Freedom! My own apartment. Wow! At seventeen years old during the 1960s, I discovered my independence. Nobody to tell me what time to go to bed or when to clean my room. With this new independence, I once went for a walk after midnight just because I could. Gradually, I began to abuse my independence by squandering my education, excessive drinking, smoking weed and staying out all night. Eventually, the criminal justice system took my independence away for a few months; however, with such camouflage, I didn't even know my independence was gone.
While languishing away at Wayside Correctional Facility, operated by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, along with hundreds of other inmates whose independence was on lockdown, I enjoyed the stay. During the next several years, I made two or three return trips to this LA Sheriff's Department sponsored vacation at Wayside.
During the early 70s, life as a petty hustler was my chosen occupation and I basked in the illusion of independence. I was free and living the Good Life. My first realization that I had squandered my independence was in 1975 when I planned to travel to the Philippines for the Thilla in Manilla Fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. While making preparations to travel, I discovered that I would not be permitted a passport because of my criminal history. I realized then that if I continued along a life of crime I would never be allowed to obtain a passport and without a passport I had no true independence.
After deciding to quit my life of crime, I applied for a job as a Los Angeles County Clerk, also the Southern Gas Company and the Edison Company. Although I passed all three written exams, I was denied employment because of my past criminal record. Several others good positions were denied to me; although, I passed the entrance exams, my criminal record and my lack of a college education blocked my path. With no good opportunities in sight, I returned to the lifestyle where my shaky resume was no obstacle.
My spirits were uplifted by pride during 1984 when Rev. Jesse Jackson made a serious run for the presidency of the United States. However, I soon discovered that felons had lost their rights to vote. I had to face the reality that I was living without independence.
It pains to see so many young women and men foolishly squander their independence with thoughtless behavior. Visible tattoos especially on the neck and in the face, boasting gang affiliation, anti-social dress codes, social media exposing negativity, etc. all hinders their future. Unfortunately, on this Independence Day, and many to come, a few will never know true independence unless they quickly get their lives in order.