by Dwayne ‘Bim’ Staats
I created my brand – my foundation – out of necessity. It was essential to my existence to find a purpose for my life that was greater than myself. I was tired of aimlessly traveling through life when all I had to show for it was a life sentence. That hangs over my head like a dark cloud.
I had to ask myself, “What is your legacy going to be?” After pondering that question, I decided to turn my family name, Bim, into an inspirational slogan, Believing In Myself. I’m proud that I created something that the masses can relate to.
BIM is one of the vital principles a person has to embrace in order to persevere, succeed, chase dreams and overcome obstacles. I felt obligated to extend my brand into a foundation that brings awareness to “at-risk youth” because I was one, and my experiences, knowledge and understanding of their plight enables me to speak as an advocate who has a genuine interest in their lives.
BIM is one of the vital principles a person has to embrace in order to persevere, succeed, chase dreams and overcome obstacles.
Unfortunately I ended up falling victim to the negative lifestyle that most of these youth are exposed to. Now the vision is to keep them from becoming a “statistic.”
A lot of youth who come from broken homes in impoverished neighborhoods often go through their childhood trying to compensate for voids that were left in their lives, created by external forces. They can sense these voids but they are too young to interpret, convey or process the feelings and emotions that are attached to them.
Not having the ability to identify the root cause of their voids can lead to them suppressing their thoughts, feelings and emotions. The impact and effect that this could have on a child is immeasurable.
My mother passed away when I was 12 and my father left when I was 8. I say none of this for sympathy or as an excuse for my past behaviors, but there’s no doubt that these situations left voids in my life.
A lot of youth can sense these voids but they are too young to interpret, convey or process the feelings and emotions that are attached to them.
My grandmother Mary Staats took on the roles of my mother and father. A lot of her time, energy and resources went towards providing opportunities for me and my three younger siblings to make something out of ourselves. I really wasn’t able to appreciate her significance in my life until I got older and wiser.
My grandmom is a fighter, provider, a source of strength. She sacrifices for others and throughout all the struggles and adversities she never dwells on the problems. Her main focus was the solutions.
She isn’t necessarily religious, but she is easily the most righteous person I know. I don’t think it’s something she set out to be; it’s just naturally her character. She was definitely leading by example. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m trying to instill her qualities into my character.
Mommom used to sit me down for one on one conversations that basically pertained to my future and what direction my life was headed in. She did most of the talking. I hardly listened. My concern was getting back to whatever I was doing – chillin outside, watching TV, listening to music, talking on the phone etc. My undivided attention never was on those conversations.
I ask myself why I never spoke my mind at those talks and it came back to me that I didn’t know how to express my true feelings, thoughts, concerns or opinions and, on a deeper level, I never felt comfortable confiding in her, my aunts, uncles or anyone else. I knew they all loved me unconditionally and would keep what was said confidential, but it was hard for me to open up to them.
I explored the psychology behind why I couldn’t and came to the conclusion that even though we were family, I never really knew them to the extent where I thought they could relate or understand anything I was dealing with. I didn’t want to put myself in a position to be judged or have my feelings hurt altogether.
I ask myself why I never spoke my mind at those talks and it came back to me that I didn’t know how to express my true feelings, thoughts, concerns or opinions and, on a deeper level, I never felt comfortable confiding in her, my aunts, uncles or anyone else.
Most of my uncles had been at-risk youth, so I’m sure they would have understood and probably offered advice. They always supported me in anything I showed interest in. Unfortunately, the topic never evolved around growing pains, struggles, pressures, vices, lures, etc.
The emptiness that I felt got suppressed, and that caused me to build a non-caring attitude as my defense mechanism. If a person doesn’t care about what’s going on within themselves how can they honestly say they care about others.
My son is 15 years old. But he was 3 when I came to prison. In all actuality, he was an at-risk youth before my incarceration. The harshest reality that I ever faced was acknowledging that I never truly loved my son the way I thought I did. How could I, when I was constantly involved in activities that I knew could cost me my freedom or life?
That’s the aspect I want parents to grasp: “Are there any elements of your lifestyle that put your child at risk?” Even though I’m not there physically for my son, he still feels comfortable confiding in me. That’s something I cherish because I know the level of trust I had to earn, through the nurturing of our relationship.
The difference is I made it priority for him to really know me. From countless letters, visits and phone conversations, he knows the good, bad and the ugly. We have in depth discussion about real life situations where I basically explain the different options and consequence to guide him towards the right decision.
To me, those conversations and honest dialogues are paramount concerning the development of our youth. I’ve been incarcerated for 12 years, so I’ve met a lot of men from different walks of life who were at-risk youth. I had numerous conversations about their voids and how they handled them. I got different perspectives on defense mechanisms and coping mechanisms.
The common sentiment is that the youth aren’t being equipped with the knowledge and understandings of what they’re at risk of. They need to comprehend the fact that their circumstances increase the chance that they’ll become criminals, drug dealers, drug abusers, high school dropouts, end up homeless, incarcerated or killed.
It’s never too early to have this discussion with your child. Kids are inquisitive and will ask questions that might trigger emotions from your past experiences. Share them with your children, because this type of communication builds trust, credibility and a level of comfort to where the child will have someone to confide in.
To me, those conversations and honest dialogues are paramount concerning the development of our youth.
Ask yourself, “Who is it that your grandchild, child, nephew, niece, little sister, brother or cousin has to confide in?” If it’s not you then who!? Maybe they’re just living with suppressed emotions looking for an outlet. That is the gray area where many lives have taken a turn for the worst!
Thanks for listening, be easy and take care.
Send our brother some love and light: Dwayne Staats, 467005, 1181 Paddock Rd, Smyrna, DE 19977.