The non-violent felonies at least, this one’s for you.
You are valued. You are loved. You are more than your circumstances. There is hope for you and your children.
A huge aspect of my narrative is the fact that my father spent ten years of my early childhood incarcerated for non-violent drug crimes. From the age of four to fourteen, I was without my biological father. I was angry, I was hurt, and felt abandoned.
This was despite the fact that I was fortunate enough to have a second (step) father to fill that void for a majority of that time. However, even he in the most gracious of lights was not exempt from falling into the system around us: mass incarceration.
Mass incarceration aka America’s “prison boom” began in reaction to The Crack Epidemic of The 1980’s. An “epidemic” in which that was introduced to mainstream media is 1980, but not an actual epidemic until 1985, when CIA backed Nicaraguan rebels smuggled the drug into the country, and placed them disproportionately in black and brown (latino) communities.
The Crack Epidemic affected impoverished families of color like wildfire. Father's pegged as drug dealers and mother’s were set up to be crack “whores.” This was a direct result in the impact of the highly addictive drug. Poor black/brown folk used the cocaine to escape their harsh realities and/or to make an income.
The children of those who went through adulthood in the 1980’s, dependent on drugs, became directly affected and influenced into the life gang banging and drug dealing. A toxic cycle was born, that showed young-men in poverty that the “easy” way to make it out was to resort to selling street drugs. Both of my fathers were just a couple of black/brown men directly impacted by this cycle.
Thus, mass incarceration was created to further separate and destroy families of color by means of systematic oppression. Black/brown men were removed from their homes, incarcerated miles away from family, and then labeled as felons to limit their access to opportunities for success.
I provide all this background to note that as a child, I had no way of knowing any of this.
There were no resources immediate or scholarly that addressed the cyclical impact of systematic oppression on communities of color. I therefore, responded to the situation in a way that the system wanted me to. I held anger toward my father. I ignored his attempts to build connections with me. When he went into the system, we went in together and underwent turmoil.
Presently, as a young-adult, I resent the way I went about my father’s incarceration. Because, if I only knew what was stacked against him, I could have been there for him at a time in which he had nothing. Understanding the history of mass incarceration has been a huge contribution to the rebuilding of the relationship I have with my father and I’m positive that it can do the same for others in like situations.
Us both understanding systematic oppression and how it nearly ripped us apart has allowed us to grow a sense of community within each other. Unified in bettering our lives despite what any system might expect to see.
This is all to say that education yields understanding. Everyone in the system is worthy of that opportunity. The opportunity to understand your situation. The ability to self-educate and share education.
To the father’s who hold felonies, all is not lost.
You are valued.
You are loved.
You are more than your circumstances.
There is hope for you and your children through education and commitment to creating a healthy relationship that you both crave.