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05 January, 2019

INCARCERATED YOUNG MEN SPEAK OUT AT NEW YORK'S ULSTER CORRECTIONAL FACILITY'S 2018 INTERNATIONAL MEN' S DAY OBSERVANCE



On 19 November 2018, Mr. Carry Greaves, the National Chair of the United States' International Men's Day "Healing And Repatriation" Initiative conducted a powerful two-part observance of International Men's Day at the Ulster Correctional Facility located in Naponoch, New York.  Mr. Greaves gathered together two groups of young men between the ages 18 through 26 and engaged them in a “straight-no chaser” dialogue which will help these young souls begin to positively transform their lives. The International Men's Day "Healing And Repatriation" Initiative was created in 2012 when it discovered that Incarcerated Men were not provided with an opportunity to observe International Men's Day.   Under this initiative, observances of International Men's Day take the form of atonement programs, mentoring workshops, and solutions-based panel discussions and forums which are designed by Mr. Greaves.  A thought-provoking and riveting account of the International Men’s Day observance held at New York’s Ulster Correctional Facility penned by Mr. Greaves entitled, “International Men’s Day 2018:  A New Day” appears below.



INTERNATIONAL MEN’S DAY 2018:  A NEW DAY

BY:  Carry Greaves

[PUBLISHED WITH AUTHORS PERMISSION]



            This year’s International Men’s Day observance was conducted at the Ulster Correctional Facility located in Naponoch, New York and it was a great event.  I asked the young brothers to meet me in the recreational yard where the temperature was 33 degrees and it was slightly snowing.  I wanted them to get away from the distractions of being inside, watching television, and laying on their bunks.  I facilitated the observance of International Men’s Day with two groups of individuals ranging from the ages of 18 through 26.  One group had the floor from 6:40 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. and the second group had the floor from 8:15 P.M. to 9:30 P.M.  What I realized is that so many of these young brothers need proper guidance and someone to show them that they care.  I gave all of them an assignment to undertake after the session.  They all had to be a big brother to the younger souls in this correctional facility with whom they have a friendship.  They were required to write a Letter of Apology to someone close in their family and explain to them what they plan to do with their life once they are released.  It was a commitment that they could not break.  And I had a younger member of the group record notes of the sessions.



PART ONE

CARRY:  So, how is everybody doing? 

 [Everyone responded that they felt great.]

I asked everyone to come together tonight because today is not only International Men’s Day and I have already explained what International Men’s Day means, but also because I wanted you to know that we are in a state of emergency.  Each and every one of us needs to step up and bring the change that we all need.  We need to take responsibility for our actions and stop shifting the blame to someone else.  So I want to start by asking, ‘How many are doing more than five years?

[Every hand went up.]

That’s a lot of time.  Being in prison for a day is a long time.  So what are you going to do with the five plus years that you will have to do?  Chris, let’s start with you. 

CHRIS:  My counselor told me that I will have to take an Aggression Class because my crime is considered violent.  I shot someone.  So, that’s what I have to do.

CARRY:  Even though you’re mandated to take the Aggression Class, you have to involve yourself with something positive that will enhance your life. The Aggression Class is only for five weeks.  If you don’t have a GED, you will have to go to school.  But each and every one of you needs to engage in groups like this that will be conducive to your growth and development.

CHRIS:  I agree. But sometimes I just want to do what I want to do.

CARRY:  What you fail to understand is that you’re in a different environment.  Somebody else’s house.  So, you have to study the rules of engagement and learn how to navigate the trouble in here.  Because it’s so easy to get in trouble.

CHRIS:  I understand.

CARRY:  I hope you do because this place can break you down if you don’t have a strong will power and discipline.  Now, how many of you are in a gang?  And don’t be afraid to be real about it.

MIKE:  I am going to keep it real.  I’m in a gang.

CARRY:  So tell me the reason why you’re in a gang.

[There is silence for about two minutes.]

CHRIS:  I don’t even know why.

CARRY:  You see, that’s a big problem.  You’re following the orders of someone who you probably don’t truly know and who probably doesn’t really care about you.  This is sad because you could end up doing something senseless and really bad that will bring you to prison for the rest of your life -- far away from your family.  You’re only nineteen years old.  And if you don’t change your life right now, you are going to be in deep trouble – trouble that you will regret.  Trust me.  I want you to think about your family, your mother, especially.  How do you think she is going to feel?  You need to wake up!

SHAWN:  I’m not in a gang, but I did hang around the wrong people.  And I see what you’re talking about. This is my first time in prison and to keep it real, I am a little scared.   I heard of all the war stories before I came here.  I’m young too and I know that I need to change.

CARRY:  Now that’s real.  Don’t continue to disgrace your Ancestors by constantly doing the wrong thing.  When all of your so-called friends disappear, who is going to be there for you?  Your mother.  When you get into trouble, who is the first person you are going to call?  Your mother. When you go on the visit to see your family, ninety-nine percent of all visitors are women.  So you need to be careful of who you call a friend.  Get yourself together and make no excuses.

SHAWN: Thanks.

JAY:  That’s real.  I want to say something.  I think if we had more positive men in our communities, things would be different.  I’m originally from New Jersey and I came to New York and got in trouble.  So I don’t have family here.  It’s hard because my mother is the only one I have and she is taking care of my little brother and sister.  But I try to talk to her every day and let her know that I’m alright.

CARRY:  You’re not alright.  You could never be alright being in an abnormal environment like this.  But you have to find a constructive way to heal.  You could pray.   Go to religious services and support groups.  Meditate.  Surround yourself with healthy, positive people.

JAY:  That’s why I am going to hang around you.

[Everyone laughs.]

CARRY:  That’s okay, but I am going to tell you something.  I have zero tolerance for foolishness.  I’m strict with a lot of things.  You can’t indulge or be using drugs.  No cursing or using foul language.  No pants off your waist or hanging around the wrong people.

T.J.:  You’ re stricter than my mom, but I could respect that.  I thought about what you said and all I kept saying to myself was that I don’t’ want to spend my life in prison.  I know that I need to wake up and I’m trying.

CARRY:  You have to take a serious look at your life and find the areas that need to be worked on.  Don’t get caught up with the materialistic world.   Focus on becoming a better person.  Make your mother proud.  Make yourself proud.  Don’t take the small things for granted.  Appreciate what you have.  And never give up on becoming a better person, because when you get older you are going to appreciate it.  Believe me.

T.J. :  I am going to start hanging around you, too.

CARRY:  You are funny. But seriously, after tonight I need for you to begin stepping forward to become that example of change.  It’s not an overnight process.  But you have to start somewhere.  I gave an assignment to each of you and every one of you and I expect for it to get done.  No excuses!  Matter of fact, the deadline is in two days.

[A comment of “Two days” could be heard coming from the group.]

CARRY:  Somebody’s complaining already?  Now if you have an issue with writing, I’ll help you.  And I want you to take someone younger than you – even though you’re young yourselves – and give them words of encouragement.  This is a little-brother-big-brother thing.  And guess who is the Big Brother?

CHRIS:   Me.

CARRY:  Good try, but I’m your Big Brother and I will help you along the way.  I know earlier everyone told me that they didn’t have their fathers in their lives and that you have issues with him.  But let me share something with you.  You have no idea what prompted your Father to be out of your lives.  Don’t go cursing him out.  What you should do is find a way to get in contact with him if you can and arrange to meet him.  Give him a chance.  But don’t assume anything and always keep in mind that your mother did the very best she could do.  She didn’t abandon you.  So be grateful for that.

CHRIS:  The bad part from what I hear is that the older guys today don’t want to take the time to teach us.  This is why a lot of us are doing the wrong things.  Even the old timers in my community act like they are teenagers.  So there is no one to teach us.  So what do we do?  We join gangs and do crazy stuff.

CARRY:  I understand.  And this is a problem.  But I will tell you this, if you want to do the right thing, then do the right thing.  Don’t be afraid or ashamed to do what’s right.  What I see and hear is that many of today’s youths are concerned with what their friends will say if they decide to do right in school, go to college, find a job, not join gangs or do drugs.  But if you are concerned with that, then you will never grow into what you want to become.  I’ve learned so much by listening.  And this is what you need to do.  Listen to the right things.  If your mother is motivating you to do the right thing, don’t resist.  There is a reason why she is saying what she says.  So, how do you feel about your family?

T.J.:  I love my family.  But sometimes I do think about what my family would be like if my Father was around.  Would I be in jail?

SHAWN:  I think about that, too.  But I wish we were closer.  And that’s something that bothers me sometimes.

JAY:  I grew up mostly with my aunts and Grandmother.  Mostly women.  My Father is still young, so he never was there for me really.  I get mad because he wasn’t a real father.  But I’m a man now and I don’t even care no more.

CARRY:  Wrong attitude! And to be honest with you, you’re not even a man yet.  Being a man is an ongoing process.  Not because you’re eighteen or twenty-one years old.  That doesn’t make you a man.  You have a long way to go and you need to start working on your attitude and how you’re thinking.  If you keep walking around being angry at your Father not being there, then you will never be able to grow into becoming what a man is.  And that is someone who thinks.  Someone who cares about humanity.  Someone who is not selfish.  Someone who is respectful, truthful, honest, and loving.  These are just a few to name.  Me and you will have a talk after this is over.  But all of us will meet tomorrow night and share our hearts.  I am going to speak with the other young brothers before the night is over, so I will see you all tomorrow.

PART TWO

CARRY:  As everyone knows, today is International Men’s Day.  And we should applaud those how made this happen – Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh, the Founder of International Men’s Day and Ms. Diane Sears, who is our United States Coordinator.  So without them and their hard work and dedication, today wouldn’t be possible. So, let’s give applause for these two.

[Applause]

CARRY:  Thank you.  I just had a great conversation with the other group and I want to thank Les for taking notes.  I appreciate it.  Let’s begin. What do you feel is the problem with the family structure of today?

ERIC:  Everybody is caught up with the latest fashion and less concerned with family.

FRANK:  It’s crazy.  Everybody is hating each other.  Fighting over money . . . over drugs.  It’s just crazy.

CARRY:  I don’t want anyone to hold back.  Give us what you honestly feel.  Being that we all know each other, there is no need to be shy.  So, let’s go.

ERIC:  It seems like everybody is doing drugs and pills and trying to be somebody they’re not.

BILL:  I agree with everybody.  No one cares.  I know we are in New York, but look at what’s happening in Chicago with all these people dying every day.  The world is in trouble.

CARRY:  Wow!  There’s so much going on right now and I couldn’t agree more.  But I believe we need to put aside our hatred and dislike for each other and work together to make a change in ourselves first.  This is where it’s most needed.  You can’t work on somebody else or extend yourself to someone else if your house is not in order.  And if you are hating someone else, the problem is you, not the other person.  So we have to start with self.

WAYNE:  This is what I was telling Eric and Bill the other day.  So, that’s true.

CARRY:  So, you’re doing your job.  And that’s empowering others.

[Carry stops the conversation and calls out T.J. from the other group who is sitting in front of a television and tells him that he needs to be with the other guys developing a Plan of Action for Change.  T.J  listens and joins the other group.]

CARRY:  Excuse me, but I take this very seriously.  We have no time to be playing games.  People all over the world are suffering and we need to help in any way that we can.  Anyway, can anyone tell me what they believe needs to be created to help our communities come out of the condition that they are in?

FRANK:  I think we need more libraries in our communities.  I believe that could help.

WAYNE:  We need gang prevention programs.  It seems like everybody is in some type of gang.  I don’t want my little brothers to join any gangs.  I would be so mad.

CARRY:  So what are you doing to prevent them from joining a gang?

WAYNE:  I’m always telling them about the consequences of being in a gang.  I’m changing and I will be that walking example for them.

CARRY:  That’s great! So where do we go from here?

BILL:  I want to be a teacher.  Maybe in business because that’s something that I enjoy reading about.

CARRY:  Anything is possible.  You will just have to study all that you can in regards to that field and always have a Plan B just in case things don’t work out.  So just because you’re incarcerated doesn’t mean you can’t go to college.  Be all that you want to be.  Don’t let anyone discourage you. 

ERIC:  I would like to have more days like today where we can get together and share our ideas.  But I do want to get into designing.

FRANK:  I want to be a mechanic because I’m good with my hands.  When I get out, I’m going to work with my uncle who has a small mechanic shop.

CARRY:  So, tell me – what values did your family instill in you?

FRANK:  Not to disrespect myself or my Elders.  Something that I haven’t always done.  I’m trying to do better.

BILL:  It’s crazy because people in my family always told the young ones not to ever do drugs.  But I didn’t listen.  I got caught up and lost in the streets and now I’m in prison.

CARRY:  Realize that you have the opportunity to start brand new.  But you have to start now.  Not when you get home.  You have to come out better. Show yourself that you’ve become a better person.  And that goes for everyone.  Never go back to your old ways because that’s what brought you here.  So make a pledge with yourself that this will be your last time coming to places like this.  And this group will also have homework to do.  I want you to write a letter of encouragement to someone younger in your family.  And before you send it off, I want to read it to make sure it’s right.  As a matter of fact, I want two pages written.  So take your time and the deadline is in seven days from today.  So, that’s next week – Friday, the twenty-third.  I wish we had more time, but we are about to go back.  But I want to thank everyone for coming out and getting together to make this happen.  Now, everyone, give a hug to each other.  And I’ll see you all later. 


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