A FACE OF THE EPIDEMIC
by Ebonie Warren
First place winner, nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center/OAR writing contest, August 2020
I remember walking home from school by myself on one of the rare occasions that I went. My mother had not showed up and I was 6.
I can see the house up ahead. Maybe she’s not home as usual but as I approach I somehow know that something is wrong.
See I took care of her and my sisters and I hated at 6 that I couldn’t stop the insanity that was my life.
When I walked into the basement which was part shooting gallery and part our living space, I immediately start looking for my twin sisters and when I find them in a corner rocking back and forth I know that today will change my life.
Then I heard a man’s voice and I followed it to the back and there on her knees was my mother and 3 men standing in front of her and one of them had a gun.
I knew in that moment I could deny her nothing.
I took care of her when she was drunk or when she nodded out with a needle in her arm. I pulled it out.
So when she looked at me and said “Mommy needs a big favor” I somehow knew that my needs didn’t matter. Everyone else came first and sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the survival of everyone involved even at the expense of your very existence.
So that day I traded my innocence for her life while she held my hand through it all. See I’ve lived in an epidemic long before the world acknowledged it.
I am a 5th generation addict. Addicts are beautiful, misunderstood people who just want a break sometimes because life can be cruel. We assume our realities are all consuming and our feelings will strangle us.
Jail gave me the opportunity to be clear headed long enough to see that my life can change. I don’t have to die a statistic and my mother’s life was not a prophecy for my future.
I almost turned it into one and only I can do that. I am not evil, evil was just done to me. I am not my mother, I just came from her and life is bearable.
Being in recovery is only one dimension of the many that make up me. I am an intergration of all my experiences, failures, and successes. I am a mother, a sister, a good friend and a fragile women. I mess up sometimes, but that only makes me human.
Get to know the stories behind this epidemic because that’s where the healing starts. Every one of us has a story to tell.
We are more than numbers in statistics.
We want help managing our disease.
by Semhar Teclay
Third place winner (tie) nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center/OAR writing contest, August 2020
How It Happened
by Deonte Johnson
Second place, nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center/OAR writing contest, August 2020
I loved fentanyl and heroine more than anybody or anything else I stole from my kids and mother to get high and didn’t feel bad about it.
As intelligent and goal oriented as I am I hung around all crooks and low life people twice my age who lived like I was getting high day in and day out, manipulating others, committing crime and living in the streets. Our way of living was the total opposite of the average law abiding citizens.
When everybody was up getting ready for work and going about their day productive I would be somewhere sleep and when everyone winding down for bed I’m just getting up running the streets looking for a way to get my first fix. It got to the point where I started staying up for days so I wouldn’t wake up sick from not having my fix when I woke up.
I would go hard in the streets to get money to stay high this lifestyle and my way of thinking at the time caused me to be arrested over 30 times. I didn’t learn my lesson from none of those arrests because either I got out the same day or wouldn’t serve no more than 90 days in jail.
Every time I got out the first thing on my mind was getting me some dope once I made it home to my neighborhood in no time I was welcomed back with my first high for free then before you know it I as back in the swing of things running the streets, committing crimes, and within my first month of being home a warrant would be issued for my arrest.
I was always placed on probation I would never report due to my continued drug use. Everybody I surrounded myself with pretty much conducted themselves the same as I did so none of us seen nothing wrong that’s why why we hung out together. When the police wanted to make an easy arrest they would just roll up on me and run my name because most likely they knew I had a warrant.
While living like this I never went home for two reasons one being my family didn’t tolerate my behavior and two because I had to travel too far to cop so I rather stay in the streets where I had easy access to everything I need.
Besides I was ashamed of my physical appearance and my family was speaking a bunch of stuff at the time I didn’t wanna hear about going to a program and getting clean how they always praying for me and I need to stop running the streets, stay out of jail, get a job and take care of my kids.
I use to be so high and use to doing what I wanted to do at times I forgot I had kids it’s sad but true. Even when I decided to give them a call I would make them a bunch of promises I couldn’t keep. For special moments such as Birthdays, and Holidays I wouldn’t show up because I looked bad and the dope man had all my money and full attention.
I didn’t even attend my grandmother funeral and help comfort my dad in a time he needed me most that was his mother and he loved her to death. I didn’t have my fix the morning of her funeral so I didn’t go.
Although I never tried to get clean I was scared to because of all the stories I heard I heard about how bad it would be withdrawing off heroine also I never thought I had a problem.
However on August 10th 2019 all that changed my addictive behavior caused me to cross the bridge in Arlington Virginia and commit a crime I was held without bond and been here in the ACDF since.
Being here in the ACDF I have been able to accomplish things I couldn’t accomplish on my own in society such as physically winging myself off heroine with the help of Dr. Ashby and the medical personel I was able to.
The ACDF has provided a safe and secure environment that has allowed me the opportunity began my recovery from from addiction process.
I don’t think anybody ever got more out of coming to jail than I did. In fact this jail enabled me to study far more intensively than I would have if my life had gone differently. Where else but in the ACDF could I have attacked my ignorance by being able to study intensely.
I’m in treatment today privaleged to be a part of the ACT unit I’ve had the opportunity to learn all about addiction how it affected myself and others. Also I learned how to begin dealing with life on life terms without being intoxicated.
Now today I’m comfortable with communicating and asking for help! Clinically I’ve allowed my brain enough time to transition from the addictive state back to a normal functioning brain.
Also I’ve managed to begin rebuilding broken relationships with family and love ones mainly my children and their mom! Today I’m much better than I was when I came to this facility.
Honestly I needed this experience being confined to one place for a period of time to get a grip on my life before it was to late. This facility saved my life since being here I’ve been able to set goals for myself now I have more than enough tools in my tool box to stay clean and sober be a great dad and successful upon leaving this facility.
Thanks to the ACT unit staff, some of the deputy’s I’ve conversed with over the past year and Ms. Watkins for all of the information, words of encouragement, and positivity y’all surrounded me with has helped me in my recovery process and has also helped me to think the way and become the man I am today!!
What is Your Vision of What Hope and Change Looks Like?
Heard/Arlington County Detention Center/OAR writing contest, August 2020
Do you hear me?
Am I loud enough or is my silence too profoundly compendous for you to bare?
Is it a sin that the hue of my skin is Black?
Is being Black a condemnation to death?
Why do you hate me so much?
They’ve deemed me a menace to society, they’ve even called me a super preditor, morally demonizing and dehumanizing me and those who look like me. I’ve been racially profiled, discriminated against, the justice system looks the other way when injustice is done to us.
The law claims that your innocent until proven guilty, but they obviously left out the part that says unless your Black. Do not be oblivious to the smoke screens and the propaganda. I’ve been asualted, I’ve had my nose and my lip busted on several occasions. I’ve been maced, tear gassed, tazored on my left collar bone which could have left me parallyzed. I’ve had to plead with law enforcement officers “please don’t shoot my brother” repeatedly. Thank God I was there because they would have killed my brother that night.
I was only 15 years old.
I’ve had law enforcement officers put their knees on the back of my neck as we’ve all seen being done to George Floyd obstructing air to my lungs on two different occasions in Toledo Ohio.
I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
8 minutes and 43 seconds of pure evil fueled with hyperkinetic energy as we watch another unarmed Black man die at the hands of law enforcement. I’ve seen so many unarmed Black men die at the hands of law enforcement that I suffer from hyper vigilance and post traumatic slave disorder.
They say slavery has been abolished, but I beg the differ. The new Jim Crow, the prison industrial complex, systematic racism, racial profiling when will it all stop?
You can’t be free if the cost of being you is too high. To my black brothers and sisters, let that resonate for a minute. You can’t be free if the cost of being you is too high.
What is my vision of what hope and change looks like, to me is to become the hope and change that I would like to see.
My vision of what hope and change looks like is from being confined to a jail cell serving a two year sentence as of March 8th 2019 to being released early on October 2020 on good behavior accumulated through working eighteen months of the nineteen months that I spent incarcerated at Arlington County Detention Facility.
My vision of what hope and change looks like is leaving from this correctional instituition to picking up where I left off in school. Begining classes spring semester January of 2021 to graduation from UDCCC Sumla Cumlade with honors 3.75 GPA or higher. As a certified and licensed Aviation Maintenance Technician /Aircraft Machanic along with an Associates Degree.
My vision for hope and change is then transferring to the….Okalhoma University’s Aviation Mechanical Engineering Program fall of August 2022, thus applying and becoming a recipient of the Academic Excellence Transfer Shclorship which requires a 3.75 transfer GPA or higher. This will provide an $18,000 scholarship at $9,000 a year for two years.
My vision of what hope and change looks like is graduating from the….Okalhoma University with my Bachlors Degree as an Aviation Mechanical Engineer with a minor in Business Administration and a concentration in Aviation Management. Then furthering my education to acquiring my Master’s Degree.
Do you understand the inertia that I am ready exert towards my dreams, goals and aspirations? How dare I attempt to spark change in the world if I’m not willing to look from within and change myself. The greatest appology is changed behavior, to my mother I’m sorry.
I’ve changed once I’m released from incarceration in due time my actions will prove likewise. The preparation and experience most necessary for understanding and valuing a gift is experiencing its opposite.
“The body is the greatest canvas, and each day you have a chance to create how you wish to see yourself.” Caprianna Quan.
What do you do with your most prized possesions? You buy a safe and lock them up. God loves me so much that he locked me up, to realign my soul with his preeminate purpose in my life and the lives of others, so I could be a soldier in his army to spark the change the I want to see in humanity.
But first it must start with me. From the words of Henley the great philosopher “I am master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”
My mentor the great Mrs. Watkins once said “Don’t chase love, money, or sucess. Become the best version of yourself and those things will chase you.”
I vow from here on out to live by that model.
In closing leaving you with luminosity the opposite of quandary. How do we bring good things into our lives?
The act of manifesting means dissolving beliefs that are holding us back while simultaneously aligning ourselves with the vibration of our desires. There’s a frequency to everything. So we can align with the energy of love mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
The key to happiness is having dreams, the key to success is achieving them.
What is my vision of what hope and change looks like? Here I stand before you Black and proud, King Vic I am a God from the continent of Africa Cameroon to be exact. Je ma pelle Victor. Je pallé Francé, le mere Madamaselle Hanna, le Pa Mesier Victor. Como sava? Sava bien. Como tallé voue? Je ney say qua?
God is a Greek word derived from the Ancient Aramic words “gumar”, “oz”, and “dubar” which means wisdom, strength and beauty. As the Honorable Minister Louis Farrkhan tells us “we have been turned backward. Instead of calling ourselves God we say, yo what’s up Dog?”
Be Strong Black Man Don’t Cry
Heard/Arlington County Detention Center/OAR writing contest, August 2020
Be strong Black man don’t cry. So I’m forced to wear this mask and mask my pain. How much more can I take when it seems as if every other day I along with the rest of the world watches yet another unarmed Black man die at the hands of law enforcement.
While deep down inside I feel ostracized, unloved, unwanted, affraid and perplexed. As a Black man in America it seems as if I don’t even have the right to be vexed, they’ll be quick to say there goes another angry Black man behaving savagely.
Society puts obstacles in the way of Black people such as police brutality, job discrimination, discriminatory practices which inhibits us from acquiring home loans and business loans in our desperate attempt to acquiring financial freedom, slavery, lynchings, voter discrimination, redlining, food deserts in our neighborhoods depriving us of fresh produce, healthy and nutritional foods as we suffer the aftermath of the disparities such as high blood pressure, diabetes, weak immune systems, clogged arteries, heart disease, strokes, matriculating into the corona virus ravishing through the Black community with fatality rates as high as 75% to 80% within the Black community.
Though we make up minute minority of the United States at only 13% society puts all these obsticals in the way of Black People then turn around and criticize us when we don’t rise above it.
When Trump said “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” That broke my already severed heart. But then again who am I kidding he was only perpetuating his deeminor and rhetoric fueled with violence, hate, racism and discrimination that we as the American body have endured throughout his presidency for the past three and a half years.
On the other hand concerning the mass protests that have been proliferated throughout the United States and eighteen other foriegn countries and counting.
As the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. I am overcome with a sense of hope seeing thousands of our Caucasian, Hispanic, and Asian Brothers and Sisters Standing in Solidarity with us. Thank you for finally being empathetic to our pain, trauma, and grief.
God intended for us to be alleys to each other not enemies. God created the human race with 46 chromosomes with 23 dominant and recessive allelies not Black, White, Hispanic, or Asian race. God said in Malachi 2 verse 10 “Have we all not one Father?” “Has not one God created us?” “Why do we deal treacherously with one another?” “By profaning the covenant of the Fathers.”
Studies have proven that since 2014 over one thousand Black men and women are killed consecutively each year at the hands of law enforcement. Studies have also proven that one in every one thousand Black men and women are subjected to die at the hands of law enforcement each year for the past six years since 2014.
They say slavery has been abolished but yet they still use the hanous tactics that were used on our enslaved ancestors only 155 years ago on us till this day.
It is 2020 but approximately six Black men have been lynced in California, Texas, and New York. What’s even more disturbing is that their deaths were ruled as a suicide with no foul play.
I can in no way phathom that any Black man would commit suicide by hanging themselves on a tree knowing the history of Black people being lynched in the United States.
When I was a boy in my country Cameroon West Africa I dreamed of living the American dream only to come to America and continuously watch this dream have the propentency to be shattered, dragged off and washed away everytime that I see another unarmed Black man’s lifeless body be driven off the scene DOA, DNR, dead on arrival, do not resistate and watch his blood be washed away as I watch the American Dream that was never intended to be mine or anyone who looks like me.
At that very moment symbolically and metaphorically the American Dream be washed away with our blood on these streets.
Be strong Black man don’t cry.
I’m a strong Black man but sometimes theirs nothing left for me to do but cry.