The Beat Within, a publication of writing and art from incarcerated youth, was founded by David Inocencio in San Francisco in 1996. Weekly writing and conversation workshops are held in California, six other states and Washington, D.C. Submissions and new partners are welcomed. Write to him at email@example.com.
Today is Father’s Day — but to be honest I don’t feel as if this day really applies to me — I mean how could it, when I’ve never been much of a father to you — I was loyal to all the wrong things and chose the streets over my family — and as a result of my choices I spent most of your life in prison.
All of us during our lives as children, adolescents and eventually adults need some encouragement. As the individuals we are, we tend to learn differently, have different perspectives and take risks on different levels. For those like myself, words of encouragement were really needed in my life to fulfill my true potential in the activities that I engaged in.
Throughout the last year I’ve been back and forth between being free and being locked up. I know you weren’t there when I was a child, but you made an effort to be there in my later years.
You proved to me that you’re a good man and changed, now it’s my turn to prove to you that I’m not another juvenile statistic and I can change.
At 15 I know that it seems like you’ve got nothing to live for and so much to die for. From trying to come up as a little homie to living lavish with those Ecstasy pills you’re running through like candy.
I’m telling you now you will never settle the scores for those deaths. In the process of your pain you will only harm innocent people that had no hand in either of your losses.
When I was growing up I thought forgiveness was weakness. I believed you shouldn’t turn the other cheek or be meek towards those who wronged you because that’s weak. I believed you get even or you pay it forward toward someone else. I tried to get even and stay one or two up to ease the pain and prevent myself from being hurt again. I built a wall of toughness, selfishness, anger and a hardened heart.