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This Is Our Story

This Is Our Story: “Everyone Deserves A Second Chance”

Jamal Muhammad June 6, 2016
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In the United States, African-Americans, especially men, face adversity including gentrification, police brutality, and mass incarceration, more than any other ethnicity. It seems as if African-American families are stuck in a vicious cycle that affects generation after generation.

Young men get involved with lawless street activities, then they are incarcerated while leaving their children fatherless. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, 72 percent of children in African-American communities grow up fatherless. Young women become common statistics of teen pregnancy or have multiple fatherless children. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American women have the second highest rates of teen pregnancy under Hispanics.

Even though African-Americans are constantly fighting through obstacles, there are some that overcome and turn something out of nothing. For instances, 22-year-old Kamani Holmes eventually decided to take responsibility for his actions. Kamani understood that if he kept going down the wrong path he would have been in prison for the rest of his life or dead.

Early Adolescent Years

Born on February 2, 1994, by Kenyatta Holmes and Monique Randolph in Oakland, California. Kamani’s childhood was not the greatest but when he was on his best behavior Ms. Randolph did her best to give him a reward. She would save money to get him gifts. While growing up in the hood, Kamani understood that he did not have the finer things in life and he had work hard for the things he wanted. For the first three years of his life, Kamani lived with his grandmother Donna Valery because his mother was in prison for 16 months due to being charged with petty theft. After Ms. Randolph did her stint in prison Kamani went back to live with her and his stepfather Cesar Rhodes.

“Football was great outlet for me as a kid. I made a lot of friends and I really liked going to school. These were probably the best times of my life,” said Kamani.

As Kamani got older he started making friends and playing Pop Warner football for two years. This encouraged Kamani to dream about playing professionally in the NFL. In middle school, Kamani enjoyed going to school and his favorite subjects were History, Math, and English. Ms. Randolph always taught Kamani that education is very important.

Kamari Holmes 4

But by the time Kamani was 11 years-old he stopped playing football and did not take school seriously. Between the 6th and 7th grade, Kamani, and Ms. Randolph moved to Richmond, California from the increasing rates of gentrification within Oakland neighborhoods.

Losing A Father, Introduce to the Gang Lifestyle, and Incarceration

While living in Richmond it became an emotional transition for Kamani because he had to make new friends and he lived in a dangerous neighborhood. Sadly enough, Kamani’s father was killed over drug money when he was 12 years-old. This devastated Kamani and without any fatherly advice his attitude towards life quickly went downhill.

“I learned a few things from my father when he was living such as work ethic, self-awareness, and perfect timing,” said Kamani. “The most important life lesson my father taught me was ‘there is a time and place for everything.’”

Following Kamani’s father death, he indulged in mischievous activities such as losing his virginity at a young age, smoking and hanging out with violent gang members. When Kamani was 13 years-old he became fascinated with the gang lifestyle and began carrying guns for protection. In high school, Kamani had a lot of rivalries with opposing gang members in the neighborhood. One year Kamani only went to school for a few days in the entire year because he would have been fighting every day.

At 15 years-old Kamani seen one of his friends get shot and endured his first gun battle. Also, several of his close friends were killed in that same year. Later, Kamani caught his first gun and burglary case which led to going in and out of juvenile hall. Meanwhile, Kamani picked a new passion of cutting hair and this gave him a safe outlet. In addition, he never finished high school in the traditional sense but Kamani earned his GED while in juvie. Two years later, he enrolled in Contra Costa Community College and studied small business management.

When Kamani turned 17 years-old he fell in love with his current girlfriend Catrina Byias. In the first month of dating, Byias became pregnant with their four-year-old son Ky’eir Holmes. As of now, they been dating for five years. However, after a year of dropping out of college, Kamani was arrested for possession of a firearm at 18 years-old and did two months in jail. Two months after his release, Kamani was charged again with burglary and went to trial. Subsequently, he was sentenced to 13 months in prison but already served eight months in jail so he served the rest of the time at San Quentin State Penitentiary.

Kamari Holmes

“Living in prison is not what people see on TV, however, the politics behind it is really bad. It’s very segregated amongst the inmates and people should not go in there trying to act tough or network,” said Kamani.

After doing his time, Kamani finally decided to leave the streets alone. In total, Kamani spent three years behind bars.

Second Chance and Re-Entry Guide

Months after Kamani’s release, Ms. Randolph helped her son rehabilitate back into society as an counselor. Kamani lived in a halfway house for the four months fresh out of prison.  Eventually, Kamani received a job as a security guard working full-time, making ends meet for his son and his girlfriend.

“My son gives me hope so I will work hard to secure a better life for him. And I promise myself I will never go back to prison,” said Kamani.

Kamari Holmes 2

Furthermore, Kamani was tired of being a security guard and went onto doing construction with a great salary. The job so good that Kamani had his own apartment at 21 years-old with his son and his girlfriend. But in this life good things did not last for long.

Unfavorably, Kamani lost his job, apartment, and his confidence due to violating his parole and was sent back to jail. For a moment, Kamani gave up on life but an idea sparked in his mind. Kamani began thinking about creating a magazine for inmates.

The name of the magazine is called The Re-Entry Guide and his close cousin Demario “Black Rio” Lewis introduced him to Youth Impact Hub, which helped young adults construct a business plan for their ideas. As of now, Kamani works day and night to build the foundation of his magazines. The reason why Kamani started the magazine was because the prison system do not have any quality publications for inmates who are rebuilding their lives once they are release from prison.

The Re-Entry Guide will be 28-42 pages full of inmate stories, propositions, list common cases or laws, Q&A with attorneys, resource directory, and founder to inmate correspondence. Kamani wants to print out at least 500 copies and distribute them throughout the Bay Area and local jails and prisons. A new issue will be published quarterly for readers to get a taste of what they will be reading. This is a great publication for inmates to become more aware of different resources they have to re-enter in society successfully. The magazine will be ready by January 9th, 2017.

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