I guess a little about my background as a child through my teenage years would be an appropriate thing to share since Protect Our Rights is mostly dedicated to juvenile justice reform. I am hoping this will help bring a better understanding of the problems some youth face and inspire people to show compassion for the youth and young adults that are currently going through some of what I went through. Some go through a lot worse than I did. These are the individuals we need to help. They're the future of our country, why not invest in people that determine the future of our society? There's one thing I want to point out about every child. Before they are born: They don't get an opportunity to choose who their mother and father are, they don't choose where they are born, they don't choose the wealth of their families, their culture, or what their ancestors have done in the past. They don't choose what color they are or what they look like. They can't control how they are raised as a child, or who was actually there for them. They can't control anything as a child. So even if you can't relate, try to have compassion. If you can help, try your best to make a difference. I'm wanting to let people know the urgency of youth needing access to more housing, medical care, guidance, resources, etc. Also, the need for more positive interactions/events at school and with counselors, role models, organizations, etc. We have to push for more funding from corporations and government, but more importantly, make sure the funds that are granted are spent where they are needed.

FUNding FACT: The government could fund what youth need in order to provide a better future in society....easily. We just have to raise our voice.

Something to think about: Countries spend hundreds of billions on things we never use that promotes war. Things that murder families, kids, innocent citizens, soldiers, etc. What would humanity accomplish if we didn't spend so much time, energy, money, and waste brilliant minds on war and destruction? Imagine the possibilities if the hundreds of billions of dollars saved on war was invested into healthcare, education, technology, and bettering our environment.

Here is a U.S. Congressional Budget government website (https://cbo.gov/publication/57240) that has to publish how much funding the Dept. of Defense and Dept. of Energy are getting JUST FOR NUCLEAR FORCES between the years 2021-2030 to show transparency. $634 BILLION - roughly over $60billion a year. That money is having to be wasted on experiments and/or target practice. If we aren't dropping nukes yet and we're supposedly against nuclear warfare, why is our government spending over $60 billion a year on nuclear forces?

INVEST IN THE YOUTH WHO ARE THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY,

NOT IN THE DESTRUCTION OF HUMANITY!

There will be a lot of important things that I leave out. Somethings are better left unsaid, and some better to keep in the past.

I learned a few valuable lessons from a young age. The first one was tough, but probably the most important. Even the people that are supposed to love you the most will let you down. When I was 3 years old my father and mother separated. The next 14 years of my life I didn't see, speak, or even hear about my father. I didn't know where he was and hardly anything about him but his name. I remember wondering when I was younger if I would ever meet him, or if he was even alive. I only remember seeing one picture of him growing up. I was always told that he had a drinking and substance abuse problem and that it was probably better off that he wasn't around, from more people than just mother. I'm not sure that's true. If an option, it's important that a child has the opportunity to know their mother and father. Even if the parent struggles with substance abuse/alcoholism, negative lifestyles, or just struggles with maintaining a relationship with the other parent. Virtual meetings and phone calls are better than nothing. Those relationships are extremely important in a child's life. If a person never has the option to meet or get to know their biological parent, they will always wonder who they are and what they were actually like. I wondered what my father was like quite often, probably daily. If you think of something like a person, place, or an event often throughout the span of your life, the chances are very high that whatever you think about had a big impact on your life. In my scenario, I don't think I had the option to get to know my father while I was a kid. I'm not sure if my father really wanted to be around. Addiction can make play a big factor on a person's emotions and can cause them to make decisions that normally they wouldn't make. I know this because I once lived in an active addiction. I've made some mistakes that I can't take back, but all I can do is ask for forgiveness and show change. If you read about my experience in 2011, when I was 17 years old, you'll see that I forgave my father. After seeing firsthand what addiction can do to a person, I cannot hold that against him. People can change, especially after sobriety. There's nothing like addiction. If you have suffered from it, you know what I'm speaking about. I pray you are healing. If you haven't suffered from it, be careful because it can happen to anyone. Addiction can stem from a car wreck, falling down, etc. How? First, the doctor prescribes you medication and you begin to take it for a while. After a little while, your tolerance starts building and your pain won't go away as easily. You take more, but sometimes don't realize how many you're taking. The doctor notices the abuse or feels like you have been on the medication long enough and then cuts you off. Now you're feeling horrible. You can't stand the pain and the withdrawal feeling from stopping the pills so you begin to look for ways to deal with the problems. Maybe you start drinking to numb the feelings or maybe you know a friend that might have an extra pill or two and resort to either. Both are forms of addiction. Now you're self-medicating and life starts to go downhill. PLEASE NEVER SAY "THIS CAN'T HAPPEN TO ME.". YES, IT CAN. If you go to an A/A or N/A meeting, you can find a good amount of people that were successful before the drugs and alcohol. People don't grow up saying they want to struggle with addiction. Addiction is not something an addict "wants". If you don't know the pain of addiction, I sincerely pray that you never have to go through it.

Since my father was not in the picture, my mother always worked 2 to 3 jobs trying to support me. She usually had to work late and was never at home, but she made sure I had food, clothes, and shelter. I grew up in a mobile home in the country. I didn't have any family or neighbors that were around my age that lived close by. I grew up having to entertain myself. My mother couldn't afford to send me to summer camp, put me in after school programs, pay for the sports I wanted to play, etc. Things that could have kept me out of trouble and involved in more positive activities. The two things besides traumatic experiences or mental health issues that can be extremely bad for a child are boredom and curiosity. Prevent boredom with positive activities and they won't have as much time for negative curiosity. My mother and I didn't always have the best relationship. I'm sure I could be difficult and being a single mother trying to maintain has to be hard and stressful. We both have said/done a lot of things we regret and both of us wish some things had been different. That's all in the past though, we can't change it, and try to work through it all. Forgiveness is very important. My mother got remarried when I was 10 years old. My stepfather and I didn't get along well. Looking back, he tried to tell me a lot of things that I wish I would have listened too. I was hardheaded though and thought what he was saying could never happen to me. A lot of them did. We had a lot of disagreements and there were a lot of questionable things he did as a stepfather that made me resent him even more at the time. I'm sure they didn't teach parenting in school back in his day either. There were a lot of things I did that were questionable as a stepson also. I forgive him for everything, but more importantly, I hope he forgives me. I never had the chance to apologize to him. He passed away while I was incarcerated years ago. Make amends while you have the chance.

When I was16 years old, I got in some legal trouble. During my first appearance court date, a judge ordered me to be placed in the foster care system and to get a mental health and substance abuse assessment. The judge said I could not remain in jail because of school so I was placed in a group home called ACT Together on the east side of Greensboro, NC by the Dept. of Social Services (DSS). My case worker, Avis Alston, told me that I would be staying at the group home until I found a suitable foster family. While at the group home, my evaluation results came back and recommended that I complete an outpatient program for my mental health and substance abuse issues. Fortunately, I was able to remain in school the whole time without too much interference. I stayed at the group home for a couple months until I was finally "interviewed" and "picked" by my foster family. Mr. & Mrs. Martin, an elderly African American couple, invited me in their home to stay. They were extremely nice and I was fortunate to get the couple that I did. The man "Mickey" had recently retired from pizza delivery due to being shot and robbed on a delivery. We would sit around at times and he would tell me stories and show me pictures of the things he got to do when he was younger. The most memorable thing being a picture of him playing music on stage with Jimmy Hendrix in Germany. While I was staying with the foster family, my mother would come by to visit. She surprised me one evening near my 17th birthday by telling me she had gotten a letter in the mail from my father. That was the first time she said she had heard from him in years. I hadn't heard from him in 14 years and honestly figured he was dead. The only person I knew on my father's side of the family was my grandma, his mother. I would go to Georgia at least once a year from the time I was born until 2011 to visit her. She never said anything to me about my father when I visited or when we spoke on the phone. After a couple months of my father speaking on the phone, he told me he had been moving around a lot for work, had been sober 6 or 7 years, and offered me the opportunity to visit and stay with him in Georgia for a little while. I knew this was my opportunity to visit and really meet and get to know my father. I also knew this would be an opportunity for a new beginning. In the beginning of 2011, my father drove from Georgia to North Carolina to meet in person for the first time since I was 3 years old. After my father and I met, he asked me to come stay with him for the summer in Georgia. It was a bad decision to let me go to Georgia but somehow was able to get signed out of D.S.S. custody and left the foster care system. I packed my stuff and went to Georgia..

Growing up

-Continued under 2011 on About page-

1994

2011