My name is Robert E. Smith. I am 21 years young. I was born in McComb, Mississippi and moved to East Oakland when I as 5 with my mother, little sister and grandmother. Growing up in Oakland you’re forced to grow up fast. You’re also forced to see things that are abnormal and you have to adapt to your surroundings. I had a great upbringing. There wasn’t much violence in my home. My childhood was very peaceful. The violence started when I would leave the house. Everyone at school was taught the same as me. Things such as don’t let anyone hit you and if they do, you hit them back. Also we were taught in school to never let anyone bully you because if it happens once then it will happen again. With these morals a lot of fights occurred.
In Oakland there isn’t much to do in your free time. My mom noticed what I was turning into so she advised that I play a sport to keep me busy. My grandma told her to take me to try out for the Oakland Dynamites. So from age 8 to 17, football kept me off the streets. But because I was still living in the environment I still became a product of it. My senior year of high school my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I decided to work instead of go to school to support my mother and two younger sisters. I got deeper into the streets and started getting into fast money and being able to really provide for my family.
But growing up in my town, you are labeled by where you are from or where you grew up. So with that come enemies and a lot of violence. And once people start losing their lives there is really no turning back.
Moving forward I had never been in trouble a day in my life but now because of violence I am facing life in prison. To go from wearing Polo Ralph Lauren to wearing used underwear is a hard transition. But over these 15 months I’ve had to adjust and learn a different way of life because the life I was living got me here.
I first heard about Kingian Nonviolence in jail. Before the first 2-Day workshop I didn’t want anything to do with anything called “nonviolence.” After the workshop, I had a different outlook and became more open-minded.
Over these past months I have found that Kingian Nonviolence is really a way of life. And although I’m always going to have conflict it’s how I deal with the conflict that determines the outcome. I hope to this my training to the streets and let my peers know it’s a better way of life.
Supporting East Point Peace Academy would not only provide supporters with a tax write-off, but it would be doing justice – not only in their community but in all communities. You can change lives, the Universe is just and if you put out good, you will get back good.
God Bless – Robert E. Smith.