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tv   Free Minds Book Club  CSPAN  February 18, 2019 8:33pm-10:05pm EST

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historian recounts the political and moral division of the united states leading up to the civil war. leader from the recent writers festival discussing the day that is a look ahead at the next three programs on book tv on c-span two.
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>> it is very much like war and a sense that prison is such a negative space it is hard to explain for real like in this book i can feel him trying to express as best as he can and it still doesn't seem to be adequate sometimes. trying to express what it is to be in prison. >> free minds exist because of one man who wanted to give back. his name is glenn mcginnis he was on death row in texas at the age of 16. and he wrote a letter to kelly taylor and myself at the time
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television news producers in dc and he basically said i want to stay alive and i want to know how many men of color are on death row. kelly did a documentary about him but it was only aired in australia. afterwards they became friends they would read the same book and discuss it through letters. the idea of the book club was born in 2000 he wanted us to work the young boys that are in the adult criminal legal system.
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eventually in 2002, 2005 we became an official nonprofit so we have been doing this. >> how many prisons or jails quick. >> just in washington dc right now we are hoping to grow we have other prisons that call us for advice how to start a book club because this methodology is so simple and powerful t7 what does it do quick. >> when you see yourself in a book you have a profound transformation that i am not alone with what i am going through, i can make sense of it and i can heal from a traumatic experience that i have been through i can be inspired by the characters of the book and what they
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overcame and connect to another person if you have an engaging book the more incarcerated population their outcomes will soar. to have a facility that is a place of learning with true rehabilitation if you give somebody a book it's the world. >> the book is the middle ground they have had experience in their life and there is this abstract experience so it connects to the book and by virtue of me being the bookseller it brings personal story through the book. >> our mom is a non- reader but many have taught themselves how to read so some
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of the content that is so compelling and something i really want to read that's my street in washington dc. i want people to know it is a voracious appetite for any type of book t7 are they required. >> it has to be voluntary. of course they want to get out of their cell but you cannot imagine the magic of book then you want to come to talk about it and it seems incredible to me where it leads you to places you would never think about is if you think we will talk about these themes but no. it goes so far afield the whole format is so everybody can participate and then they can relax from that chaos just
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to have that childlike playfulness that our members have been robbed of literally so they could not play a fun game but with that vocabulary or the word and helping with literacy and video games but then for somebody who is shy to be in a group they can write all of them share. so you just want to catch whoever will listen. >> they are discussing the vietnam era novel. >> it's good to see you all. we will get started just like we do every time with the meditation. bring your chair and get on
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the ground so today i thought we would go for a walk in the snow with the falling snowflakes you are the only one out one of the most peaceful experiences there is. we had one day of snow here do you remember that this year? so now everybody can close their eyes be comfortable with your feet on the ground and your hands resting in your lap feel the cotton t-shirt next to your skin with your favorite hoodie and on top of that that fluffy down jacket and a hat to cover your ears. you are standing on a path lined with big tall trees you take a deep breath and - - in
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and feel the cold air to fill your lungs to make you feel healthy and alive you exhale the steam that's in front of your mouth with another deep breath let it in and out it feels cold and energized the snow lands gently all around you. the only thing you hear is the snow falling on your jacket the snow has mutated all other sounds like you are in a snowy white cocoon you love the way it feels you are wearing brand-new boots that make a perfect crunching sound in the snow. you lean your head back to the snow than - - the streetlamp they are mesmerizing and
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beautiful and heavy as they float slowly down to your face one lands in your eyelashes you open your mouth and a snowflake lands on the center of your tongue it is called for an instant and quickly disappears you feel the magic of the winter to breathe in the cold air. now breathe out. you can come back to this place anytime you want gradually, slowly bring your attention back to the room and open your eyes. >> can anyone envision the place? >> were they specific places? >> every time i meditate i feel the sun so just to enjoy
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the weather. >> even going to a snowy place you go back to where you feel best to a snowy place you go back to where you feel best it remind me of my dog and we had a big snowstorm. >> it made me think when i was a child making snow angels. >> anybody ever build the perfect snowman? [laughter] >> they always do it on tv. [laughter] i never have carrots in my refrigerator.
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[laughter] and for some reason the charlie brown special of the kids watching charlie brown that was peaceful. that was nice. >> do you tend to do these meditations on your own? what is meditation do for you we actually attend on saturdays so i know i get peace of mind because sometimes it gets noisy so that's a good opportunity to meditate on saturdays away from the space. it is really a piece of mind but at the same time it makes me find who i am.
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>> but when i go in at night just to fall back and listen to the music or to be in my thoughts slow and meditation for me like you're just saying i am able to go with it and know myself better. >> so to piggyback to change your mind we can go meditate it takes you to those places you feel confident and that is
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a good practice so just being able to check out with the meditatio meditation. >> because being on the outside there is so many things that you can distract you you have home, social media, and it's in these moments that i do medical on - - meditation most consistently just as a reminder that i need to just those three or four minutes even breathing is a way that regularly reminds me i need to bring that into my own life with you realize how much time we don't spend just with our thoughts and to your
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point, thinking about what comes if you feel like you cannot just be sitting or talking so i'm always appreciative of how that reminds me of the habits that i need to have. >> when i was meditating i thought i was daydreaming. [laughter] i definitely know that it's not but in my own space. >> that is important. >> so now we will transition to the game. >> we have so many games. it's on your phone now we play this in the hospital i played
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it with my daughter you get on the phone they hold the phone up to their head in the word comes up everybody has to help them guess the word but you cannot say it it is like charades so we will do that today. i will give you a card. take one and sit down but don't look at the word on the card. [laughter] your job is to help others and not already know what it is. >> when it's your turn you will lifted up and we will try to help you guess what that word i is. >> and here's a book to help you jog your memory.
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>> don't look too hard. >> or to go around twice and swing it back around. >>. >> i cannot control myself. [laughter] just put the extras on the ground. let's just go in order. >> don't say the word.
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>>. >> what are they looking for? >> a sign of what? >> is that close? >> is that close? ask when you go to the bathroom.
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[laughter] >> the fourth of july. >> make sure everybody can see. if you walk in the room.
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>> they are courageous. >> courage? [laughter] another word for courage. atlanta? angels? the braves? yes. [laughter] >> children friendly? >> and a couple more.
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and to draw blood. the street person?
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and that is for a long time. who dares? don't look.
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and those two chapters we would be discussing let's do a little bit of popcorn reading just to get back into it it's been a little while before we have gone through it. then to move slowly where in the cross of the field he was
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under the mud and water. and to the banks and the mud but then the lieutenant went first and with that circumstance no matter what
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and to be signed soldier. >> and then that steady slow to go through the big waters the red was the wall and you had to fight it. and a young soldier stood by himself in knee-deep water but
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they did not turn to look up and it was caked with mud it was impossible to make out the voices and that transformed into identical copies - - copies which is exactly how jim crow was the intangible units of command and tried to avoid that set of thinking with that ambition not as a unit but as human beings. >> and to be the very best and
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decent and then to be raised with starvation and with that new testament and then with those mistakes to come from high. and then to move higher ground for the night there is nothing he could do now and to feel sick about it. . .
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>> he shook his head and said man, talk about the irony. i bet he'd just laugh.
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now pipe down. waste is waste, he said. you've got to admit, it is world class irony. the three men move with slow heavy steps. it was hard to keep balance. their boots sunk. a powerful downward suction, and with each step, they would have to pull up hard to break the hole. the rain made quick dents in the water. when they reached the river, they shifted a few meters to the north. mostly they just searched with their feet. that tells the story. like those old cowboy movies, bites the dirt. the morning was cold and wet. they had not slept during the
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night, not even for a few moments. all three of them were feeling the tension as they moved across the fields towards the river. there was nothing they could do. >> do you want to pick up there? >> just find him and slide him aboard. whenever a man died, it was always the same, a desire to get it over with quickly, no frills or ceremony, and what they wanted now was to get under a roof and forget what had happened during the night. halfway across the field, he stopped. he stood for a moment with his eyes shut, feeling along the bottom with his foot. and they passed his weapon over to norman. the three men did not speak for a time. the pack was heavy with mud and water. inside were a pair --
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[inaudible]. the guy's around here somewhere. better tell. screw him. yeah, but some lieutenant, sanders said. the man doesn't know [ bleep ]. 10 billion places we could have set up last night. the man picks the latrine. it wasn't the lt's fault, he said quietly. whose then? nobody. nobody knew till afterwards. he made a sound in his throat. he pulled the straps tight. all right. but this much for sure, the man knew it was raining. he knew about the river, one plus one, add it up, you get exactly what happened. sanders glared at the river.
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move it, he said. waiting on us. slowly then. they began wading again through the deep waters, their eyes down, circling out. >> we will hold there for now. we know how the rest of the chapter goes where people are sort of wrestling with this idea for who is to blame for the death. we just ended on a part where a lot of them are blaming the lieutenant for deciding to camp on what ended up being a field of bowel; right? to put it nicely. how were you all thinking about that? how do you think about this idea that there should be a specific person to blame for this person's -- this person dying? >> i don't think a specific individual should be blamed. i just think -- what i got from the book that soldiers, the lieutenant, of course he's going to feel like, you know, he's
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responsible, you know, for what happened because day one in materially chapter -- in the early chapter, he was taking responsibility for what happened. even when they went home, some of the soldiers were suffering from ptsd. but i don't think that, you know, anyone should take, you know, responsibility, you know, one single individual. you know, i felt like every one, you know, should feel some type of -- you know, one of us, as a soldier is gone. everyone felt some type of way of losing the next man standing beside them. as they said, no one left behind. as a lieutenant, he felt some type of -- but i don't think all the blame should be falling on him or anyone, you know, one individual should feel responsible. >> that's how society is set up, though. there's always someone to blame.
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everything you see in this society we live in, there's always somebody take the blame. somebody got to get blamed for it. i mean, in everything, it happens all the time. the lieutenant taking the blame, i mean, they're looking at the lieutenant because he's superior. he's the one that made the decision. they are looking at it like even though, you know, he's saying his decision came from high up, so it's like what did you do? you got orders you're supposed to follow. if you deviate from the orders, then if something goes wrong, then you're blamed for that. you follow orders and something goes wrong, you're blamed for that too. you know what i'm saying? >> if i was the lieutenant, i ain't going to have my man sit in that. >> they didn't know, though. >> the people tried to warn them not to go in there. that's like a quarterback on the field. you get a play from the coach,
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but you got an audible when you see the blitz coming. those people telling them not to go there probably should have put more attention why they shouldn't go there. >> look what type of situation they were in. they were at war with them. they're just not going to take their word. i see what you are saying. hindsight, you understand, but if you in that situation, you put right in it, i mean, we looking at the picture, they in the picture, so it's a whole different outlook. your mindset going to be different. they might be like why am i listening to them? they might be tricking. >> that's the whole point, somebody got to take the blame then. somebody just died. >> the lieutenant is leading the men. >> when the decision had been
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made, when they are going through rough waters, when did they make the decision to go through, they had to go through. it is not like they could change their mind, you know, in the middle of what they are going through. like you said, you know what i'm saying, somebody else giving them commands. >> they also got rewards for stuff like that too. it's not really a reward for disregarding the order, but had they saved all those lives, there would have been a reward. >> the military is not full of people with free thinkers. you have to be on a different type of level to disregard your order and take it upon yourself to make your own decision. everybody not going to be able to do that because in the military, you're instructed to follow everything precisely mapped out for you. there isn't a whole lot of
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deviating. this is the order you follow. you have to be the type of person that -- >> let me ask you this, in one part of the chapter that we just read, they are trying to figure out who is to take the blame. it feels like somebody may need to take the blame for this. as the chapter goes on, by the end of it, they are like we need to get this man on the stretcher and send him off like we do everybody does who dies. there's a juxtaposition there's somebody needs to take the blame and burden, then there's the opposite end, we have to let it go and move on. which one does that feel right to you? do you feel like you should carry the blame or let it go, let it happen? >> over here. >> i think there's got to be a balance, you know what i mean? there's got to be a balance of responsibility in the sense of everybody got to always be thinking about how we can do things better in the future and
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avoid loss of life. i mean, even though you can't really avoid that in a war, but avoid senseless loss of life, you know what i'm saying? then you got to let it go because it is done. >> not just festering in it but using it to say all right, what happened? what can we learn from this? let's move forward. >> right, right. >> when the lieutenant was calling out to that boy, he was actually a boy, the boy, he was trying to figure out who that boy was because the boy was searching for something. in reality, he's not even searching for him. he's searching for a picture of the girl. he put the blame on himself. he showed him the picture. that's when everything started going down. to a certain extent, the boy put the blame on himself. at the same time, he's not even
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focused on what happened. he's looking for my picture, my girl. i'm looking for my picture. one of the people that said that he would have been the person that would have been laughing at that situation. we're in a [ bleep ] situation. we're in a field full of [ bleep ]. you know what i'm saying? some of the people making jokes, man, how ironic is this, wasting in the waste. he got killed in the waste. at the end of the day they have to learn from it. at the end of the day, you got to move forward. >> imagine you are, let's do -- let's a different perspective. imagine you are his parents and you find out that your child died in war. do you feel as if it is important to be able to give the parents a specific reason as an explanation as to like what
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happened? not even necessarily putting -- i guess i'm trying to think of what does it mean to feel as if you are the victim of something versus part of a group of people who are maybe complicit in or are relevant to a situation in which somebody's life was taken? so like from the perspective of his parents, do they deserve an explanation, or is it just -- is it enough to say things got complicated. >> they deserve an explanation. from what i have read and what i have seen, just like when you present the flag to a soldier's family, you know, they have some -- take, for instance, when the situation happened with -- what was the arizona football player? cross fire, friendly fire, and they tried to cover the whole situation up. i mean you have to give the family an explanation. the parents know what he or she
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was signing up for, you know, to engage in combat war. it's a life-and-death situation where nine times out of ten you will not come back, nine times out of ten, one will come back. the parents do deserve an explanation. also when i was reading this book, i tried to put myself in the soldiers' situation, like what they were doing. in every book i read, i try to do that. >> how do you feel this is relevant to -- obviously war is a very specific social phenomenon. you always have to be careful about comparisons and making parallels, but how do you think this idea, this theme of blame, this theme of culpability, this theme of who should be held accountable for someone's death or for harm committed against someone, how is it relevant to the way you think about your own situations, in your own life? >> that's kind of what i was
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thinking about, like -- let's say you are in the streets and your best friend gets shot and killed, of course you got to tell the parents, but i'm not going to go into details and say they ran up behind him and blew his head off. i'm going to say man he died. they got to shooting. i'm sorry to have to tell you this. as far as providing the details, yeah, he died, got sunk under some [ bleep ] and they come pull him out. i would leave that out. he died defending his country, just to uplift the fact he did some courageous bravery type of thing versus explaining the details. that's how i would look at it, if i was in the street, i wouldn't tell the parents the details, too deep, but that's me >> that's interesting, right, because again we talked about this last session, that theme of the things we carry. how we carry these things that aren't material with us. so in a way it almost feels like
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you want to sort of lighten the load of what you are going to hand to the parents, that burden they will have to carry on their backs. but if i'm hearing from other people, that it might be a little bit -- might be a little bit less to know exactly what happened so you don't have to make up the exact story in your head. which one is better? is it better to do what he's saying, to let them know something happened, or is it better to give them the specifics? >> if they want the specifics -- >> if that ask for the specifics. >> yeah, you give it to them. otherwise, i agree. [ bleep ] happens. you know, and he got killed. i mean, you wouldn't deliver it like that to the parents. but like, i would just keep it vague because i think that the information, the knowledge is more important than explanation. you know what i'm saying? the details of it. unless they like i need to know, and then -- >> would you want to know, if your child was killed in the war, would you want to know how
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they were killed? or not even in war, if your child was killed in the streets? >> yeah. >> you would want to know specifically how it happened? >> yeah. >> in the street i would like to know exactly what happened. in war, my mind is set already that there's a possibility that my child might lose their life. so if he got blown into pieces or he got tortured, i don't want to have that memory. on the street if my son or daughter lose their life, i want to know specifics. >> why is that? is that for revenge? >> that's because i'm not looking in society that my child could lose their life. that ain't a thought. >> so you don't think there are people who -- >> that ain't my mindset. when i send her to school or whatever, i'm expecting her to come home. if i'm sending her off to war, i know the possibility that she ain't coming home or he ain't coming home. >> it's not like expected.
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you've just got to be ready for it. >> just being in the streets, like, that's a real possibility that parents deal with on a daily basis. i know everybody familiar with the talk -- the parents that got on tv and expressed their thoughts about how they've got to talk to their 12, 13-year-old black sons and brown sons when they start getting a little size on them, they start, you know, growing up, and they got to have this talk with their sons to be like, look, when you run into the police, you say yes, sir, no, sir, you say -- you don't look into his eyes too much. you don't do nothing that could cause you to lose your life. you know what i'm saying? that's why i asked the question why? because like it's definitely a reality. >> the possibility is always going to be there for anybody.
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>> a parent also -- they would prefer to move on before their child. i'm not a parent. so we don't know how much it means to them to lose a child. >> have to bury a child. >> it's tough. so my take, i would want an explanation. i would want to know how my son or daughter, you know -- >> i think a lot of people think it could provide a peace of mind. >> i know it would be heart breaking. i know that. i'm not saying that it is not going to be heart breaking. just imagine all the kids that going to school, and they are shooting up the schools, you know. parents worried about their children now, that my daughter or son will come back. kids aren't even safe in school no more. it is sad. >> the thing, though, you're still getting told that your child died, but you ain't going
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into detail exactly -- you know what i'm saying? the child died in school. you're not going to say the gunman came in and shot them boom in the head. you're not going to go into details. regardless, the lieutenant is still letting the parents know your child died in battle. the same way, you can let your friend's parents know your child died in the streets, but you are not going to give the details that he sunk down and got sucked into the [ bleep ]. you know what i'm saying? you are still delivering the same message. >> i think the difference is when somebody dies in war, it's like you become -- you know, you're a hero. when people send their kids off to the military, go to the war, to some people that's like an honor. you know, if you die in war, you know, that's like an honor. i mean, they got memorials and stuff downtown. you go down there and see the names of the people that died or
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missing in action. it is different from when somebody is killed on the street. the praise is not the same. >> what's special about this war, though, remember? >> this was -- a lot of people didn't even like this war. so when the veterans came back, i guess they kind of felt like almost like they were coming out of prison. they look down on us when you come out of prison. they had the same type of situation when they came back from vietnam. >> i can imagine the context of this war, right? the sort of animosity towards it or people feeling like we shouldn't have been there in the first place could just give a different context hearing that information that your child has died; right? create a whole different sentiment than a war that we feel like we should be fighting and there's a worthy cause. >> feeling like as if your child died for something senseless. >> right. >> one thing we didn't pinpoint also, jimmy started taking responsibility from the very
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beginning, some of the soldiers that moved on. he was taking responsibility from the very beginning. what i really like, when the war was over, how they created their brotherhood, when they got in the early chapters, you know, they get together and they were checking on each other, you know, sharing meals, that bond was still there. they were speaking of the things that they held on to. you know, the picture, you had one where the stocking is over his head, you know, different little things. [laughter] >> they all had their little thing that helped them go through the war. >> yeah. i'm interested in this idea you brought up of people who have had a shared experience, then after they are finished with that experience, forming some sort of social network and fellowship to gather and sort of
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like process that; right? i mean, there's something specific about -- like when stacey and i get together, we are both black fathers, right, and so are able to talk about our children, able to talk about we went to the same school. i imagine, i know for formerly incarcerated folks that i work with, a lot of them find community alongside other people who have always been formerly incarcerated because there's something specific and unique about that sort of experience that it's difficult for some other people to understand, if you haven't experienced it directly. do you think that when you think about when you get out, is that something that you anticipate, or is it something that you're like i want to remove myself from like every facet? >> it's hard, you know, like i've been doing -- [inaudible] -- almost 20 years. me knowing i have a chance of going next friday after 24 years
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is like living in behind. it's real hard. but he understands that i have to move on. you relate to the people who understand what you are going through. you are both parents. you can relate to clint about being parents. us being in this situation right here, we can relate to each other very well, but it also is the ones who are determined, who are willing to stay out there in society and do the right thing and share that bond, you can for that friend. friendship takes time. it's something i anticipate. >> i want to point back to this book too, to go along with that, there's a part in the end of the chapter, in the field, though the causes were immediate, a moment of carelessness or bad judgment or plain stupidity carry consequences that lasted
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forever. a lot of times when we're in the streets, we say we're in the field. like they in the war, they are in field. when we are in the streets, we are in the field. when you get locked up for maybe a mistake or a decision you made that was careless or stupidity, you created consequences that lasted forever. people who have been here for 20 years, 24 years, 25 years, consequences that last for a long time. some of the decisions we make, we go through the consequences and carry them. we are in the field right now, on the side of this law, so we can relate and sit in this circle right now, in this book club and have a comment, so we can all relate to each other. we can all express some of the things, and being in this setting helps us process some of the stuff we're going through because we all create different things. i've been here for five years. i've got 20 years. so i might go to him and say how
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do you get through that 20 years? i'm beginning my 20 years. all of us going through this with each other. it's definitely something that as a platform and it's helping us process and deal with the things. i think us going through this together, being in the field together, help us process this, help us get it out. >> it is very much like war in a sense, you know what i'm saying? and not so much the physical stuff, you know what i mean? even though that's a part of it when you are at certain institutions, but it is mental. it is like 85% mental. every day is a fight to stay sane, to stay upbeat, you know what i mean? to stay positive because prison is such a negative space, such a spiritless space, you know what i'm saying? and so it's a specific
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camaraderie that builds between us when we're in jail, you know what i'm saying? especially if we are consciously trying to be positive every day and trying to grow and trying to be better. you know, we find strength in each other, you know what i mean? talking to each other, building with each other, trying to be creative and as proactive as we can be in a place that's all about restriction and all about power and control over you, you flow what i'm saying -- you know what i'm saying? it is hard to explain for real for real, just like how in this book, a lot of these stories, like i can feel him trying to express it in the best way he can, and it still don't seem to be adequate sometimes. you know what i mean? that's how i be feeling about trying to express what it is to be in prison for an extended period of time. >> so in that same chapter, i forget the soldier's name, but he's home.
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he's driving around the lake, right? he thinks about going to tell his ex girlfriend -- >> the chapter right before -- >> -- a girl he at least liked about his war stories. what about sharing your stories with people that didn't have the same experience? is that something you anticipate? how do you feel about that? >> i anticipate -- i set my goals real high for myself. one of the goals i set for myself is helping the at risk youth. i know that a lot of individuals in the past say they will be doing this, they will be doing that. my heart is truly for the kids. if i could save one child, i would like to save -- i know i can't save all, but if i could save one and share my experience with what i have been through, you know, i will feel good about myself, but i also want to gain the parents' trust because i know i have the children in my company, so to speak. i'm really looking forward, you know, to help the youth. >> let's get from over here? >> to piggyback off what they
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all have said, growing up, i had a lot of people get locked up and in jail and everything. i was kind of lackadaisical, handing them a lot of things they asked for, money, and things like that. when i get out, if i can help in any type of way, i will be much more honest, just the respect and understanding that what it is to be locked up. >> so you're saying you didn't fully appreciate before you came in how -- >> yeah, yeah, well i didn't fully understand what it was like, you know what i mean? like when you're out there, you never experienced it before. you just like, you know, people call and ask for money -- i will do it. i will get to it. now that i'm in here, people forget and do the same thing for me. and i'm like this is how i was out there. i know i'm not that type of person. when i get out there, i know for a fact, anybody that i connected
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with, even uncles and cousins that got locked up, i will make sure i will be there for them because i understand how it is. >> i find it easy to talk with guys that have been through the same thing that i have been. it's easy to trust. people have ster -- people have stereotypes, so i find it easier to deal with, you know, with people that i know have been through the same struggles that i have been through, and as time goes on, of course i will -- i will have to deal with people that haven't been through this situation, so it is a matter of just, them having to accept me for who i am, just have a relationship. i can't change my past, you know. i can't change. i have to live with it. when i get out to society, there
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will be a whole lot of people in society that have never been in the situation i have been. they can accept me for who i am or move on. >> on 133, right after the page, stacy was alluding to, there's a theme where he sees a woman that -- sally kramer -- who i think he dated when he was in high school or had a crush on? >> a crush at least. >> now she lives in this house. now she's married. now she's got this whole other life. this completely different life than when he left. and it's interesting to think about when you're home, and when you leave home, and then when you come back home, how different things are. do you all think about that? >> all the time. >> say more about that. >> the crazy thing you just said
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that, i've been locked up for 24 years. i haven't been to d.c. since 96. i keep seeing these buses. i'm saying to myself, what are all these doing around here? all the time, it's the metro bus. [laughter] >> just a little thing like that, a building that wasn't there before, stuff that looks so different, back what you were saying was, life just goes on, but you don't realize it when you're in jail, people grow. it's just like one time i seen my mother, i haven't seen her in 18 years, but i still got the picture of her young, and she come in with a walker, and i'm like -- it's just -- time just moves so quick, and you just don't even realize it in jail. so back what you were saying
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about the stories, i believe our stories need to be heard. we need to share our stories to help somebody from not making the same mistakes you made or you can share a story from he might have gave me that can help him, you know. but a lot of people glorify jail when it's nothing to glorify. >> it's all what you embrace in your experience. i call it embracing my experience, you know, because i came to prison as a child. it is not something i'm proud of. would you share your story with those that don't know? i wouldn't go around saying hey i came to prison at the age of 17 and i did 24 years in prison. now if you inquire, yes, and as rodney said that, you know, you will have to accept me for who i am. yes, i made a mistake, you know. but the question you need to ask me, did i learn from my mistake? what have i done? what am i contributing to
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society now? that's a question that, you know, one should ask. >> a lot of people in jail ain't even here for a mistake they probably made. >> let's go over here. >> i was going to say something about this. things will be different when you return home, even if you return home after a couple of years, due to changes, due to just our families. i was thinking about pertaining to this book and pertaining to all the people that's in the circle, and i know a part of the book club is we write. we say bring your notes, bring your thoughts and stuff like that. i brought what i wrote and i want to share it. >> let's do that at the end. we will go around and share, but definitely, let's make sure we will do that.
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did you have anything? >> about sharing your story or sharing your experience, like experience, in prison, it might have a tremendous impact on someone who doesn't want to share, they don't want to relive the memories. you know what i'm saying? they may not want to share. but other people can build the courage, like the brother said here, like, you know, share his experience. >> it definitely depends. each person responds differently to traumatic experiences. each person responds differently to the things they have seen, and continuously as we talked about the things that they are carrying. >> it is not normal. >> it is not. that's something that everybody needs to sort of, you know, obviously reflect on and figure out for themselves and hopefully
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we'll give you all sometime to reflect on a little bit in this writing process. >> writing time, we have two prompts this time. you get to choose which one you want to write about. both have to do with things we talked about today. the first one is called my own war. in reading the things they carried, we've been able to make connections between experiences with soldiers and experiences of people who are incarcerated as well as the experience of people who are growing up in the streets. write a poem in which you describe your own experience. that's one. the second one is called what i lost. when we experience trauma, there's usually loss involved. it might be the loss of innocence, loss of a sense of safety, loss of shelter, loss of self-esteem, loss of a loved one etc. think of a particular traumatic event you have experienced. without focusing on the details what happened, write instead about what you lost. what was life like when you had this thing and what was life like without it. you have two to choose from.
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let me grab a couple of these. there's the what i lost. and there's the my own war. you can write on this paper. >> give you all about ten minutes. >> anybody else need something bigger to write on? >> do you need a pen?
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>> start looking up when you're done. obviously they say a poem is never done. you can always go back. >> i will start it off. >> i did my own war. here it goes. war, once seemed so far away, but as of late, i felt like it
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is here to stay. growing up, there was always peace. comfort of family in every crevice and crease. one day i woke up to gunshots and fire. water hoses and policemen killing young black men and women's desires. suddenly'm a soldier that's ready to fight for the lives of my ancestors and children alike. >> so mine is i did what i lost. and it's for people don't know i was born and raised in new orleans. hurricane katrina was my senior year of high school. so this is reflecting on that. it's hard to remember what the earth smelled like, the way of pieces of broken glass folded themselves underneath the soil. it is hard to remember watching the superdome shrink into itself, before disappearing into our rearview mirror as we drove away. it is hard to remember how long we sat in the car, how when i lowered the window, the entire
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highway smelled like gasoline and despair. it is hard to remember how long it took me to get out of bed and change the channel from something other than images of my city being washed away. it is hard to remember how much i was looking forward to the future before the levees broke. it's hard to remember how much of me is still broken and is yet to be rebuilt. >> who wants to share? >> life has always been a war from day one, from the first time a kid tried to bully me when i was maybe 6 or 7 and my mother told me you better get back out there and fight. i ain't raising -- [inaudible]. mama was a soldier so she raised one. violence was daily routine, countless fights, tried to stab a guy or two, never shot anybody, never been shot, but can't say it was because of lack of effort. robbed a lot of people, been
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robbed a few times. it was nothing less than what was to be expected. all this by 15 years of age, and the only things that kept me functioning was weed, liquor and pcp. i use the word function very loosely. came to prison at 16 and entered a new war, one that i've been fighting for a very long time now. i long for the day i can put the burden of war down. >> as i was constructing it, but the title -- mass incarceration across the nation carried by men and women with brown skin, centuries, memories, wondering
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will they remember me. the day i get sentenced, the day i'm scheduled to get more time because in the past i carried crime. the things they carried, life in the pin can be scary, but don't worry. didn't become prepared because lives were spared for those not read. the thing they carry in their head sleep walking right into prison because they made their bed. bodies after bodies, after bodies, lifeless, amongst the walking dead. the war we in right now makes you want to write life down because the things they carry is life right now. fighting the fight, trying to
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give and give back life now. high hopes, the things they carry are shocking thoughts locked away. the things they carry are thoughts carrying life. like an eagle or a hawk, i hope this is widespread like their wingspan because this is being filmed by c-span, book tv. see we tell a vision about the things they carry in a cell, in prison. i'm not here to sell a vision on television. i'm here to tell the children it is a cell in prison. does anyone see the war we're in? in the pen? or the war in vietnam? the things they carry go way beyond. the things they carry on the backs, their hands, in their
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arms, they carry their lives in the book. now they are stories that carried on. speaking of courage, look at the things they carry. in the field, look at the war we in. we're in the pen. the things they carry, carried by the pen. >> i love the internal rhyme throughout, the word play, that was great. >> mistakes in the past, chasing something i knew i wouldn't last, now i'm locked up for a cause, thinking of the things that i lost. running the streets without a clue, i wish i knew that times would be hard. >> i wrote what i lost because over the years i have lost a lot. once again, i embrace my experience. what i lost is my loved ones
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just because of my foolish decision. what i lost is my juvenile years. what i lost is not being there to love and support my family. what i lost is not having the chance to tell my parents all that i wanted to as the man i have become to be today. what i lost is my youth, but i'm much stronger today. what i didn't lost is my sanity. >> i wrote my own war. my war is within myself, deep within places i have yet to travel. there's so much junk. the way is hard. it is hindering my survival. my war is within myself trying to understand, all the confusion that never seems to go away.
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life i can imagine. whose life is it? so many different components directly and indirectly too, clandestine schemes, is it my life? so many labels have been placed upon me i have lost count. am i a casualty of war? or i am the war. >> i wrote something. i ain't really a good writer. i chose what i lost. i've been locked up so long i lost a lot like my partner here. okay. what i lost is a gift of freedom, the chance to be a father to my daughter, a son to my mother, a brother to my sister, a chance to walk on the sandy beach or to take a legal drink. dreaming of home cooked meals,
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that i can taste in my sleep waking up in the middle of the night and realize all i have is -- [inaudible]. [laughter] >> that's real. >> who i lost. i didn't really get to finish it yet. i said sometimes i feel like i lost track of time. i feel like i was hired to the streets and my life sign on the dotted lines. i used to dream of going to movies and having fun. now i'm locked up. now i'm spending time thinking about the life i never had. >> i did what i lost. i lost time with my kids. i lost many friends. i let my loved ones down.
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i lost half of my -- [inaudible]. i lost my freedom. i can't wait to get it back again. >> i did who i lost too. when i sit back and think of my family and friends, in my thoughts, i lost time, i lost time with the people i love the most. i lost connections, connections to the people that i thought would always grow. what i lost, i lost myself. >> we have your poems from last week. we will give those back right at the end. i wanted us to end today with one thing that -- one take away. what's one thing that you took away from this session today? what's that thing for you all? >> it can also be just -- it can
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also be something -- obviously we only got to talk about a very small section of the book. i loved this book. i read it in high school and then read it again now. as a writer, i think -- i mean there were so many times where i was just underlining and putting stars by the way that he like constructed language in a way that i thought was so beautiful and so powerful. and so, you know, in your reflection, you can talk about something you are thinking about based on the discussion or your writing or you can feel free to bring up a part of the book that we may not have had the opportunity to talk about that resonated with you or you thought was surprising. >> i will go first. what i really admire for the soldiers is how much they carry so much on them and still be able to move on through. you know, there's so much -- you know, the guns and, you know, just the radios and they discussed how big the radio was.
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the size and the weight. but just to carry all those equipment -- >> not just emotionally, but you mean physically? >> yes, i really admire them. when i was reading in the early chapters of the book, they broke down everything, you know, what they had to take on. >> right. >> i really admire that. >> the book, it kind of reminded me of like -- like our daily life, like we're at war too. the battles and stuff, we see that every day. i just want to thank you all giving us this opportunity so people out there can see like just because we're in, we're not bad people. we all make mistakes. i just want to appreciate you all for giving us this right here. we're all not bad, you know.
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>> that's important for people to know. >> appreciate you all giving us this to the world so they can know. >> i enjoyed the session. i always enjoy, you know, being a part of free minds. but something i like to reflect on is a part in the book when we were discussing about the blame, you know, who is going to take the blame for, you know, this and that. i mean, you know, when you look at the history of the vietnam war, you know, it was a war that, you know, a lot of people, you know, believed that we shouldn't have been a part of and there was a lot of time that had ill feelings towards the veterans when they came back. i mean, i believe, you know, that the society is to blame. everybody is to blame. i mean, because, in america, democracy, one of the components in democracy is checks and balance. if the people feel like something not right, why should so many lives have to be lost before the people stand up and
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say no, we shouldn't do this, we're not going to this war. i'm not going to send my child over to fight this war. i mean, you know, why do we have this component in this society, in this government, in this constitution? you know, it seems like it doesn't get used where it should. i would like to say i this, you know, people need to wake up and stand up because there are a lot of things going in on our society and people not saying nothing about it. you know, they wait until something happens before they feel like something needs to be done. if something is going on and it is not right, then we need to stand up, whoever, the people in your community. you know what i mean? >> definitely. anyone else? >> i just take away from this experience right now. you know, i will carry this experience right here for the rest of my life, sharing these experiences and walking the paths with these brothers in
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this room, like how they carried their lives in this book, the soldiers in war. i feel every time i write, i'm carrying the lives and experience in this prison. i carry that away. that's what i carry and that's what i take. that's what i take from this whole thing is the experience. i'm going to carry this for the rest of my life. >> something that i carry that's relative to the book is when it was a part of the book, the darkness, he couldn't take the darkness no more. i would do what he did to get out. sometimes we all want to try to get out. when you have no light to show you the direction, nothing. when it is pitch black and you don't know which way to go. how can i get out of the
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darkness? >> thanks for sharing. >> what i noticed from reading the book is how like observant the soldiers were, like especially the author, you know what i'm saying? tim o'brien from writing the book, how observant, how he wrote down things that like -- that's real hard for other people to understand. i think he did a real good job of breaking down certain concepts and that the way he did it, writing this book, can help other people understand even the stuff that we go through on a certain level, just being in this abnormal situation, and so i think that with that said, a lot of clarity comes from being
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in this situation, and i think that's one of the good things or one of the pros, you know what i'm saying, that comes with being in this situation, like good can come from it, and i know at least for me, a lot of clarity came from being able to sit. i spent my fair share time in the hole, and like it is torturous before you get used to it, but afterwards you kind of -- you find a certain peace, a certain clarity of mind and you're able to express yourself that much better. you're able to articulate yourself that much better. you're able to know yourself that much better. so that's what i took from it, just the clarity that comes from traumatic situations or from abnormal situations that can come from it. >> thanks for sharing. >> every session, you know, time
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is hard, but every time i'm anticipating these sessions, it is like a relief, you know. >> everybody is carrying something, no matter if they're locked up or on the street, and i just got to be more considerate of that, and focus so much on my problems and my needs because everybody is dealing with something, no matter what. >> don't judge a book by its cover. >> how do you all feel like
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after you come and talk to some of us and hear our stories, what's your feedback for us? >> i can speak for me, but i'm sure this is relevant to stacey too. i'm a phd student at harvard. i study incarceration. i study inequality. i study history, racism. i study how the confluence of all these things connect and how our history, the history of racism and the history of punishment in this country has led to the current crisis of this mass incarceration. graduate school and getting your doctorate is an amazing thing, but your head is in the book all the time. what's meaningful and helpful is every time i come in here is a reminder of how real this is. this is not just something in books. it is not just something there's a documentary about it. it's not just something -- it is an intellectual abstraction in the way i think it can sometimes for people. we think about 2.3 million people in prison.
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or you think about 10 million people passing through jail every year. those are huge numbers. for some people i think those numbers can remain so large that they forget the actual people who are impacted by it. for me every time i come in with free minds and every time we're in conversation with you all or the young guys at yme, it is a reminder of how real this is, how urgent it is, of how human it is as you have alluded to, you are all people who may have made a mistake in your life, but that is not the sole thing that should define you, and you are not the sort of caricature that people often try to create about people who are in jail or who are in prison. so i'm very grateful for these sort of weekly and bi-weekly reminders about what the work is really about, and that it is more than just writing a paper, more than just finishing a degree, it is about how can you gain a tool kit with which to advocate on behalf of men and women who are inside and who
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shouldn't be here. >> from day one when i first met you, i thank you. i enjoy reading. it elevates my mind. i remember when i was a child, i would stand in front of the classroom, i would read. i enjoy reading. it keeps my vocabulary and mind sharp. they say we don't use 90% of our brains. so i try to read. i try to use it when i read. >> i definitely appreciate free minds. before i got into this, i wouldn't ever read. i would have never read a book like this. you know, i learn how to read in prison. but free minds opened my mind to different things and different offers that i wouldn't have even thought about picking up. i definitely appreciate that. >> and i would say it is the same for me, the same thing you are describing.
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i'm not an avid reader. i did graduate school. i'm a faculty member. i'm assigning my students to read things about the issues of justice system. i still don't call myself an avid reader. when i come to connect with you guys, it takes me to a place where i don't go on a daily basis. being a dad, husband, professor, researcher, all those things i don't get to do the creative work we get to do here and connect my story and the book's story and you all's story together to realize there's a lot of commonalities and there are a lot of untapped things that -- connections you don't make when you are going on the daily grind. the other thing for me is every time i come into a prison or a jail and i've been doing this since undergrad now, similar things, the feeling of walking out is a surreal feeling to me because i know that you guys don't have the same luxury to be able to come here for an hour, hour and a half, two hours and be able to walk out like in the room today, we have windows in the room.
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but a lot of times i'm in rooms with no windows. being able to walk out, it is a bit of a joyous feeling, that's selfish k but there's also this sense of there are so many people in this country who don't get that same luxury to be able to walk out after a few minutes in there. it awakens a new appreciate of life and a new reason for me doing the work that i do and so just because of both of those things, i also want to thank you guys and thank you for spending this time with us. ::
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>> the free minds book club meets twice a book at the
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washington, d.c. jail. for more information about this book club go to free minds book >> you are watching book tv on c-span2. for complete television schedule visible to you can also follow along on social media booktv on twitter, instagram and facebook. >> good evening everyone and welcome to the historical society


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