I read this book through two times. I enjoyed it so well that I developed an eight-week curriculum from this book, and as the Vice President of the NAACP here at Madison Correctional Institution, am in the process of preparing a proposal to purchase enough copies of the book to host the program.
The author writes about:
♦ Owning your choices – stop blaming others, and take ownership of your decisions.
♦ Sifting through brokenness – what has caused you pain throughout life?
♦ Forced change – we all endure change throughout life – how do you deal with it?
♦ Defining your life mission – who are you, and where are you going?
♦ Preparing for your “big move” – what changes are you going to make in life, and how will you ensure these changes lead where you are going?
♦ Organization – self explanatory, eliminate the clutter.
♦ Funds – are you setting money aside and planning financially for possible hardships in life?
♦ Investing in your life – are you paying what it takes to get where you want to go?
♦ “Pruning your life” – what people, places, and things do you need to cut loose?
♦ Networking – who can teach you what they did to get where you are trying to, by sharing their experience?
♦ Becoming an expert – learn all you can about where you want or what you plan to accomplish in life.
♦ Just a season – everything in this world is temporary.
♦ Quiet time – slow down and relax.
♦ Removing negativity – need I say more?
♦ Creating a winning mind – are your thoughts positive or negative?
♦ Volunteer for what you want – put yourself in position to gain experience and connections for whatever it is you want to do
♦ Changing your pictures, finding a mentor, standing out, embracing failure, commit to consistency, changing the conversation, making a milestone out of your molehill, your personal standup comedy shows the beauty of the wait, your mirror moment, journaling your experience.
If you have faced any kind of hard times in the past, I recommend this book.
I am incarcerated at Madison Correctional Institution, in London Ohio. I am serving 26 to life while fighting to prove my innocence. I am ready to get out so that I can reestablish relationships with family, and become the father to my beautiful three year old daughter that I dream of being. I am devoted to family and my community in a positive manner. Society will see with their own eyes that these accusations are not the man I am. I admit that I was not a model citizen, and had some personal issues that I needed to deal with, but nothing I did warranted 26 to life. Please help me prove my innocence.
… for they had loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. — John 12:42
Marriage has always been sacred to God. Unfortunately there have been people in every generation who have their own ideas about marriage. One of these ideas involves purity of race. That people who call themselves lovers of God can sometimes be seduced by these notions is a shame but it has been going on for millenia. Yet God has always considered skin color a non-issue, even when His chosen people got the wrong idea.
Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. — Numbers 12:1
Moses married a black woman and Miriam and Aaron tried to use this against Him. God’s response was to repudiate their racism swiftly and unequivocally.
In prison you see all sorts of tracts by organizations professing to be sources of Godly wisdom. Some of these claim to reveal the truth of “identity,” teaching that white is the race of Christianity, and black and other colors of skin are marks of inferiority. This brand of religion — it can never be considered Christian — was preached most fervently by the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa when the policy of apartheid took hold there.
The marriage in 1948 of African heir Seretse Khama to Ruth Williams — a white English middle class woman — threatened such putrescent ideas, preached from pulpits in many parishes.
Two books, A Marriage of Inconvenience by Michael Dutfield, and Colour Bar by Susan Williams, tell the story of their marriage and the shocking efforts that several governments took in an attempt to destroy it.
Ruth and Seretse’s triumph is to my mind a testament to God and to marriage itself. Marriage as an institution proved in their case to be stronger than several governments, including the once-greatest empire the world had ever known. Of course it required a near super-human commitment by today’s standards, but the notion that love conquers all is no better demonstrated than in their union.
I also think their triumph speaks to the power of Christ’s utterance in the Gospel of Mark, a promise of sorts which should give great comfort to couples who face outside agitation to their relationships.
Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. — Mark 10:9
To start with, at the behest of the regent of Bechuanaland, Seretse Khama’s home country (now Botswana), and officials in South Africa, British statesman attempted to personally interfere in the wedding, going so far as an effort to disrupt the very ceremony itself. When that failed, the British government came down on the couple with all of its authority. It finally, with the approval of the celebrated Winston Churchill, exiled Seretse from his own country.
Both books recall these events in great detail, in some cases highlighting the same statements of government officials. Dutfield’s book, published in 1990, ends his narrative earlier in the couple’s history. Williams gives us more of a detailed view of the couple’s life after exile and the events that led to Seretse’s election as Botswana’s first prime minister.
Two things stand out and result in great hope. One, the time and expense that the British empire spent trying to destroy a puny little marriage by comparison to the might and power of their institutions. Even when Seretse’s own tribe lovingly embraced Ruth as their “Queen mother” and worldwide moral outrage threatened the careers of top politicians, they persisted in their unholy attack. Two, even Winston Churchill, a man who had overseen ultimate victory over the nazis, couldn’t manage to prevail over Ruth and Seretse.
The British government was seeking to appease South Africa and perhaps even the U.S., which eyed South Africa’s phosphorous deposits, rich in yellowcake (the name given to uranium oxide), with relish. To governments, power and glory is to be bestowed by men. This story is a great testimony that the praise of men contains no real value.
Neither author is a McPhee or McCullough (do you need a “Mc” in your name to get the Pulitzer?), but both treat their subject with great respect and care. Both should be required reading in our high schools, and recommended to anyone who thinks that the institution of marriage can be threatened by any outside force.
Both books relate different events which appear to confirm that God’s hand was over their marriage. In Dutfield’s book, he tells a beautiful story of Ruth and Seretse’s reunification the day their first child is born.
Williams shows us the improbable rains which fall at times that only the most jaundiced reader would misinterpret as coincidence. I leave readers to discover these miracles for themselves. The word “pula” in Setswana means rain, a scarce and extremely valuable commodity in landlocked Botswana, and as such is also a shout of blesssing. Pula to all of you.
This short Seretse Khama documentary features an interview with Ruth’s sister, Muriel Williams, who talks about how Ruth and Seretse met and the difficulties they endured because of their interracial relationship.
In our youth obsessed culture, Jewels: 50 Phenomenal Black Women Over 50 by photographer Micheal Cunningham and novelist Connie Briscoe is an inspiring treasure. This book of photo-essays contains portraits of celebrities andnon-celebrities alike, who overcame tremendous barriers to successfully raise children (some as single mothers) and have careers. These are warrior women who have fought for equal opportunities in education, business, and society as a whole.
With age comes wisdom, but it is much more than that that makes each one of these fifty women attractive. It’s the strength of character, the “I am my own me,” that gives each one their regal bearing. This differentiates between true beauty and petty prettiness that is sold by many media as the epitome of feminity.
I found myself personally drawn to Mütter Evans, the second black woman to purchase a radio station in the U.S., and the youngest at age 26. Ms. Evans speaks of the fear and challenge of coming up with the funds in the 1970’s, dealing with not just racism and sexism, but a whole host of other isms. However, she knew the impact the media would have on her community. Then there is Ruby Davis-Jett who started her own online travel agency as well as a real estate conglomerate, despite getting pregnant at the age of 16. A few other jewels are actresses Ruby Dee and S. Epatha Merkerson, singer/songwriter Nona Hendrix, television news executive and author (and the great-great granddaughter of Madam C.J. Walker) A’Lelia Bundles, and Representative Alma Adams. You can judge a society by how it treats its’ women and mature members, as well as the feminine participation in said society. Like with many groups, America still has a ways to go; however, with Jewels one can see the many beautiful stitches in this great American tapestry.
We’re excited to offer the last in Eric Burnham’s five-part series on “The Four Agreements,” by bestselling author Don Miguel Ruiz. In the book, Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.
Always Do Your Best
Everyone loves success, and deep down, everyone knows that success, real success, doesn’t just happen. It’s earned. If you want to shine while everyone is looking, you’ve got to polish when no one is looking. You’ve got to do your best at all times, but what does that mean? Are there any limitations?
I think success means being your best self and applying your best self to everything you do, and I think there are some limitations. But those limitations actually liberate a person to focus mental and emotional energy on the task at hand in a more targeted way. It’s kind of like addition by subtraction. The primary limitation of doing your best carries a “being” element, which requires integrity, humility, and attention to detail.
Integrity involves honesty of word and deed and authenticity of motive, even when it’s uncomfortable and arduous. Integrity is a character trait displayed as a pattern of living, rather than a momentary decision. It is the pursuit of what you know to be the right thing regardless of how you feel.
Humility, that most slippery of character traits, involves a natural willingness not only to make mistakes, but to easily admit them as well. To be humble means having a total lack of pretense and self-centeredness, a concern for others before oneself. In a word, it means being selfless, not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
Attention to detail is paramount. It involves, well, paying attention to the little things. An NFL coach once said, “See a little, see a lot; see a lot, see nothing.” The little things inform and direct the bigger things. Most have heard of the 80/20 rule: 80% of all production is accomplished by 20% of all resources. Attention to detail requires prioritization, applying a counter-intuitive shift in focus. An emphasis on the little things will bring about profound improvements in the bigger ones.
A secondary limitation of doing your best involves a three-pronged framework of activity, the “doing” element: preparation, execution, and maintenance. The pursuit of success is not a chaotic, haphazard hope of finishing in the top tier. It is a goal-setting/goal-achievement progression.
To do your best, you must prepare. Gather information, accumulate resources, and organize effort. Preparation sets you up for success —never rely on luck alone. Then execute your plan. Do what you set out to do, and do it with a flexible but durable implementation of your plan. Finally, maintenance work may need to be done along the way to preserve gains. Success is not a one-and-done endeavor. It requires diligence and constant reassessment.
These four agreements may seem like common sense, and perhaps they are for some. However, they have helped me achieve a measure of success, even though I’m incarcerated. I may be in prison, but I’ve made the successful transition from gangster to scholar, achieving my Master’s degree in 2017 and even beginning my PhD program. I’m not saying you should listen to an incarcerated man. After all, I’m just another inmate. I’m only tellin’ you what has worked for me, and if I can do it, you can do it. Make these agreements with yourself and stay committed.
We’re thrilled to congratulate our friend Martin Lockett on the publication of his second book, My Prison Life: A Blogger’s Insights from the Inside. I was honored to write the foreword, and so grateful to be involved in some small way in this project. You can find Martin’s book here on Amazon.
If you haven’t already read Martin’s first book, which I highly recommend, it is also available on Amazon.
Watch this space later this week, for a video of Martin, telling his moving and powerful story.
In 2013 Martin L. Lockett published his memoir, Palpable Irony: Losing my freedom to find my purpose. During his incarceration, he has earned a Certificate of Human Services from Louisiana State University, AA from Indiana University, BS in Sociology from Colorado State University – Pueblo, and an MS in Psychology from California Coast University. He continues to tutor in the GED program at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem, Oregon, and co-facilitates an impaired driver victims impact panel. He aspires to counsel adolescents who struggle with substance abuse.