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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Changing the Perception, Starts with Changing Ourselves

WARREN
Duke 1

Age: 21
Occupation: Real Estate Agent
Education: Earned his Bachelor’s in Sociology from UMD- College Park and is currently getting his Masters in Supply Chain Management at UMUC
Hometown: Upper Marlboro, MD

 

Lately there has been a lot of press about African American males, specifically young African American males, due to the recent deaths of Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, and Eric Garner from police brutality and excessive force. I am usually not the one to speak on situations that affect the public but being an African American male in today’s society, I feel this is a topic I must express my opinion about. I am not speaking to take sides with anyone because although I am an African American male, I do have a background with working for federal agencies and do get to see the perspective coming from a police officer’s view.

My peers don’t realize the severity of some of the things we do every day, which we think are normal but are wrong, and since no one has told most of us it’s wrong, we continue doing it. Some of these things include cursing out loud in public, sagging our pants, or even caring more about cars, clothes, and jewelry as opposed to getting a good education. I’m not perfect but I do understand that there is a time and a place for everything. I’ve been told that no matter how hard you try to hide, there will always be someone that is watching you and judging you based upon your actions, whether you are with your friends or family.

Duke2Social media and lifestyles, which I believe go hand and hand, are the other areas we must  consider in a time like this. Social media is something that is becoming more and more popular in today’s society. Many of us let social media determine our lifestyle or even use social media to reflect a lifestyle that we really don’t live. I recently heard this statement from a prior conversation and believe it’s true, which is social media is the only time African Americans can come together and keep up with the most recent current events while still being able to express our opinions. It’s very rare you see a young African American male pick up the local newspaper to read about what’s going on around the world such as politics or business. In high school, my 10th grade history teacher use to stand by the stack of local newspapers in front of the school and would watch how almost every male who picked up the newspaper, skip straight to the sports section and throw the rest of the paper away. Its little things like this that reflect our lifestyle to the public because in this case if sports are all you feel you need to know about, then others will be forced to believe that as well. Displaying that we don’t care about education, business, and politics, will give people a reason to judge us and not include us in decisions regarding these topics which have the potential to change our lives more than sports do.

Needless to say, I do not believe killing another person is right, whether that it is black on black crime, white on black crime, or white on white crime, but what I do believe is that we can’t change society until we first learn how to change ourselves. In the future, I plan on changing the perspective of how African American males are perceived in today’s society. Graduating from the University of Maryland in 3 1⁄2 years, going to graduate school, starting my own marketing company (MWA Marketing LLC), and purchasing my first residential investment property are all just a few things I have done at a fairly young age. Some may see this as “being ahead of the game” while I see this as being behind, because there is so much more I feel I need to catch up on. But with a mindset like this, I believe this is just the beginning of something great that God has in store for me and my culture.

 

We are still accepting submissions for this month! If you or anyone you know might be interested in the theme and contributing, feel free to email me at raven.best5@gmail.com!!

Black Men: You Are Loved

Trayvon Martin. Ezell Ford. Eric Garner. Mike Brown.

A few names in an overwhelmingly long list of men who’ve lost their lives due to the color of their skin. Many argue that we live in a post-racial society, that race is not a factor in these types of cases, that race is no longer an issue. Personally, I believe the sentiment that “we don’t see color anymore,” while utopian, is ignorant. A blindfold that enables us to overlook the blatant injustice that still exists. I don’t need to reiterate the statistics that proves while racism is no longer “legal,” it is still present; arguably even more threatening because it has now become covert and institutionalized.

The recent string of black male deaths at the hand of police brutality, while never easier to swallow, are not new. And even scarier is the thought that they are not surprising. Negrophobia is not a new trend or phenomenon, and it is constantly perpetuated in our society. Black men are perceived as a threat before anything else. And those who break that stereotype are considered an anomaly.Black images in the media are very narrow, if not a celebrity, athlete or the token black friend, black men in the public are generally assumed to be criminal or degenerate. And these unfair misconceptions not only reinforce, but *justify* the mistreatment that black men must face.

In seeing the complete character assassination in the news about Mike Brown that ensued after his death, it really hit me how rare it is to see positive and true depictions of black men in the media; and how even rarer to have it come from black men themselves. So, knowing that I created the Free Your Mind Project in the hopes of broadening the perspective of black women, it is only fair that I do the same for our men. So, September will be dedicated to giving voice to the black men who are tired of having to defend themselves against the stereotypes. This month will solely consist of features from black men talking about their lives, their dreams and their opinions. No questions, no specific themes, just unfiltered thoughts.

 

I’m truly excited to share these pieces with you guys and if you or anyone you know would be interested in contributing, feel free to email me at raven.best5@gmail.com


Happy September!