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Video 1

Aaaah, this place
I was twenty-five years old when I entered into this space
White walls, steel bed, toilet, and sink
It’s impossible to think of it as anything other than a torture chamber
The strain, mmmph
It’s impossible to explain what it felt like to be swallowed
To wallow in my own misery
This cell, the hell I had to go through
I can’t even begin to tell you what it did it to me
Not being able to touch or see another human being
Being punished, crushed for something I didn’t do
I’m an innocent man, true
But what does that have to do with anything?
The important thing to understand is that I was supposed to die here
Here, in solitary confinement
where human beings are destroyed by a different kind of violence
The breaking of the mind and spirit
all accomplished through the means of a soul-murdering silence
You can’t imagine it, don’t even try
It’s enough to know that I’m still alive
I’m still breathing, still pleading: Why?
But there’s no ‘Why?’ here
There’s only fear
Fear of not knowing
But always going deeper and deeper into a place I’ve never been
A place where hope finds no purchase
Constant pain with only one purpose:
I am being digested, divested of everything that makes me human

Video 2

Two years have now come and gone and,
thank God, I’m still alive
Not to say that I have escaped unscathed
I haven’t
I’ve given up fragments of myself in order to survive
Still, the daily grind has been brutal
Cruel? Yes, but not unusual
I tell you it’s enough to make a grown many cry
Enough to make a grown man commit suicide
I’ve seen it, it’s sad
It’s enough to drive a grown man mad
It’s a frightening thing to be a human being
When everything you believe has been reduced to nothing
And all you have left is your pitiful self
But there, in the crucible of consciousness
A voice can be heard:
Stay strong young man and do the best as you can
Let your problems lie with circumstance
Whatever they say, whatever the cost
To maintain is the name of this game
Protect your soul, oh protect your soul
If you give up now you will never know
Who you are, who you are
And who are you, Mr. Keith LaMar?
Who are you?

Video 3

The first thing I had to do was get rid of my learned complacency
Stop waiting to be saved, and start utilizing my own agency
If I wanted things to get better?
Well, I had to figure out how to do things differently
Stop listening to all the noise and hate
And start cultivating the courage to step out on faith
My friend, Da’im, he taught me how to meditate
How to discriminate between my wants and needs
He showed me what kind of books to read
Richard Wright taught me how to write
How to fight a monster without becoming one
You’ve got to overcome the fear and dread he said
Hrmph. Over a thousand books I’ve read
From Maya Angelou to Howard Zinn
About the Middle Passage to the Long Trail of Tears
It took years for me to work my way through the classics
From W.E.B. DuBois to William Shakespeare
I’m a scholar, a published author,
a mentor to kids in dark spaces with faces you’ll never see
in places you’ll never go
I’m a voice in the void
A light in the night
Kind of like Prometheus in reverse
I’m not the worst of the worst
In fact, I’m the first prisoner to ever teach a college course on Foucault
The first prisoner to ever release an album from death row
I’m proof that the caged bird can sing,
Can, in fact, spread his wings and fly
That’s who Keith LaMar is

Video 4

Well, there you have it
In order not to be reduced to a thing
I had to fight to hold onto my humanity
Fight to hold onto my sanity
Even while all about me were losing their minds and dying by the dozens
The focus has always been to remain focused
To see and learn from my mistakes
to live my life with purpose
The root word of education is educe:
to bring forth that which is already there
Meaning who I am was always already here
I was never the role I was assigned
but the deeper me, beneath the lies
The part that was buried but still alive
What was required was an excavation
A digging through the devastation and debris
Until I could finally see and be my truth
This, then, became the work
The unearthing of all the hurt and pain
And the removing of all the damage and dirt that was done
In order for me to become one with my higher self
The one who could walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
and refuse to fear the evil
I’m so thankful for all the good in me
So thankful for all the power and beauty we can be
It fills my heart with joy to know that even if my worst fears come true
The outcome cannot destroy me
It is in this knowledge that I have peace
It is in this knowledge that I am free
It is in this knowledge that I am me


Poems © Justice For Keith LaMar 2023. All rights reserved.