What this bracelet means to me

By Chris Lotze, TNC Graphic Designer

It's just a bracelet, made of some metal with a cool razor wire imprinted on the face of it. Not very manly, bracelets really never have been, but still something inside myself wanted to put it on.

I'm what you might call part of the "general public." I don't have a loved one in prison; I didn't know anyone in prison. About five months ago I really didn't think much about the drug war. I was a small town, strait-laced, white boy Republican who thought lawbreakers should be locked up. I'm not a God fearing man or a close minded man either, but I always had the "you do the crime, you do the time" attitude. Well, that was until I started working for the November Coalition.

It all started a few years back. Nora Callahan and I worked for our town newspaper. Nora always struck me as different from the norm. She had that sweet innocent look and attitude, but something about her told me that she was one not to mess with.

Nora and I worked in the same department. We now and then of course talked, and I soon learned that this sweet innocent woman I pictured waking up with a smile on her face every morning, singing with the spring birds, and making home baked pies in her spare time was nothing like that. Her world was so much different than what she showed in public.

Government was her main topic of discussion. She would tell me how the government is enslaving families everyday, how there is no justice anymore, and the whole time she's saying this, I'm like, call a doctor, she's gone over the edge! As days and weeks passed by, I heard the story about her brother, and what Nora, her brother and her family have been going through. The more and more she talked, the more and more I listened.

It wasn't long before she started talking about how she needs to stop working at the newspaper and spend most of her time on this drug war. The topics moved from government to "I'm going to be doing a live radio interview..Oh, I'm nervous" to later "I'm flying to Washington D.C. to meet some people that want to help us."

It wasn't very long before she stopped working at the newspaper to take on this cause of hers, never once turning back or saying, "Did I make the right move?"

In our long talks about the government and the drug war, Nora kept telling me that one day she was going to hire me to work for her, and two years later, here I am, working for the November Coalition.

It didn't take me, a small town Republican, long to truly realize how the drug war has gone way off track. My awareness grew in a matter of days after going through piles of mail from prisoners and family members telling their own stories about the drug war and its effect on their lives. One story really woke me up and has stuck with me ever since.

His name is Khalid Muhammad, and he was at a party that got busted for drugs. Khalid didn't know there were drugs at this party, and he didn't see any drugs at this party, but he was still sentenced to 35 years in prison. This story hit me hard because it could have been me at that party, or any one of us. So I took it upon myself to get a POWD bracelet with his number on it; I got his address and started to write him letters.

To me, I've never been much of a bracelet person; so it's kind of awkward wearing one now, but there isn't a day I don't wear it. If I forget to put it on in the morning, I kick myself for it, thinking I let this man down. The bracelet isn't a fashion statement for me; its my way of having a piece of Khalid with me. Even if he's not free, his memory is free in my mind. The bracelet not only symbolizes Khalid, but also symbolizes every drug war prisoner.

I soon noticed the bracelet wasn't seen by everyone who walked by. So I took it upon myself to make a T-shirt saying "Free Khalid Muhammad" with his picture on the back. I'm looking forward to the day when an innocent bystander sees "Free Khalid Muhammad" on my shirt and asks, "Who is Khalid Muhammad?" That will be the day I can tell another member of the "general public" about the real drug war, and maybe, just maybe, he will join an already growing group of us that thinks the drug war must end.

It's the November Coalition's job to show the "general public" about the real drug war. I'm living proof that it's working.