Justin is a writer and a formerly incarcerated individual who has been contributing selections from his upcoming memoir to our blog since our inception.
Justin's courageous and vividly honest first hand accounts give insight into the life that led him to prison.
Justin is married with two young children.
He is photographed here reading at our recent event at Bronx Connect.
My body went numb and my mind went blank as I took the punches and kicks.
"You one of us now.", Thats what they told me. 10 years old and I just joined my first gang. I walked the streets proud sporting our colors, but that gang ain’t last long so it was on to the next.
"What I got to do this time?". I was 13 and ready to bang.
"Here take this razor rip that man face open and get these 3 burns on your arm."
Unaware that my behavior was getting more and more drastic I put that work in.
"You one of us now". That’s what they told me.
Eager to make a name for myself and impress the big homies I started putting in pain on the streets. Not knowing these same big homies I glorified and put my life on the line for will soon be dead, in jail, fiends or become my enemies. Too young and naive I couldn't see I was digging an early grave for myself.
"Slow down lil’ nigga’ you moving reckless in the streets." These so-called reformed gangstas use to tell me but I ain’t want to hear that bullshit. I want the money, power and respect.
My father in jail and my mother feeding her nose so it’s me against the world. From selling drugs, the robberies, the shootouts, me getting shot the walls was closing in on me. I caught a case now I'm standing in front of the judge looking to the back of the courtroom for my support but all I see is my mother teary eyed and lonely.
"Where the fuck the homies at."
"You one of us now." That’s what they told me.
Now here comes the real test. Reality sank in on the bus ride to Rikers Island. I turned on savage mode because these niggas like playing razor tag, phone games, gang banging and extortion. It was survival of the fittest with the wolves preying on the sheep. Just when I was getting my weight up on the Island they sent me to the mountains. Now I'm 8 hours away from my family with little to no communication. Bad enough they took away my freedom but now they trying to destroy my mental. Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, Newburgh I was feeling like a outsider amongst these foreign gangstas. Time to spin the yard and find the homies.
"What’s poppin Blood". I shouted with open arms but the love wasn't mutual.
Damn you was wild on the Island but now you quiet as a church mouse. I guess they parked your shit uh. I see what’s going on time to bring out the savage.
"You one of us now." That’s what they told me but all I see is oppression on top of oppression. Niggas power tripping and fighting over the bag one false move and the homies will snake you. Jail time done that was only half the battle. Now it’s time to survive in this cold world on parole and a violent felon. Niggas fresh to death alcohol, weed, pills and bitches Im’ home now its a celebration.
I exchange fake hugs and smiles as I listen to these lying ass niggas explain why I ain’t get money, mail, package or a visit.
Creeping through these city blocks looking over my shoulder hoping my past don’t catch up to me. Baby on the way I'm filling out application after application. Frustration kicking in I'm ready to get it the fast way. I'm praying to god for strength because I ain’t going back to jail they going have to bury me. I did a lot for the homies where the fuck they at when you need them. We suppose to be like family and have each others back but all they want me to do is pick up a gun or take a pack that shit is wack.
"You one of us now." That’s what they told me but in the end when the smoke cleared and it was all said and done it was never an us thing that’s what they showed me.