CONVERSATING ABOUT WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND!
“The art of life isn’t controlling what happens, which is impossible, it’s using what happens.” Gloria Steinem
November 4th was a bitter sweet day for me. It was sweet because I was leaving death row after 20 years and will never be walking through those big black doors marked “Condemn II.”
What made it bitter is I left behind my lil brothers & big brothers. That was so hard to do because these individuals were on the battlefield with me, everyday. My last walk out of those doubles doors they removed the handcuffs so that I could walk to Bager section. It was the first time I took the walk without being cuffed. On death row the only time you can move freely is on the East block & A.C. Yards.
As I started walking to Bager, it felt as if time had stop. The walk was short, but it felt like the longest walk I had taken in 20 years. The sun was shining on me and it wasn’t a cloud in the sky. There wasn’t much movement on the Upper Yard and the only sound to be heard was the little black birds chirping, and for a moment I remembered what it felt like to be free.
All that came to an abrupt halt once I stepped through the door to Bager, because it’s a “Mad house”, and I was back to reality. The inmates were loud and nasty just like death row used to be up into 4 years ago before the inmate became workers. The big difference was the C.O’s not being so petty. Fish lines swung past my head & feet as I walked to my cell. I was placed in a cell with a youngster out of Frisco who just got 51 to life who couldn’t tell me much about the program, because he just walked through the door before I did.
I knew a close friend of mines was in Badger, so I inquired about his where-a-bout. He told me, Skull was right up the stairs. I had a runner go to his cell to tell him that his partner Young Rob from 77 Green was here. He disregarded it, thinking the runner had the message incorrect, because he just seen me walking out of death row going to a legal visit. The runner returned and said that Skull just said, “Yeah, Alright,” like he didn’t know who or what he was talking about. I asked could he hear me if I hollered at him, he said, “Yeah!” I hollered at him and once he realized it was in fact me he still was at a loss for words and sent me a kite asking was the Governor giving out pardons before he left office.
That night I was able to walk to the chow hall for the first time. And all the cell doors came open at once so I decided to lag back just to see if I saw anyone I knew. That’s when I saw a love one name, Tidy. He knew who I was, but was confused because he knew I was on death row. So, he asked me my name. I told him my Swahili name, Saba. He responded by saying I looked like a love ones he knew. I decided to stop playing with his head. I told him that it was me. He went crazy. He was pounding on my shoulder that I just had major surgery on just a week before. We walked to the chow hall, and he never stopped talking. He tried to fill me in on everything during chow, and what I should know before I made it to Yard.
I thought it would be much more movement in the yard, but to my surprise there wasn’t. We are only allowed yard twice a week. Shortly afterward, I was called to sick call on a follow up to my operation when I ran into a love one, Criddy-Bo. He showed me around the prison, and told me about all the things going on in Oakland while we sat in a holding cage that’s much like the bullpens when you go to court. A, officer came to the door and couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw me. He broadcast to everyone that I just got off death row, which made me the center of attention and everyone in the holding cage had questions to ask. They all had a misconception of death row.
We had yard that day and I was trying to make it there because I had been in the cell 4 days. When I finally hit the yard it was just like the old A.C. day’s on the integrated yard full of every race. I was looking for my love ones, but couldn’t spot them through the sea of people until I stepped through the gate and there they all were. We greeted each other with a solid pound while I did an observation of my new surroundings and took mental notes. Skull brought me up to date on a lot of things while my mind drifted back and forth to how I just walked pass death row twice without going into it. Yard was nice because of the weather and the conversations.
My next walk was to the canteen line. When I got to the window the woman behind the glass was so mean. I had to tell her that it was my first time in the canteen line and that I was use to canteen being brought to my cell on death row for the last 20 years. She then decided to be patient with me and taught me the process while asking me questions about my time on the row. I seen a few of my brothers as I waited in line that I said what’s up to. I’m sure they were wondering why I wasn’t saying much to them. There was a sign on the window that said, no talking in line, which the angry woman enforced and would kick you out of line without canteen. I said a silent prayer for all of them for the best outcome for their struggles.
After not having a cellie for 20 years it was going to take some getting used to. My first cellie was moving around the cell in the middle of the night when I woke up and kicked him in his back. He had to wake me completely up to tell me,” Hey, you’re in Bager now. You have a cellie now.”
To all my brothers on death row I salute all of you, because I know your struggles. And I’m not saying bye because we will see each other again. R.I.P., Big J. Rock Family Style. Peace !
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