Second Chances

KOLAWOLE SOLOMON Instagram: execwalls

Age: 27
Occupation: Healthcare Administrator
Hometown: PG County, MD – by way of Nigeria

 

“I obsess over my own perfection, but is it possible that even in my imperfect form, I create the highest standard?” –K.S.F

 

It’s been told so often that I’m sure you’ve heard this story before. A group of young black males, late teens to mid-twenties, who aren’t used to having a lot – devise a quick plan in order to gain more. However, this plan, like so many others before it, forces these young men down the road to perdition – often called “the prison system.”

The year is 2005. After a string of armed robberies in Prince Georges County, Maryland – a group of young men conclude their night by robbing a Wendy’s fast food restaurant. This unfortunate event was witnessed by an undercover cop, which led to a high speed chase down a residential neighborhood. The young men are cornered by two squad cars on a one-way street.

After complying with instructions to turn off the engine of the car and toss the keys out of the window, via megaphone, the young men prepare themselves to surrender. Yet it seems that one of the two policemen still felt that deadly force was necessary in order to apprehend these young black men. The officer, by all accounts, proceeds to fire two shots directly at the vehicle, which prompted one of the young men to open fire at the officers in an attempt to save his own life by fleeing the scene.

 

That young man was Charles Vincent Cole, Inmate #336052 – a friend and a brother.

PROFILE PICTURE

Charles remained a fugitive for a few months, until officers were able to identify him with the help of statements given by his accomplices and other unrelated individuals seeking lesser jail time. He pled guilty to 3 of 32 charges and was sentenced to 25 years in a Maryland state prison.

I frequently reminisce on the events of that night, exploring how my own life could have easily traveled down the same road my brother’s had. I most likely would have been chilling with that group of men on that fateful evening had it not been for the fact that I had to work and was uninformed of the scheme until its aftermath. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was divine intervention – but whatever it was, it gave me a greater sense of purpose moving forward.

Within every human is a piece of ourselves.

The year is now 2014 and my life somehow mirrors Charles’ own. I have used my background in business administration to invest in and operate a boutique home health agency serving seniors in the DC area. I also run a website dedicated to my creative endeavors: photography, literature, and illustrations – which I also plan to make a business of. I workout at least 4 days a week and eat a lot healthier meals.  My mind is open and my views are liberal.

CHARLESA lot has been accomplished in the 9 years Charles has served. He has gained his GED, scoring so high that he was made the instructor of the GED prep course. He’s held a steady job in the prison kitchen, which has allowed him to make a few dollars as well as build himself from 150lbs to 225lbs. With the extra weight comes fitness – Charles leads a small fitness club within the prison, sharing workout techniques with other inmates. He’s also maintained good behavior throughout his incarceration, so much so that he is now housed in the “Honor Tier,” a section that offers a greater level of freedom and privilege.

Every visit I make to see my brother, I’m instead greeted by a new person, an improved man. I mean, dude even taught himself how to play acoustic guitar – a feat he would have never attempted a decade ago. Although neither of us is particularly religious, we both believe in the power of positive thinking. So you’ll never hear Charles complain about his situation or his past. He’s one of the most optimistic, forward-facing human beings I’ve ever known.

Charles is a living example that personal redemption is attainable for every man, woman, and child who seeks it.

Perspective dictates all. Therefore, our constant pursuit of self-improvement, regardless of circumstance, propels us closer towards our own level of perfection. I never have to say, “Free Charles Cole,” because he is a man whose mind has been freed a long time ago.

 

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18 thoughts on “Second Chances

  1. I appreciate this story because it provides a level of intimacy with an unfamiliar, but very familial, person. And “within every human is a piece of ourselves” is a strong statement. It suggests that people and their capacity for relating is a constantly interior/exterior process.

    Narratives about black men who’ve gone to jail under whatever circumstances are a thing in-and-of themselves. The point that a vast amount of black people can share similar stories is worth exhausting for all that it may gesture towards in the US.

    I would actually assume that such narratives are so popular that people can be quick to dismiss them. But as powerful recollections for, stories about, or evidence of a real person, these details dislodge the dehumanizing language and perception of them as statistics.

    Proximity to a person in emotional, physical, or systemic danger stirs palpable responses like “what if?” Honestly, how a person may respond is up to them. Sometimes people do not recover from experiences like these, sometimes they do.

    It’s par for the course of economic or social oppressions that people face or face through the experiences of others. The feminists have said it, and others have followed suit: the personal is the political.

    I remember someone asking me whether or not personal narratives could creatively mobilize individuals. The obvious answer is “yes.” Exploitation -could- be an issue, but not in this case. People are often searching for themselves, whether consciously or unconsciously, and oftentimes don’t afford enough time to understanding how micro- or macro- situations such as this produce an effect.

    Like you said, there doesn’t need to be a campaign, but I’m also thinking that fast information today allows for people to uncritically absorb any and everything. How do you feel once a story like this is out of your hands, and would you scaffold it any other way?

    • I appreciate how detailed this response was. You dissected every aspect of my post and explored further than I was able to. Thank you.

      “But as powerful recollections for, stories about, or evidence of a real person, these details dislodge the dehumanizing language and perception of them as statistics.” – I totally agree with this statement because the human element is what creates a flesh and body out of stories that people may find cliche’ or otherwise repetitive, and allows us to find our own humanity within them.

      To answer the question in your final paragraph, I think that this particular story is one that has the potential to affect others due to the very true reality of it and the similarities it shares with so many other stories of its kind. So out of my hands I would like for it to spread ORGANICALLY and touch others in the way it has touched me, offering a different perspective to the grim endings that these situations often hold.

  2. I feel this story is so personal to you but is written very formally with little to no emotion expressed. After reading this, I feel anxious. I don’t know enough as I’d like to. I want to feel & see your descriptions of the robberies, I want to have a better understanding & visual of your brother… I’m left wanting more. My literary tastes have only had a sample instead of being satisfied.

    • You’re right! Although I tend to write short prose often, this particular story was intentionally truncated and formal in order to make it easy to digest and also in order to NOT make it a theatrical rendition.

      This story was written to be in line with this blog’s specific theme of the month and in doing so I chose to limit certain details that would not have aided in that purpose – and would’ve ultimately been trivial.

      I’m glad you found the story to be compelling and enticing, maybe I’ll write a full novella on it in the future. Thanks for reading and commenting though mademoiselle.

  3. I would like to say that I definitely admire the article and agree on many different levels. Personal level being the most important
    Sometimes people find their own paths in life in order to achieve or receive what it is their lacking mentally. We may not always understand right at the moment, but ultimately will get the picture. Everything happens for a reason..

    • That’s so true. Everyone must walk their own path and each path is unique to each individual. Everything does happen for a reason, and it’s even better once we identify those reasons and associate them with the things that have happened. Remaining conscious and aware.

      Thank you for your response – it’s greatly appreciated!

  4. The human story is as infinite as the universe. All are important. All are connected. Whether via personal relationship or vicariously. This story is important because it shows the fragility of life decisions. Direct in appraoch yet it had subtle references to dealing with racism and spirituality.

    • “The human story is as infinite as the universe.” That was wonderfully stated, especially because certain stories may seem incredibly similar on the surface, but have so many nuances once we choose to look deeper. And I’m glad you caught some of the nuances in this specific story.

      Your response was needed, thank you.

  5. As a mother of five sons, four who are already grown, your story provides great inspiration for rising above your situation. The mind is a powerful thing and i encourage everyone to guard it to prevent being led down the wrong path.

    • I agree, the mind is an powerful thing and we must certainly guard it as well as strengthen it. Strengthening our minds comes in different forms, one of which is finding the benefit in any of life’s harsher situation we’ve been place in. That opens up our perspectives towards things like solution-oriented thinking and acceptance.

  6. First of all, I would like to impress how solid and passionate this article is. Been the fact that I know this story in a more detaile level and how (even if you may not know it) it helpe me progress in life from the year 2005 till date in terms of “decision making” and how out lives/future is not defined by what we go through in the present, but by how we handle present situations and bring the positive out of it and make a better future for ourselves. As young black men, we all need this moivation in our everyday lives in order to rise above any obstacle we are going through, an hence make appropriate life decisions.

    Thank you again for this great piece.

    • Thanks for the comment bro. You hit the nail on the head – we can’t change the past, we can’t predict the future, but we can work on ourselves and our outcomes in the present/ in the now. And then, like you said, the future may hold a better outcome due to our current efforts.

  7. This story paints a picture of two friends/brothers who have lost each other physically to the criminal injustice system. Black men in the United States more often than other “races” of men are forced to find alternative ways to make money. Due to the oppression that they face they have higher rates of unemployment and are more likely to live under conditions of poverty.

    However, these brothers have not lost themselves. What stands out most to me in this piece is that although one brother is incarcerated and the other is living in the “free” world, they are both living parallel lives striving to become the most perfect versions of themselves. Neither of them have given up. The brother on the outside owns a successful healthcare business. The brother on the inside has excelled to the point of teaching other inmates classes, and lives in the honor area of the prison.

    The experiences of these two black men show the abundant and unwavering strength of black men. It sends the message that even though they are both oppressed in prison and in the world, one should never stop trying to reach self actualization. One should never stop trying to blossom even as there are threats that their petals may be severed off.

    I am so proud of both of these black men, and encourage them to continue the positive paths that they are traveling.

    Signed,
    A black woman that will never give up on black men

    • “…they are both living parallel lives striving to become the most perfect versions of themselves. Neither of them have given up.”

      You get it – you completely understood the basis of this story (and all the underlying themes) and I appreciate your understanding and empathy towards it. I also appreciate your sign-off.

      I was always told that people are products of their environments. I used to find evidence of this throughout my formative years, but I’ve realized that that saying mainly applies to those who are entirely influenced by their surroundings. I now believe that people are a product of their thinking and Charles Cole is a strong example of that.

      Thanks for your response and overall kind words – it means a lot.

  8. It is our nature to prosper, regardless of the situations. We are and always will be trapped in a system, so I appreciate the positive message despite the dire situation. So few of us truly understand the honest method of freedom, it is not a material aspect, but one of substance, or pride, and of encouragement. I send my positive energy to you and yours, knowing it will be received and transfered to those in need…

    • That was sacred – I applaud your comment. I believe freedom to be a mental construct, similar to your definition. It is def whatever we make of it.

      It’s interesting how a seemingly negative situation can be transformed into something beneficial if the lesson is observed and adhered to. So the negative is needed in order to realize the positive. Without a THAT there would be no THIS. 2 sides of the same coin.

      Thank you.

  9. This part resonated deeply within me:
    “Every visit I make to see my brother, I’m instead greeted by a new person, an improved man….Perspective dictates all…”

    The idea that our circumstances have the power to limit us only as much as we are willing to allow them to is a message that I drive home for myself & others consistently. The ability do the emotional work necessary to move forward, improve upon the person you once were and to educate and elevate others to do the same is an example of freedom in and of itself. We are only bound by that which we allow to bind us.

    I know this story. I’ve read this story. Heard this story. Felt this story. From the mouths and hearts of black mothers and little black daughters who play he role of pen pal, girlfriend, wife, sister… From the hearts of little black boys who play son, father…brother. And yet still, I don’t know the depths of this story. The truncated version, with details purposely left unwritten, the absence of the nuances that make this story personal and different from the next. But the pain and triumph of discovery reminds me of another similar occurrence, circumstance and subsequent willpower to rise above. It is captured in a jazz piece that I will leave for your listening pleasure: Christian Scott’s piece “Yesterday you said tomorrow–Angola, LA and the 13th amendment”…Its a story of pain, power and redemption.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rlFg1Z85m5I

    • That jazz piece was soothing yet angry, powerful but subtle – as complex as many of the situations we face throughout our lifetime, situations that shape and mold our being. Thanks for sharing that.

      Although it’s no surprise, I truly appreciate your ability to relate and empathize, especially in the absence of some of the more mundane details of this story.

      Thanks for taking the time out to respond.

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