The day was finally here, I cleaned my cell spotless and placed most of my Personal belongings into two boxes, just in case I went to the Adjustment Center which is another name for the prison „Hole“. I wasn’t worried about Going to the hole, I had been in the hole many times in my life, since Juvenile Hall days, and prison. I had an objective to fulfil.
I took my freshly starched state prison jeans and shirt from under my Mattress. I didn’t have real starch, my starch consisted ofhot water mixed With sugar in asprat bottle. The pants and shirt looked as if they had been Cleaned and pressed at the cleaners. The hot water and sugar worked good.
As long as I didn’t get caught in the rain, ifthat happen I would be in a Sticky situation.
I had been sleeping on the clothing for the last two months anticipating This special day of October 11. On this day seven years ago, my daughter Akilah Kesi was born. I was incarcerated when Akilah‘ s mother was three Months pregnant. It was the worst feeling lever experienced, not being There for Akilah and my now-ex woman. Akilah was too young to a degree To understand that her Daddy was on Death Row.
I chose her names, names that represented her character and nature to the Fullest. Akilah is a Arabic name which means: intelligent, one who reasons;
And Kesi is a Swahili word name meaning: „Born when her father was in Trouble.“
It had been at least six months since I had last seen Akilah. I wasn’t Involved her mother, so Janette, Akilah’s mom didn’t take the time to bring Akilah to visit me. Janette, thought that she was hurting me by denying Me the opportunity to see my daughter – but in reality it was hurting Akilah just as much. Her behavior was infantile – she was trying her best to Break off any father – daughter bond between uso This was strictly done Because ofher personal feelings towards me. She was still blaming me for Not being around for them. Janette fails to realize though that I didn’t Exactly fill out an application for Death Row. I was only a product of my Social and physical environment and fell into the traps of the false Conception of life.
I laid out my clothing on my bed like I use to do the night before school in My old school days. I made sure everything was just right, I had shinned My state issued boots every night for the last week. I could see my Reflection on the brown leather of the boots. After doing a full inspection of My attire, I was content with the outcome. I started looking at the pietures Of Akilah that my mother had sent me over the years. Akilah was a carbon Copy of myself in a little girl form. Whenever I feIt down because of the stress of being a captive of Death Row, I would looked at all those pietures, pray, and meditate. I always feIt at peace after these three stress relieving remedies.
There are no real words that can express the love and devotion I feel for my daughter. She was the good that came out of my life, which hasn’t been a very promising story. I S<;lW a new beginning ofmy life through the eyes of my daughter. I saw the seigneurs characteristics she possessed. I believe she will accomplish remarkable things for her people in the struggle, she was going to have the opportunity to have anything she desired.
Once upon a time I, too, had entertained those some visions, thinking I could be anything Iwanted to be. I use to believe that I was going to be the President one day. That was when I was in the fourth grade and totally unconscious of the fact that there had been a black president or vice president in the United States.
My thought tracing my memories of my past where interrupted when I heard my last name announced over the intercom. They were announcing my visit. The time had finally come, I brushed my teeth for the second time before the correctional officer arrived at my cell to escort me to my visit.
„How are you“doing, Mr. Davis?“, the female correctional officer asked. „I’m doing alright, Officer Long“, I replied. „And may I inquire ofyour status of being, Ms. Long? It looks like life is still treating you correct. I like your new hair style.“
“ Mr. Davis, I am doing weIl, and I am happy to see your in a joyful mood today.“ “ l‘ m always in a mellow mood everytime I see your jazzy self, you know you be looking good. It‘ s a blessing for me to see you, your hair is always looking proper, your nails are beautiful, and I can’t tell you what that fragrance does, is it Gardenia? And to top it all off, you have those beautiful eyes.“
„Mr. Davis you wouldn’t be flirting with me, would you?“ Smiling back at Officer Long, in the same fashion she was smiling at me, I replied, „I wouldn’t call it flirting Ms. Long, 1’mjust acknowledging your beauty, so you won’t stop bringing a radiance ofjoy to my small space, with your fine Nubian self. If only things were different!
“ Officer Long was one of the few correctional officers that treated prisoners as humans. She knew I was flirting with her indirecHy. She had let out an even bigger smile without responding, there was really no need to. I related to her as a black man would relate to a black woman, without stepping out of bounds for the sake of her job responsibilities.
After I had fmished dressing I had placed ten photos tickets in my shirt pocket. I was ready to see my baby girl and bring back some memories ofus together. Officer Long handcuffed me and escorted me to the visiting room holding cage. I spoke to a few of my friends on the way to my visit, they all could tell I was happy.
I was placed into the holding cage num,ber 2. There were three holding cages in that area. All the prisoners had to strip and be searched before and after their visits. I stripped out of my clothing for a male correctional officer. Female’officers were not suppose to strip search male prisoners, but sometimes they would do it anyway.
After getting naked as a new born baby I placed all my clothing and boots through a hole in the holding cage door. The male correctional officer searched my clothing first, then my boots. I went through the ritual ofthe strip procedure, raising my arms, running my hands through my hair, pulling down my lower lip, raising my upper lip, sticking out my tongue and then raising my testicles. The rest of this ritual of inspection required me to turn with my back to the correctional officer. I lifted both of my feet, then was required to do three squats while coughing. The fmal part, probably the most degrading, I had to spread my buttocks. This was very degrading but for woman who are incarcerated it is even more humiliating. The ritual wa~. complete – I got dressed.
Once I was dressed I asked the officer would he place me in another holding cage, so I could use the toilet. The one I was in didn’t have toilet or sink. I didn’t really have to use the toilet – I just wanted an opportunity to wash my hands after being strip searched. I had just touched all parts ofmy body, and though I was clean from showering that morning, I didn‘ t want to go into the visiting room and touch my loved ones and eating with hands I considered to the containminated.
I knew that if I had just asked the officer, if I could wash my hands, he would come up with some lame excuse to deny placing me in the other holding cage. I knew which correctional officers were alright and which ones weren’t, and this one wasn’t cool.
I was handcuffed for the second time that day, then placed in the holding cage with the toilet and sink. I used the toilet first, forcing myself to urinate. When I fmished and flushed the toilet I started washing my hands standing to the left side of the toilet. I was indirectly looking at the correctional officer who had just placed me into the holding cage. Once I saw his back was turned, I made my move – I took out two small pieces of plastic I had lodged in the corners of my mouth by my upper wisdom teeth. I quickly put both pieces of plastic in my left front pocket. Then I got a drink of water and washed my hands again. I had done it, that had been my main concern, now I could enjoy my visit with my daughter.
I was cuffed again to be let out of the holding cage. I walked about your feet and went through a security door hallway leading to the visiting room. The correctional officer closed the security door I backed up to the slot in the door to be unhandcuffed. Yes, San Quentin made Death Row prisoners have the least physical contact with correctional officers and other staff as possible. It wasn’t always like this, I had heard stories before ~y arrival on Death row that prisoners used to be uncuffed when they came out of their cells, but that all changed so prisoners could have typewriters. The prisoners were given a choice ofbeing allowed out oftheir cells without handcuffs or be given the opportunity to buy personal typewriters.
The prisoners sold out for the typewriters, they were not conscious of the fact that they were setting themselves up for more harassment by correctional officers knowing that we would always be handcuffed before we came out of our cells. l‘ ve heard some officers make some harsh statements to prisoners and myself – knowing that we had no way of making physical contact with them. One correctional officer, named Taylor, told a prisoner after a verbal exchange ofwords, „That’s why your wife is going to need someone to keep her bed warm once they execute you. And I am going to be there for her, and don’t think I don’t have her address, I pass out the maiI.“
I was buzzed through the last door of the security aisle leading to the visiting room. Akilah knew which door I would be coming through and was waiting her to greet me. She ran into my arms, I picked her up and kissed her on her check. This was the warmest welcome I could get. I couldn’t truly express my emotions or love I feit for my baby girl, it was too deep. Akilah was my salvations and kept me going from one day to the next.
I carried Akilah still in my arms over to the check in booth, where I gave a female correctional officer my name, letting her know I had finally arrived for my visit. Akilah directed my over to the area where my sister Rhonda was sitting. The visiting room was so crowed I hadn’t seen Rhonda when I first walked into the visiting room. I put Akilah down to embrace and kiss my sister. I told Rhonda how much I appreciated her bringing Akilah to see Iile today. Rhonda had already bought a variety of food from the vending machines located on the right side of the visiting room. She had purchased Burritos, Cheeseburgers, Bar-B-Que hot wings, sodas and different candles.
I told Akilah, „Happy Birthday!“ I asked her what she got for her birthday?
I listened as Akilah told me about the different presents she had received. But she didn’t get the bicycle and rollerblades she wanted.
I knew she wanted a bike and those skates. I could see the disappointment in her eyes. I told her not to worry, she would get her bike and skates soon. She smiled at me flashing her pretty light brown eyes – they were just like mine.
„Daddy, do you want to play checkers?“, Akilah asked.
“ Yes, 1’11 play with you Akilah go get the checkers and board.“
While Akilah went to get the checkers, I told Rhonda I wanted her to take Akilah shopping after they left visiting and buy her a bike and some roller blades. Rhonda looked at me saying,“ And just what am I suppose to use for money?“
I told her don’t sweat that, Akilah will have some money. My sister looked at me knowing I had something in the mix. She knew no matter what the circumstances were I would be industrious, it was my nature and the way of life I was groomed into my entire life.
Akilah returned with some chess pieces and the board saying,“ Daddy they don’t have any checkers, what are these pieces?“ I told her they were chess pieces, then asked her did she want to leam how tO’play chess?
Akilah answered with some excitement in her voice,“ Yes, Daddy.“
I set up all the pieces naming them as I did it, I showed Akilah how the knight moved in a „L“ shape, how he pones moved forward, unless they were taking apiece and then I explained the Queen, the most powerful piece on the board. Then I had her name all the pieces, which she did on her first try. This didn’t surprise me, Akilah represented her name to the fullest.
I continued showing Akilah how to play chess, while my sister went to heat up the food in one of the two microwave ovens in the visiting room. Akilah told me about school, how she was doing in gymnastics and her Ti K won Doe c1ass. She was very energetic, just like I had been at that age, I had also taken up both arts.
When Rhonda arrived back with the food we stopped playing chess to eat. I told Rhonda I was thinking about composing some novels while I was incarcerated in order to attempt to help the youngsters, so they wouldn‘ t end up in prison or dead. There was too many youth caught up in the penal system already. I knew my own story could help save someone. Rhonda thought it was a good idea and encouraged me to pursue my vision.
When we finished eating we went and took some photos, Akilah and 1. Rhonda stayed at the table to continue eating. The picture line was already long, Akilah and I went to the end of the line. While we were waiting I squatted down to be face to face with Akilah.
“ Akilah, Daddy is going to tell you sqmething but you can’t tell no one but Auntie Rhonda, okay?“ I said with a serious laughter in my voice.
„Okay, Daddy“, Akilah replied, with a smile on her face.
“ Can you keep a secret Akilah?“ again with a serious but loving tone.
She smiled, again nodding her head in a yes manner.
„Now you got to be slick Akilah. So Daddy won’t get in trouble with the police.“ She smiled, saying,“ I can be slick, Daddy.“
I said,“ Ok, now don’t do anything, just listen carefully, your left pants pocket, I’m going to put something in it. But don’t move, or take it out of your pocket until you and your Auntie Rhonda get in her car, okay? Akilah smiled again, then asked me in a low curious voice, Daddy what is it?
I’m going to put some money in your pocket Akilah, so you can get you a bike and those roller blades you wanted. “ Akilah, sometimes your momma can’t get you everything you want for your birthday and Christmas. She does the best to provide for you. l‘ m not home to help your momma, and you got to help momma and daddy both by keeping on getting those good report cars and doing well in your gymnastics and Ti-Kwon-Doe dass. You know we love you very much.“
Akilah asked me, how much money was I going to put in her pocket? I had to laugh, she was only seven, an already conscious of the value of money. „Two hundred dollars „, I replied. She let a bigger smile come to her face.
„This money is yours Akilah, you don’t have to spend it all in one day. The money is going to have plastic over it and if s folded up real smalI.“ I told her.
I looked around the visiting room to make sure no one was watching me.
When I saw the coast was dear I reached into my left pants pocket grabbing the tow, one hundred dollar bills and quickly stuck them into Akilah’s pocket. I told her to make sure the money is stuck deepley in her pocket, so she wouldn’t lose it.
I stood back up as Akilah stuck her her hand in her pocket, then brought it out quickly. She was happy and it showed on her face by her smile and the sparkle in her eyes. We had just established another band between us.
We moved up in the line as people get their pictures taken. The visiting room had a background painted on the wall with trees, birds and a waterfall, this was a display of artristy by prisoners in San Quentin. This was the photo area and we were only allowed to take four pietures per visit. Sometimes if a friend wasn’t going to take his pietures, I could get more than four photos taken. That was just what I needed to happen today. When we got to the front of the line, I noticed a guy named Dwayne had only taken two photos with his wife and two sons. I asked Dwayne if I could rake the two photos he didn’t take? He replied,“ Sure knock yourself out.“
I handed the correctional Officer six photos tickets for the pictures. Akilah and I took six different poses for each pieture. When we finished taking the pietures we went back over to Rhonda. I kept two of the six pietures and let Akilah keep the others. I told Rhonda that Akilah had two hundred dollars. Rhonda gave me one of her looks as if saying,“ Boy! You still haven’t learned your lesson yet.“ Which wasn’t really the case, I had to take certain risk to make sure I could provide the little things that my daughter needed and desired.
I kissed and hugged Akilah and Rhonda as the visit ended. I was filled with a radiance of joy in the midst of the storm I was in.
Within moments I found myself repeating the ritual of an untrusted and thought to be unworthy individual. I had to go through the same stripping procedure again before I was escorted back to my cell.
When I arrived back at my cell I sat on the bed and begin taking off my visiting clothes, smiling to myself. I sat the two pietures of Akilah and myself on my light cello Then I started to unpack my personal items I had packed that morning before my visit. I had packed my personal belongings incase I had gotten caught trying to take the money into the visiting room. If I had been revealed I would have been taken to the „Hole“ for at least six months to a year. But it was a chance I was willing to take to make my daughters birthday happy, even if it was with material items. Just because I was on Death Row didn’t change ma obligations to my daughter as a father.
I still had morals I had to teach her, and instill a sense of consciousness in her about her ancestors. There were many things that I was responsible for that no schoel was ever going to teach her.
I was teaching her to strive for the best and never settle for less than she wanted or deserved.
Two weeks after the visit with my sister and daughter, I got a letter at mail call from Akilah. I sat on my bed as I started to read the letter. It was written with a red color crayon, typical for a seven year old, in large letters.
„Dear Daddy, I had fun visiting you on my birthday. I can’t wait to see you again. I hung the picture we took together on my wall in my bedroom. I get to look at them everyday. Thank you for my birthday presents. Auntie Rhonda took me shopping after we left from visiting you. Daddy, I got my bike, roller blades and some clothes. 1’11 be happy when you come horne Daddy. I miss you so very much Oh yeah, still haven’t told anyone about oUf secret. I love you Daddy.“
Love your daughter
Akilah xx oo
I stayed on the bed a long time, in the same position, and kept re-reading Akilah’s letter. It felt good that I had succeeded in bringing my daughter joy on her birthday. Even while on Death Row. It‘ s like that old saying,“ parenting is a life time job „, a job that I will always do my best to honor, no matter where I’m at. Now that I had achieved that goal, I had to start hustling to do something special for Akilah‘ s Christmas gifts.