Monday, January 2, 2017


for Ms. Kim and Ms. Maday
by Rufus West, #225213
November18, 2016
Bismillah Jr Rahman Jr Rahim
(In the name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful)
I want to begin with a parable called "The Perfect Heart."
One day a young man was standing in the middle of the town proclaiming that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large crowd gathered and they all admired his heart, for it was perfect. There was not a mark or flaw in it. Yes, they all agreed it truly was the most beautiful heart they had ever seen. The young man was very proud and boasted more loudly about his beautiful heart.
Suddenly, an old man appeared at the front of the crowd and said, "Why, your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine." The crowd and the young man looked at the old man's heart. It was beating  strongly; but full of scars; it had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in, but they didn't fit quite right, and there were several jagged edges. In fact, in some places there were deep gouges where whole pieces were missing.
The peopled stared—how can he say his heart is more beautiful?, they thought. The young man looked at the old man's heart and saw its state and laughed. "You must be joking," he said. "Compare your heart with mine; mine is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears."
"Yes," said the old man, 'Yours is perfect looking but I would never trade with you. You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love—I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them, and often they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty place in my heart, but because the pieces aren't exact, I have some rough edges, which I cherish, because they remind me of the love we shared. Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away and the other person hasn't returned a piece of his heart to me. These are the empty gouges—giving love is taking a chance.
Although these gouges are painful, they stay open, reminding me of the love I have for those people too, and I hope someday they may return and fill the space I have waiting. So now do you see what true beauty is?"
The young man stood silently with his tears running down his cheeks. He walked up to the old man, reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart, and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old man with trembling hands. The old man took his offering, placed it in his heart and then took a piece from his old, scarred heart and placed it in the wound in the young man's heart. It fit, but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges. The young man looked at his heart, not perfect anymore, but more beautiful than ever, since love from the old man's heart flowed into his.
 When I did the Restorative Justice program in 2008 at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, the facilitators, Reverend Jerry Hancock and Judge Geske, had three survivors of crime come in and share their experiences: Mr. Tim—who had been awakened to his home being burglarized; Ms. Tanya—who was robbed and pistol-whipped at a drive through A.T.M.; and Ms. Pat—whose son was murdered. Yesterday while listening to Ms. Kim and Ms. Maday share their experiences with me on the second day of the three-day Restorative Justice part of the Green Bay Correctional Institution's Challenges and Possibilities program, I realized that all of the aforementioned survivors share a common bond: being robbed of their 'normal' forever. Consequently, they are compelled to live a new normal.
               In 2008, when the survivors shared their experiences with me I listened with my ears while shielding my heart. Many of us who have been exposed to incessant crimes in the ghetto, learn from the cradle that our environment is not abnormal—but normal. In fact, I was taught that any period of days without crime was not normal. This psychological indoctrination or brainwashing took root deep within me as a child easily, considering the overwhelming exposure. Surely, children are like wet cement... whatever lands on them makes an impression.
The photos of my son that you will soon hold in your hands will forever be my new normal. The challenge for me is not to allow it to swallow me up, thereby resulting in my spiritual demise. So, I hold on to the Rope of Allah, not with one hand—but with both hands like the frog holding on to the neck of the bird trying to swallow it.
            With every fiber of my being, I believe that everything ultimately happens by Allah's Will, and that Him allowing me to meet Ms. Kim and Ms. Maday, and experience this three-day Restorative Justice experience is a blessing and has been very therapeutic for me because I don't know how to let someone know that I need to get something off my chest. I know that listening to their heartfelt experiences has softened my heart towards them more because the murder of my son has resurrected my ability to empathize more from the heart—which still feels like it's laying at my feet, shattered in a zillion pieces as I endeavor to pick up every piece. Sharing your heartfelt experiences with me has helped mend my heart in ways that I'm unable to articulate. For that, alone, I am grateful. Even if I never see ya'll again I want ya'll to know that I extend apiece of my heart to ya'll and pray that Allah will continue to allow you to not only share your experiences—but also guide you in your new normal.
In closing, I would like to share a piece with you that I wrote:
"Nine Months to Make: A Second to Take.":
Sitting here ruminating on the time span that it takes to create a baby. About nine months is the expected time span from conception until the baby is actually born. Within that period, however, the child's limbs, organs, fingerprints, intellect, everything is being created. Meanwhile, the mother carries the child inside of her cradle of humanity, which stretches dramatically to accommodate the tiny person being created inside of her. Consequently, the mother experiences physical and psychological changes that the father is unable to imagine. Actually, the father is spared these changes that the mother endures!
              The mother experiences the pain of contractions, and pushing her child into this world through a hole in her body about 10 centimeters round. Meanwhile, the father is awe-struck, yet duped into believing that he is actually helping by repeatedly telling her to "Push!" when she already knows to "Push!" (Bless his heart.) Newborn babies are nurtured by their mother, while the father looks on in amazement at the human beings that his drop of liquid helped create after nine months. 
              While it takes nine months (i.e. 275 days, or 6,000 hours, or 396,000 minutes, or 23,760,000 seconds) to birth a child into this world, it only takes one second to kill the child. The obvious disproportionate comparisons associated in this context should appeal to the instinctive nature and sanity of humanity and galvanize us as a human race to abstain from killing each other. Self preservation is mankind's second Law of Nature.
On June 3, 2016, my son, Richard West Gray, was assassinated. I didn't find out about it until July 1, 2016. That same bullet that killed him literally killed a part of me and his mother. Having said that, it's impossible to ignore the myriad of unjustified deaths that have resulted from mass shootings, cop killings, killings of cops, and the fact that the number one cause of death for Black men between the ages of 18 and 35 is homicide. Likewise, it's also impossible to ignore the thousands of unjustified deaths that have resulted from bombs, chemical warfare, stabbings, etc. Every person killed adversely affects the person's parents. Every person killed is somebody's child who took about nine months to birth. And while I'll be the first one to point out that the Black man's death rate is disproportionate in comparison to White men when it comes to homicide, I will also be the first one to widen the lens in order to point out that senseless killings are a human tragedy, not exclusively a Black one. The very word "human' is all inclusive as 'hue' covers every shade of mankind's skin complexion. Thus, as a human race, each person must shoulder his or her individual responsibility of self-control in order to protect humanity from one's insanity. To do otherwise would be irresponsible and uncivilized.
My name is Rufus West and I approve this message.