[Pnews] My divine connection with the great Veronza Bowers
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 3 10:17:07 EST 2019
My divine connection with the great Veronza Bowers
January 2, 2019
*/by Domita White/*
In 2015, I participated in a re-entry program at the Women’s Prison in
Raleigh, N.C. Prior to this, I had never set foot in a prison before,
and I was so anxious on this day to meet the two mentees that were
assigned to me. The only way for me to describe my excitement was as if
I were on my way to a family reunion to meet family members I had never
met before. Well, on Nov. 3, 2018, I encountered another first and that
was to actually visit someone in prison.
I was introduced to Veronza Bowers by a fellow inmate who told me that
Veronza was a former Black Panther who had been serving 46 years in
prison. I was immediately interested in connecting with this iconic
figure in the Black Power Movement, as my late dad was also a former
Black Panther. So, on Aug. 14, 2018, thus began my journey into a
beautiful, lifetime connection.
My 15-year-old daughter, Lei’Lani, my dear friend. Carolyn King, who is
a school principal, and I were greeted by a couple of friendly officers
at the front desk at FMC Butner. As we entered the visiting area, we saw
the setup of plastic chairs and small tables that were arranged for
visitors and for the men that they were there to see at the prison. As
we waited for Veronza, I watched the interaction of the children with
their fathers, mothers with their sons, wives with their husbands etc.
Although Veronza and I are not related by blood, I refer to him with
respect as Baba Veronza. He instantly became family to me the moment
that we began communicating.
I was super delighted as he managed to maneuver his walker and pressed
his way towards us with such difficulty and excruciating pain. But, in
spite of his physical pain and his housing circumstances, he had the
most beautiful and gleeful smile. It made me forget that we were
actually behind prison walls.
Although Veronza and I are not related by blood, I refer to him
with respect as Baba Veronza. He instantly became family to me
the moment that we began communicating.
He hugged each of us and we began our conversations. He told us that he
has been incarcerated for 46 long years. He explained how he should have
been released back in 2005 as he had served the years that would have
automatically granted him eligibility for /mandatory/ parole, but his
parole was postponed in order to give the victim’s relatives a chance to
express their opposition at a new parole hearing.
Baba Veronza was denied parole in December 2005 as the family of the
victim and the New York City Fraternal Order of Police fought to keep
him behind bars even though he has proof of his innocence. It is
unconscionable for me that in this country, political prisoners are
being held captive simply to be made examples of.
It is unconscionable for me that in this country, political
prisoners are being held captive simply to be made examples of.
Baba told us many stories which were truly fascinating! He also talked
about why he has a missing pinky finger which was blown off by a
shotgun. He also discussed his love for the Shakuhachi, which is a
Japanese longitudinal, end-blown bamboo-flute. Baba had previously
shared a few of his beautiful songs of meditation and healing with me
which he had written and composed.
As I listened to him speak, I could not fathom how or why this
charismatic, charming and humble man was still being held captive. As he
sat there in excruciating hip pain, which yours truly knows all too
well, I couldn’t help but wonder how this man who was being held in
captivity maintained such a positive spirit. Between each comment, there
was a smile or a joke that was filled with laughter.
The time came for us to leave and I just did not want the moment to end.
As we hugged each other and parted ways, he and the other men were lined
up in order to be searched before heading back to their cells. And the
visitors were lined up prior to leaving the facility.
This was a painful experience for me. I had to fight back the tears and
I couldn’t look his way. I wanted to scoop him up and take him away from
that slave ship.
I briefly glanced his way and it just broke my heart to see him hunched
over the walker as he waited on that line. That was when it hit me that
this is something that children who have to leave their fathers behind
have to experience.
This was a painful experience for me. I had to fight back the
tears and I couldn’t look his way. I wanted to scoop him up and
take him away from that slave ship.
This is what mothers, wives, siblings and dear friends have to
experience. Then I asked myself if this was something that people just
have to get used to? It is not a good feeling at all. I said to myself
that I do not want to keep visiting him behind those walls.
Well, on Dec. 15, 2018, I got to see Baba for a second time. This time
my good friend and mentor, Pastor Linda Ross, joined us for this visit.
I did not get to speak much as Baba engaged Pastor Ross in conversation.
He was impressed by her passion for helping formerly incarcerated and
homeless women. To me, she downplayed some of the things that she does
and I had to give him a summary of the remarkable woman that she is, and
how she has been such a Godsend to me.
Then he engaged Lei’Lani by asking her about things going on in her
school. I was so moved that he asked that question. Later on after our
visit, I thanked him for asking that question because it is so important
for youth to KNOW that adults CARE. I just sat back and soaked it all
in. My 15-year-old baby girl was in the presence of an icon!
Before we even made our way to the meeting area, the officer at the
front desk told my daughter that she was so beautiful and then she asked
her what was it that she wanted to be or do in life. Then she gave my
daughter valuable words of wisdom and encouragement and I was so
grateful to God that it was meant for us to visit with Baba that day.
These are nuggets that prayerfully my daughter will cherish forever.
This visit was different, but it was still difficult for me to leave him
there. I can only imagine how his daughter, grandchildren, siblings and
other relatives must feel. It takes love, strength and God for someone
to be able to have the resiliency to endure such challenges.
We also took photos with Baba and I was super excited about that! He
kept commenting how he was flanked by beautiful women, but I was honored
to be in the presence of this wonderful man.
Lei’Lani and I sent Baba copies of our books as a token of our
appreciation. Lei’Lani’s book is titled “Epilepsy in My World,” which
was written by her when she was 9. She won a National PTA Award for this
book which was about her uncle and my late brother Dannee White’s
experiences with epilepsy. I also sent him my book that I wrote titled
“Aspire 2 Acquire: He Said it Begins With ME!” and this is the story of
my childhood. I was so honored by the compliments that he gave us on our
Through this ministry, I’ve learned so much and I continue to learn so
much every day about prison culture, and this just pushes me ever more
to advocate and champion for men and women who are behind the iron bars
in this country. I’ve had people tell me that they’ve never met anyone
like me before or that they don’t know anyone who does what I do. There
are people in this world who have the same heart and compassion as I do.
And it’s not me, but the love of God in me. So I love from my entire
heart and I am here to assist in the right way, which is God’s way.
Baba Veronza and everyone else I communicate with in prison are not mere
registration numbers to me. They are all humans. And the Bible says that
children are a reward from the Lord. Now if we were born, we all have
the privilege to be the Lord’s children so that makes the men and women
behind bars my brothers and sisters and certainly nothing less! And in
His eyes, they are rewards and the apple of HIS EYES!
I thank God for connecting me with this amazing human being. And I thank
the editor of SF Bay View for allowing me to share my experiences of my
visits with Baba Veronza Bowers!
/Domita White, founder of The Warriors 4 Epilepsy, CEO of Aspire 2
Acquire, founder of Bar None Prison Ministry, author, motivational
speaker, mentor and event coordinator for the Durham Epilepsy Support
Team, can be reached at //dwhite at aspire2aquire.com/
<mailto:dwhite at aspire2aquire.com>/./
*My visit with Veronza Bowers*
*/by Lei’Lani White/*
White visits Veronza Bowers
On Nov. 3, 2018, for the very first time ever in my life, I set foot
inside of a prison. I went with my mom and her friend Ms. Carolyn King
to visit former Black Panther member Veronza Bowers.
Before this experience I did not personally know anyone who was in
prison. I was not intimidated at all to be in that prison, but curious
to see what the inmates experience on a daily basis.
Once we got into the room where all of the inmates were, we had to sit
down and wait for Mr. Bowers to come out. We waited for a good 20-plus
minutes for the prison guards to get him while all of the inmates and
their families were conversing. I saw many little kids with their
families talking to inmates who were most likely related to them, which
seemed kind of sad to me that the little kids had to see their family
members like that. I don’t recall seeing any kids my age (15) or
teenagers. Actually, there was one and he was a special needs child.
When Mr. Bowers finally came out, he was using a walker to walk. I did
not know what I expected him to look like, but I most definitely did not
expect to see him with a walker. He hugged us and then he began to
converse and he talked about many important topics.
I really feel bad for children who have to visit their parent in prison
and I also feel bad for parents who have to visit their children in
prison. My mom explained to me that there were thousands of children in
prison in this country. This experience made me reflect on my life and
on how fortunate I am. My mom always talks about the horrible conditions
in prison, but as a child, we don’t really know the extent. But this
visit was an eye opening experience for me.
I really feel bad for children who have to visit their parent in
prison and I also feel bad for parents who have to visit their
children in prison.
He referred to us as his earth angels and I thought that was so cool!
To be honest, I don’t know what I would do if my family member or close
friend were in prison. I can’t even begin to imagine life without my
loved one. I guess it would probably feel like how it felt when we lost
my uncle. :-(
We went to see Mr. Bowers again on Dec. 16. This time, he asked me how I
felt about what was going on in my school and I went in! I told him how
I was disturbed by a teacher who had given me a zero on a project
because I was out sick that particular day and in order to make it up,
he had me do a 500-word essay on top of doing the project, which I
didn’t think was fair. Plus, he had not even graded our previous project
a month prior to this one and it was affecting my grade. My mom was
upset when I told her this. But I am glad that he asked me about school.
Before we went in to see him, this really nice female officer said that
I was so pretty and that I reminded her of her daughter. Then she asked
me what I wanted to be in life or what I wanted to do. I told her that I
used to want to be a lawyer. I also told her that I wanted to be a
cheerleader but I didn’t think that I could and she encouraged me to
pursue whatever dreams that I had. She told me not to allow anyone to
deter me and to always keep God first. She just gave me so many words of
encouragement. And so did Mr. Bowers.
To be honest, I never met anyone on his level as far as a celebrity or
anything like that except for the Flatbush Zombies, because one of the
members is my cousin’s fiancée. But it felt so great being in the
presence of an iconic figure in the civil rights movement. I got to tell
my friends about this and it’s a big deal to me.
It felt so great being in the presence of an iconic figure in
the civil rights movement.
I wanted to show him my appreciation so I sent him a copy of my book
titled Epilepsy in My World which I wrote when I was 9 years old. I won
a National PTA Award for it. I wrote this book to talk about my
experiences with my uncle Dannee White, who lived with epilepsy and who
as a result had been bullied a lot. I wanted to express to the readers
that we are all different and we must still embrace one another.
Although my uncle is no longer here, I know that he will always be with
me. But Mr. Bowers is my family. He’s like a grandfather that I’ve never
known. I kept wondering why my mom calls him Baba Veronza. I think I’ll
start calling him “grandbaba.” :-)
I pray that he gets out of there. Although he was always happy and
smiling whenever we saw him, I hate that he is in that place. I saw the
sadness in my mom the first time that we visited him. I wished that I
could hug those kids that were there visiting their loved ones only for
them to have to leave them behind. I hope my experience can help others
to really embrace their loved ones and to do all that they can to
prevent them from entering prison.
/Lei’Lani White is founder of Youthrepreneurs 4 Life, co-founder of The
Warriors 4 Epilepsy and vice chair of the National Junior Honor Society
chapter at The Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Raleigh, N.C./
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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