Lucy Allen Seabolt/ Martin and /Rita
Jerome Morris the director of vocational education for the Cleveland school system
Bobbi James the radio personality
The Honda trike had become my primary means of getting around. Even though I still rode with her often, I no longer had to beg Lucy for a lift. Nor was I dependent on her for everything I did. She helped me, but my confidence level was rising everyday. The Honda trike was the real game changer. It was hard to imagine how terrified I had been of traffic before the trike. I was still very, very careful in traffic. I could only imagine what my reaction would be to the traffic in a town like Jackson or even oxford.
I even came up with a new hobby over the last couple of weeks. At first I went to a meeting of the Alcoholics Anonymous support group. There I met with a man. That man introduced me to the pastor of a local church. It was a black church and even though I was not black he agreed to meet with me.
We discussed a support for former inmates in the Mississippi Department of Corrections facilities. I express my feeling that ex- cons needed a place to go for guidance. There were local self help groups for all kinds of problems. Former prisoners had nothing in the Cleveland area. Even though my record had been cleansed, I was still known to the system.
“So you want to bring a bunch of criminals into my church?” the pastor asked.
“That’s right. I want to try to keep them out of trouble,” I said.
“How do I know that’s what you want?” the pastor asked.
“I guess you don’t. If you can find a black man who wants to set up such a group, I will be happy to attend the meetings. I just want to get some help, and give some help if I can,” I explained.
“I’ll speak to the board of deacons. Where can I reach you?” he asked.
I gave him my number then rode the trike home. The trike had given me the freedom of movement I needed in order to try and make a difference. I loved it for that, if nothing else. I got the call on my thirty ninth day of freedom. I had a meeting with Jerome Morris. Jerome was a teacher at the Cleveland high school. He headed the vocational education program there. It was mostly a wood shop and machine shop. I was armed with that piece of information before our meeting.
I rode the thirty minutes to Cleveland for our meeting. We met over coffee after his class.
“I read about your case,” he said. “Twenty years in prison and innocent.”
“Nobody is innocent, some of us are just not guilty of what we were charged with,” I said.
“True,” he said. “Do you think talking about it will help?”
“I don’t think talking about it will hurt,” I replied.
“That’s a good answer,” he replied.
“Look I’ll even buy a coffee pot and donuts for the first meetings,” I suggested. “Maybe we can keep one of them from going back inside.”
“My brother is inside now. He is getting out in a few months, so this whole thing resonates with me,” Jerome said.
“It doesn’t matter why we sponsor it. We just need to do it,” I said. “Being outside is just scary. Without a strong family it’s got to be much harder. It’s why guys like me need a place to talk to people who get it.”