Fourteen years ago, immediately after the launch of IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD(R), something very profound happened. I began receiving letters from young men -- Our Sons. Their letters enclosed brilliantly crafted essays and soulful poems. They asked me to publish them. And I did. In exchange for their essay or poem, they received a free copy of IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD(R). A number of these young men continued to send essays and poems. And they sent letters. These were young men -- Our Sons -- from, among other places, New York, California, Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Indiana. So, what was profound about receiving poetry, essays, and letters from these young men?
Each letter had a similar introductory sentence: "I am 23 and I have been incarcerated since I was 18. Will you publish my essay? Can I get a free copy of your publication? " or "I am 28 and I have been incarcerated since I was 16. I'm sending you a poem I'd like you to publish." Many of these young Men -- Our Sons are Fathers -- Fathers of daughters and sons. They do not tell me how or why they embarked upon a path that led them to a maximum security correctional facility. Nor do I ask. But I do have questions: What is going on with Our Sons? What is going on in Our Sons' homes, schools, and communities? And how do we fix whatever is going on that is driving Our Sons down the path to prison with all deliberate speed?
On the whole, when Our Sons are born, they emerge from the womb with unbridled energy, insatiable curiosity, and irrepressible enthusiasm.
Our Sons -- including Our Sons who are housed in juvenile and adult correctional facilities -- want and need to know what every soul in the global village we know as Planet Earth wants to know: Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do I matter?
Perhaps one of the key "pieces of the puzzle" to preventing the "lights from going out" in the spirit and souls of Our Sons and keeping them out of juvenile and adult correctional facilities is to tell them in words and deeds -- every day -- "I hear you! I see you! And yes, you do matter You matter because you are the heart and soul of the village. You matter because you are the future of the Village. You matter because one day you are going to be a leader In the village. You matter because one day you are going to be someone's husband . . . someone's Father . . . Yes, you matter . . . and you are loved!"