Three from our Tupac Workshop

What’s Gangsta by Roosevelt Harrington

What’s gangsta

Is it when you see your enemy un aware

And open up fire in public in the middle of the day

Not caring who gets hurt in the meanwhile

Long as your target die

What’s gangsta

Coming to jail and try to run the TV and phone

When all the other inmates just wanna make it home

Stealing bags jumping folks trying to show your muscle

Dapping ya mans up screaming I love you

What’s gangsta

For real I can’t tell you if I tried

Cause what’s gangsta is staying alive

Busting guns don’t make you gangsta

Or selling narcotics

What’s gangsta

Is watching your kids graduate from college

Now that’s gangsta

Jungle City by Frankey Needles

I’m from the south side where tempers of young age

black males get heated

most of them only raised by their mother

and the father’s help is highly needed

before they reach the age of maturity

they own guns with no aim

die young and faces put on walls

with no frame

with a date of his birth and

a date of when he left this earth

nobody feels the pain of a mother

and trust me it hurts

in the concrete jungle where spirits run wild

I suggest we get rid of the guns

before we lose another soul

I heard it through the wire

control your temper

because were I’m from

on the south side there isn’t any gun control.

Big City by Frankey Needles

fourteen floors high I look out my

project windows to see a city

perfect to me I must say, they say beauty

is in the eye of the beholder

to hold her one day would be sweet

as sugar and honey in tea to cover her with me

just to let her know she’s loved

with so many war wounds on her buildings

that keep the loving and the wicked

apart a small distance apart

they say she never sleeps

to take a bite out of that apple

will be bitter sweet

why speak hard words

to a city that shifts night and day

if you can make it there you can

make it anywhere

bright lights loud sounds from

my inner thoughts like outside

looking up at graffiti total peace

benefits me

Writing Back to Tupac

This session, our Norfolk City Jail writers from the men’s block are writing in response to the poetry and song lyrics of Tupac Shakur. It’s been an incredible experience for everyone — myself most of all.

Tupac Shakur, “Brenda’s Got a Baby”

I hear Brenda’s got a baby
But, Brenda’s barely got a brain
A damn shame, the girl can hardly spell her name
(That’s not our problem, that’s up to Brenda’s family)
Well let me show ya how it affects the whole community
Now Brenda really never knew her moms and her dad was a
Junky, went in death to his arms, it’s sad ’cause I bet
Brenda doesn’t even know
Just ’cause your in the ghetto doesn’t mean you can’t grow
But oh, that’s a thought, my own revelation
Do whatever it takes to resist the temptation
Brenda got herself a boyfriend
Her boyfriend was her cousin, now let’s watch the joy end
She tried to hide her pregnancy, from her family
Who didn’t really care to see, or give a damn if she
Went out and had a church of kids
As long as when the check came they got first dibs
Now Brenda’s belly is gettin’ bigger
But no one seems to notice any change in her figure
She’s 12 years old and she’s having a baby
In love with the molester, who’s sexing her crazy
And yet she thinks that he’ll be with her forever
And dreams of a world with the two of them are together,
Whatever, he left her and she had the baby solo
She had it on the bathroom floor and didn’t know so
She didn’t know, what to throw away and what to keep
She wrapped the baby up and threw him in the trash heap
I guess she thought she’d get away, wouldn’t hear the cries
She didn’t realize
How much the little baby had her eyes
Now the baby’s in the trash heap bawling
Momma can’t help her, but it hurts to hear her calling
Brenda wants to run away
Momma say, you makin’ me lose pay
The social worker’s here everyday
Now Brenda’s gotta make her own way
Can’t go to her family, they won’t let her stay
No money no babysitter, she couldn’t keep a job
She tried to sell crack, but end up getting robbed
So now what’s next, there ain’t nothing left to sell
So she sees sex as a way of leaving hell
It’s paying the rent, so she really can’t complain
Prostitute, found slain, and Brenda’s her name, she’s got a baby

Mother Love, After Tupac Shakur, Brenda’s Got a Baby

by Frankey Needles

A boy name Tom was a ticking time bomb.

All because he never had a mom.

All he knew about his mom

is that she had him at the prom.

Left him in the rest room after he left her arms.

His mom really had it bad, thought she knew the father

but he didn’t want to be a dad.

All he wanted was a nut just like a squirrel —

knowing by having sex you can bring another into this world.

No one knew she was pregnant because she wasn’t showing.

They didn’t see her smile

and the way that she was glowing.

She didn’t tell her mom. Didn’t tell her dad.

Thought that if she did it’ll only make them mad,

so she kept it to herself til it was no more time left.

But when that time came there was no one there to help.

Thank God for a friend that was walking and

gave him to foster care. She thought she’d never see him again.

But on his tenth birthday, at his surprise

looking at his mother they had the same eyes.

Praying to God every night that he’ll bring him back

cause everyone needs a mother —

and that there’s a fact.

Two Poems by Roosevelt Harrington


All I hear is gunshots in my city

followed by mothers’ cries in my city

too many funerals everyday in my city

they 13 to 25 dying young in my city

police harass you in my city

also they selling drugs in my city

women get disrespected in my city

guess you can say ain’t no love in my city

I wanna change my city

into a peaceful city

make you wanna come and stay city

never rain but always sunny city

where the ol folks ain’t scared city

but at times I ask

who am I fooling about this city

cause we all know that this city

called Norfolk City aka shark city

ain’t nothing pretty about this city

so I just ask y’all to just pray with me

for my city


I haven’t always been the best dad

and at this very moment it’s getting to me

for years I was trapped in the system

not being there for my children

when I lay down at night I ask God to help me

become a better father now

see a dad help make a child

but a father take care of his child

I just wanna see my children smile

I wanna hear them say, I love you Pops

if I could turn back the hands of time

trust me I would quick, fast, and in a hurry

we all make mistakes in life

mines just cost me years away from my seeds

all I can do now is not make those mistakes again

that I made in the past

and become the father

that I was put on this Earth to be

Life by Frankey Needles

Life is what you make it

well shit

make it in life is what I’m trying to do

right now at this moment

I can’t find the words to describe

what I’m going through

to be doing time is to be adding time to my life

I know that to be true

because the habit I had

was not only killing me

but in some way it was killing you

something so small but so strong

had me feeling bullet proof

to feel at ease and to feel relieved

if I could only use two words these two would do

cause the truth was not only needed

but was ready to come out like my wisdom teeth

I used to joke — the addiction until the affliction

bring forth the attention

which caused me to be detained in detention

is this a poem or a prayer


cause life is what you make it and you can make it

if you pay (attention)

Letter 2 My Children by Roosevelt Harrington


Sorry for not being there for you,

when at times you needed me most.

I put myself before you, and I was wrong.

I ask for your forgiveness.


You walk, talk, and at times act like me.

I wanna say it’s my fault for all you are going thru.

I should have been there more, but I wasn’t.

I ask for your forgiveness.


Out of all your brothers and sisters I saw you born.

I was in tears as you came into this world.

You carry my last name. But I let you down as well.

I ask for your forgiveness.


My first beautiful daughter.

I should of done more, but I was in and outta jail.

It caused our relationship to go nowhere.

I ask for your forgiveness.


My second beautiful daughter.

We spent so much time together, and I love you.

I just need to do better and be there for you.

I ask for your forgiveness.


My third beautiful daughter.

I should of been more honest with your mother.

And maybe things would be better for us.

I love you.

I ask for your forgiveness.

My Baby Girl Alayia

Who’s in heaven.

I miss you so much, baby girl, for real.

I know you looking down on me sweetheart,


I ask for your forgiveness also.


My son. I owe you everything, son.

You was just only two months when your mother past away.

I gotta step up and be a better father. I love you.

I ask for your forgiveness.


My baby boy.

I love you, son, so much.

Even though you was 3 months when I got locked up,

you’re 2 now and I can’t wait to play with you.

I ask for your forgiveness.

To My Son or Daughter Who I Lost to Adoption

I’m coming to find you and bring you home one day.

I love you and miss you so much.

I ask for your forgiveness.

I love my children very much.

I just made some dumb decisions that hurt us.

I’ma make things right on everything.

I love all of ya’ll with all my heart.

This is my letter to my children.

Two by Shyheim Collins


evertime you come around

you make my heart skip n pound

i love your time, i love your smile

you turn my frown upside n round

so tell me you’ll hold me down

cus i’m gone hold you down

you’re my queen, you deserve a crown

so wassup, tell me you’re in love when nobody’s around

tell me you’re in love when nobody’s around

you love it how i’m thuggin when i come around

i come around you

you’re never last, you’re always first

we’ll always be together even thru the worst

baby it’s like a curse

heart racing, baby girl, you give it a burst

i mean everything i’m saying

baby it’s not just words

bae marry, stay ’til they bury me

i love you to the core, i really mean it

loving is the best fuckin feeling

oh, bae, you’re on my mind daily

your love drives me so crazy

we should have another baby

i don’t wanna fight, we shouldn’t fuss

this is really love, this isn’t lust

cus i’m so in love all the time

because you’re mine


these niccas hoes

caught em at the store

loafin wid his bros

i was close, so i got up on em

hit him in his fro, niccas clutchin

but i’m already uppin, boy

ain goin for none

one tried to up it, before

he dropped, it was 3

right in his stomach

i’m like damn, what i’m fina do

1 against 3 of you

it’s really 2

cus yo nicca brains

right up on my shoes

i look bacc

the other nicca ran

blicc all in his hand

left his mans, 1 dead

1 leakin

now you see what i’m sayin

shit got wicced

thank god for that


call that bitch my bliccy

bullets fliccin, leaving

niccas bloody

talking wet like willy

can’t forget i’m on that nicca ass

boy did he dash

move like a flash

they was all present

he left em inda past

but fucc that

rigth bacc to the script

cus this right here a major

nicca pray better go to church

cus you gone need a savior

send a text

shordy make a call

she blowing my log

she say dude he a major

bitch he fina drop it off

i’m like what

fina tell on who

shid i’m coming thu

told her meet me at the spot

on 5

bitch i’m onda loose

i pull up

shordy she hop in

we spin inda benz

she like peep I know where he be

i’m cool with his fran

she tap in

so we headed out

cruisin on the souf

we pull up to a bricc apartment

guess who walkin out

it’s that nicca walkin wid a bitch

i’m clutchin n shit

tryna play safe

hoe lining em up to get this

goody hit

creep out the whip

movin down the side

lil bitch indisguised

she walk off

shordy inda whip

i wave her off to slide

boom boom boom

goofy hit the ground

niccas gettin down

look around

see this nicca leakin

he can’t make a sound

hit em again

shordy pull bacc up

i hop inda benz

look inda bacc

see this lil bitch smilin

whole time

it’s her fran,

shid what you on

she like

gbg that get bacc gang shit

i couldn’t wait to get that

nicca gone

he a lame bitch

The Awkward Kiss by Steven Brown

my self sabotage was camouflaged

by a collage of distracts

against all odds, I face God

through my subconscious actions

my muscle memory limits me

to these misguided remedies

coping symmetries of dysfunctional

pleasantries only masking the

symptoms plaguing me

facing my own negativity as it

eggs me on deliberately

surpass and beyond what I grasp

allegedly in the midst of the

darkness before the dawn

the awkward kiss, this hellfire


like the regret desperate for the

moments gone

my heart’s torn between the tempest

and the eye of the storm

so I can’t mention the chaos

without the silence meant to


this mourning soul from bitter

coals dwindling in the distant


like resistance, fools fumbling

with silver linings of amber


smothering the darkness of the

morning’s glow

between the sweet lips of this awkward

kiss meant to harass

the gut from the brutal form

so I submit to the beauty

that was born

Withdrawn by Ashleigh Brown, AKA Nikki


but not present

life slips by

way too many times to count

fake friends

and still you allow them to consume


drugs became the new junk food

quick stop to suppress the thoughts


your veins dry up

while the mouth rots

watching the lifestyle

turn you lover into a stranger

your heart stops

suddenly you can’t breathe

mind grows duller

while your kids grow older

still you don’t quit

somehow you continue to push through

but only to go backwards

all the way to the same

starting line

Note 2 Self by Roosevelt Harrington

Heavy is the head that wears the crown

My mother told me

Heavy is the heart that seeks revenge

The streets showed me

When you hear the whispers of your enemies

What is your next move

When deep down inside you know they pussy

And you have nothing to prove

Respect, yes, respect

Some feel that it’s worth dying for

What if you walk away, let it go

Will they still have the same respect for you

Life will throw you all kinds of you-know-whats

And you-know-whos

It’s just up to you how you will handle it

Each and every one of them

Misery loves company

I just wanna throw that out there

Note 2 self

Everyone not going to like you for they own reason

That’s cool and expected outta jealous and envious people

just know this and always remember

Note 2 self

You don’t owe nobody a damn thang (no one)

But your kids and family (note 2 self)

The Greatest by Joshua T. Carter

The greatest story never told was about a man nobody knows. A man on the outside, complete, inside was a heart full of holes. Because he was rejected as the cornerstone, he walked the distance of milestones on sidewalks and roads — endless and all alone.

The greatest story never told, his journey begins to unfold. His version of the truth in his mind only he knows. His thoughts are on fire so hot that it’s cold. No room for despair, so his tomb is unknown.

The sun comes up and the sun goes down, on the story never told, of a man never found whose work is for all time and not just for now. But for the impending future when that man is not around.

The greatest story never told never ceases to exist, a magical myth, a star infinite. Something not read in a book or heard from a friend. Something passing only once, then never again.