“In the first full calendar year after their release, only 55 percent reported any earnings, with the median earnings being $10,090. Of those with earnings, 4 percent earned less than $500, 32 percent earned between $500 and $15,000, and only 20 percent earned more than $15,000.” There are many studies available focusing on work opportunities post incarceration and the common theme of them all is, there aren’t many options and the cost of a decent living exceeds the wages offered. Impacted individuals fighting to keep their back off the ropes in a society that is seemingly setup to perpetuate recidivism has been the downfall of many due to the lack of resources and second chances. One day while treating myself to a “working lunch”, I hear a males voice over my airpods say, “Excuse me ma’am, are you working?” I looked up and saw a nice looking man, groomed, and I could tell he frequents the restaurant as he was familiar with the staff. I answered, “ Yes, I am actually.” He inquired about what I was working on. I explained what I was working on briefly then, went a little further in depth explaining Pure Justice as a nonprofit, where it is based, and the organizations why. I’ve never seen someone smile so bright when I spoke about my work. He said, “Wow, I’m so glad to hear you say that. Would you like to hear a story?” I’m normally laser focused while I’m working and it could have been how he approached interrupting me but something prompted me to remove my second airpod and listen.
Courtney Peace is this gentlemen’s name, a Dallas native, and like many other men of color, had made a mistake that cost him 11 years of his life. However, he was fortunate to not only reintegrate into society successfully, I think it is safe to say that he superseded expectations. By the end of our conversation I learned that he is an artist that paints beautifully with his fingers, a skill that afforded him commissary while incarcerated. I learned that getting on his feet after serving his time was difficult but a couple of lucky trips to the casino presented him with opportunity. He could have done anything with 100k, squandered it quickly and been back at square one (like so many of us) yet, he started a trucking company and grew it then sold it. This year 2022, marked his 11th year free and at that very moment of me meeting him, I learned that I had just met the only black man in Texas with his own alkaline water company (MajiPure)! I was given a case of water and I have been supporting him since.
Our conversation left me thinking about the millions of other felons, who in order to do better than just survive and remain free, creating their own lane is the way to go. Not everyone aspires to be an entrepreneur but, who aspires to work for inadequate wages? I have conversed with many people who have been impacted and the difference between the ones who rise above the systemic traps and those continuously falling victim to them is the change in mindset. One thing that has proven to be certain in any situation, impacted or not impacted, is when one is determined to move forward, take accountability, make no excuses, and (as my best friend likes to say) stay down until you come up, at some point there will be rewards to reap. That is the formula. It will not be easy and if we take just one token of inspiration from the one of the most oppressed groups of our time, enslaved African-American’s, it should be this, when all of the odds are stacked against you it’s time to get creative and arm yourself with knowledge. I summed up Courtney’s story but I want to remind all who are reading, it took him the same amount of time he put into the system to get to the point that he is at today, 11 years! Years of reading, researching, trials, errors, and putting in work. He approached his second chance with vigorous determination worth much more than a round of applause. So, while he was happy to have met someone who works in a field that spoke to him and his experiences and by me being that someone in the field I was ecstatic to have met someone who is the epitome of who and what we are fighting for.
Written By: Sharia Legette
To find out more or purchase Maji Pure water: http://majipure.com/
To find out more about Courtney Peace as an artist: http://courtneypeacetheartist.com/