This Man Shares His Journey From Prison to College Graduation | Bonobos Class Of 2019

This Man Shares His Journey From Prison to College Graduation | Bonobos Class Of 2019

October 19, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


– Tomorrow I’m gonna
be a college graduate. And my journey started in a prison cell. The neighborhood I grew up in is known as South Central Los Angeles. These neighborhoods, these environments are almost conducive for failure. Father was on crack, mother didn’t have a high school education,
brother was in gangs. I personally didn’t finish high school. But coming where we come
from, this is normal. Our community was like a
production, an assembly line to produce the product
that goes into prison. I was a product. Being in prison, it’s
embarrassing and shameful, but when I was reading,
Martin Luther King said, “You can only see the stars
at night when it’s darkest.” So you don’t really see
the light or your potential until you’re in conditions
where there’s nothing else. Prison was an absolute nightmare
and the only opportunity I had was through education. I got my first grade, when
I got an A, and I remember I felt so good, I took off
running around the yard. Because I felt like I
accomplished something, in prison. From then on it just lit a fire in me where I knew I could build my future if I just stick with it. I remember inmates would
come and confide in me and I saw that I had an ability to communicate with people
from all walks of life. I said now if I can communicate
with people in this level in the worst of environments,
what can I do on the streets? I saw that this was my calling, to reach the people who
are disenfranchised, to reach the people who have been told they can’t make it,
that they won’t make it. To reach the people who come
from the absolute gutter. And I made a promise to God, I said if you get me out of
here, I will do whatever it takes to make sure that
people like me and people who are not like me don’t
come in and I made it out. I got released July 17,
2017, around 11:33 a.m. I remember that moment. I enrolled in class that day, and I just picked up where I left off. Tomorrow, inmate number 18-5304 is gonna be a college graduate. I’m going from the hood,
to one day maybe Harvard! In prison, we all had to wear the same uniform, same thing, uniform like a carbon copy,
nothing more than a number. – How’s it going? – It’s going good, real good. My name’s Artis. – I’m Sarah, nice to meet you. What’s the suit for? – Suit’s for my graduation ceremony. – Congrats, that’s exciting!
– Thank you, thank you. – Let’s get you suited up. – I didn’t know my style anymore! And I’m still discovering my style. – So all of our suits
come in different fits, what color were you thinking? – I think it’s important
that I have my own style. Because my experience is
unique, my fit is unique. – Oh, I like this shirt, look at that. – Right, what do you think of that? – This definitely speaks to me, playful and professional
all at the same time. – Yes, let’s try it out. Amazing, it looks so good! – Your wardrobe, your
style is presented before you’re presented, before people even hear you, they see you. – You’re ready to graduate. – I’m ready to graduate. – I’ve watched you grow
to this phenomenal man that you are today, and I’ve admired you and looked up to you
since I was a little girl. And I’m just extremely proud of you Artis, mom is smiling, granny’s smiling, what you doing is just great. And we had to come
together and let you know how much we love and support you. – I’m just amazed at
what you’ve accomplished, and I’m so proud of you. You are gonna go far and
wide doing great things. – I’m so proud of you, you stand
out and shine like a light. It make me wanna be a better person. – Thanks for letting me call you daddy when my dad wouldn’t help me. – You’ll always be my son, champ. I love you okay? – I love you too, dad. – You going to college? – Yep. – I never heard people
speak that highly of me before to my face. To say what I meant to them. To hear my children say
what I meant to them. It’s something I think
I’m gonna look back on for the rest of my life and remember, that I have value. – What I wish for my brother in the future is his health and wealth. I remember being a kid
and my brother being like 12 years old and my mom
being sick at the time. My brother had to step
to the plate, and he did. Health and wealth, health and wealth. To the next hundred years,
I’ll be there forever. – Those are good tears. Those tears are healing to you man. We made it, it’s been a long road. A long road but we made it,
and that’s the important part. To know that my little
brother looks up to me, it reminds me that
everything we do matters and there’s always somebody watching. I love you. – Love you too man. – Nobody makes it on they own. I represent a community of
people that came together collectively to see
one individual make it. I feel forever grateful. Statistics show 75 percent
of people go back to prison. But when you have a college degree, that number drops down to 10 percent. And tomorrow , I’m going to be in a
whole ‘nother statistic. I’m gonna be a college graduate. One thing I’m doing is I’m
keeping my promise to my mother that I would educate myself. And I have hopes for my sister next, hopes for my baby brother Desmond next. Because the Knox’s were
considered to be rejects. We were the black sheep, the
degenerates of the family, the uneducated. And tomorrow I’m gonna
be a college graduate. And a promise keeper. Entering into the prison
industrial complex taught me how important it
is to live from the heart. And I believe that’s what protected me while in those conditions, because I knew I wasn’t the toughest, I wasn’t the strongest,
I wasn’t the biggest, I wasn’t the bravest. I couldn’t outfight ’em, but
I could try to outlove you! – [Announcer] Artis Knox. – Hey!! Oh yeah, this is love right here. Now the darkness is making sense. And all I see is beauty. You guys proud of me? – Yeah!!! – There’s a whole lot
of people in the world that feel like they don’t fit in. I personally felt like I didn’t fit in. It was through my struggles, my trials, my frustrations, my journey
that I found my fit, and I want to show people
how to find their fit. ‘Cause once you find your
fit you find your calling, you find your purpose. And then you push society forward.