Category Archives: Other Entries

NEW MESSAGE FOR 2010

I know it’s been a while since i’ve sent out a direct message to everyone, but please believe that doesn’t mean things aren’t happening nor being pursued. Because – they are! Every day! It’s just things for me are played on a different field and as i’m sure you all realise the same “hype” that once surrounded my plight is not there because i’m not on
death row. Which is understandable. The struggle DOES continue for those that are over there and i wouldn’t have it any other way.

But i, as do my closest friends and supporters, understand that my fight is not over. Some may think that we have accepted the life sentence, but we never have and never did even before the commutation. While the life sentence has bridged me over to where i could continue living, it definately is not the final destination. For those that i write on a regular basis they already knew that – for those that i don’t – now you know.
What i wanted to do was share a brief outline with you all of what my goals and objectives are for 2010. 2010 is going to be a VERY SERIOUS year for me. It’s a year that i’m going to have to focus on and work tirelessly. It is going to have to be the year that paves way for my victory in 2011. While i’m not saying 2011 is going to be the
year that i get out of prison (though i don’t think it will be many years after that), 2011 has to be the year where certain things are done to lock in that release. And 2010 is the year where the work must be put in to acheive that.

I’m enclosing a concise outline of what i will be focusing on. Some of you know these things and som of you (even ones i write regularly) were never aware of these things. And for those that wish to know more may ask me about it as it would be a blessing to discuss some of my visions with you. One thing that i always vowed was that prison
would not keep me from doing my work that i know i am supposed to do. And it hasn’t. I’ve just begun and plan to accomplish a lot more.
While i’m sure some of my personal endeavors will bring a lot of curiosity (like the UJENZI project and the HIV/AIDS awareness), I know many are curious about my plans to go to school. As some know i was in college when i was incarcerated on this case. Well, i do plan to finish my college education. This Unit only offers a 2 year Associates (in a few subjects….. and i will probably focus on Arts-Liberal Arts). To pursue a 4 year degree i would have to transfer to another Unit, and that is something i would dread doing as i am very close to my home (San Antonio… about an hour away) and would not want to make my famioy have to endure those long drives to see me as they did for 10 years going to Ellis and Polunsky which are around 3 hour dries. They’ve made great sacrifices
for me and now i have to sacrifice for them. However, i’m sure they would encourage me to put my education and plight to freedom first. Therefore, my doors not TOTALLY closed to a transfer. At the same time, in 2 years i hope to have my main paths to freedom locked in, therefore i wont have to worry about finishing my degree here. I can
finish it out there. So, i’m looking forward to these new events coming up.

Since i left death row MANY things have changed for me. I don’t ever like to say they changed for the worse eventhough i may not have liked the change. I have come to recognise (only through feeding my spiritual self) that all things happen for a reason and that we may not understand why certain things are unfolding. So, i embrace all the change with an optimistic attitude. Even for the crops that grow there can be no sunshine without rain to make them flourish. So, through this attitude i have been able to keep on smiling at the things that i have faced. I believe that my success comes from not letting a hurdle stop me nor a sneer nor a hater hold me down. Some people want to
see you fail. But little do they know that to keep another person down they have to keep a part of themselves down with it! For those that want to be down, let them be down. I’m with the sky!

For those that are on the frontline with me. I’m going to need you to be ready to move into this next stage of the struggle. You’ve had a 2 year vacation! It’s time to get busy.
Again – just because you don’t get a flurry of messages doesn’t mean things aren’t going on. Stay tuned, keep your eyes and ears open and be ready to act when we need you. Be looking for me – I’m coming full speed ahead! Until then ……
Strength/Vision and success to you all!
Kenneth

2010 Goals and Objectives

* Begin College in the summer semester pursuing 2-years Associates Degree in Arts-Liberal-Arts.

* Pursue locking in a Law Firm to begin work on attaining a sentence/Time Cut (preferably a firm that can
also handle attaining Parole).

* Begin networking with State Rep. Terri Hodge on the new bill for January 2011;

Find out:
– What new support we can get behind the bill
– What hindered the bill in Senate in 2009
– What needs to be done to get the bill passed in 2011

* Start organizing families that can speak out for the bill (families im mind: Rudy Medrano, Jeff Woods)

* Work on finding a publisher that can print book number 3: 08/30/07: The Mantra Continues, for release around the beginning of August.

* Work on the UJENZI ART project (www.freewebs.com/ujenziart)

* Work on the WE CAN SURVIVE HIV/AIDS campaign (which will include art/posters/slogans/poetry for bringing awareness to HIV and AIDS.)

MERRY CHRISTMAS??

The holidays are some of the rare times that prisoners get to enjoy themselves more than others. While the longing for home sets in more we often pull together and be a bit more communal, thus allowing ourselves to deal with the circumstances. The food is better on the Holidays and a bit more, and not to mention all the cooking g and celebrating we do amongst ourselves.

It’s hard to celebrate in prison, but we realize. If we ever abandon being human than we’ll definitely descend into a pit of chaos, depression and insanity. And so while people say your time is what you make it?and we can’t make it a beach vacation’we try to make it bearable.

This was my first Christmas in general population. My first Christmas off death row was spent on close custody, locked in a cell and on lockdown. So, it was’t much to talk about. Anyhow, I’ve been and learned the art of inner celebration and joy. Through in a very oppressive situation I still recognize the many blessings in my life. There are not many amerikan holidays that I do recognize (due to my personal beliefs) but Christmas is one that I do, because I embrace Jesus and what he did.

So, I was looking forward to having a good day. And on top of that- I was set to work in the kitchen that day. It was make-up time as far as I was concerned. I’ve been doing a lot of that, by the way. And for those that have been getting contact visits with me they can testify to that.

I woke up that morning and headed to the kitchen with thoughts of sliced brisket dancing in my head. And just my luck would have it we would serve the kitchen workers from the chow hall I worked in. What this means is that my crew would be running the food. (Just as a side note- all kitchen workers get a chance to eat before we feed the entire prison and we are allowed double servings- and the servers of the meal get a little more than double.)
Well, for those that may not know, there’s always some side hustling that goes on in the kitchen. Actually, it goes on everywhere in prison. For those that are unaware and may think it goes on just because the prisoner is delinquent, that’s not always the case. Many prisoners lack outside support therefore don’t get money and when you have a prison system that forces labor upon you without pay that only worsens the situations. So, prisoners must find a way to survive under a system that is not to subjugate them.

Due to the hustling that goes on, prisoners and the chow hall areas are often shook down for items. And since all that good food would be in the kitchen on Christmas day that would take place in full force.
Shortly after we feed all the kitchen workers a shake down crew (of about 5) headed by a Lieutenant named
Strolney came in at full force. As they shook down the chow hall they made their way behind the feeding line where we were serving and they began to take all the trays with food on it. What they were taking wasn’t food that was meant to be sold, but food that was meant to be eaten by us (the servers) once we finished cleaning up the chow hall. It was around 9ish and we had to clean the entire chow hall and prepare to serve Christmas meal. So, what we like to do is finish the cleaning then we eats last. It’s more efficient that way. But, this staff failed to understand that.

The Lt. ordered that all the food be taken. When I saw this taking place and saw that no other prisoner was saying anything I spoke up and asked why our food was being taken. In a belligerent tone she responded that it was too much food and that she wasn’t going to allow us to sell this food. In a respectful tone I responded that the food wasn’t for selling, that was food we planned to eat, because we hadn’t yet. When she inquired of we had fed kitchen chow I responded that we had, she replied that we should have eaten then. Of course this is ludicrous, at the time they want. I tried to explain that to her and show her that it’s better (for THEIR time schedule) when we clean first and eat last. She took this simple act of authority and exclaimed (since I spoke up for the prisoners) that I could get a job change and she ordered me to return to my building. There’s no way I was going for that, so I told her I wasn’t leaving because I had done nothing wrong, and that I was only pointing out to her what the situation was.
That only infuriated her more and she went into a ridiculous tirade about how she wasn’t allowing us to have ?20 pieces of cake.? That was so insane that I challenged her to show me 20 pieces of cake. At that point she stormed into the main kitchen where the officers had taken the trays and she opened a few of them up. I pointed to the tray that I had made that had 6 pieces of cake on it ? 3 for me and 3 for my co-worker. The Christmas meals include 3 pieces of cake for us, so I pointed out to her that I was due at least 3 pieces of that cake before they threw it away. Well- that seemed to do it for her, because she pulled her handcuffs out and told her officers to ?lock me up.? That means take me to solitary. And that’s exactly what happened.

As the cuffs were being placed on me, I looked at the Lt. and said to her- ?So, you’re going through all of this simply because I ask you a question about the food I haven’t eaten and that I’m supposed to have?? Her only response was ? ?yeah dude, because I’m tired of your shit.?

No other prisoner spoke up and no kitchen officer spoke on our behalf even when they know they allow us to put our food to the side. In truth, any kitchen officer could have stopped that situation from taking place, because that Lt. has no authority in the kitchen. That would be like a mail room officer telling a laundry officer how to do their job. Her only authority is if a security situation is at hand. She has no authority to say where we can place our food or what we can eat. But, what officer is going to stand up for a prisoner, right?!

I was lead to solitary as I verbally protested and when I inquired to the Sgt. ( Sgt. Zamora) why I was being taken to solitary she replied that I didn’t have to know everything and that’s not why I was in prison and that if I didn’t go, force would be used. I could only crack a smile at that. IF SHE ONLY KNEW WHO I WAS AND WHAT I’VE DONE IN USE OF FORCE SITUATIONS! It was tempting, but I allowed myself to be taken to solitary. But, I made sure I let her know that regardless if I’m a prisoner or not, I still have Rights and I would stand for them. When I got to solitary I was placed in a holding booth. These booths are approximately 3 feet wide and 4 feet long. They stand about 7 feet tall and they have one small stool to sit on. These holding booths are meant for short time occupancy while a holding cell is cleared for you. Well, some retaliation points were in store for me. I made it to the booth before 10am. After I was held for a few hours I began to inquire what they were going to do with me. The solitary officer told me- ?The Lt. said to release you at 6:15 pm.’ That almost caused me to fly into a rage. I told the officer that was an abuse of authority and either they’re supposed to house me in a cell or let me go. I asked to speak to the supervisor over solitary. I knew he had no authority over the matter. At this tie my body had already
began to go sore from standing and sitting in the cramped space, so I sat down Indian style- the only way to relieve some of the pressure. Once the shift supervisor of solitary arrived (an hour later) I knew it was a lost cause because I had a similar altercation with her and another racist officer some weeks before. But, that’s another story.
I was made to stay in that cage until around 5:30 pm that evening, so I did a total of 8 hours in that cage on
Christmas day. Merry Christmas to me!

When I was released I made my way back by the kitchen and caught the attention of some of the kitchen officers and I told them that I hadn’t eaten. They knew what took place, so I was given some items to take back with me. Upon returning to the pod I ate that food and called it a night. I wasn’t in the mood for and further celebrating. I felt the need to share this story for many reasons. Once, as I’ve stated many times already, just because I’m off death row the struggle doesn’t stop. Secondly, I have not relinquished my fire just because I’m off of death row.
Let me be clear about this- I GREATLY enjoy being able to walk around, work, and ESPECIALLY get contact visits. But, I cannot change who I am. I cannot change what I feel about people in authority who purposely try to degrade us and make us feel like we are dirt. Sure, there are guys here for bad things. But, not everyone here is a killer or a rapist. There are officers here who when addressing a prisoner will tell them (when they get into a verbal dispute) – ?Just do what I tell you to do. It’s not my fault you raped, robbed, or killed someone.? This is what these so-called professional officers say to people. Professional they are not- they’re more like Hitler Nazi’s. This is not every officer, but many, just like not every prisoner is a sick person. But, this is how they breed officers to treat us.
They breed themselves to feel like they don’t have to answer questions. They feel like they can tell us to do things? even things that are NOT rules and policy?without being questioned or resisted. We have rights, regardless. And I won’t relinquish mine.

This is the 2nd occurrence I have had like this where I was sent to solitary for speaking up for myself. I didn’t write about the first one, because it was small and I was let out of solitary about 45 minutes later. It’s true that some officers use that as a ?cool down? process, but this Lt. Strolney used this to try and make a point to me. The only point that she made to me is the same point I’ve BEEN knowing about the system- IT’S OPPRESSIVE AND SEEKS TO BREAK THE HUMAN MIND, BODY AND SOUL!

It’s nothing new to me. I’ve seen worse (little do they know) and they should pray that they never see the best in me, because that would mean full protest mode and they wouldn’t like that very much. The DRIVE spirit will FOREVER live on in me.

I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I have to make certain sacrifices to retain my level status. And it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, because nothing drills me more that cowardly officers who use their authority to be abusive. They hide behind their uniform. How I will maintain- I don’t know, because as I’ve said… I can’t promise that I’ll always be a G2. I can’t promise that my struggles are forever done. Supporting me is KNOWING these things. Since I’ve been on this unit I’ve done verbal protest, I’ve posted written grievances on this web-site. And I’ll continue. It’s not something that I can stop. At this point in time I am trying to let my pen be mightier than my sword.

The mentality of people that over-see prisons get worse and worse every year. This is why I continue to speak out and ask people to educate themselves to what the Prison Industrial Complex TRULY is.
After all this has been said I must say that it’s a sweet irony to this. While I would have preferred to have had a smooth day I suppose this is just one more lesson of struggle for me. I stopped questioning my obstacles a long time ago. I came to realize that these were my stepping stones, not my stumbling blocks. As I sat in the cramped booth I thought about the people who wouldn’t get presents or wouldn’t even have a full meal. I realized that while I have bad I could have it worse. I wanted the brisket, but tears come to my eyes as I reflect on the unity of pain, frustration, aggravation and rage that surged through my veins and I knew many other strugglers were feeling. More and more my character is defined through the hardships I go through.

The most generous vine, if not pruned, runs out into many superfluous stems and grows at last weak and fruitless: as doth the best man if he be not cut short in his desires, and pruned with afflictions.?
And after all??. Wasn?t this what Christ captured anyway?

I leave you all with love and fire in my heart. The struggle doesn?t stop, and neither does our victories.

UHURU!

Kenneth ?Haramia? Foster

PS- We?ll see how New Year?s goes ( smile!!!)

NYDESHA

I am finally blessed to share with all of you one of the greatest pieces of news in my life, though some of you have already heard. Nevertheless, it’s something to shout to the roof tops.

It’s often hard to celebrate in this place due to the surroundings and also the circumstances, but a man that binds himself to tragedy more than triumph is in a prison far harder that the stone and steel one that encases me.

 

In my first book (“Tribulation’s Eyes) I cite the quote:

“Difficulties show men what they are. In case of any difficulty God has pitted you against a rough antagonist that you may be conqueror, and this cannot be without toil.”

That is a quote that I breathe and spiritually tattoos my skin, because I know it pertains to me. Through everything that I have been through I know there is a greater purpose and everyday it unfolds and each accomplishment is a verification to that fact.

 

All of this stems from me getting my first contact visit with my daughter Nydesha in 12 years. 12 LONG years! For those that know my story know that the last time I held my daughter she was 8 months old. I have watched her grow up behind glass and only by the Grace and Guidance of God did we grow together regardless of the circumstances. Though separated by glass we did remain connected at the root!

 

We (me and my family) had been looking for the right time to bring my daughter down for a visit. My grandfather being a former teacher for over 30 years- is never easy on school missing. That’s just a rule embedded in him, so I had to haggle with him a bit about getting Nydesha down during school hours. So, we were waiting for the next holiday to approach. But, it dawned upon me that I needed to remind my grandfather to a few things: one was that we should live in the moment. Just as we could not predict the future a year ago we cannot predict the future today, therefore we should enjoy each day to the fullest. And since it has been 12 long years it wouldn’t hurt if she missed one day of school for this occasion. The second thing that I had to remind him of (which wasn’t easy, but it was necessary) was that this IS prison and that I cannot guarantee my status from-day to day. I would love to be able to promise you all that I’ll always be trouble free, but that is not a promise I can or will make. While I can control me, I cannot control my environment. I walk among the hopeless, childish, the criminal minded, the passive, the honest and the devious. At any time anything can happen. It happens all the time. And at the same time I can never predict the action of an officer; officers who bring their personal problems to work and take it out on prisoners. For those that know me, they know that I prefer to die on my feet than live on my knees, so my walk is like that upon a knife’s edge. I forever walk cautiously and carefully.

Thankfully the Thanksgiving holiday came. We had made plans for October, but the system-wide lockdown prevented that.

While I wasn’t officially told Nydesha was coming I did have the feeling that on November 22nd I was going to visit with her and once I stepped into the visiting room and saw her- her back to me, long hair flowing- I could only hope that this wasn’t a dream and I’d be waking up with that longing heart again.

The day wasn’t a dream and as I approached the table and she got up to hug me, I could have died at that point and not regretted a thing. I hugged my baby girl so tight, lifting her up to the sky, to where I didn’t want to let go. There was no room for tears this day- only room for lots of kisses and hugs.

I was finally able to sit down with my child without glass being in front of us and I took advantage of the moment. I held her hand, soaked in every piece of her face, ran my fingers through her silky hair and just absorbed the moment. I had to tell her to excuse me because I simply had to make sure this wasn’t a dream- those dreams where I wake up to find myself within those white walls knowing contact wasn’t allowed. All those days that I wondered if I would die without ever getting to touch my family again. The amerikkkan dream, you know! And I also had to tell her that I was making for lost times. She understood.

I am proud to say that Nydesha and I have a special bond that is beyond words. You might be surprised to hear that I have been criticized about voicing what our bond is like. I remember a person that I used to write telling me how calling Nydesha my “little twin” or “soul mate” was nice, but what did it really do when it was time to feed, clothe and care for the child. It was a low blow, but I accepted the punch humbly, because I understand that no man can TRULY call himself a father from inside these walls. Even if we had every dollar in the world to care for the child NOTHING makes up for the physical and spiritual touch needed. I understand and I have never claimed to be more than I am nor claimed more than I can do. But, for those that know, know how much I go out my way for Nydesha- be it asking friends to remember her on birthdays or be it me saving funds from poetry books sales to send to her instead of having it sent to my prison account. It’s not much, but I try. And all that counts in my world is that Nydesha accepts the effort and the bottom line is SHE has embraced me as her father, more than her daddy and always her confidant. So, nothing else matters to me, but that one opinion.

So, the visits were great. We visited on the 22nd for 2 hours and the 23rd for 4, then we got one 2 hour visit on the 29th which I shared with my dad as well and one of Nydesha’s friends Sierra. During this last visit we sat on the outside patio because the weather was nice. Keeping with its weird make-up it was probably in the high 70’s that day- a beautiful day for a picnic and we imitated one as best as we could (bees and all flying over our heads). Ironically enough her friend Sierra had a play uncle that was executed on death row a few years back. Since she doesn’t know his full name I’m unable to know if I knew the guy, but once again it’s amazing how God ties certain people together (they met at a church camp). And so we have family with extended family. And this was a moment that I shared for all my brothers on death row with children. There’s too many times that I saw the children in tears or the children saying their last goodbyes. I’m not the first to leave death row, but am maybe the first to have fought like I did, came as close as I did- so I give a special victory salute under those circumstances.

The week was topped off with my return to work in the kitchen (for those that know I was on medical unassigned for a month and a half after a spider bite on my right elbow). I returned on the 26th- right before Thanksgiving (BIG smile). I was able to work on Thanksgiving, which (by being in the kitchen) meant turkey and cakes galore! I don’t want to embarrass myself with how much I ate, but let’s say I had plenty and had it the way that I wanted it (meaning I didn’t need any vegetables to help fill me up). Though in my politically correct mind I don’t “celebrate” Thanksgiving I’ll tell you like I told those around me- “Though we might not celebrate this holiday (due to the TRUE history of the natives and those that came to these lands) it doesn’t mean we can’t take them for everything they’re worth.” And we tried.

Being able to sit and be with my daughter in this fashion has rejuvenated me. It has given me the extra strength I need to keep on pushing, because I still face losses and hard times. And some know of what I speak, but we won’t focus on the negative. I know no other way than turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones, so nothing changes. It seems like I’ve always had this clairvoyant gift (see predictions like my writing “8-cage’~), because I called it right once again in my poem “Real Talk” (see my MySpace page). But, every adversity remains my motivation and-my motivation is something that can’t be tamed.

I thank God for these last 2 weekends with my daughter. We are looking forward to a Christmas visit or maybe in January. Now, with a 12 year-old, I’ve finally begun to experience those parent horrors- boyfriends, make-up, shopping, cell phones, and anything else you can think of. My goodness. All I can say is ALL HAIL THE MOTHERS OF THIS WORLD. No wonder female activist and writers have been the ones with the most influence on my spirit. What you do and who you are is one thing I do celebrate.

And so, we take this as one more step towards the greater victory to come. I thank those of you that have remained as an encouragement for my struggle, for those comrades in Texas that spends time with Nydesha when she’s here and most of all I thank those for their prayers that prayed for this day to happen. My heart is heavy today ­but this time it’s not from pain, it’s from Love.

Talk to you all soon.

ANNIVERSARY JOURNAL ENTRY – 8/30/08

It dawned upon me that the one-year mark of my 2007 scheduled execution was approaching. The emotions of that day still have not resided and perhaps they never will, though I find myself getting stronger each day and my vision is getting clearer.

I’ve never been much for celebrating “events” in prison. I can’t relate to most holidays and I never feel enough freedom to experience TRUE joy in my celebrating. But, I have found ways to smile and enjoy the beautiful things that we pull out of this type of situation. When the joy and pain combine it’s kind of like something a man named Walter S. Landor said: “A smile is ever the most bright and beautiful with a tear upon it.”

So, I decided to enjoy myself. I decided to let the disciplines down for a moment to pull back into myself and rejoice in what has manifested for me. I had to tell myself- “OK, no level 2 or level 3. No hunger strike right now. Enjoy the moment.

What better way to set things off than with some celebration cake? So, the first thing I did, a few days before the anniversary day, was to buy me a cake (OK, it was more so a pie). There’s some creative cooks around here. When you have very little to deal with I suppose you become a genius at making something out of nothing. So, I ended up with a banana pudding pie, which I sinfully ate. But, no regrets this day. It was a day to enjoy.

I let a few days pass before I went into mode 2. I decided to cook a special meal for me and my cellmate. That would be accomplished with what I have coined as: the double decker pizza. For those that have tasted this, this has become a favorite request from me (yeah- I’ve picked up some of those creative cooking skills too). What was strange about this day was I had somehow thought that it was the 30th. I can’t explain how I lost a day. I can only think that perhaps it was all the anticipation I had approaching my review. But, maybe it was something else that caused me to wake on the 29th and begin my celebration. I wouldn’t catch that understanding until later that day when a comrade inquired about why I was celebrating that day. With a “You don’t know why” expression on my face I lifted my left arm and showed him the Texas Tears tattoo on the back of my arm and highlighted the 8.30.07 date inked into my skin. He left off a little smile and told me- “But today is the 29th.” Like Homer Simpson- “DOH!” But, it wasn’t as bad of a bungle as I thought. When I later told another comrade of mine about the event he gave me this:

“You didn’t mess up. You celebrated just right. You see- the 29th is the TRUE day that you went through your trauma. It’s the day they kidnapped you and it’s the day you were dragged into the death house. It was the day that you first saw the death chamber room. So, you can see the 29th as your demise and you can see the 30th as your resurrection.”

And there it was. Everything was as it was supposed to be. I went to bed with a smile on my face and in my heart. By the time the 30th came I felt like I had celebrated plenty with cake, pizza and excitement, so I took this day to simply reflect on my life and give thanks for having this opportunity. Looking at those that have been murdered after me, looking at the complications with the Jeff Wood case I still wonder how/why I am here. I realize it’s due to something greater than me and I realize that this doesn’t come free for me. There’s not a moment that thanks is not emitted from my heart and I realize that I have to do all I can to show that. For those that campaigned for me a year ago I understand how potent this was to them. I understand the power of August 30th (as Bryan McCann would demonstrate to me when he tattooed 8.30.07 on his left arm). 8.30.07 has become a mantra.

I would end my day with prayers and appreciation and also the hope that one day I will celebrate 8.30.07 in the company of my loved ones and also the masses. It’s something that I am fighting for and it’s something that I can’t surrender. And I do realize that this is only the beginning. August 30, 2008 was a great day, but the best is yet to come.

LEVEL REVIEW

For those that have remained posted to my situation you will know about how I had been kept on Close Custody for a year- an environment that was only slightly different from the one I just left. It was a test of all tests. Mentally and spiritually. What these people attempted to place on me as only a year was in fact something way beyond that- it was a 12-year wait. It was a 12-year wait that should have never had to be.

The weekend had passed and the 2nd had approached. Usually when you have an appointment somewhere (Medical, Attorney visit- amongst a few things) you receive a notice the day before. I didn’t receive a notice that I would be attending Classification on this day, so I was caught off guard when an officer came to my cell and said I was wanted for Classification review. I had thought that maybe they would purposely make me wait until the last date for the review- the 5th. But the day had come.

I put on my best whites and took the stroll to the Classification office. There I was faced with the same Major (Ambriz) that I had when I was denied at my 6-month mark. This time he was flanked by 2 new women. I was told to take a seat and my file was gone through. At our last meeting 6 months ago my review ended with a denial and a verbal protest from me. I didn’t know how this one would end. While I knew I had a chance to get my full level I didn’t expect it. I expected a partial upgrade and in the back of my mind I expected some excuse for another denial.

The Major went through my file and stated- “The computer suggests G2.” I didn’t give the slightest response. I knew that there had to be 2 out of the 3 agreeing, but I also know that they make these decisions ahead of time. The woman to Abriz’s left asked if there was any disciplinary. Ambriz responded only one, but it was minor and had no bearing. So, with that no more inquiry was given and Ambriz marked on the paper- “G, line 1.” When he did that the lady looked up at me and I couldn’t help but to at that point let off a slight smile. “You can take the cuffs off of him now.” And that’s what it was. My files were wrapped up and the Major excused me on my way. Without as much as a peep I slid on out the door with some pep in my step and I hit the pavement for the first time without the steel rings around my wrist. In the short time that I’ve been on the Unit I’ve come to know a few people- many guys having read about my case in Texas papers and when they saw me on the sidewalk they couldn’t help but to extend a fisted salute and a smile. Without a doubt I reciprocated it.

I returned to my cell, packed all my property and left Close Custody. I gave my greetings to those I associated with and walked out the door with a lot of support from those that knew what I had been through. As one brother would tell me in a heartfelt way- “You have to remember, you’re an inspiration to a lot of us.”

I was immediately sent to 4 building- A.side of the prison. A.side being what’s considered the “good” side of town- whereas 8 building (close custody and majority medium custody) is known as the not-so-good side. The ghetto of the city! It’s a whole different way of life on this side- clean walls, jobs, but sadly all coated with a mentality that you better not mess up otherwise all of this can be taken from you at the blink of an eye. I was already prepped by brothers who had been over here about the officers that abuse their authority and also like to be playful. Neither of these things are things that I’m used to, but I realize that if I am to put myself in a position where I can enjoy the fruits of my and my people’s struggles then I must be smarter than my adversaries. As Ralph W. Trine said: “When apparent adversity comes, be not cast down by it, but make the best of it, and always look forward for better things, for conditions more prosperous.” I realize everyday will be a struggle, so like a babe once again I take baby steps.

I spent my first few days walking around to chow, just soaking up the days. By this time I had hugged and been hugged at least 100 times by brothers I knew or had heard about me. Men I didn’t even know came up to me and shook my hand because they had read about my struggle. One guy had read about my daughter in the Bay Review! It was all a beautiful thing. But at the same time I was as lost as a kid in an amusement park. I had to ask some of the brothers where to go, what such and such means and how to do this or that. It’s often followed by a little laugh from them, but always by a pat on the back, because they realize for the last 8 years I have been boxed within a box. In all actuality out of my 12 years of incarceration I had only spent maybe a little over 3 years around other inmates (before the isolation at Polunsky in 2000- and those 3 years include the 11 months I spent in the county jail). So, this is an accomplishment beyond words- no more cuffs everywhere I go. No more isolation. Of course, anything could happen from day to day to drop my levels again. I know that. All I can do is walk my walk and deal with what comes my way. I definitely am not entertaining any thoughts that my struggles are over forever.

I was immediately given a job working in the kitchen (not that I need to be around any food judging by some of the teases I’ve gotten from the few pounds I’ve put on. I guess some people forgot that my greyhound look back then was compliments of Polunsky oppression that we had to protest and go and entertain hunger strikes and no commissary for months at a time. That’s caustic humor for those that didn’t know. I don’t regret any of it.) The kitchen would prove to open a few other doors to me (not just the refrigerator ones). I came across 2 guys that I knew on death row- Johnny Bernal and Raymond Cobb. Both were freed from death row in 2005 when the juveniles were freed. These weren’t close friends of mine, but were guys I had met. Nevertheless we hugged each other like we were long lost brothers. We spoke a bit about our personal situations back then and currently and then parted to finish work (though we’ll definitely be seeing more of each other from day to day). But again, the best was yet to come.

Victory Day

It had been awaited for longer than I could remember. Now as a G2, line 1 I could qualify for contact visits and my day had come. September 6th I was called from work for my first visit as a G2. I went back to my cell, showered and pulled on my freshly starched whites. I adorned my boots- checked the mirror one last time and walked with a mean swagger to my visit. Once there I would be told to go to table 15; and there was the greatest thing in the world waiting for me- my amazing grandfather who had raised me and been my rock for the majority of my life. I walked up behind him and gave him a hug. He rose with a great smile and hugged me back. We embraced even tighter and I gave him a kiss on his cheek. The smiles between us could have lit a black hole in the universe. We clasped hands and rejoiced at the day. We sat down, ate together, had a bunch of laughs and had a great visit. I remember there were days that I never thought I’d be able to touch my grandfather again. All of this has come with many losses too- my grandmother being riddled with Alzheimer’s disease so bad to where she can’t leave home for such visits. It’s a pain (almost like my mother’s death) that I will have to carry with me for the rest of my life. My victory hasn’t come without scars as well.

It was hard to let go, but we said our goodbyes for the day. I hugged my grandfather- the man I love the most- tightly and gave him a kiss on the cheek as we parted. It was a beautiful day and all the brothers asked me how I felt. Again- it’s something beyond words. I am thankful beyond words.

Now I only await the final pieces to this puzzle and that’s to be able to hold my daughter and wife. But of course there are so many others that I too would like to be able to spend time with. God willing it will all happen. But for now I just take things one day at a time. Little by little I will adjust to my surroundings and I hope to be able to take full advantage of what is available to me.

As I close out Resurrection Week I bow my head and say a silent prayer for those that couldn’t be here and amongst all the ups and downs, struggles and glories I do realize- as I’ve said thus far- the best is till yet to come.

Stay Tuned…the struggle continues

A MESSAGE FROM ADAM AXEL

Hello everyone – For the last 12 years Kenneth Foster has been isolated in his cell for at least 22 hours per day either on death row in solitary confinement (11 years) or for the last 1 year housed in the most restrictive unit available at the McConnell Unit. I am happy to report that finally, after one year of having his sentence commuted he has been granted level G2 status and is in general population at the McConnell Unit. He is FINALLY allowed contact visits and he had his first today with his Grandfather. His Grandfather told me that he cannot describe in words the excitement that Kenneth had. He is also now assigned a job and is working in the kitchen. I will share more details as they arrive.

Best,
Adam

KENNETH’S ESSAY

As I look out my window….the building looks just like death row. I can’t help but to stare at it. The building is the same. The windows are the same. Even the area surrounding it is almost identical. I can’t seem to take my eyes off the building. I watch it as if it was going to jump out the way. But it doesn’t. It’s the same concrete and steel that I’ve known for 11 years now. And as I look at this building- that looks exactly like death row- I ask myself: How are you?

The conversations between Me, My/Self and I continue, because I learned long ago that if one can’t fraternize with its own soul then they are doomed to a far worse torment than the prison system. Prisons and hells are internal as well as external. I find that I am repeatedly asking my Self- How are you? Are you ok? Are you healing? I look at myself in the mirror and I ask my Self- How traumatized are you? I’ve been tough, I’ve been strong, I’ve endured, I’ve smiled when I wanted to cry and cried when I didn’t have the slightest damn idea why. I know there are scars! I know there are issues! I can’t deny that nor suppress it. We do that enough on death row. But I’m not on death row anymore, although the “god(s)” don’t seem to want to let me forget that.

What exactly am I talking about, you might be asking? I’m talking about the building that sits RIGHT outside my window. I’m currently on McConnell Unit in Beeville, TX, but you could have fooled me. In the mid-90’s when Texas was having its prison boom it used the same blueprints to build several prisons. Therefore, the same exact blueprint that was used to make Polunsky Unit was used to build McConnell Unit. When my family walks into McConnell it’s just like walking into Polunsky. The visiting rooms are identical. The Unit’s structure is the same. So are the names of the buildings. What kind of sick game is this? I left death row and turned around and came right back to…..what looks like death row.

BUT…..I’m not on 12 building. I’m on 8 building. However, right outside my window is…..12 building. Except when I look at this building I don’t see 12 building at McConnell Unit, I see 12 building death row. I know those windows like the palms of my hands. Those windows which you can’t open. They are narrow and you can only see out. I peered through those windows for 7 years and now….they peer at me. 12 building here is for Ad Seg inmates. But, I don’t see that. When I look at this building I see Tony and Gabriel. I think of F-Pod and familiar officers. I think I smell pepper spray. My mind is playing tricks on me. I blink my eyes, but I keep looking at the building. It’s like I’m in a gotdamn trance. I’m getting upset, so I pull away.

What trauma have I endured? What’s going on with my mind? Outside I am free of death row, but inside it’s still gnawing at me. It’s like nails running across the chalk board. What good does physical liberation do if my soul is chained in an abyss?

Since I left there’s been 3 executions and 2 suicides. I wake up in a cell that looks just like my cell on Polunsky except it has 2 bunks and I have a cell mate. Nevertheless, I still expect someone I know to be going out the door with a date. When I walk to the visiting room I still can see families lined up giving their last goodbyes. It’s vivid! The rage steams through my body.

I’m not ok! I need to verbalize that. I’M NOT OK! I need to hear it coming out my mouth! In a short time I’ve been faced with some challenges here. Locations change, but oppression under TDC and the struggle doesn’t. When I got engaged in my rebellion here I thought to myself….I know they’ll retaliate. I’m sure I’ll end up in Ad Seg! Shit! Then I’ll be right back where I started. The single man recreation. The cuffs everywhere you go. The isolation. 12 building! What a sick joke that is! Could I do it again? 4 years? 6? 7? My soul grunts at the thought of it.

Down south the fog comes a lot in the morning. I rise, as always, around 7ish. I open my window and look out. 12 building is almost covered, but I can catch a light or two on shining from the building looking like the yellow eyes of the demon dog from hell. I can’t help but to think about what I left behind, what I endured and what others are still enduring today. They question if the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. Albert Camus said

“Capital Punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal’s deed, however calculated, can be compared! For there to be equivalency, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.”

As a child I was scared of the dark (like most children) – too many scary movies. You always thought a monster lurked down the hall, so you’d run to turn on the light. And run back! I should have been a track star. But, to who does the death row inmate run? To God? Maybe! “Christian” politicians who cry for blood don’t give God a good name. Why is brutality made to look so good in amerika?

It seems I’m still running from the monster. These thoughts spark as I read Primo Levi’s “Survival in Auschwitz.” People wonder why we would compare death row to a concentration camp- because it’s all the same. It’s death! It’s oppression! For the many that entered- not as many would leave. And for those that survived, it was a miracle. Like those in the camps, they struggled to live one more day. They held on that….maybe today will be the day I get out. Like them, we have the same thoughts. Just one more appeal, just one more exoneration. Death rows are the Auschwitz’s of the West! Ye gods! What games do you play to torment us mortals?

Self spoke to me today. Self said that I had to toughen up, that I could not come this far and falter. Self feels my knees wobble and heart race. Self knows that I’ve been looking out the window too much. I turn to Self and remind it (in the words of Nietzsche): “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”

I’ve been regurgitated out the whale, you see! And it seems…. That I too (like Captain Ahab) have become obsessed with the whale. Yes, I’m obsessed with its capture! I’m obsessed with its demise! I cannot sleep. My mind is unable to rest. I’ve been through a war. I suffer from everything that Vietnam and Iraq veterans do. We’ve had something stolen from us. The government doesn’t care- no thief does.

There’s no therapy for me, though. No couch! No group talks! My teachers remain buried in the history of tragic struggles. But, revolution is born of tragedy, is it not?! I have a bitter-sweet fruit to consume. I have meditations to continue: new mantras and chants to conjure up that will give me new answers filled with new strengths.

But for now, the Tango continues. What was once a very intimate dance- body to body, face to face, we now dance apart, but still our arms and eyes remain locked upon each other. Our eyes do not part. The tango is very intimate.

And so, as I search to heal, search to understand…I take another glance out the window, There’s not a smile and there’s not a tear, but there is a knowing. You can crush a rose, but its fragrance will remain. And death row- my fragrance continues. As we keep the fight going, death row, know that I’ll never accept less… I’ll give no less than everything…even if everything is less than what I was expecting… I’ll settle for nothing less.

Yes, the struggle does continue, and yes, I do remain (though crushed) the rose that won’t stop emanating from the concrete!

Straight Ahead!

Surviving…

Haramia KiNassor