Sunday, January 24, 2010

Andrae-Bridges not Barriers

-Bridges Not Barriers –

I was 9 in 1985 when my 8 year old cousin Jennifer was murdered by her step-father. He raped and killed her in front of her little brother (his biological son) and my little brother/ who ultimately became key witnesses for the state. James received 40 years in prison. Fast forward 7 years later to March 25, 1992. Six days after my 16th birthday. I was arrested/ charged with First Degree Intentional Homicide-Party To A Crime, waived as an adult, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole until the year 2037. In other words, I can't even be considered for parole until I'm 61.

I will never disagree with the practice of locking people up. However/,I can't seem to wrap my mind around how, in one instance an adult man can commit rape and murder and be sentenced to 40 years. Yet a child who commits murder or is even party to the crime can be sentenced to life. Does that make any sense to you? I understand laws changed drastically over the years but there's still something very wrong with this picture. Okay, every man/ woman/ boy or girl who gets convicted of First Degree Intentional Homicide will automatically receive a life sentence per the law. Urn/ my cousin's step-father knowingly and intentionally strangled my cousin to death after raping her- Surely he should be in a cell next to mines—right? But see/ that's just one of the many contradictions in the law that makes me sick to my stomach. Of course it's much deeper than that but that's not the point I'm trying to convey here.

My point is simply this, if a 40 year old man can be deemed salvageable after serving 10 years for a crime or crimes just as severe as those committed by children/ then why can't a 16 year old after serving 18 years? Please know that I do not intend to minimize the seriousness of my offense by pointing out the offenses of another. I'm well aware of the pain and suffering my offense caused the victim's family, my family, and the community as a whole and I accept full responsibility for my actions; past/ present/ and future. I JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND HOW A CHILD CAN BE WVIVED AND SENTENCED AS AN ADULT WEN ADULTS DON'T EVEN GET SENTENCED AS SUCH! I think I speak for all one time juvenile offenders serving life sentences when I say, if we've proven to be rehabilitated, why keep us?

I'll turn 34 soon and will have 18 years in days thereafter. I was one of the first 16 year olds to enter the Columbia Correctional Institution and I'm nothing like the scared, immature, confused, self-destructive little boy I was back then. I didn't hesitate to throw caution or my life into the wind because I didn't have the least bit of appreciation for either- That has long since changed. But with my current appreciation for life and everything it has to offer comes the pain, depression and despair of knowing the man I am today will probably never get the opportunity to live up to my full potential as I am forced to remain in prison. James got a second chance, why can't I?

Before and after
Andrae at time of arrest and below, Andrae now

Thursday, January 7, 2010

At The Hands Of His Mother

At The Hands Of His Mother
- Why we tend to throw our lives away; a worse case scenario -

- -' I knew of a little boy who suffered severe abuse at the hands of his mother. Such abuse consisted of verbal put-downs and insults, tons of head games and life threatening physical attacks. This young boy loved his mother dearly and practically worshipped the ground she walked on. If only I could get her attention without being beaten all would be all right, he thought. As a result, by the age of eight this young boy could cook, clean, sew, shop and do just about everything else within the guidelines of properly running a household. For he was obsessed with impressing his mother in the hopes that he would in turn receive the love he so freely gave.

Just when he thought he saw signs that his mother loved him, they were soon erased by her abuse. For he couldn't understand why he was constantly being subjected to such awful brutality. And it could have been for the smallest reasons; like forgetting to tie his shoe or losing the door key. He also got beat for the things his three younger siblings did, or didn't do. If that meant getting a black eye then so be it. He didn't want his brothers to go through what he was going through so he felt obligated to protect them and thereby took the blame for everything.
Aside from what this young boy underwent at home he was a high achiever who made the honor roll on a consistent basis and thereby loved school. Bright and intelligent beyond his years was this young boy. Unfortunately he had a few problems with his behavior. Teachers termed it hyperactive disorder but it was nothing more than this young boy's desire for attention manifesting itself. He was a class clown who really didn't take anything seriously. This resulted in classroom disruptions. Which ultimately led to some of the worse physical punishments any child should have to endure. Yet and still this boy protected his mother, for she could do no wrong! Besides, who would believe him?!

One incident in particular his mother beat him for what seemed like hours. Only to beat him more because he would not cry. This left the boy with two black eyes and a badly bruised body. Upon attending school the next day teachers saw this. Being concerned, they asked the boy, "What happened to you?" Without coaching from his mother, the boy simply stated, "I fell from the pear tree I was raiding." Although the teachers knew better, they accepted his story. Again, in his mind, Momma could do no wrong.

As time went on, so did the abuse. This young boy started to realize that there was no real way of escaping his mother. Often times he fantasized about running away, killing her, or simply killing himself, but he couldn't find the courage to do either. Along came an older friend. Someone he could consider a big brother, and someone he could put the blame on in the hopes of being spared a beating from time to time. God had looked upon him. For his plan seemed to work. But at what cost?

Simply put, at the cost of sexual abuse. Yeap! The someone he considered a friend and loved like a brother was sexually molesting this young boy. Thankfully that was short-lived (3 years) but the damage was done. All he had to contend with now was the abuse his mother had to offer.
As the young boy matured into a young man, so did the abuse at the hands of his mother. It was apparent that every time she attacked him, it was in the hopes of killing him. Not only had his mother broken several of his ribs but she chipped teeth and broke his jaw with an iron. That wasn't the worst part. Upon breaking his jaw, she refused to take him to the hospital until
several hours and a whole lot of swelling later. Staff at the hospital called the law because signs of child abuse were apparent. The boy wanted so bad to tell of the things he had not only been through but was going through as well. But he refused to make his mother look bad, even at the expense of his own safety.

Due to the fact that the young man's mother became a drug addict it was either prepare for a beat down because she didn't have and/or couldn't afford any drugs or make her "happy" by going to get some. As awful as it made him feel, the boy took it upon himself to purchase dope for her. For he still yearned for his mother's attention and affection. In addition to that, he was tired of suffering. All of that ultimately led to the young man using and selling drugs himself. For he could not only take care of the house, his little brothers and himself, but he could use his dope as a means to get his mother to let him hang out.

When the young man hung out, he practically stayed out. A beating was always in store but the little freedom he attained was well worth it. Besides, his friends showed him love and seemed to care, unlike his mother. Therefore in order to keep their love and attention he felt he needed to impress them; and impress them he did. School was no longer a priority, money didn't matter and neither did the opposite sex. In fact, he had a certain dislike toward females but he pretended to like them for the sole purpose of getting what he wanted, be it sex or money.
See, it was all about his gang. The one avenue he used as a means to "act out" his deep seeded anger and self-hatred. Therefore, when it came to gang-banging, he banged with the best. As a result he was considered crazy by his peers for the stunts he'd pull during shoot-outs or in general. To be considered crazy was to be looked upon as "not to be fucked with!" But the boy had an ugly secret. He never really intended to hurt anyone while letting his anger and rage free. NOPE! That was not the case. He just wanted to die. So upon acting out he hoped and prayed he'd one day receive the short end of the stick, as did many of those around him. That would be the ultimate escape from the abuse at the hands of his mother.

One frightful morning the young man unexpectingly got his wish. For he died a quick,, painless death at the hands of those who could have helped him had he "chose" to be helped!
- The End -
"How" did this young man die and who killed him?
Without even knowing your answers I'm willing to bet they're wrong. Good! But wrong! You see, that young man is NOT dead at all. Not in the physical sense at least; which is exactly what you all may have concluded. "For he was killed by the Justice System." Whereupon at the age of sixteen he received a life sentence for First Degree Intentional Homicide-P.T.A.C. this in turn left him "institutionally dead!" Andrae L. Bridges would be that young man and this is my story. I've been incarcerated for nearly eleven years and I have a lifetime to go. Although I've written about my life, this isn't about me at all. Better yet, it's about YOU! It is through my story I hope you all realize just how precious life is before you throw it away, as I did my own. Sure, you may have been abused as I was, or perhaps worse; you may still be getting abused which leaves you feeling worthless. Thus suffering from low self-esteem, depression, etc., etc., all together making you very angry! You're not alone! But trust me, nothing or no one is worthy of you throwing away your opportunity to live a positive and productive life! Love yourself enough to get help; You do have a choice! I don't intend to make anyone feel sorry for me, nor do I make excuses for my childhood behavior. My only goal now is to educate; in the hopes that you will not

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Discovery of Self

To discover is to notice or learn; to find; to learn about for the first time in ones experience. Words that can be used in place of discover would be detect, uncover, unearth, and so on and so forth. The Discovery of Self has proven to be one of my greatest discoveries yet. I discover something new about myself everyday which aids in making me a better man than I was the day before.

Some of you have already heard or read about my personal story (At The Hands Of His Mother). But for those of you who haven't, just know this, I had a ton of issues. Much of which caused me to be a very angry and self-destructive individual. Had it not been for my Discovery of Self I wouldn't have recognized, accepted, and addressed those issues. In that, I would still be the angry, powerless, hopeless, self destructive individual I once was. But the Discovery of Self goes far deeper than that...

Per my Discovery of Self I conquered just about all of the demons I had within. In addition to that, my eyes were opened, as was my mind. All of that ultimately opened the door for CHANGE. With CHANGE came GROWTH. With GROWTH came KNOWLEDGE. With KNOWLEDGE came WISDOM and a grand appreciation for life and everything that it has to offer.

So what might my Discovery of Self have to do with you? Well, that's a very good question and my answer is this. In Discovering ME, I've Discovered YOU, and everyday I become anew! You see, the Discovery of Self is a seemingly selfish process but by nature it's selfless. It's selfish in the sense that you have to step back from everyone and everything for the purpose of stepping within to address whatever issues you might have. During that process it's all about you and only you- As you begin to grow within per addressing your issues, you'll eventually begin to grow outward. That's where the selfless process begins. This is a cycle that should be allowed to continue; as you receive (grow), so shall you give (teach), and vice versa! This also coincides with knowing and loving thyself. In fact, it's all part of the same process. Without knowing and loving thySELF, you can't possibly know and love anything or anyone else. Hence, love thy neighbor as thySELF! (Romans 13:9) And so I say again, in discovering ME, I've discovered YOU, and everyday I become anew!

Andrae L. Bridges

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On Self and Family


I thought writing about Reality: On Self and Family was going to be an easy task but I've come to realize (real-eyes) I was terribly wrong for a number of reasons. Thus the task has proven far harder than I believed. Perhaps by the end of this piece you will see why.

For one, this is like my tenth attempt at trying to put these words on paper because I became all the more saddened and depressed with each attempt. Two; I didn't realize just how much pain writing about the reality of self and family could and would have on me. The more I wrote, the more my heart ached. I thought I had addressed all my issues in that regard but the TRUTH is this, I ignored my reality on self and family and repressed my real feelings thereof. What I intend to do this time around, unlike the first nine attempts at this is get straight to the point. And the reality of self and family for me is that I simply don't have a family. There, I've said it. One might be wondering why it's so hard to write about that. Well, not having family or any form of outside support has caused me to feel forgotten, lonely, uncared for, and unworthy of being loved. That was something I wasn't ready or able to admit.

I know there are a lot of people who can relate to this reality of mines. So this piece is for you! By observing my behavior and overall attitude, one wouldn't know or even suspect that I am without family or outside support because I carry myself in such a way that would have one believe I have all kinds of support. When in REALITY, it's just me! In fact, several people who have been made aware of my Reality have asked me, "How do you do it?" In truth, I don't even know at times. Maybe it's my faith and belief that God has something greater planned for me as long as I remain focused, see things through, and Not allow the curve balls life tends to throw at us to knock me down. It may even be my belief that I'm not a quitter therefore I have to keep on keepin" on, no matter how rough the road may get. Or simply the belief that what doesn't kill me will only make me stronger. Whatever the case, the fact remains that I've managed to remain strong amidst many adversities. Not having family and outside support is only one of many.

At the beginning of this incarceration my family was in my corner and I had plenty of outside support- Five or six years into my bit all of that changed and I can't even begin to tell you what happened. Then again, scratch that because I know exactly what happened. Life happened! As a result, visits, cards and letters, and money came farther and farther apart, until it all just stopped all together. I couldn't understand it because I appreciated my family and friends and I made sure to let them know that. But they still disappeared and for the longest of time I blamed myself. I figured they were ashamed of my being incarcerated or I wasn't worthy of their love, and so on and so forth. I wanted so much to believe that my family and friends were going to be by my side forever. Having to accept the reality (TRUTH) that they weren't hurt me far more than I can express in writing. Hence, the TRUTH - (the second) T + read backwards = HURT! (TRUTH - T = TRUH <-> = HURT)

The fact is, neither family nor friends ride forever. The realization that, that wasn't going to happen for me was a piece of reality (TRUTH) that walked up and rudely punched me square in the nose. In addition to that, it took a stab at every, single one of my emotions because other realities (TRUTHS) were brought to the forefront. Like the reality that my family is not and was not obligated to do for or wait around for me. Or the reality that I have a life sentence and may never get out of prison or see my family again, as that has already proven to be the case. Or the reality that life goes on, whether in prison or out; with or without me. And of course the list of realities (TRUTHS) go on and on. I've been incarcerated for nearly eighteen (18) years now and twelve (12) or thirteen (13) of those years have been without family, friends or any outside support. And life hasn't gotten any easier for me, especially when I see people not appreciating their families and the support systems they might have. I'm often left asking myself, why me? What did I do to deserve being abandoned as such. As I'm sure those of you who can relate tend to do. So what's one to do?

For starters, one must not ignore his or her not having family, friends and outside support. Accept it for what it is and embrace the feelings such may cause, be them good or bad. And know that not having family, friends and outside support DOES NOT say anything about you. For you are worthy of being loved and cared about. But my point is this, which Whitney Houston said it best, "Learning to love yourself; that is the greatest love of all!" And that was the lesson I had to learn. Yeah, it's a tough pill to swallow but you must take the medicine in order to cure the illness.

For those of you who have family, friends, and outside support: Cherish and appreciate them to the fullest! Don't allow that opportunity to pass you by or to be taken for granted because in REALITY, NO-THING lasts forever! Nope, not even family, and friends. As it is said, "You don't miss the water until the well runs dry!" When you find yourself feeling unappreciative for whatever reason, just think of those of us who have not!

Andrae L. Bridges