Connie K. Grier shares the story of Kaliek Hayes, Founder of ChildhoodsLost and asks, “What is the “spark” that serves as your motivation for change?”
Our young men face so many obstacles to success. Some of them influenced by society, all of them impacted by decisions. As a mother and activist, I fight really hard to not only to share my activism with my WonderTwinz so that they can form a global awareness around issues, but to allow the experiences of some of our leaders to be understood from an empowered perspective. My sons understand that this world is not fair, can be cruel, and will take your life literally and figuratively in an instant aided by the choices and decisions they make. All of our young men must come to understand that their freedom is something they must guard passionately, yet still understand that NONE of us are truly free while any of our peers are not.
Today, I would like to share the words of my mentoring partner and friend, Kaliek Hayes, Founder of ChildhoodsLost, an organization devoted to preventing our young kings and queens from losing their lives by uplifting them through arts (stage plays for youth performed by youth) and mentorship. They touched my heart and I hope that we all can take a lesson from his journey:
24 cents an hour!!
My mom told me I could be anything if I focused and put my mind to it. At the age of 20 I became an excellent welder, a career with a base salary at around 39,000 a year. My first welding job was crazy too… I was a part of a three-man team that was responsible for welding all the beds and tables in a unit the housed 2000 individuals! Major right?! I was on my way after not listening to anything my mom said, not heeding any one’s advice, opposing everything that was right.
From leaving my mom’s house at the age 16 to dropping out of high school in my senior year. Losing friends to the streets or to jail I still went hard and fast down my path of “greatness”. I was determined to defy what the people who cared about me warned me of, what I saw with my own eyes. I was going to be one of the ones who made it in the streets. They would remember me. I was on the path… And then it happened; a shift in my atmosphere and in what seemed like a heartbeat, I went from the streets is watching to the C.O is watching. My path had been redefined for me. I was alive, but I was in prison and my spirit was dead. As it is written is was true in my life. It happened that suddenly!
Now everything my mom had been saying started to make sense. She had to put me out so it wouldn’t be her door they were knocking down when they came looking for me or house they were shooting at cause that’s where I laid my head. Her words
“this life you living is gonna catch up with u” resonated so loudly. It had caught me and fast! So now that path that ride to the top was halted. The signs, the warnings rang true, and now I would have to reap what I had sown and endure this new path find peace in my head and cope with a dead spirit while hoping that time would breathe life into it once again.
One day while on the inside… on my facilities welding job where I was responsible for welding the beds that 2000 federal inmates would sleep on for 24 cents an hour; my spirit was revived, a spark from my welding torch hit me in the chest and it sent a burning sensation straight through me .. It is a sensation that I still live with a burning that will never go away it was the revival of my spirit and the renewal of my path… My life works would be to do whatever I could do once on the outside to prevent as many of our young men from ever having to be under this metal bed welding over head for 24 cents an hour, a job on the street that pays at minimum… Minimum 20 dollars an hour. With a dead spirit and a trapped mind and no foreseeable future.
In that moment when that spark hit me as I was working, sweating for 24 cents an hour to help house 2000 more of my brothers who when they ended up here would ultimately be put at such a disadvantage in terms of having a productive, successful path once( or if ever) they reentered society.
That day for me under that bed I gained the most for my labor; 24 cents plus my renewed path, my life’s mission and work.
Preventing childhoodslost …
The spark that revived me was physical, but its impact was felt in my soul. What is the “spark” that serves as your motivation for change?