A black and white drawing of a jail cell depicting a bunk bed with mattresses with sheets and pillows and jail cell bars
Photo Courtesy of Public Domain Vectors

I’m a 40-year-old Black man from D.C. where the crime rate can get out of control.  

As a child I moved around a lot and learned that it’s not the environment, it’s the people in the environment. I have been put in several situations that could have sent me to jail or federal prison. At this point I now know that we all have decisions to make in life based off of another person’s actions. I’m from the low-class society and still struggle with everyday living.  

People assume that I’m on drugs and always getting locked up. A lady was talking to me and having a conversation and she told me all Black men have been to jail. After that she asked me how things are in jail and I immediately took offense. 

I asked her, Why would you assume all Black men have been to jail? She was shocked when I told her that I have never been locked up. 

As a Black man, every time I walk out my door I’m faced with the challenge of making it home. I can be locked up for the littlest things, which creates a mindset of fear and it can make some nervous or scared. I have been pulled over, stopped and searched for no reason but have always proved my innocence.  

I have to be extremely cautious because of the color of my skin. I have attempted several activities in life like walking to the store and ended up in a situation where I can catch a charge and end up in prison.  

Hanging with a certain crowd used to put me into negative situations that I didn’t have full control of. When I was at a store with some friends they all took something and called me a punk and scared — then they all got caught. I didn’t take anything so I left while they dealt with that.  

Because of my decisions and actions, I have never been to a boot camp or jail or sent to prison. I have never been to jail and I am never going to jail. 

Marcellus Phillips is a Street Sense Media artist and vendor.