For most of my life, I was the guy most wannabee thugs wished they could be. Officially declared a "menace to society", I was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for my role as mastermind of a series of daring bank robberies in the 70s. Two involved shootouts. One with the police. The other with a citizen in a bank parking lot where I narrowly missed being killed. While confined, I took part in an even more daring prison escape.
Despite this seeming penchant for violence, I consoled myself with the notion that I was merely a poet trapped in a gangsta's body and oddly enough, this wasn't far from the truth as I had evolved from a family of teachers, four of whom taught English. As such, I learned, early on, to respect and to appreciate language since my grandmother was very strict and would not tolerate improper grammar under her roof.
From the start, there appeared to be a household conspiracy to convert me into a writer. By the time I was ten, I possessed a private library fit for a scholar, had a new typewriter, a big desk, and plenty of blank paper. By 11, I had mastered the dictionary, was a whiz at Scrabble, and was a honor roll student in school. At twelve, I had completed my first novel.
By my 13th birthday, I had discovered hustling and I immediately dropped out of school and adopted "the streets" as my home. By 14, I was in reform school for assaulting a police officer. While there, I was a star journalist, the first black deemed smart enough to work in the print shop and on the in-house newsletter. I served one year and a day.
Upon my release, with hardly any delays, I embarked on a personal crime spree, and at the age of 15 years-old, I was sent to prison where I was the youngest convict there.
While in the Youth Center, I acquired my high school diploma at 16 years-old, wrote my first play, turned militant, and when released at 19, went to New York to join the Black Panthers.
In New York, I discovered heroin. Writing and the revolution would both have to wait as a drug habit left little room for anything else. When I tired of being a junkie, I kicked my fascination with getting high, but years later would emerge as the "alleged" kingpin of a notorious heroin distribution ring.
Finally brought down by the FBI and DEA in 1997, I again was sent to federal prison. This time I would be gone for another decade, but once more I turned back to what I had turned my back on: writing. I studied journalism, started a writer's colony, mentored other aspiring prison writers, four of whom are now publihsed, one a bestselling street-lit author. I edited and founded various newsletters, performed freelance editorial services for outside writers while quietly perfecting my craft.
Hailed by some as one of the greatest prison writer ever, I was interviewed by numerous TV and print outlets. My writings have even been studied in an English class at a university where I was invited to lecture.
While in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, I published my first novel, but soured on traditional publishing after a deal gone bad with a well-known publisher. I also developed two programs. One, PROJECT UPLIFT, which deals with drug-dealer addiction. The second, GIRLSMART, a community service program concerned with at-risk, teenaged, black girls. This program is a counter to the BET-inspired video vixen syndrome where sistas opt to employ their booty rather than their brains.
Lastly, I have finally gone from wrong 2 ‘write’!
Where to buy in print
Between 2 Fires
by Gibran Tariq
Regina Barkley, a self-described "Chocolate Angel", is a winner, but to save her only son from life in prison, she plays the biggest game of her life. To prevail, she has to seduce the most feared DA in the state, and she makes her first mistake when she discovers a well-kept secret: That black women are unconsciously attracted to the power of white males!
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