Prison-From Streets to Cells: A Journey of Hardships and Consequences

Prison cell. Image: Pixabay

Prison Journalism: Black history

Jeffrey Shockley is a writer serving a life sentence in the State Correctional Institution-Fayette in Pennsylvania.

Prison-From Streets to Cells: A Journey of Hardships and Consequences

Prison cell. Image: Pixabay

It is that I wonder what of my life represents Black History?

Merely being of unknown African descent does not make me Black when the life lived is contradictory to the essence of overcoming historical degradations.

Or does it?

The degeneration of the lessons the ancestors fought to teach through their blood spilled is sadly the norm today. Of which I am a part in by sitting in this external prison bound internally with my the own bloodied hands.

How can it be shared with my own daughter and her daughter, the most important women in my life, of which I have been absent in theirs, a better and brighter history of blackness that is not this stereotypical vision depicted in our everyday reality?

ALSO READ: Prison journalism: Time never defined

What strong Black man have I represented to them other than the negative voices heard with every question asked, “Where’s your dad?” that revisits their situational trauma again and again like that sound of a whip cracking in the air upon naked Black flesh?

Black History

This was not the trajectory of excellence expected when mother gave birth to the first of her five children, giving me a chance of a better life by my living with her mother at the age of three.

Much is the shame imposed upon the family name beyond the preexisting dysfunction which caused such hate of ourselves. Making it difficult to get along or love each other for the color of our skin. In the least consider the capacity of the brain to find peace within the collective body called family, building community.

What can I teach through the lies I’ve been told about being Black when sitting in the same space as those who do not trust me because my life was not unlike theirs, but not the same either? Yet here we are, together, under the same constraint of restraint and similar conditions in some modem day slavery.

Black History.

Isn’t it funny how we can live back every day as Black men and women, yet reflect back on life as such only the second month of the year for a week, unless one is killed by cops?

I have said so often for so long that I want to love this life in honor of those whom I have been the cause for their pains and devastations. It would be easy to blame external things but my upbringing wasn’t negatively impacted in the way others were.

As if I knew how theirs was.

Like our complexions, there are many different variations of a Black family. I lived my life trying to fill a void by stealing, drinking, then drugs and other unsavory lifestyle choices. I wanted attention that was nor there. A family I had that was fully mine, but wasn’t as I was raised on my own.

ALSO READ: Prison Journalism: The power of hope: crimes don’t change, but people do

I sit in this prison at times asking, “Who am I?”

Who are we in this dynamic? Set aside, apart from the normalcy of society. Our lives have become so engrossed in our environment that we are very detached from anything to connect to as the real world continues to change and evolve while we exist in this closed environment for decades, warehoused.

Black History

We may claim to know a little bit about everything but have never seen an electric car or the ever
Black History

We may claim to know a little bit about everything but have never seen an electric car or the ever evolving technological advances changing how society lives beyond the walls we remain confined behind.

Trying to adjust for what matters within self. We know nothing about living save for the haunting of a surrendered freedom and missing our family. Rationalizing doing what needed to be done only to make it to that next day.

I had a community that stood on the peripherals of my life, but I had no guidance, but for the domestic stuff Grandmom instilled with the minor chores around the house. Yet, I did not know what it was to be responsible.

ALSO READ: Prison Journalism: ‘Dear Momma’: A letter with all the things I should have said

How can I love me past these bars, through those scars from a past that tore so many apart?

How can I know what is possible when this time has no end but for the hope I have

There once was love for years, now undone by the pains caused over too many times of “I’m sorry.”

I remember you in happier times when your smile let me rest. Time no longer allows me to recognize the reflection in this distorted mirror life casts Black Who are you in my head Black man?

Black History

ALSO READ: Prison journalism: How to endure the winters of a life sentence

The article was facilitated by Erin Parish from the Human Kindness Foundation (HKF).

The Human Kindness Foundation’s mission is to encourage more kindness in the world beginning with people in our prisons and jails.

HKF has published several books including: We’re All Doing Time, Lineage and Other Stories, Deep and Simple, and Just Another Spiritual Book and provide these books for free to people currently serving time in prisons or jails.

Do you have contact with a prison inmate who would like to write for The South African website?

If so, send an email to or a WhatsApp to 060 011 0211

You can also follow @TheSAnews on Twitter and The South African on Facebook to get the latest prisoner journalism articles.