Verdale H.

REPRESENT JUSTICE X JR: TEHACHAPI

My name is Verdale. I grew up in Los Angeles, South Central. Let's see, I was born into the system at an early age. A lot of placements, foster homes, stuff like that, because my mama, she couldn't take care of me. I had to grow up with a non-structured family, a family kind of broken. And we'd move to a lot of different areas, a lot of bad neighborhoods. Sometimes I came home, the block was taped off; a lot of bullies at school, stuff like that. Typical stuff. I grew up without any dad, so I had nobody there to tell me what to do like that, but my mom, and she was only there half of my life.

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I started growing up fast, started learning some of the stuff a woman couldn’t teach you. Some things are better from a man’s perspective and you have to learn it. I never really had that. So I made a lot of dumb choices, some of which landed me in jail. I’d been to the juvenile county, YA, county. I just got out this March. So, it feels good to be free. I’ve been through a lot of stuff, man. I lost a lot of friends due to gun violence. I try to stay away from negativity and stuff that’s going to lead me into that path because I don’t want to go back to jail. Life is so much more than being behind bars and having other people with keys telling you what to do. Because at the end of the day, they go home. You don’t.

I just wanted better for myself. I mean, I wish I’d have thought like this when I was 16, 17, when I was doing a lot of stupid stuff, but I ain’t get it until now, I’m 21. Some people said I’m ahead of my time. I’d have been in school. Since then, I’ve been in college. I’ve had multiple jobs. I got my security going on right here. I just don’t know where it’s going to land me. Sometimes I feel like giving up, but I know I can’t do that because I know God got a better purpose for me. I don’t know what that is yet, but when you come from a broken family, sometimes you feel like you don’t got nobody. You feel like you by yourself. You feel like people don’t care. I may get like that sometimes. You just got to keep pushing through because you never know what doors are going to be open for you in the future. You never know what he got in store for you.

Let’s see. But I feel like I do want to go back to school, based on, like in my family, nobody’s ever really graduated. My mom, she didn’t even graduate high school. She got an 11th grade, 12th-grade education. So I got one sister out of four of them that went to college. She got three different degrees. So she set the tone for school. And she used to always be in my ear about it, and for the longest time, I just blow it over and be like, “Nah, I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to do that.”

I wasn’t receptive to a lot of people. A lot of people walked in and out of my life, so it was sometimes hard to figure out who’s sincere and who not. And I just didn’t want to hear nothing. I didn’t want to hear nothing. But I feel like me going to jail was a good thing though because I had time to really sit down and try to figure some stuff out in the midst of me being in there. You got all the fighting. I’d have seen some stuff in there too, staff getting punched on. This is not a good environment, but when you’re in that room to yourself, that’s all away from everybody, away from anybody else that could influence you into doing something bad, jeopardizing you going home. Once you get that time yourself, it’s like, I can’t really describe it, but it’s a good feeling when you try to put plans together.

I heard about ARC (Anti Recidivism Coalition) through there. I’m in that program right now. That’s a good program for people that have been previously incarcerated and in need of a second chance. And they gave it to me. But for the longest time, I said no because I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to go home. But I learned that home wasn’t the best thing for me to go to because it’s like going backward. I did all that stuff just to go home and go to the board and go to college, have a job. I was doing construction in there as well. Doing all that good stuff just to get out and go right back to the stuff that since you know where the place that you just got out from. And I couldn’t afford that. I don’t ever want to go back.

But like I said, I just wanted better for myself. I want to be able to help out my family, even though we’re not a family sometimes. I’m much more appreciative. I look at a lot of stuff differently. I got a family right now that’s doing way more time than I did. Some ain’t never coming home. I got friends that ain’t never coming home. I got friends that’s dead. That’s the type of thing that I think about when I think about going back. I can’t go back. My mom’s getting older and I don’t want to put no more stress on her because I don’t know how much more time I going to have with her. Not saying nothing wrong with her, but appreciate your mom while she here, because some people don’t have they, mom. And she is the main one in my corner, even when I was down, and she’s still here. So it’s like I don’t know when she going to leave this Earth, but I want her to go knowing that I made her happy in some way. That’s going to make me happy.

So it’s a lot of people out there doing way worse than me. People ain’t got nowhere to lay their heads and people ain’t got nowhere to take no shower. Ain’t got nothing to eat, man. No shoes on the feet. Some people got kids and they’re homeless. So I’d keep all that stuff in mind when I wake up every day. I don’t pray every day, but I do send my prayers up sometimes, and just be grateful, man.

But when I was young, growing up, I was always a happy kid, even though I wasn’t with my mom all the time. I was in and out of placements, but when I did get out the placements, I’d go home to her. She always tried to make sure I was happy and stuff. She tried to buy me all the stuff that. Try to basically, I don’t want to say buy love, because you can’t replace love, but toys and gifts and stuff like that. But she kept me busy. I always played sports, play some basketball or something. 14, I started to make some music. I actually made a CD and I let her listen to it and she liked it. So I tried to go somewhere with that. But I started to deviate as I got older and I just lost interest. There’s a lot of stuff that I want to do, but it just is so much going on, I just don’t know which direction to take in my steps. So I just let everything fall into place.

To be free, it’s a good feeling. I’m not going to say it’s the best feeling in the world, but it’s one of them, to just be out and be able to live life. I’m still, I’m a young, man. I’m still learning to become an adult and doing adult things: getting up, go to work. I got to pay certain things, phone bill, etcetera. And it’s hard to transition from being 17, locked up, 17 to 21, that transformation is tough, but I’m learning. And I’m free and I’m taking advantage of that and not doing anything stupid to where I feel I got to jeopardize that because ain’t nothing worth your freedom.