As a young huslta out there peddling death to feed my family, again, I did not realize the traps that were awaiting my downfall. Nor did I realize the gravity of my responsibility to my family and how it was I was vital to their future progress. Despite the fact that I sold drugs, the financial and emotional security that I provided to them kept the lights on and plenty of food in the ‘frig. That’s not to mention the Nikes I put on my sisters’ feet.

As a M.A.N., my incarceration has forced me to reckon with my greatest shame. This comes not on account of any stigma associated with being in prison. Rather, I’m ashamed because I now realize how I allowed my environment and the activities it influenced me with to deprive me of not accomplishing my goals in life and fulfilling my responsibilities to my family, which has always been my greatest source of pride and joy.  

As the years have passed and I’ve matured enough to recognize the destruction and its causes, the burden this has set upon my shoulders is heavy yet embraced. I am to my family and community the fountainhead of stability, provider of economic opportunities, teacher, and emotional soundboard. When I slipped and was incarcerated the first time for three years, then for a second time with a life sentence, the impact this had on my peers and family was devastating.  

My lil’ sisters depended on “Big Bruh” to make life good for them and provide the direction our vice ridden parents had not. Without my financial and emotional support my daughter’s mother would find it with another man. So too would my sisters eventually. From this grew a perverse dependence on not only other men, which of course has been problematic over the years, but so too the state. My wife, like many single mothers, came to rely heavily on welfare. Fortunately, unlike the welfare queens of the Reagan era, she was motivated enough not to allow herself to become systematized by the welfare system.  

My lil’ sisters, on the other hand, have struggled with the disparaging affect that was to come of the periodic welfare our mother received when we were kids. Needless to say, this for our parents was yet another drug; torpid and systematic like the old plantation system that created the African slaves’ subservient mentality.

Aside of what was to come of our mother’s motivation to “Get up, Get out and Get something… instead of spending all [her] days Getting high,” Ricky was made to feel less than a man any time the case worker came snooping around. If he wasn’t hiding in the closet, eventually these visits would drive him from the home due too an ensuing argument to save-face, a separation, and eventually a divorce.

The dysfunction that came of the lack of initiative in our parents’ house haunts my sisters to this day. It hindered their ability to realize their potential to be independent of the system. Notably, they were not exposed to the environment that my grandparents had created for me. Unfortunately, they did not even have the brief period of stability and encouragement that I was to receive from being sent to live with them. Thus, they weren’t raised in a constructive setting that allowed for them to develop the self and its ability to provide independently of the state or working for others.  

In addition, there has been a greater impact on my community with my incarceration. Sure, me poisoning it with dope and lead was of no benefit. My activities were simply a means to an end that I believed would better situate my family and I. Notably, the point made here ties in with the coercive mobility theory provided by Professor Clear.  

During the course of my incarceration I’ve noted how many of my friends and associates have fallen out with each other. Homies have killed and robbed homies out of greed and envy. Some have turned-state; became addicted to hard drugs; and not handled their business as fathers. Many have remained “stuck”-having not advanced beyond the illegal activity we were engaged in as young hustlas tyrin’ to get a buck. Consequently, this all has occurred due to my absence in influencing block affairs, which has caused things to get outright messy. There is no longer any integrity; no principle guiding better judgment. Moreover, there is no solidarity.  

Growing up, I observed how my Southside Posse O.G.s had held frequent get-togethers that made for community solidarity. I took the Game and ran with it. Up until I was incarcerated, I sponsored a number of weekly events ranging from BBQs to house parties that allowed for the ‘hood to come together and address issues. In addition, I encouraged the homies to attend the local NAACP community meetings, which I often partook in an effort to facilitate solace between the young hustlas and the old heads that complained of our activities.  Needless to say, my participation in these meetings was to remind them that before they jumped to call the police on us, that they too, when in their prime, were in the trap-house grinding to get their construction and real estate companies. In addition, I participated in these meetings in an effort to bring balance and a sense of respect for everyone.

 From this, Professor Clear paints a larger picture. Where I have drawn on the negative impact of my incarceration, Clear magnifies the impact by urging us to consider the deteriorating social and economic impact on poor communities around the nation where millions have been incarcerated. Using the metaphor “death by a thousand little cuts,” which represents the instability caused by the removal and return of a significant number of individuals for prison, Clear points to the fact that “communities that provide large numbers of prisoners to the state and federal prison system struggle in a variety of ways. The laundry list of social and economic problems which ensue are extensive and beyond the mere examples that I have provided. Ultimately, they lead to a complete breakdown of “collective efficacy.”  

Take for example how in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina countless poor Black Americans were without the necessary “collective efficacy” to aid themselves or others. The high level of social disorganization witnessed in the New Orleans crisis not only spoke to the gravity to which America’s penal institution has devastated the collective efficacy in poor Black communities, it also speaks this nation’s disdain for its poor and Black citizens in light of the Bush Administration’s lack of immediate response. It is this contempt that makes cities like New Orleans repositories of surplus population to be incarcerated at disproportionate rates.  

When we look to other American institutions it’s pretty much the same scenario. America’s educational institutions purposefully create scores of poorly functioning ghetto youth. In terms of political gamesmanship, the school-2-prison pipeline has been highly effective. Without meaningful education ghetto youth are trained wth useless information that fails to equip them with the necessary insight to address the problems uniquely before their communities. By design they are left to pretty much raise themselves without proper guidance, structure and education enough to live reverently and make decisions with justice.  

That said, we really have to slow down to observe what Dr. Na’im Akbar put to us in distinguishing education from training (Chapter 5-The Unorthodox Teacher). For those of us who are not familiar with his philosophies, to provide a brief description, training is measured by one’s retained knowledge about other people, places, and things, while education is measured by knowledge one possesses about his or her unconditional inner power and the ability to bring forth the greater expression of that which is already possessed by the individual intuition. To be trained is to be made dependant on an environment of another’s making, which effectively trains the individual to download a conventional or systematic approach to achieve some end-be it destructive or otherwise. This taken into consideration, have we begun to understand or recognize the Blueprint which shapes America’s ghettoes?  

Without question, America’s institutions have a profound affect on the social structures that tend to take shape in our respective social and economic environments. In a perfect world these structures are the “building blocks” of prosperous communities that accomplish, for example, our socialization, production and distribution of economic goods, informal and formal social controls, regulation and reproduction of wealth, and organization of religion and other value systems. However, in the ghetto it’s the other way around. Our social structures are designed to “dismantle blocks”; to reproduce poverty generation after generation. The only goods we produce and distribute are the drugs government officials allow into our communities; the prostitution our mothers and sisters are forced into to feed and cloth their crumb snatchers and habits; and the other crimes we commit just to get our piece of the American Dream. Consequently, our informal social controls are weakened because daddy either dead or locked-up. And the only religion we practice is “self-preservation”-kill or be killed!

Excerpt from Ivan Kilgore’s book Domestic Genocide: The Institutionalization of Society. Friend him at Facebook/Ivan You can contact him directly at:

California State Prison Sacramento,
Ivan Kilgore, No. V31306, FB2-118,
P.O. Box 290066,
Represa, Ca 95671.

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