Female community leaders will be sharing memoir excerpts about their “journeys to justice” on Monday night at the Herstory Writers Workshop at 7:30 p.m. in the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts lobby.
This is the literary highlight of the ongoing PAC MAC Festival.
Below is an excerpt from the work of Risco Mention-Lewis, a SCPD deputy commissioner, who issues a powerful wakeup call to a system that dehumanizes black males caught in lives of violence and hopelessness, as she tells the story of her personal journey of caring for a victim of a shooting and her efforts to prevent the next victim.
As I walk toward the bed…I’m trying to be calm, trying to keep an easy expression on my face; just a bit of a purse lipped smile. As I approach closer to the side of his hospital bed and put my hand on his heart I say…and ask
“Now boy…you know I am coming. So…how are you?”
His expression changes…he looks away and then back again at me…his mask is gone. He says;
“Ms. Lewis…I’m hurt, they shot me and I am hurt…so hurt”…and we both begin to cry…me first.
As I try to put my arms around him… careful not to get too close to his stomach …careful not to bump the small clear plastic tube where the watery pale red blood from his stomach drained into…we cried. I cried for his pain and the knowledge that he was so very alone. He cried for all of the years he has suffered without allowing tears. We cried cleansing tears…breaching the miles and distance between us forever more.
I came to visit him again the next day and every day after that. One such day as I walked into his room with large pink fragrant Stargazer lilies from my garden he smiled at me and said…”Hey Mom.”
So he knows he is loved. He knows I value him. He knows I have hope for his future but does he?
During our weeks of conversations while he recovered…we talk of choices. We talk about how our character defines our destiny.
Weeks later…as I approach his doorway …the newest bouquet of stargazer lilies strong floral smell…heavy in the air…I overhear him
“Yeah, yeah I can’t believe he did this shit. He set me up. What did he think I would do! Ok…Yo…I gotta go.”
“So how have you been feeling?”
“I’m much better.”
“What do you think about the guy that hurt you?”
“I’m not thinking about him?”
“Well…I heard you on the phone…are people calling you to do something?”
“Well what do you think?”
“I think I have no choice.”
“Well that’s ridiculous…of course you have choices.”
“No I don’t Mom…if I do nothing… then everyone will think they can do anything to me…I’ll be prey. This is just the way it is for us…”
“You said you went to electrical school. You said you wanted to be an electrician… that’s a choice. Murder is not a choice.”
“Ms. Lewis I can’t be an electrician.”
“What do you mean you can’t be an electrician…you said you did well in school until you got arrested and had to drop out.”
“I went to the school…checked your grades…”
“You had all As….you can…”
“Are you trying to get me to hope?”
“Well… Yes… I am.”
“Now Mom…Don’t you know Hope is premeditated disappointment!”
Those words slid out… unfolded and flapped its dark wings above the hospital bed, pushing aside almost all of the clean fresh floral scent…replacing it with that heavy smell of blood that often lingers behind after the bodies lay still… and the spirit has departed.
That’s when I heard the words…
Long lay the world in sin and error pining ‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth…
I left the hospital, just a bit down but undeterred. I quickly went to the electrical training school…I met with the head administrator…
So, you will let him back in school and give him his tools…
Great…thank you so much.
Months later after he was healed and long out of that hospital bed…I asked him to speak with me at a criminal justice class.
As he stood before the class and spoke of his journey…of losing his brother at 11, of losing his mother last year… of wishing she could see him right now as an electrician assistant…of being shot.
He spoke of hope…a bit nervous but sure…
“I used to believe hope was premeditated disappointment. I used to think my life couldn’t be any better than it was. I used to think…why try…don’t try to climb the ladder… if you do you will just fall.”
“Now I know…climb…and if you fall…you won’t fall to the bottom… and if you do…just get up and climb again.”
Email the Patchogue Arts Council for additional information on Monday night’s event.