teenagers also, because my life was so horrible." Those were his hopes and dreams.
I don't feel like I do anything for the guys when I go into prison. They do so much for me, they help me see life through a different lense. A lense that sees the inequalities of our country. I don't feel sorry for them, I don't feel they are less of people but yet I feel that they may not have gotten the chances I or many others have gotten.
I believe we only can change this problem when we see and understand those young men who have the courage to take the mask off in front of us.