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Beyond the Concrete Grave
By Melvin Robertson, Prisonersolidarity.org
June 8, 2006

Greetings Members and Readers,

I’d like to start off by thanking all who have made it possible for me to express myself through Prisonersolidarity. I’m sure that this interaction will educate and inform people on a productive scale and I’m elated to play a part.

My name is Melvin Robertson. I’m 33 years old and have been incarcerated for 15 years. As a man I admit my wrongs, but will opt here to discuss something other than the details pertaining to my case. In short, my case is no different than that of any other prisoner in the world. We’ve all had life lessons that resulted in such consequences. I want to tell you briefly about my journey, and about an end result that speaks of success.

When the Judge banged that gavel after handing down my sentence I was in shock. I got back to the holding cell and cried. I shed enough tears for a hundred people in that first half hour. However, before I left that holding cell I told myself that I would NEVER shed another tear as a result of being incarcerated. Those words were a turning point for me. I didn’t know then that, with them, I’d called the mental and emotional strength into existence that would carry me through the pitfalls a prisoner encounters within this concrete grave. It was the strength that would enable me to rise above this place of dehumanization and misdirection.

It wasn’t easy. Being 18 years old, coming straight out of the ghettos of Cleveland, Ohio, I had no instruction to guide me. Just as I had done in the free world, in prison I conducted myself in response to what I saw in this new society. My acts were the result of desperation. For I knew, right off, that the strong survived and the weak perished in this world of souls filled with lost hope. I would do whatever it took to survive, and I refused to be a victim. I spent my first few years just going with the flow. I was constantly in trouble. At the time, I didn’t think it was trouble, though. You put a teenage boy in a world with the worst criminals in our state and introduce him indirectly to every personality imaginable to man, and you top that off with mistrust, theft, stabbings, rape, and near death experiences of his own, and you sit back and watch him adopt an “I don’t care” type of attitude. You forget what you once knew. The prison’s 20 minute “alternatives to violence” program doesn’t mean much when you are in a 23 hour and 40 minute program that shows you nothing but violence. My point is this: If we were better listeners half of the people that walk into this concrete grave would never have done so. Just as society didn’t do enough for them before, the judicial system doesn’t either. I’m not making excuses for myself, or anyone, but if we are bred out of society and are viewed as monsters, then what does that make society as a whole? Our problems start long before prison, but that doesn’t mean that one should give up on me because I encountered a life lesson.

It took a while for my family, girlfriend and friends to catch a bad case of “out of sight, out of mind,” but when it happened doing time became that much harder. It occurred at a time when I was really trying to turn my life around. It was about the same time that they discontinued the college Pell Grant and I was kicked out of college. People in the free world were actually arguing that a convict should not be able to go to college for free since their own children and loved ones had to pay tuition. Don’t they understand why the repeat offender rate is so high in our state? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather see an ex-convict as a doctor, lawyer or teacher after leaving prison, rather than a murderer, rapist or thief. Even most of our families don’t realize the significance of a letter that takes five minutes to write, twice a month, or a visit every three months or so. Such acts of love, which are null and void inside these walls, would create an epidemic of positive change. Everyone has flaws in their walk, but to make it harder for those that can’t quite get it right makes US just as wrong as them, no matter what the crime. I can get extremely profound with this message, but I won’t deter from my initial point.

It doesn’t matter that you fall. It’s how you land. Keep your head up so that you can see how to stand up again. Life is meant to live. In order to live you must survive. To survive, you must learn, and it doesn’t hurt to learn from others as well. Reaching beyond this concrete grave is highly attainable. I learned this when my transition from boy to man took flight while serving 2 years in solitary confinement (a place I like to refer to as a Chinese puzzle box). It took years to really see what I was up against, and I desperately needed a better path. I started reading everything. Inspiration and motivation to live a better life erupted from those mediums. I began writing songs, raps, novels and movie scripts to escape reality, because I was really on the verge of losing my sanity. In the process of becoming a better person, who sought a better life, I met someone who sprinkled me with love. I started loving myself because I knew that this is what it took to love them back. Love is something I never really knew up until that point, and it was the mystical emotion that influenced an even greater change. I started submitting my writing to publishing houses and recording studios. It seemed like everyone told me “No,” primarily because I was a prisoner. Then, one day, I knocked on the door of a publishing house and they answered the door with praise for my works. I didn’t get a literary agent or intellectual properties attorney to assist me. I didn’t want to risk being rejected or taken advantage of, so I studied the business and negotiated my own contract. I’m not the kind of person who deals with something that I don’t understand. I write about entertainment but there is a positive message in all that I write. My first book release is entitled Double Dose and can be purchased at any book store come March 13, 2006. There is even talk about a film deal and an HBO exclusive. I even have people interested in building a recording studio for me, after hearing a few music tracks I created while in prison. In the next year or so you’ll be able to read many of my novels.

It’s been a long journey but, as a man, no one can tell me I’m just a number and will never amount to anything. No one can tell me that I’m already dead and just haven’t lain down yet. I’m due to be released shortly. Finally, after all this time. 15 years. It’s a thin line between sanity and insanity when the odds are stacked against anyone in life. You can still make it though. You just have to fight a little harder. My testimony is proof that there is a better life after such a harsh lesson. From the depths of this concrete grave I reached out in search of a better life and grabbed hold of something far greater than I ever imagined. You can too, no matter what the trial or tribulation. Today, I no longer view myself as Melvin Robertson, the inmate. Today, I’m Melvin Robertson, a successful published author and aspiring businessman. Today, I’m Melvin Robertson with a testimony that ANYTHING is possible.

If you’d like to correspond with me about more on my journey, write to:

Melvin Robertson, #255-104
P.O. Box 120
Lebanon, OH 45036

I thank you for taking the time and consideration to read this. If my testimony alters one person’s road in life, I would be extremely happy. Take care of yourself and never give up!

You may contact Melvin Robertson directly by writing to him at the address listed above. The following link offers tips for writing to prisoners: http://prisonersolidarity.org/TipsForWritingPrisoners.htm

!! FRESH OFF THE PRESS !!
Double Dose ( Melvin Robertson: Teri Woods Publishing, 2006)

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