(The Future Tenderloin Leader Learns Some Jail House Lessons)
In 1949 1 came home from Rikers Island really feeling that I was ready for the new life. Little did I understand about ingrained patterns of behavior. Little did I understand the expectations that my population had for me. They weren’t ready for the Big Words, the crazy disjointed Psychological, Philosophical and Sociologic Concepts that I had formulated to see me across my new bridge to Freedom Land. I was returned to the Reform School that I had run away from in 1940-1941. They weren’t ready for graduates from Rikers Island who felt that he was super slick, “Ready for Freddy” and who really felt up tight about being sent back to a Reform School in the first place. But there I was! I had made up my mind to play it cool. I didn’t want to violate my Parole. You must understand the handicap that they operate under. I just finished doing 20 months and 20 days in prison and I was somewhat hostile about it. Most of the youngsters gravitated toward me to fix (Konk) their hair - to ape my style and to be manipulated by me. Taking the Leadership role was very dangerous for me. Teaching people to cheat at dice, cards, and play con games made me feel very important. The Guards began to dislike me. The Racist situation began to grate at me. I wanted out!
One day I was called to the Psychiatrist’s Office for my evaluation. My time had come if I could convince them that I was not crazy and was deserving to be released.
I could leave the place in a week to one month, I was ready. The psychiatrist was a woman who I had met many years ago who was still stuck in the same place. We began to play word games. I begin to show off my years of reading the Dictionary. I knew she knew that I was showing off but I was helpless, I needed some one to know that I had traveled long and wide over the last eight years! That I had lived many types of lives with all types of people! It was important that I convince her of my hopes, sanity, and my desire for a new life. More importantly! That I was together!
She was impressed by my need to impress her. She acknowledged that I was in a better place than I was when I ran away years ago. She promised me nothing and sent me away with nothing concrete to live for. I left determined that I would go totally crazy and make them release me. I felt bigger than this total Institute. I began to fuck up. Doing little crazy bits of shit.
One day I was in the dining room eating when I decided that the food was not worth eating. I convinced everybody there that we should throw the food all over the place. The man in charge didn’t like my attitude and asked me outside. I knew at the moment he wanted to kick my ass. All the fellows assured me that we were together so I went outside. The man was 6 feet, 5 or 6 inches tall weighing 250 to 260 pounds and was an ex Redskin football player who was a Macho Player who wanted everybody to know he was bad news.
We squared off! I’m not a boxer nor am I a prizefighter who lived by the Queensbury Rules. I’m a Street fighter and my instincts always tells me to hit first and use every weapon I can get my hands on to destroy the enemy. When I looked at him I saw my father and all the white people who I felt had oppressed me for so many years. I saw my own frustrations, guilt, and fears.
The magic words that always precedes me doing something dangerous came forward, “Fuck it” then I hit him with all the inner-depths of my violence and bopped his eye out of his head. The rest of the Guards came forward after debating that he was not going to the job by himself. I was beginning to learn one of my greatest lessons in human psychology. As they moved in on me my group began to move farther away from me, I was alone! I had been had by both groups. I was the Victim! My rage came from a bottomless pit. But my mind was Ice water clear. I begin to fight for my life. I had one clear thought, I wanted to survive.
I declared my ground. I measured my space. I fought and kicked any one who came within my space. I had a goal I wanted to get to the Director House. I could hear the sirens of the State Police coming. It began to penetrate that this was Maryland and we was in a riot situation. The Police beat heads and ask questions later.
My rage beat everyone in my reach and my feet carried me flying up the hill to the Directors Office. He was forced to protect me from the brutality of the Police because I had surrendered myself to his custody. It made me feel good inside that everybody was angry that I had out foxed them. The greatest moment of my life was to be taken to the “HOLE”. The HOLE was a feared word but to me it meant “Solitude”.
One part of me dealt with the fear the other side looked forward to, the peace. I relived my whole life over again and again. When I couldn’t sleep I masturbated so I could go into a semi dream state sometimes structured some hours to counting the cracks in the walls, always miscounting, starting over again, making more mistakes, standing up sectioning off cracks into to to 5 - 10 — 15 — 20 up to the hundreds, or looking for faces, places, and things, or pushing myself out of myself then losing complete track of time and taking solace from the fact that one day I would be leaving the Hole. But I would not be trapped into being punished one day at a time!
One day the Football Player came into my room. My fears returned, I got into my position to protect myself. But instead he said don’t worry about nothing and offered me some cigarettes and congratulated me on my hitting power. Lesson No. 2. People are strange at best I have watched people over the years get their ass kicked by someone then become their best friend. I accepted the cigarettes and the situation. But I’m hipped to the game: I have had my ass kicked also by people and played the friendship game but always on the alert for my opportunity to get even with the score.
The day came when I was free and was allowed to go home to Washington, D.C. and the poverty of my mother and father’s home. I had a dream when I left Rikers Island Prison and I was ready to implement it. No.1,1 was going to enroll at Margaret Washington Hairdressing School (cosmetology). Number 2, secure an apartment away from home.
No. 3, find me some good women. No. 4, stay out of jail.
Going to school was a good experience even though they thought I must be Gay or Queer. I learned to fix hair and found a woman who I stayed with for 18 years.
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