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“Summer Reading: What Louis Taught Me About Literacy & Success”

By Robyn C. Hill, LPCC

Now that I got your attention, let me introduce you to my good friend, Louis Fields. I was going to write up an article about him but the write-up he sent speaks for itself. My organization, Great Lakes Black Authors®, has partnered with his “Books For Bruises” Outreach Program to get books into the hands of children in foster care in order to encourage better opportunities and life choices through literacy. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Fields….

My name is Louis Fields Jr. I am forty-one years old and currently serving a life sentence at The Grafton Correctional Institution in Grafton, Ohio. In 1998 at the age of nineteen, I murdered a man over an argument while I was buying drugs. I take full responsibility for my actions and apologize for the pain and destruction I've caused. What was I thinking? How did I find myself in that position? The answer is simple: illiteracy. I challenge any one to produce a situation in life where one's level of literacy is not a factor. The educated take literacy and its vital importance for success in life for granted. I am fully convinced that violence is one hundred percent preventable if we commit our resources to universal holistic literacy for all. Early in my incarceration, my ignorance didn't allow me to fully understand how my actions rippled through lives of others. I continued down the same destructive path which lead me to prison and I got into more trouble. In 2002, I got caught with a knife and was sent to the maximum security prison in Lucasville, Ohio. I was given the opportunity to experience and witness what twenty-four hours in a cage can do to a person's mind. I witnessed the cage destroy men's minds and souls. God's grace had another plan for me. He used my cage as my "burning bush". Without drugs, and other destructive distractions, all I was left with was time and my thoughts. My cage became my detox center and an academy for learning. When the student is ready, life will provide the teacher. I was introduced to reading non-fiction, and convinced of the importance of politics, philosophy, and history. When I began reading I realized very quickly I was illiterate, I couldn't understand what I was reading. I was humbled, and I probably would've quit but a brother gave me a story book so that I could understand. The book was the Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley. I related to brother Malcolm's transformation in prison. Malcolm became the first of many men and women that would influence my thinking through the printed word. God revealed Himself to me and began developing my faith and rebuilding my character. My adoption of the knowledge and wisdom of The Bible shaped my views of justice, love, and the value of human life and creation. Two books opened up realms of thought that would change me forever. Malcolm Gladwell's Outlier's: The Story of Success, introduced me to the 10,000 hour rule. I adopted time and goal consciousness. I also began to look for outliers in my own life. I decided to look at the time I spent caged in Lucasville as an opportunity very few men have to find their true self. Secondly Carol Dweck's Growth Mindset gave me confidence that we as human beings can improve and rebuild ourselves. One day while watching PBS, a clinician named Robyn C. Hill was discussing childhood PTSD. I had never heard of kids having PTSD. I thought that was a problem for soldiers. Robyn was describing my thoughts and feelings as if she knew me. She had just changed my life and the lives of many others that I would influence. I had to let her know she had filled in the missing piece of my puzzle and freed me from my past. I prayed, and reached out to her and she responded. Robyn freed me from the victim mentality that I had developed. Once free I had a responsibility to free others which lead to the creation of Builders: Rebuilding Our Families and Communities As We Rebuild Ourselves LLC. Builders promotes Restorative Justice and the development of the growth mindset towards accountability, making amends, and pre- and post- community engagement. Books For Bruises LLC. is the fruit of Builders goal to make amends and influence positive change in the community. Books For Bruises LLC provides evidence-based trauma books for children and young adults, with the goal of building resiliency, self-esteem, and preventing violence. Reading saved my life and opened doors I never knew existed. Without it I don't know where I would be. I remember years ago going to the library and reading encyclopedia's so I could begin to learn how things work. Illiteracy limited my ability to communicate and comprehend what the moment required. All disciplines have specific languages that initiate one into that particular circle. The inability to understand and communicate the language hinders your ability to build diverse webs of support and the mentorship. The movie "Get Out" provides an excellent example of how illiteracy makes you feel. When the lead character was sent to "the sunken place" he was aware but completely unable to communicate. Prison has allowed me to witness and empathize with a variety of circumstances suffered by my peers. The violence and destruction we've done to our communities is not the life we wanted. It's the life our limited thinking provided. Improving literacy levels is not just about reading. It effects every thought and decision you make. When our society realizes this as a fact, universal progress will happen. No matter what the problem, crime, racism, or domestic violence, holistic literacy is the only answer that will solve the problem.

“75% of the effort to solve a problem in science is attaining the correct formulation of the problem.” ~ Albert Einstein

Hey, make sure you stop by the home page and subscribe to join the Success Seekers Mentoring Program with Robyn Hill! Also, check out the columnists giving words of wisdom for Summer 2020!

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