"I wanted to be a leader instead of a follower."

I am Dre.

08.19.2014

Hey what’s going on? How are you? I finally got your letter. For a sec, I thought my letter didn’t make it again. I’m glad to hear from you again though. I actually look forward to your letters now.

I’ve been all good though. Everything is everything I guess. I finally got put into school, so I go to school everyday now. It only took 2 yrs of waiting. My appeal is also still good, so everything is all good.

How are you though? I hope everything is all good on your end. You never really mention how your doing when you write. I understand you want to keep the letters focused on me, but I don’t mind if you talk about other stuff. I feel like I could learn alot from you.

I think the things you wrote about in your letter (about the development of the brain) was really interesting & kinda cool. I didn’t know the brain worked like that. I also didn’t know that the brain stops growing or developing at the age of 24.

I do know alot about Criminal Law & how the appeal process works, just based off the things that I read here in the law library. I try and read anything I can, even if it doesn’t pertain to my case. I love the law & all the legal stuff, and I would like to be an attorny someday if I could. They barely get any sleep, but besides that, I think it would be cool.

I should tell you that I spoke with my trial attorny about us writing each other. His name is “[name removed].” He was the attorny that took my case for free (pro-bono) & took me to trial, and even though I lost, he’s been in touch with me ever since. So he’s also a friend & someone that I really trust. I explained everything to him, just because I wanted his advice & I thought it was the best thing to do, considering that we really don’t know each other at all besides everything that we’ve wrote about. I don’t even know if your a male or female, you know? I have to be 100% sure that everything is legit, cause I would hate to really be emotionally invested into this, then find out that it wasn’t what I thought it was. You know what I mean? I hope you don’t feel offended or anything like that, cause it’s nothing that you said or done. I think you & your program is great. I just need to be certain that its legit just off the fact that I don’t know you or haven’t heard about your program. The only way to verify everything, was to reach out to [name removed].

The questions aren’t a problem at all, no matter how personal they are. If I ever feel uncomfortable I’ll let you know.

I’ll answer the questions in your most recent letter, but I cant continue to write until you speak to [name removed] & explain everything to him. He expressed some concern because he couldn’t find anything online about or connected to your web-site called ‘The one.’

This is something that I really want to be apart of, and that I think is great. But I have to be certain. I feel bad just by questioning whether or not your program is legit or not, and like I said, It’s nothing that you said or done. And I hope you don’t feel disrespected or offended in any way. But if you wanna continue to write, you can call [name removed] at [xxx-xxx-xxxx], Fax [xxx-xxx-xxxx]. And you can go to [website address removed]. Once you speak to him you can continue to write and we can pick up where we left off, cause I really think what your doing is great & I wanna be apart of it. The writing is also like therapy to me.

To answer your questions though; I think I was hard headed because I didn’t like authority that much, but I just always wanted to be out in the streets because I thought it was fun at the time. I thought sitting in the house was boring, and all of the other kids in the neighborhood were always out & about at all hours.

MY MOM KNEW WHAT THE STREETS COULD DO, AND SHE ALWAYS TRIED TO KEEP ME AWAY FROM IT. BUT ALOT OF KIDS MOMS DIDN’T CARE WHAT THEIR KIDS WERE DOING, SO THEY WERE ALWAYS OUT. I ALWAYS FELT LIKE I WAS MISSING OUT.

So I was hard-headed and left the house sometimes with out permission, thinking my mom wouldn’t find out & smoked weed & did all types of other things. Everything outside of my home seemed so interesting. Everything that all of the teens-grown ups were doing seemed cool. It didn’t matter if it was something good or bad, it all seemed exciting cause everyone was doing it.

I always followed my 21 yr old brother growing up, but I think that changed once I turned 11 & I was sent to the residential home I told you about. I kinda started to really find myself & learned how to think for myself. Does that make sense? I think I learned alot about myself being there, and I also learned alot & kinda became a different person from what I was before I got there. But I think by us being separated for an extended period of time is what really changed everything. I didn’t feel like I needed him the way I did before.

I WANTED TO BE A LEADER INSTEAD OF A FOLLOWER. I THINK BEING IN THE residential HOME REALLY TAUGHT ME THAT, BECAUSE ALOT OF THE KIDS THAT I LIVED IN THE residential HOME WITH LOOKED UP TO ME IN ALOT OF DIFFERENT WAYS.

Also, Once I left the residential home, I was always doing my own thing & hanging with my own group of friends & going to school. I lived with my mom, and my bro lived with my Gma in my old neighborhood.

It came to the point where he always needed me. And I feel bad cause I used to put him off to go hang with other people, because we were so different at that point. I used to fight his battles when ever he had problems with anyone, no matter how old they were because I love him. Hes my guy. He just did like a year & ½ in prison. He’s been out for a couple months. We keep in touch.

My older sister & I aint spoke in a min. I talked to her about 2 months ago. The prison was on lock-down, meaning no phones or nothing like that. Just 24 hr lockdown. But yeah, she is one of the main supporters that I have, besides one other person. I just want whats best for her. I really want her to go to college & become someone special in the world. Shes special to me, and thats all that really matters, but I just want her to be successful so she doesn't have to struggle & go through some of the things shes going through now.

My little sister is my baby though. I think about her everyday constantly, and I know I need to get out & be the big brother that she needs. Some of my last memories are of her falling asleep on my chest. Now shes really big & keeps growing.

My mom is doing pretty good. We don’t talk on the phone as much because it hurts her, and it hurts me to see her hurting. I write and talk to my sister by phone & check in on her, but its just too much for her sometimes. And when my situation isn’t constantly on her mind, she can focus & concentrate on her everyday life, and taking care of my little sister and helping with my 2 nephews. They all live together.

I HAVE TO STAY STRONG FOR ALL OF US. AS LONG AS THEY’RE GOOD, I CAN REALLY FOCUS ON THE APPEAL & EVERYDAY SURVIVAL. MY GOAL IS TO HOPEFULLY WIN ON THE APPEAL IN THE NEXT COUPLE MONTHS, HOPEFULLY WIN AT MY 2ND TRIAL, AND COME HOME & CONTINUE TO BRING MY FAMILY TOGETHER.

Some of the things my mom did to get me on the right path would be: She always tried to keep me out the streets, and prevent me from hanging with guys in the neighborhood, that she knew were trouble. But I always found a way. She always loved me, and even though we didn’t have much, she always tried to get me the things I wanted to keep me happy & out the streets. I think the biggest came when she moved me from [location removed] to [location removed] to a real nice neighborhood. But none of it ever worked cause I couldn’t stay away from [location removed]. I don’t think I can even explain why I was so addicted to my old neighborhood and all the negative things that go on. Living in [location removed] was so calm & peaceful, but my mindset couldn’t change. All I thought about was “how could I get to [location removed] & hang out.” Everything else seemed boring & just different. Too different.

I CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHY I THOUGHT & LIVED THE WAY I DID BACK THEN. I REMEMBER BEING SO SURE OF EVERYTHING I WAS DOING WHEN I WAS OUT, AND ALSO WHEN I WAS YOUNGER. BUT NOW I LOOK BACK & I FEEL STUPID & WISH THAT I’D DONE ALOT OF THINGS DIFFERENTLY, AND NOT DONE SOME THINGS AT ALL.

Alot of things I been through were probably good for me, even though it might not have seemed like it at the time.

I don’t think I loved one specific thing about the streets. I think it was more of living the fast life & feeling like I was grown. I really enjoyed feeling free, like I could do what ever I wanted. I seen that all my friends at school had it the complete opposite in their lives.

AND ITS NOT MY MOM’S FAULT CAUSE SHE DID EVERYTHING SHE COULD. BUT HAVING MONEY, AND WOMEN OF ALL AGES, USING DRUGS & DRINKING, IT ALL SEEMED BETTER THAN HAVING TO STAY IN THE HOUSE EVERYDAY, LIKE ANY REGULAR KIDS MY AGE. IT ALL BECAME NORMAL TO ME.

I think that if I wasn’t exposed to so many things that older people were doing, at such a young age, I would’ve been able to just be a kid that I was, instead of trying to copy everything that was going on around me.

At one point I got tired of all the B.S. & I wanted something better, because I did know right from wrong & I tried out for the football team my freshman year in high school, but I quit because I couldn’t resist the urge to go back to the fast life, no matter how hard I tried. The same thing happened my 8th grade year in junior high. I got tired of all of the stress B.S. that came with the streets, so I focused on school & I also tried out for the basketball team & I made it. But I had got into an altercation with someone, and I was suspended. At that point I ended up back in the streets and I quit the basketball team. I ended up coming back to the team, but only to quit again a couple days later. I couldn’t focus on anything but living the fast life. I knew the things I was doing weren’t right, but its like that didn’t matter.

The moment I questioned my choices was my freshman year in high school. I love basketball, and I told myself that I’m either gonna play ball & leave the streets alone before its too late, or I’m gonna continue to live the way I was living, and I chose to keep living the same because I wanted to continue to be viewed as cool, and to have all the girls & money & all of that. Because I felt that everyone already viewed me as a thug, which wasn’t a problem, cause in the area I’m from, smoking weed, gang banging & selling drugs is whats in. If you play ball & focus on school your considered a “lame.” And the “in” crowd don’t want to accept you. So for me to be known as being in the streets, then me going off to play basketball, I just didn’t think that would work. But that was just me. I was always so concerned about what people thought. But its not just the area that I used to live in that thinks being in the streets was cool. Lots of people from all kinds of background thought it was cool too.

EVEN THE KIDS IN THE REALLY NICE AREAS, THE KIDS THAT PLAYED BALL & WAS REALLY INTO SCHOOL & NEVER DONE ANY DRUGS BEFORE, HAD MONEY & GOOD PARENTS. THESE KIDS WANTED TO BE “THUGS” SO BAD.  AND ALL OF THE GIRLS WANTED TO DATE THE GUYS THAT WERE CONSIDERED THUGS.

The only way I could have been successful would have been to move away & start over. With the enemies I had, I wouldn't have been able to live a normal life unless I moved away because in order to make sure my family & I were safe, I feel like I have to have that street mind set to be able to think like other guys in the streets, and really be focused. But if I was to live a normal life, I would let all of that go. And just live a normal, peaceful life & not have to have my guard up all the time.

I know it may sound crazy, and its really hard for me to try & put it into words. Being locked up these past years, I feel like I've become a little bit slow. I can’t think straight the way I used to, my memory goes away really fast, and I can be thinking about something in my head, but when I try & explain it verbally, Its very hard sometimes. I was never like that when I was out. My brain seemed very sharp when I was out, now it seems like its getting worse & worse.

I don’t think the way I used to. I only think of positive things now. I don’t have that, “street-mentality” anymore, and in a way it makes me feel weak-minded, especially in this environment. I can’t go back even if I tried though. But I’m 7 hrs away from my old life, and I know it wouldn’t be this easy if I was out. Because I felt like a normal kid when I was at the residential home, and I wanted to be in the NBA, but the first day I got home, I sold my first bag of crack. But this is different and I’ve grown so much. I’m ready to start over & live a good life and chase my dreams.

My dad was struggling with using heroine. He wasn't around as much, so I can’t really say what other problems he had. I know he stayed in jail. And my mom kept putting him out. But he was addicted to heroine, so I’m guessing he was out, doing what ever he could to get money to get high. He started using at a really young age. I knew my mom really loved him at one point. They were never married, but were together for 14 yrs or something like that.

I LOVE HIM TO THIS DAY. I NEVER BLAMED HIM. I UNDERSTAND. AT LEAST I THINK I DO. I CAN TELL HE REALLY LOVED ME & MY SIBLINGS. HE USED TO CRY WHEN MY MOM USED TO PUT HIM OUT, OR WHEN SHE WOULDN'T LET HIM IN THE HOUSE. I WILL ALWAYS VIEW HIM AS MY FATHER, BUT I’M NOT SURE IF HE IS ACTUALLY MY BIOLOGICAL DAD.

I found out when I was 9 yrs old, I was told by my mom that my real dad was shot & killed. He sold alot of drugs & was robbed & killed over several tens of thousands of dollars. He was shot & tossed out of a car in the middle of the night. My mom got a call early in the AM. Even though he sold drugs, he wasn't in any gangs, and from what I heard, he was a good person & was loved by everyone. Everyone was shocked that it happened to him. His name was Dre also. He died when I was real young. I think I was like 4 or something. My mom was dating him & the father that raised me at the same time.

Everyone knew that the guy who raised me wasn’t my real dad, but my mom pushed my real dad out of our lives because she was in love with the guy who raised me. His name is [name removed]. I will always call [name removed] my dad. He always told me, that no matter what, never call anyone else my dad & that he loved me. Even though I never met my real dad, it hurts to think about how he died. My mom told me that he always tried to be apart of my life, she just didn’t let him. I’m kinda glad she did that cause I can only imagine how it would feel to know that my dad was taken away from me and we were actually really close. But then again, I can’t even remember that far back. But its something I would’ve had to deal with growing up. My mom wouldn’t have been able to hide it. My sister overheard my mom talking about it, then she told me & I asked my mom. I really didn’t understand everything then, but now I actually care alot more & wanna know more about him & meet my other sister and that side of my family, if a DNA test proved that I’m his son. You know?

Not having a dad growing up wasn’t that bad. I never had a real dad growing up, so not having one all together isn’t really a difference. There’s plenty of single moms in [location removed]. But if I had a dad that was there 100% of the time, and was actually a father, I doubt I would have been doing all the things I was doing, and I’ll be out right now. But I don’t really like “what ifs.” I can only focus on the future right?

But to answer your question, I do think if [name removed] was around more I would have chosen a different path. I can remember when I was real young, maybe 6 or 7,  and he bought me a small plastic basketball rim, and that’s when I discovered my passion for basketball. Every since that day, I’ve been crazy about basketball. But the streets took me away from it now I wish I could get out & play more than anything.

I love the Bulls & Derrick Rose is my favorite player in the world & probably the best player on earth in my opinion. Watching him play takes my mind off of everything and motivates me to try harder to get out. And also continue to try & be positive. But no, I never looked at any of my other friends as father figures.

I NEVER FELT LIKE I NEEDED A FATHER AND TO BE HONEST, WHEN I WAS IN THE STREETS. I DIDN’T REALLY CARE. NOW I WISH I HAD A FATHER FIGURE. NOT TO KEEP ME OUT OF TROUBLE BUT JUST TO SEE WHAT ITS LIKE. I SEE IT ON T.V. ALL THE TIME, BUT NEVER IN REALITY, YOU KNOW?

The things I did to try & fit in were things like: Trying not to be childish, because no one wanted to be hanging with “kids.” So I tried to get on their level mentally. I observed alot & didn’t say much. I studied them & how they carried their self & dealt with certain situations, being anything from dangerous situations to the way they interacted with older women. And if it felt right, I just did the same things. But if I thought a person’s character wasn’t right I also payed attention to them too, so I know how to deal with shady people. And that’s how it started. I didn’t smile much cause everyone thought they were a bad ass, and if you joked around too much, you weren’t taken serious. People respected you by your character & how you carried your self. I wanted to be taken serious & be respected, and I never really smiled much & was always aware of everything going on around me & was always serious because the guys that I’ve seen with that type of character always had respect & also [...] Carried their self the right way, in my eyes. They took care of their families, dressed nice, they seemed like they knew what they wanted & always went and got it. So I tried to copy that, and that’s how I became. I never talked that much, and I was always serious & never smiled much or joked around that much.

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