“Big Boy: The child, the boy, the man” a speech by Greg Houston
When I was born, I weighed 12 pounds. As a child I was called “Big Boy’ and the name stuck with me – so did the size. In my family, I am the youngest and only boy. I have 3 sisters. My mother and father are affected by the drug epidemic of the 70’s and 80’s. They were heroin and crack addicts, so they were never home. This gave my sisters the opportunity to have company over, so they enjoyed it. Me, I was kind of a loner;very quiet without many friends. Looking back on my life, I didn’t like the company of other people because I was embarrassed that we lived poor We survived on pantries and free lunch lines. Going to school meant a free meal to me not an education. I didn’t have the things the other kids had like the toys, the bikes, the games. My fun time was hanging with my sisters or in alleys, and not being seen. I had no curfew or any other rules to follow, which is something most kids dream of. Well, it became the beginning of my troubles. It started with truancy, because I wasn’t going to school.
Eventually, drugs got the best of my parents. They separated when I was around the age of 10. I stayed with my mother while my sisters moved in with relatives. My mother and I moved around from place to place. The crowd she hung around with were either drug addicts or some type of hustler. We always had a house full of people who were drunk or high. Drug paraphernalia and alcohol were all over the place. My mom’s friends became my friends. One night, when I was 10, one of her friends told me I had to start putting food on the table. He took me out and taught me how to steal from shopping centers. It seemed to make my mother proud that I was providing food, never mind that I was stealing. Now I can understand that hard times will make you lose the value of morals. First you bend them, then you break them, and after a while reality becomes stronger than morality. Stealing lead to hustles, I hustled aluminum cans. I even built a nice clientele around my neighborhood from charging people a quarter to take out the trash.
Being a provider made me feel like I was becoming a man. By the time I was 11, I was still in school, but just to keep truancy officers off of my mother. I wasn’t embarrassed anymore. I had the things other kids had and more. The drug dealers and prostitutes who hustled out of our home were buying me things. My first pair of Jordans came from a prostitute named Sue. I had a crush on Sue, so I wore those Jordans proudly. Around this time, I was taught how to deal drugs by a drug dealer who hustled out of our house. The older I became the more of an image I built for myself. My size allowed me to blend in with older guys who taught me more and more. With the drug dealing came money, guns, and women. I always kept fat wads of money. I became a popular guy in school and in my neighborhood. I was having sex before I was a teenager. As my image grew the streets became more and more my lifestyle. At 12 years old while other kids were playing with Tonka Toys; my toys were actual guns, clothes, jewelry, and cars. I felt my maturity was so far ahead of the other kids that school was in my way. A few months before I turned 13 my whole world was shook. My mom received 24 months in prison for welfare fraud and I had to move in with my aunt. She was super religious woman trying to deal with me, a troubled kid. You can just imagine how that went. I kept getting expelled from school and having my aunt kept getting upset. There were many times she wanted to give up on me. At my Aunt’s house, I felt out-of-place and kinda like the black sheep of the family. Mama is in prison; Dad is nowhere to be found, and I was constantly in trouble. I only hung around because my sisters and a cousin (who was like a brother to me) stayed there.
I spent my teenage years learning how to hustle better. I did this by blending in with different groups of hustlers. Instead of getting expelled from school, I was in and out of Juvenile Correctional facilities with violence, drug and gun cases. I also had a shooting case, and got bound over as an adult.
I was constantly on probation. I had to attend school wearing ankle monitors. Sometime before the 7th grade, I started using pain killers, smoking weed, and drinking alcohol. Eighth grade came around and I was dealing drugs on a bigger scale. My mother was released from prison. She was still addicted to the drugs, and I was addicted to the street game. To this day it hurts me to say that, “I sold crack to my parents”. Around the age of 16, I was living like a grown man. I had dropped out of school to become a full time hustler. I had my own place with 5 cars. I was moving weight and, life was going so fast. I been through a blend of so much rough shit, that I even felt like an old man. It seemed like I was living the life of an alter ego from a gangster movie. I had lost myself. I became more aggressive, more violent. Around 17, I felt numb. Being under so much pressure I thought about attempting suicide.
Life took another turn at the age of 18. I’m still moving drugs from state to state., women, kilos of dope, gambling. Trying to play the role of family man and a street dude became conflicting. Having so many people depend on me for support felt as if I was carrying the world on my shoulders, and it kept me on edge. For two years I carried this heavy, stressful, pressure along with the anger, pain, and loneliness of this hurt little boy who used to survive on pantries, lunches, and hanging alone in alleys. Pressure truly busts pipes and a lot of times I exploded. It all came to a climax and fractured in one of the horrible crime that led to my incarceration.
My thoughts forms my dreams and my decision resulted in consequences. By age 2, I sat in a courtroom listening to people decide my fate. Basically whether I should live or die. The life that I had lived flashed through my head like a projectors. I remember being in the courtoom feeling lonelier than i ever did before, and looking back nobody was there. I was more hurt than ever. I thought I’d thrown my life away. It might sound crazy or weird, but somehow I felt a sense of peace. I felt strong. The pressure was gone. My life was saved. I was sentenced to 23 years.
At that moment I told myself I would come out of prison as a better man;not an oversized boy misled about what it means to be a man. I believe in life we have to go through a blend of struggles to discover who we really are and to truly lead way the value of life. Both my mother and father have died during my incarceration. I miss & love them dearly. Some people say that you are not fully grown until you lose both of your parents. Not to sound mean, but although losing my parents hurts, it also gave me a sense of relief from being bound to past. George Bernard Shaw said: “We are made wise, not by the recollection of our past, but responsibility of our future”. Just as it was before the people older than me, who directed me toward negative behaviors… now it was older prisoners who guided me toward positive directions. Now much older and nine years later, it’s my responsibility to pay it forward. I have humbled myself. I spend my days making mentoring the youth. Those that who people feel are hard to reach or hard to understand. I see myself in them. Their backgrounds are similar to mine, so I use my experience for betterment. Reaching to today’s youth takes more than a degree in psychology and social behaviors. It takes the actual living experience. A program should be implemented in prison that teach the people with the degress in youth counseling this truth. And that inmates should be given the lead way to working with youth. In fact, the responsibility of working with at-risk youth could be made part of those inmate release requirements. Ultimately we must reach our youth before they come to prison, because one day those who do come to prison will be released back into society.
Inside the Walls and Outside the Walls is a program designed to mentor and counsel young, at risk men. It entails arresting the issues of youth violence and criminal behaviors before they become adults; also to help those who have unfortunately went through the criminal justice system and need the support necessary to transition back into society in peaceful and productive ways,
This is done by going into these juvenile detention centers to give testimonies, counsel, and work with the courts (judges, attorneys, probation officers, mental health and substance abuse professionals) in regards to sentencing and diversion programs.
The other aspect is to help these young men once they are released from detention centers and prison. To provide a step by step integration plan that includes housing, vocational training, GED certification, community accountability, and parenting skills. Teaching them everything the need to become men in the absence of fathers.