Those Who Hustle: Life After Prison

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Gangster rap had a huge impact on me growing up in Southern California. It was music that showed the hood as I saw it at that time, fun and mysterious. Music filled with people living there lives the best way they knew how. I know I was one of them. As perverse as it sounds, despite the craziness that was pretty much essential to the genre, it made gangsters human. A far cry from what we would see on television.

On the evening news you could hear every night about the drug deals and drive by shootings done by the menacing young black and brown men of the inner city. Men who never laughed, never loved, never lived, they were a lost cause from a lost race, and they were killing themselves and taking the community down with them. This definitely wasn't the whole story.

The so called thugs I knew would throw house parties and dance the night away, they played sports and through picnics, loved their relatives and looked out for their loved ones. In other words they were human and in a lot of cases misunderstood.

As time went on I grew further and further away from what the world would expect from someone of my socio – economic background. Due to a lot of factors I’m a world away from so much that has shaped me growing up, but I still have a lot of love for those tunes and times that branded my earlier days. Those memories will last longer than our friendships did. Inevitably when you grow friends and situations change and that’s a natural part of life. I’m well aware of what could have been.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I'm blessed to have been saved from the traps that caught so many of my friends in a downward spiral. I know if I was at the wrong party, fought the wrong person, did the wrong drug or a whole number of other ifs, my life would be dramatically different then it is today. And I'm grateful.

I'm also well aware of how many of my homies who for whatever reason lived the lifestyle of the music we cherished are stuck. And the truth of the matter is they may never recover.

Studies shows being black is enough to diminish opportunity in the market place tremendously compared to a white person with the same credentials. So I don't even have to tell you where black felons fall on the scale. The hard truth is so many who could be rehabilitated have a scarlet letter in having a conviction on their record that won't allow them to exist any other way except in the way that got them in trouble in the first place.

And this is truly a tragedy because if given a chance so many could be productive. Without that opportunity what do you really expect? That is why we must push for teaching entrepreneurial skills for people coming out of incarceration. We owe it to the people who served their time a chance to get it right. The homies need us.