Originally published in the Summer 2019 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 59, printed August 23. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Summer 2019 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.
After reading speeches on self-help and self-determination by H.I.M. Haile Selassie I and Hon. Rt. Marcus Garvey, I started brainstorming on ways I could possibly assist my community despite being behind these walls. Considering the limited amount of resources at my disposal, I knew I would have to reach out to find someone like-minded and willing to assist me in bringing my vision to reality.
The vision was to provide a way for youth to learn self-reliance, self-discipline, and self-worth. After thinking on it for several days, I decided the best way to achieve this would be through a work-and-reward system.
I decided to come up with an avenue to start them on a pathway to entrepreneurship, working for themselves. What kid doesn’t like money? This would hopefully teach them accountability, responsibility, and reaping fruit for the hard work put in. Next I had to choose the business that would be age-appropriate and one within my means of funding.
I chose to go with a “lawn care kit” (mower, gas can, gas card, business cards, personalized “company shirt”). While I pondered on this venture, I ran it by a couple of comrades and, not only were they supportive in words, they were even more so in action, contributing funds and a commitment to future support for any upcoming endeavors. This is a testament to the fact that there are some good men in prison who shatter the selfish/predator stereotypes given to those incarcerated by some too ignorant or self-righteous to know otherwise.
The next order of business was to tap into an organization that would be willing to spearhead the movement and not be biased or intimidated to coordinate with a group of prisoners. Through the help of Restore Justice in VA, I was introduced to Angela Antoine of House of Dreams Outreach and Reentry, an NGO doing much-needed work in Newport News, VA. House of Dreams was just that, a “dream” come true. They were ready and willing to put in the necessary groundwork needed by using the funds raised to purchase all the equipment, as well as doing the community outreach to find suitable recipients.
The end result was that we were able to raise enough money to purchase two kits ($400+). In the beginning, I imagined I’d probably be able to start out with one kit for one person, but with the collaborative efforts of all those involved, that goal was doubled.
I hope this will inspire others in prison to look beyond their own situation and recognize the influence they can have on the world as a whole. With unity and faith, we can make a change. Eventually the negative perception some hardliners have of us in prison will be chipped away.
I wish to give thanks to all those who were instrumental in making this happen: Shaheed James, Jemarr Jordan and James Carmack, for their generous donations and valuable input; the House of Dreams Outreach & Reentry for their work in bringing everything to reality; Restore Justice in VA for their hard work and dedication in supporting all things dealing with prison reform; Majestic Creations LLC for donating the business cards and shirts.
LeMar Anderson #1021639
Categories: Letters to the Editor