Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Marlan Barrington

Heard/Arlington County Detention Facility writing contest, August 2019

How can we call this the land of the free? When we have a major human rights issue, we have more people incarcerated than any other nation in the world. How was this nation ever great or ever will be great? The honest answer to that is, it never was great and maybe in due time this nation can become great, this nation treats its people like numbers more than they are treated like actual human beings and that just isn’t humane. I believe it’s time for a change from these outdated laws and lawmakers whose mind states are in an outdated time period, things in this era change fast and I believe certain things such as laws and people should change just as fast to keep up with the climate, as they say in Jamaica “Ah young people time now”.

I believe drug abusers should receive more mental health care, not jail time. Jail doesn’t provide the right means to rehabilitation for an abuser, it adds pressure and stress that builds up in a person. This causes them to relapse when they are released from incarceration, the War on Drugs was a failure considering drug use was on the decline before the “war” was declared, and the drug that boosted the “war” was “Crack”, which didn’t mysteriously hit the streets till sometime after the “War on Drugs” was declared, there were two “wars” that was declared but the one involving the Contras is the one that turned its people into monsters.

If we put the same amount of energy into helping those who need it mentally, that we put into trying to arrest them and properly rehabilitate them, we would have a much better society, I believe honestly feel that the jail/prison system should be for violent offenders, such as murderers, rapists, child molesters, etc. As a capitalistic nation there’s other ways to make money besides Mass Incarceration, which is hurting us, putting out a bad image of us to the rest of the world, making our nation look just as some of the same nation we look down on such as those in the Middle East.

How can we say we want world peace when we don’t even have peace within our own nation? Once we as a nation find our sense of community things can start to improve and problems will begin to find the best humane solutions. Some issues shouldn’t be issues in this nation, such as the sickening issue of homelessness. Those in need of assistance can be placed in facilities with or provide them with social work programs, to which they can complete and get on their feet. America is a capitalistic nation, we would want people to spend money, so why not give them what we want them to spend, at the same time boosting the economy, reducing the homeless numbers and also reducing unemployment rate.

The education system needs some improvement also, instead of when our youths grow up and enter the real world running into stressful situation, schools should start from Junior High School teaching kids about taxes, interest, mortgage, investments, debt, credit, and trades, so we can properly prepare them for the future. The money spent on the “Space Force” is insane. If aliens are real, how are we so sure they are a threat when history says our nation is usually the threat, or how do we know there will be some sort of galactic battle? Even the extreme amount of money we put into our military can be used for better things and the betterment of America’s social climate, Also since this is a capitalist nation, putting money to the society will increase education and jobs encouraging more workers, which would result in more money for the nation. Equality can’t be a quality without unity in the community!!



Shopping While Black

Shopping While Black

 Phillip Anderson

 Nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Facility, August 2019

 When walking into the room, the smell was uplifting the warm air made me feel comfortable. Just the smell of fresh fabric was enlightening to the environment. The salesman and woman were very nice and welcoming with smiles on their faces.

The layout and display of clothing was eye opening, the mannequins were very well styled which tells me the visual is creative. As I walk through the department store the music was relaxing. With nothing less than luxury brands surrounding me me me just want to shop.

As I get to the sportswear section to the far right back of the store, I noticed an army green silk Dries Van Nuton suit. My first thought was “I’m here for a client not myself.” Nuton happens to be my favorite sportswear designer.

As I’m admiring the silk luxury green fabric on the inexpensive suit (it was on sale) an young black sales man approaches with an very expensive Gucci suit in hand. He smiles and says, I have a better option in blue. Of course I checked it out, the only difference was the color and of course the price tag (Because it wasn’t an sale item)

Like most salesman who work off commission he’s trying to make me believe the suit he’s holding is better option because hes the person working in the high end store so hes right and of course to make more money for himself and the store today.

I went into a deep thought while still listening and being very polite…

“I’m a visionary, I see things others don’t in themselves. I’m very creative but quite, a really heavy thinker. I can listen to 12 conversations at once and still think through everything. I’m very well dressed also know what works for others, as far as clothing. Outrageously talented in seeing through people in their true colors a great observer. Most people think Im an easy target but I’m like a bullseye hard to hit home.”

This guy is trying his hardest. Very interesting piece I say to the well dressed salesman. The scent of his cologne was Satel 33 a very intruding and expensive smell. I simply thanked him for his opinion and moved on with my purchase.

While walking back to the front of the dimly lit store towards the register I noticed another mannequin with 3 amazing David Yurman bracelets, none of which on display for sale. I thought “Damn just the pieces I need to complete the look. Once I reached the register I noticed an older white guy standing about 6’3 dark hair blue eyes, wearing a navy colored suit white button up shirt with a red tie. His first words were…”How are you paying” with no emotion but a very stern look in his eyes. I thought hmmm, “No how are you”. “Did you find everything ok” or “Who helped you with your purchase” being that they do again work off of sales. I then realized he looked me up and down, I’m wearing a comfortable gray Nike tech sweat suit with blue and white Nike running shoes. I’m a little flamboyant with my mannerisms but not too much, just kind of in my shopping element but I’m almost sure he noticed I was Gay, and of course Black.

I went on to say I’m interested in your stores studio services.” Studio Services is a service most stores offer to creditable wardrobe stylist. He says this location doesn’t offer that service. Once I got that response I asked for the manager Chris which whom I work with all of the time who by all means know me very well and offered me these services on several locations and yes I’ve used.

My warm uplifting feeling all turned around now I’m feeling angry and very unhappy. After realizing I knew more than he thought, he started to try to explain he misunderstood what I was asking and he’ll be happy to help me. However at that point I figured I’ll deal with him later being I was pushing for time, I pulled out my card and ID, made my purchase and headed for the door.

What was supposed to be a very productive working day turned out to be very disappointing and stereotypical.

The following day I contacted Chris made him aware of my experience and he comped me my entire purchase. Moreover just because I didn’t lost my cool and act as expected I received a very expensive suit on the sake on me just keeping my cool. After being judged on who I am and what he thought I stood for, which I’m sure he thought was “NOTHING.”



Untitled – Non-fiction

Untitled – Non-fiction

Aaron Connnelley

Second place, Nonfiction, Arlington County Detention Facility, August 2019

Ima look back on my life and roar with laughter if my frail body allows me to do so. I can see me now khakis, suspenders, a fishermans hat and orthapedic New Balance somewhere in a rocker. No smokes, no 1800 vodka or Remy 1738. Why, because I gave all that up a long time ago. My hope is I’ll see some grandkids and maybe some great-grands. Humph.

Let me tell you about my Pop-Pop. Truth is I can’t wait to see him in heaven. I want to see 2-Pac too but first I need to talk to Pop-Pop. When Pop-Pop died I was just a kid. Was he spiritual I dont know. I didn’t see him in a church until his funeral. He looked peaceful in his blue three peace suit with matching tie. See he had this blue ring around each of his eyes from the cadiracs. I’d miss looking in his face as he gave me a toothy grin. He didn’t care to much for his partials.

The truth is I’ve been lost and stressed. When will I find my peace. Let me tell you some more about Pop-Pop. His grandparents were slaves. He witnessed the movement of civil rights. Somehow during the pressures of the times he found his place in a crazy world. His trade a mason working with bricks, stone and concrete laying a nest egg while providing for his family. Not biologically connected to the family tree his wife extended herself and their home to a innocent baby produced from ignorance, youthfulness and the naievity of a sixteen year old child, my mother.

Pop-Pop, I wish you could’ve told me what the good fight was all about or so I didn’t continuously fail repeating foolish behavior. Left just a note detailing how to manuver in a cruel world until I grew myself I wouldn’t get it. If he ever did suffer it wasn’t for him to share with a boy. His brain was stronger in the end that his sight so while the evening news broadcast detailed the war on drugs then in a sense the epodimic touched my mother causing her to escape responsibility leaving me as a addition to his home.

As a little boy I watched uncle “J” as I called him, Pop-pop’s son tend his garden located behind the house. In summer watermelons, peas, tomatoes, tall corn stalks. I dashed through the rows until I fell tierd in the grass exausted but content unaware of the true meaning I lived in Pop-Pop’s home. I can’t forget the grapevine aside the back garage, the rose bush with thorns I’d better watch for as I circled the house running at top speeds as fast as my short legs would allow me. Pop-Pop had made it though navigating in a world through world wars.

Oh I didn’t tell you about the two rifles I found in his bedroom closet. I’ll save that for another time.

One time PopPop with his failing eyesight drove me three blocks to school in a nice Caddilac he’s kept in his garage. I knew he kept a liquor bottle hidden in the kitchen in the top cabbinet. Was it rasicm, was it marriage, was it having a cancer that was slowly eating away at his life. I got some questions for him.

So, Pop-Pop dies I moved. Still little in a grown up world I didn’t understand. As I tell you all this I know, one day Ima be able to lean back and laugh so hard that tears fill my eye’s unashamed to fall because I’m happy not now though. No way I can laugh. Ain’t shit funny. Its not a game. I feel like its me or its you.

Life isn’t easy. I hooked up with some people started smoking cigs smoking weed and drinking. I lost intrest in school. Began to hang out with some other not so interested people. Hanging out turned into putting in work. The living situation I was in couldn’t contain a hurt looking for exceptance growing boy. The streets excepted me at least I thought so. The game will use you up and discard of you in a jail cell or a deep grave.

A negative energy has covered me. A man-child in a place dark as a black screen. Bitting my nails placing the bit nails in a neat pile. I need to get myself together. Lost in addiction holding on to my life with a thin thread. Let me pray maybe someones listening. Why am I in this abandoned place all alone. Hope Pop-pop cant see me like this. I’ve embraced ignorance. After I crawled out for some air the revelation is in the end of carelessness, self-pity, addiction, alcohalism, drug-use, sex out of marraige, incarceration and personal abuse. The insanity.

I choose even though I was served a bloody hand dealt challenges which come in forces of negativity. I will reflect the good and the bad. Journey into tommorrow’s with sure confidence. The reason I cried will be the significance that one day I will laugh. Successful like Pop-Pop (a black man) against all odd’s made it through. In the end yes, one day I will laugh with tears of joy and then share with all the history of my Pop-Pop and of the Malcolms, the Martins, the Mandelas, the Marcus’s, the Micheals, the Marvins that made it. I wont segregate the truth of our history but allow knowledge to set the chains free untieing the oppressing demonds of the past, present and future. Yea, one day I will laugh.