What we saw and what we learned

By News | Last updated: Dec 18, 2001 - 3:31:41 PM

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( - Recently released inmates Larry Ollins and Omar Saunders spoke to Final Call Editor James Muhammad and Photographer Kenneth Muhammad about:

... their first night of freedom:

Larry: After 15 years of being locked up, incarcerated for something we didn’t do, it’s a good thing, but at the same token the reality is that the confusion and the madness and a lot of the hatred and a lot of other things keep a lot of us locked up. We can’t even live; we can’t even enjoy freedom because of these elements that are embedded in our character and personality. So as long as I know my brother is like that, I’m never free; but I am going to enjoy the moment that I’m being released from behind these bars on the physical plane and try to take everything slow.

... what the experience means:

Omar: God can use an event to further another event to make something else happen. I understand that I’m just a part of something bigger, you know. I noticed upon my release that it all happened like I saw it. I saw it happen because I saw the evidence. I remember a brother in prison said that the incredible is always rooted in the credible, that if you can just go back into the credible you can find out what you think is incredible. It’s incredible how they framed us. I went back and looked into the paperwork of every credible [thing] and saw how they took the truth and altered it.

... the bigger thing that you say you are part of:

Larry: The hour right now is a critical hour and every [major] event that’s taking place in America—even with the phenomenon of DNA and how it is producing or weeding out some evil or some terrorist act or some bizarre political scheme that is affecting the souls of the masses of the people or of a particular people—it’s all revelation because the more you impose what’s wrong upon a person, it’s that wrong that’s going to produce a right. And it might take some of the crazy things that’s taking place, unfortunately, to bring a lot of the people to the revelation of truth that it’s something greater that we’ve got to attend other than a lot of the folly and the other stuff that’s taking place that’s [entrapping] a lot of the youth and deterring them from being recipients of a message that would put them on that right path.

... what they see in the many young Black men coming through the prison system:

Omar: I see rebellion and anger. It’s like a generation of brothers who are just mad. They are upset that somebody didn’t tell them the truth. They want the truth. They want it but they have been deprived of it so long. And when they can hear anything that is a semblance of the truth, it can inspire life and they stand up and try to fight and help themselves. I can say that truthfully just from reading The Final Call.

...the fact that the same conditions still exist in society:

Omar: [Society] inside actually reflects outside. They mirror each other. And when you sit back and listen and you turn on the TV and you hear brothers on the gallery screaming out, "ooh, look at her. Man, look at her." And you turn to the channel that they’re watching and you see that they are whistling at a girl that’s 12-years-old and they are trying to justify why they would have sex, then it dawns on you the realization of why God got you here. He’s giving you a chance to change because it’s going to be some people that’s not going to listen. They will take your head off for messing with their babies like that. It dawned on me because I’ve got daughters out there. I’ve never seen them and I’m afraid for them and I hear that and I can understand how God talks to you. So when I hear that I say, "yeah, thank God that he’s next door to me so he can’t hurt my babies." So I can see the wisdom why [God is] allowing us to go to these places, because some of us would have lost our lives in the streets. [Prison] could be a place of redemption. It can be a place of punishment, too.

... what they were able to see while in prison that they couldn’t see before:

Larry: Whether it is by force or by choice, when you get yourself boxed in, the only thing that could bring you out of that deep stage of darkness--of being uninformed, of being angry and everything else--is understanding. It’s having a newfound love for some parts of humanity that you do understand until you come into a love for the whole of humanity and try to understand the aim and purpose in a lot of other things. And sometimes you’ve got to get a few bricks dropped on you before you come into that understanding. Sometimes it takes a while for some people. Sometime it takes just a short period of time for some people. But for me, specifically, it took me a while because this is my brother right here (Omar) and I mean they had him (Omar) thinking that I done it [the rape/murder]. I just told you I didn’t do it. But the way [the system] done orchestrated this stuff in this trial [makes it] questionable . And then you put me out on the media like I was the leader and say I’m the one who put everybody up to do this ... so I had another stage of anger and I acted my stuff out. It took me a while and I had to get boxed in and learn how to be alone with myself and accept being alone and come into an understanding.

... the principles of the gangs versus their activities:

Omar: You take principles like love, truth, freedom and justice and you take principles like life, loyalty, wisdom, knowledge and understanding and you take them principles and you give it to the [youth]. But at the same time you mix falsehood with it, so you create a monster. These little brothers have been disassociated from the principles and they are going off of something totally different. It ain’t even about [struggle]. So when they come into what the principles mean, they say, "wait a minute, you got us out here selling this stuff [drugs]." That don’t compute. In other words, it’s taking good principles and mixing dirt with it. And I’m learning that when you take something that’s divine and you try to play with it, God will destroy it. And that’s what happening.

... the hardest part of their prison experience:

Omar: Dealing with the knowledge that since the majority of the people in the prison look just like me and they’re looking at me and thinking that I’m scandalous, and knowing in my heart that I didn’t do what people think I did. I just didn’t do it. And as you start developing mentally you start to actually see, you can look back and see why. I read in The Final Call where the Minister [Farrakhan] was speaking about The Honorable Elijah Muhammad who said in order to save our people you’ve got to love them more than they hate themselves. As I started to meditate over those things and as I started to get a little older, I started to realize that I can’t hate the negativity that I see, but in order to try to alleviate anything around me that’s negative that comes from what I claim to love I’ve got to try to be an example of what I want them to be. That’s the best way to love, by being that example. Don’t point the finger at them. Like Malcolm said Elijah told him, set a clean glass next to [the dirty glass] and try to do better each day. As I came to that [reality], I felt kind of guilty about all the finger pointing I was doing because I was really pointing at myself.