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The following message was prepared for the youth group who meets with sister Mica Battle and several other adult church mentors who are part of Just Released Ministries in Chicago, Illinois.
This message was read on June 12, 2010 when the teens and young persons gathered at the Cabrini-Green housing projects for a Bible study. Mica Battle and these adult mentors also tutor the kids with their school work.
Stay Strong & Stick It Out
Hello everybody! This is Brother David from New York. In case you don't remember me, a few months ago you watched my short film called THE CHOICE IS YOURS. I am still in prison. It's been thirty-three years since I was arrested and the prison bars slammed shut behind me. I still remember my first day. The judges who sentenced me gave me many life sentences. I deserved it. And there have been many years of sorrow, suffering, misery, and regret, all of which I brought upon myself. But, thankfully, Christ came into my life. I am still locked up. But now I have a reason to get up in the morning. Today, thanks to Jesus, I am a man with hope who loves to help and encourage people, and this is what I do.
I am very grateful for all your letters. I read every single one of them, many times. It meant a lot to hear from you. Thanks! You see, your lives are precious to me, and to God. I was inspired by your responses to the film. And while a few of you didn't care for the movie too much, that's okay. The film was not produced to entertain anybody, but to help make it plain to everyone, especially to young persons, to make the right choices in life.
Now, with my greetings out of the way, let's get down to business. I need to remind you, and maybe you never even realized this before, but people like sister Mica and those who work with her in the ministry, are trying hard to save your lives from pain and destruction. They're trying to keep you from coming to jail or from ending up in the graveyard. Mica and her church group want to point you down the right road, which is Jesus Christ. He is the right road.
Brothers and sisters, this is for real. I'm not lying to you. Mica knows, like I do, how easy it is to get into trouble - big trouble - and we don't want this to happen to you. Rather we want you to be happy, to live good lives, and to be successful. And, keeping it real, our jails and youth detention centers, as well as our graveyards are filled with teenagers your age. So me and Mica, and the brothers and sisters from her church, are fighting for you. Yes, we are fighting in prayer for your souls. We're asking God to watch over you, and help and protect you. None of us want Satan to destroy you and steal your souls. We care!
I also want to say that prison is about nothing. It's not like what you see on television. Prison is a mix of killers, rapists, robbers, burglars, drug dealers and dope fiends, gang bangers and wannabe gangstas. It's really a world of lost and lonely souls.
In the so called "Big House" we live in cages like birds and zoo animals. Many of us live in fantasy worlds of our own making, too. In here guys try to convince each other that they're big shots in crime. We dream that we are mastermind drug kingpins and pimps. It's all an illusion and a lie. Truthfully, jail is for fools. And I was a big fool, myself. So I know what I'm writing and talking about.
In here you will find many men who swear they were rolling in dough (money) on the streets. That they controlled their "hood" and had the streets locked down. But now they don't have a penny to their names. I know this because sometimes one of them will come and ask me for a postage stamp so he could write a letter home to his momma. Meanwhile, as he's talking, I'm thinking to myself, "Yo, dude, where's all this money you claim to have? Where's the millions of dollars and all the chicks you boasted of having?" The truth is, I know he's about nothing.
Not only this, but when you come to prison people start to forget about you. In time friends move on with their lives and family members begin to die off. You find yourself alone. You cry into your pillow at night. And the years pass and you grow old. The strong man who first came to the Big House is now old and gray. You come into the system as a young jitterbug, and then you wonder where the years went to. I'm living the reality of this now.
So the truth is, crime aint worth it. Crime only pays off for the police. Think about what I'm saying. They make their living chasing you down and locking you up. Remember, they always win, and if you live as a criminal, you will always lose. I'm keeping it real, and you know it. The police get a pay check. You get prison.
Therefore, please take heed to what I am saying, and to what sister Mica and your Bible teachers have been telling you. Give your life to Jesus Christ and ask Him to forgive you of all your sins. Ask God to help you to become strong in your faith, and don't be ashamed to talk with the Lord. He loves you.
In addition, you may not like to hear what I am going to say, but do your best to get yourself an education. Rather than picking up a gun, pick up a book. Make a promise to yourselves, and say these words: "I am going to read my school books no matter how long it takes me. With God's help I am going to finish school. And if I fail a class, I will take it again and again until I get a passing grade. Because I have God on my side, I am not going to quit. I can do this and more through Jesus Christ who is giving me the strength." This is my advice.
My little brothers and sisters, please stay close to God. Stay in church. Stick it out. Ask the Lord to help you to understand the Bible. And if you don't understand something, just ask sister Mica or another Christian.
Well this is all for now. If I could, I wish I could meet you and give each of you a big hug. You're precious. You're important. Make your lives count for good. Believe me, you will never regret making good choices. Stay strong. And again, I say, stick it out. Don't quit church. Don't quit school. Don't mess up and come to prison. Bye.
Written in love and hope,
Brother David Berkowitz
Also, see David's October 2011 journal - Stop the Violence!
And Son of Sam/Son of Hope