VANGUARD INCARCERATED PRESS: The Greatest Man I’ve Ever Known!

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by Glenn Cornwell 

My Grandson, Trevion, just might be the greatest man I’ve ever known! He just turned eighteen last Feb. 3rd.  He just graduated high school and is just awesome to me. I have three other amazing offspring, “My reasons for living.” My Daughter Keama Talee and her three children Zahara (22), Tre’Janea (19), and my only Grandson Trevion. All are honest, hard-working, good citizens, productive parts of this open society in a good-faith agreement to stay out of trouble. Trevion is simply the best male I have to offer. To a nation, I have a vested interest in him, even from Death Row, at San Quentin’s State Prison.

All his life I’ve been at him. We’re only friends when he’s doing what he’s supposed to, which is 99% of the time. I learned long ago, I’d do everything I can, to instill the understanding that my kids are never to come to Prison. Compared to freedom, there’s nothing good about this place.

With all the time I’ve done (over 30 years), I’ve been blessed to meet prisoners I thought were sharp—had it on the ball. Maybe even figured themselves out. Then I hear they’d done the unthinkable: neglecting to forbid their children to think about crime, gangs, or prison, as a badge of honor. Later I hear that one of their children got killed by the police or given life, following in their father’s footsteps.

Of course, I don’t think like most people. I probably mimicked my late Grandfather Edward McGowan Sr. (1894-1975). His way of dealing with the many offspring who surrounded him was to simply be automatic. If I needed a hug, it was automatic. If I needed my behind kicked, it was automatic. It didn’t dawn on me he loved me until he was gone.

I came back from the last of three Westpac nine-month tours in 1976. In the middle of our family celebration, my mother Malissa Ann pulled me to the side giving me the news. He’d passed away the previous year. When asked, “Why didn’t they contact me?” I was told, “Because she didn’t want me to stress.” It made sense in some ways. 1975 was a turbulent time to be in the U.S. Navy, stationed in the Pacific and South China Sea. Still, she broke my heart. Years later, in one of these cages in hell, it dawned on me what he’d given me. The main idea is the importance of being a father no matter what. Always be the one person your kids can come at you with anything. The one person they can think about and know is always on their side. Be “On they ass,” when you see them, of course.

This World is like a tide-pool full of alligators, they have to cross. Add a fifty-pound backpack for people of color or the poor. The rich get jet packs. Listen to what they say with their actions and attitude. It’s proven young minds are underdeveloped in the area that deals with consequences. If you see them mimicking a rapper’s conduct, check them. Try and use honey, not salt. Let them know “thug life” is dead knowledge.

Tupac Shakur could have been the next Barack Obama, had he been mentored correctly. Do the math on him being in a caravan with three carloads of gang members and someone simply pulled alongside him and ended his young life! The lesson is, “If your dog is on the freeway biting tires and chasing cars, don’t be surprised if it gets run over by a diesel truck!” The same Dog may have gotten hit anyway, but his chances were better, “on a leash by his Master.”

Yeah, my Grandson is an amazing young man. I’ve made it a point to give him the best information I can. My Daughter has seemed to have raised them on the same imprints I’ve given her over the years. Like little people, having their own stuff to keep track of and business to handle.

As a young boy, Trevion told his mother he wanted to “see combat!” Be, “the tip of the sword.” It figures. His great-grandfather on my wife’s side of the family, “Ben-Mays,” fought in Korea and came to Death Row here at San Quentin in 1953.

I received an Honorable Discharge after six years of service in the U.S. Navy, and I’m here. I’ve only pushed my kids away from a few things, deviant behavior and the idea that drugs are poison. We don’t want or need anything that will hold us back. Lastly, People in power tend to think Black people are weak on drugs. I think they feel that’s one of the things that makes us unreliable.

Being a spiritual person, I always see signs I’m on the right path with my kids which is one reason why I’ve studied different teachings. A recent sign came in the form of a couple of well-timed phone calls.

Trevion had missed a few classes, thinking since he’d turned in the assignments, he’d still be good to graduate. The school contacted his mother. I happened to call her as she was driving home from the meeting. “Upset and disappointed is an understatement,” she said. Here at San Quentin, we only get two calls a week which we must sign up for in advance. They’ll roll the phone in front of your tray slot when it’s your time. My oldest Granddaughter was with her when she accepted my call. Keana was livid!

Within a few minutes, I was seriously thinking I might be losing a grandson. My Daughter is a busy working mother but stays on point with her kids, especially Trevion. She helps him with homework and stays on his bumper. When she found out he’d failed to show up for class, she was caught off guard. She is one of the few people I know who talks and thinks as fast as me but without brain damage.

My first response was to let her explain and vent all the ins and outs of the situation. When she finally paused, I said, “I’m not trying to let him off the hook, but there’s a part of the brain in teenagers, which deals with consequences, that’s underdeveloped. So much so, that the U.S. Government let everyone who committed their crimes before age 13 off Death Row.”

My comments made sense. She was still hot but I could tell she was registering what I’d just said. She’d invited family members from all over the country. People who’d invested time and money into coming to California to support him. She was Hot! Generally, I don’t want to say anything, if I can’t help. Sometimes just being a concerned ear is worth its weight in gold.

However, in my Human Behavior Class here at S.Q., we studied this concept called, “Focalism.” The idea is that when we look at some far-off event, we can’t know what will influence how we feel about the event, between now and then. We can’t know what will affect the event, or how our attitude might change between now and then. We simply shouldn’t worry about the unknown.

She said, “If he doesn’t graduate, we’ll just have a big dinner and roast his ass. Have a good laugh, to keep from crying,” which sounded good to me. It presupposed I’d have a grandson alive to roast, and would give her a chance to cool off! My granddaughter Zahara sat in the passenger seat, adding positive side commentaries. By the time she hung up, I felt she’d be okay.

A week later, I didn’t receive my Wednesday three o’clock call. I shot the phone man a note at about six saying, “I missed my three o’clock call, would you hook me up later in the week?” Twenty minutes later, the Tier Officer rolls the phone in front of my slot. The first two calls go unanswered. I figure it’s late, “I missed my regular times, I’ll try again Wednesday.”

I hang the phone up and go sit in front of my television. Glancing back over at the phone, it dawns on me, that I’ll usually call three times before I give up. As soon as I make my third attempt, my youngest granddaughter Trejanea accepts the call.

She attends San Francisco State, I very seldom get to hear her voice. Excited to hear Grandpaw, she tells me all her latest news. “Quit running track, for now, focusing on my studies. I got a full academic scholarship to a college in Georgia.” In between breaths, I tell her, “Keep on shining then,” and we both laugh.

Out of nowhere she says, “Would you please keep your hands off me?” I asked, “Where the hell are you, who was that?” She tells me, “Oh, I’m at Trevion’s Graduation walking towards the Stage, that was the user.” Adding, “He just got his Diploma, coming down the stairs, here.”

Trevion doesn’t let me get a word in for several minutes. Beyond this being one of the best moments in my life. I tell him how proud I am of him, asking him to “send my love to his mother, and all the guests who’d come.”

A few moments later, I told him how proud I was of him, again, and let the family have their celebration.

A couple of months before his special day, he and I had a long conversation. He told me he’d decided to join the U.S. Navy and become a Navy Seal. He’d played football and track, thinking the training would be a breeze. One of the downsides of not being home is, we tend to take the little things for granted. I asked him, “How good can you swim? Don’t call them Seals for nothing.” A few weeks later, I call Keama. She says, “Trevion decided to work at an amusement park for the summer as a certified lifeguard.”

I laugh and say, “Tell my son, I see you!” Recently he went and took his enlistment test and made a decent score. Between the time he first told me his intentions and now, I’ve been sending him candid letters about the pros and cons of military life. His plan seems to be a semester of college, then full enlistment and basic training school (boot camp).

A side of me is beyond proud. Part of me fears for him. Since I turned 18 in boot camp, I can’t be a hypocrite. The U.S. Military did away with its selective service draft on June 30, 1973. I joined on June 25th, of that same year—the first graduating class, after the Draft. Back then, the Military sent home between 200/300 “Killed in Action” notices per week from Viet Nam.

There’s no way I’d have a leg to stand on if I suggested he shouldn’t go. When he told me about his plan, he said, “Grandpaw, if I die, at least it will be for something righteous.” I’m not sure if I said it out loud or thought it to myself, but I swear I heard an “Amen” somewhere at the end of his justification. Not that he needed it from me, I was just glad he felt the need to confide in me at all.

Looking at the World from another planet, “a cage in Hell,” I’d have to agree there’s a real threat to our way of life. It’s a spirit bent on conquering the world, killing everyone who doesn’t serve them. They destroy the world or die trying. I’m in total agreement with the part about them dying! Since they believe “mass murder, slavery, and conquest” is God’s vision for the world, I believe we should send them to God—they can work it out amongst themselves. If they still have a beef when we get there, we can act like “Gorillas in the China Shop up there!”

I just wish I was 18, I could go on the buddy plan with my boy. Of course, he’s 6’4″ 190, and I was 5’8″, 143, at his age. He’d be my big brother. He turned 18 in February. I turned 18 in boot camp.

He’s making “grown man moves.” The way he perceives the world and the idea he thinks of himself as the “Tip of the Sword” makes me bam on my chest like King Kong! It tells me the terrorists can’t win! The racist ass minds who put us in this situation will one day figure out who their real enemies are. At some point, we’ll get it together.

In the meantime, I’m sending America, “The most precious thing I have to offer, ‘The Greatest Man I’ve Ever Known!'”

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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