by Curtis Johnson Jr.

As I sit in Glen Dyer Facility (North Alameda County) fighting federal weapons charges, I find comfort and inspiration from the pages of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper.

Even very small children used to tag along with their older siblings to deliver the Bay View door to door in Bayview Hunters Point. Young adults often stop us to ask, “Do you remember me? I used to carry the paper – and I’ve read it all my life.” Poet Curtis Johnson Jr. is one of those wonderful children. The paper in this photo has our pre-2003 masthead.
Even very small children used to tag along with their older siblings to deliver the Bay View door to door in Bayview Hunters Point. Young adults often stop us to ask, “Do you remember me? I used to carry the paper – and I’ve read it all my life.” Poet Curtis Johnson Jr. is one of those wonderful children. The paper in this photo has our pre-2003 masthead.

As a kid raised in Hunters Point, I can remember passing out bundles of these same newspapers. I can remember the stern look Mr. Willie Ratcliff would give my friends and me before telling us to make sure we deliver all of our papers, it is funny and interesting at the same time to see how different things were before, now a days there´s huge companies such as Shiply that simply do all the work that these kids, including myself used to do.

During this time, I was a frequent member of Bayview Hunters Point Foundation and played basketball for the Hunters Point Gym on Kiska Road. Pioneers for my Harbor Road neighborhood were men like Mr. Smitty (H.P. Boys Club), Guy Hudson (H.P. Gym) and Chris World (H.P. Boys Club). These men were not only a source of encouragement. They were examples of love and perseverance. They helped give hope to a hopeless generation of young men.

As I read the articles from the Bay View newspaper, I feel love and hope from the point of view the stories are reported. The words galvanize my mind and awaken my sense of purpose. They provide the rays of sunlight needed for a rose to grow from the cracks of concrete.

I just finished reading the article “At Sista’s Place, Troy Williams finds the liberty and justice he was denied for 27.5 years in prison” by Tina Sampay in the July 2014 newspaper. The article was a small demonstration of the huge amounts of love in the world. For Sharon Fennell to respond to Mr. Williams’ letter from an incarcerated address was a clear example of it.

Monetary support is helpful for people like us behind these walls, but emotional support is more valuable. This type of support can come in the form of visits, encouraging words sent from friends and close family members or simple letters.

As Mr. Williams eloquently put it, without outside supporters to let prison administrators know that there are people following an inmate’s wellbeing, the prisoner is left open to abuse. Not only did Sharon Fennell’s letters help Mr. Williams through his time, but they also gave him the ability to see life beyond his prison time. Her letters provided hope to a man who felt he was in a hopeless situation. Now those were powerful letters of love!

I would like to send my appreciation to the Fennell family. Thank you for caring. Thank you for listening to a man’s heart and not being distracted by his current address. It is people like you who show the true meaning of humanity. I would also like to thank the journalism student, Ms. Tina Sampay, who wrote this story. Thank you for shining light on such a bright story.

As I read the articles from the Bay View newspaper, I feel love and hope from the point of view the stories are reported. The words galvanize my mind and awaken my sense of purpose. They provide the rays of sunlight needed for a rose to grow from the cracks of concrete.

Last but not least, I would like to thank the Bay View newspaper. Thank you for creating the soil in which stories like this can grow. Most newspapers only report discouraging and negative stories. Thank you for creating this platform where love can spread to many and hope to all.

Poems by Curtis Johnson Jr.

Unconquerable

Darkness as strong as the sun
The pit always trying to grab hold
As I break away, I thank the sky
For my unconquerable soul

In a windowless cell
Far from heaven but close to hell
My body is tired but my spirit upheld
In this fell grasp I must propel

As I prepare for the next world
Unstoppable to false fears
Still reminded of wrath, from stains of tears
Or the shades of horror from over the years

Nothing will design my fate
No matter how straight the gate or strong the hold
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul

Thinking

Eyes open but still feel closed
Lost focus of what was once told
“That a man can stand tall through it all and remain bold
No matter the circumstances, he shall never fold”

Speaking from a sense of integrity
This shit will never get the best of me
Their lies can never justify a reason to testify
So cooperation would be an abomination to my Harbor Road education

Talking from a point of emotion
I feel like a sailor in the ocean sitting on a tube that won’t remain floating
One lost soul in a forgotten community
That’s used to destruction and only knows impurity

So pardon my vanity as I curse without profanity
I was told I could be anything I wanna be
Or was that their start of insanity
Maybe it was a formality in a structured society
That don’t accept individuality or promote equality

Alone in the Dark

Alone in the dark with nothing but my thoughts
Losing a war I didn’t know had to be fought
Emotions running rampant and I can hardly stand it
As life goes on on the outs unlike I planned it

Son gettin’ older, girlfriend heart getting’ colder
Blaming me for not keeping secrets I told her
Want to hold on to my family when all else fails
But that seems impossible while I sit in jail

This shit is hard in here
I am man enough to admit it
If a career of crime led to this
Then my only option is to quit it

Being away from y’all is a hard pill to swallow
These days are already borrowed
The faith and hopes of tomorrow
Are what I use to ease my sorrows

But for the moment we accept our situation
In the hopes they change in time
Heaven is love, hell is loneliness
Yet they both exist in our minds

God got my back, my front and my side
No more moving only with pride
The spirit is in me and too strong to hide
So draw near to me and trust and confide

So I hope this hit its mark
And filled that empty space in your heart
Until I get a response
I’ll sit alone in the dark

Send our brother some love and light: Curtis Johnson, ULV-958, 550 6th St., Oakland, CA 94607.

1 COMMENT

Leave a Reply