These past couple of years has been a struggle and that’s saying a lot looking back at my life. See if you let it prison will drag you down deeper in the hole you already started in. The reality of it is that it’s relentless in keeping you in a state of limbo. To cope most spend their time playing cards, dominos, working out, or anything they can use as a distraction from the time. At first my distraction was playing poker, drinking prison wine, smoking and selling weed, and a little loansharking. Really no different than when I was out shooting dice, smoking weed, drinking, and selling crack. The only thing that really changed was that I couldn’t have sex. I took programs occasionally for something to do and get out of the building. But there was no ambition or thought there to use this time wisely to better myself. My second distraction was to play RPGs, a book game called pathfinder. It was time consuming, kept me out of trouble and my mind always thinking about problem solving opposed to causing problems. Even though now I moved on from that I took a lot from it without even realizing it.
To me prison has become abstract, everything I see in here is a way to draw your attention away from moving forward in life. Even to you out there it draws your attention away from seeing us as human beings. We can agree that prison is a place in our society where we send people deemed unfit for society. Though does that mean that over time that person can’t become fit to be reintroduced into it?
Though we are limited in the things we can do and have when it comes to being inside these walls. Like how much time we are allowed out of our cells to shower, use the phones, etc. Or how much and what type of property we can personally have. We are not limited to our thoughts and ideas, that’s all us.
There’s a saying here, “Do the time don’t let the time do you.” In my twenties it just sounded like a cool thing to say. Later over the years I started to understand the meaning. You must stay grounded and mentally sound in here, if not the time will do you. You’ll become institutionalized, you become comfortable with being here and take stock in the things prison has to offer, as little as that may be. It becomes your real estate, more of a home than home will ever be. And the worst thing about it is people don’t even realize it.
Although our thoughts and ideas are our own the real struggle arrives when it comes to a point to do something with those ideas. Reaching beyond the confines of these walls and actively doing something worth doing. To me art is worth doing. Prison presents it’s own obstacles but I quickly overcame those. I can still use the mail, still use the phone and can send or receive emails through Jpay.com. I said in an interview communication is the key so you have to use what you’ve got.
My struggle is finding how to show my art the way I want it shown. To get it in front of you to show you the beauty that can come from these walls if cultivated. This wasn’t easy it took sacrifice, choosing not to go to commissary for food to invest in my art instead and going hungry some nights. I’ve spent over a thousand dollars searching to get it right, testing different prison assistant companies cause I don’t have that type of support from family or friends. So to get things done I had to rely on strangers. I don’t see the money that I’ve spent as a waste, more like an opportunity of learning and growth. Out of all of the money that I’ve spent a nonprofit organization called The Justice Arts Coalition helped me the most lead by Wendy Jason. Not in just what they’ve done but simply their morale support. People don’t realize even that can ad fuel to a person’s drive.
I’m not out of the hole of my struggles but I’m always making progress. Can’t let nothing stop my climb.
I’m the artist R.Zumar and this is The Becomings of a Master.
Artwork: Struggle to Climb