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Friday, April 15, 2011

Author Christopher LaKeith Price: Learning To Stand Strong Alone


by Cyrus Webb

The story of author Christopher Lakeith Price is not only one that should inspire writers, but I believe anyone who has gone through a challenging time or difficulty will be able to relate to him. His book I STOOD ALONE takes us into the life he has lived and gives us a glimpse at the man he is now and continues to become. It also assures us that no matter what we are going through, it is important to remember that none of us are ever truly alone. (This article appears in the April/May 2011 issue of Conversations Magazine)

Christopher, we appreciate your allowing us to share your story. Let's begin with what brought you to our attention, which is your debut book. What led you to write I STOOD ALONE?

While I was incarcerated, I was actually divinely inspired to write I Stood Alone.  I had a spiritual-dream in which the Creator revealed to me to write the book.

In your interview on Conversations LIVE, you talked about the challenges that those who have served time have when they have served their debt to society. Talk a little about your own difficulties that you experienced?

Ex-offenders experience an array of challenges upon their release from prison.  Those challenges present themselves in many ways, such as housing, family issues, job attainment, and inadequate re-entry programs.  Many times ex-offenders do not have homes to be paroled to, and for many of those that are able to stay with family members or significant others, the homes are not conducive for the ex-offender to make a smooth transition into society; that is, the ex-offender may not have a healthy relationship with the person with whom he has been paroled. 

Another issue is employment.  Employers oftentimes do not hire ex-offenders, and of the few places of business that do hire ex-offenders, the salaries are usually miniscule and not an adequate amount to support oneself.    I was somewhat fortunate in that, upon my release from prison, I was paroled to my paternal grandmother's home.  My experiences with employment were a little different than most ex-offenders, primarily because of my family's support.  I did not have the responsibilities that many ex-offenders have, as in children and spouses.  As such, I was able to focus more on re-acclimating myself to society, rather than having to worry about getting a job and paying bills.  My first job, however, was as a third-shift stock person at a local grocery store, though my employment did not last long.  After completing my twelve-hour shifts, I would return home where I cared for my grandmother who was stricken with Alzheimer's.  I would sometimes come home to find that my grandmother had soiled herself, or had made a disastrous attempt at cooking breakfast.  I eventually quit my job to care for her full-time and to continue my education.  Because I had the support of my grandmother and aunt, I was able to achieve my Bachelor's degree.

The biggest challenge I faced when I was released was in learning the varied personalities of my family members; most everyone had seemingly changed from the persons I knew them to be when I left them as a young, twenty year old man-child.  Life had changed them; some of them were no longer caring, nurturing persons.  For me, the change in them was a difficult adjustment.  I had always been very family-oriented, so to come home to persons who were self-serving and cantankerous was a real challenge for me.

When it comes to the message you hope people get from your experiences, what would it be?

The message I hope people will get from my experiences is that ALL things are surmountable through the power of God within us.  I know that such statements seem like a cliché, though I know the truthfulness in my assertion.  In the twinkle of an eye my whole world had turned upside-down.  Life has a way of throwing us curve balls, yet through my own experiences I have learned that, if we simply hold onto God's unchanging hand and to keep our eyes on the prize, we can overcome anything life hurtles our way! 

This year Conversations Magazine is all about new beginnings. What are your plans as you move forward in sharing your story and in your career as a writer in general?

My plans are to make my books globally accessible. I want people all over the world to read the veracity of my experiences and to, prayerfully, gain an insight into a life that may be very different from their own.  It is my hope that the readers find the strength within themselves to weather the storms of life.  To that end, I will tirelessly tour the country promoting I Stood Alone and Love's Child.  Additionally, I am in the process of writing a sequel to I Stood Alone.  

Christopher, any advice you want to pass on to individuals who may have gone through situations similar to yours and feel as though they want to share it the way you did?

My advice to those who have been incarcerated is for him/her to stay focused on his goals and objectives, steer clear of old vices, and to seek counseling.  The transition from being bound to being free is a difficult one mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  In the African American community there is a stigma attached to seeking mental health therapy.  Just as we, as people, have a need to be seen by a physician or dentist for an ailment or simply for a check-up, so, too, should we seek the help of a mental health therapist to maintain our mental health.  Life is sometimes cumbersome.  We ought not to feel ashamed to talk with a professional in an effort to successfully navigate our way through life.     

Regarding ex-offenders sharing their experiences, I would encourage the ex-offenders to set aside some time to chronicle their experiences.  Even if they do not have a goal of writing books, the ex-offenders can verbally share their knowledge and use it to correct the actions of wayward teenagers or adults.  Also, they can volunteer as guest speakers at juvenile detention centers in hopes of changing the lives of our youngsters.  AA/NA (Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous) meetings are another means for ex-offenders to share their experiences in a helpful and therapeutic manner, regardless of whether the ex-offender has a substance abuse problem. 

What about people who are just dealing with the day to day struggles of life? Any encouragement or words of wisdom for them? 

As with ex-offenders, I encourage anyone to seek the help of a qualified mental health therapist.  I find that persons who have NOT been incarcerated face many of the same issues as ex-offenders, i.e. difficulty with employment, family problems, and poverty.  I encourage people to connect with their spiritual-selves and gain sustenance from it.  Finding spiritual solace can be found in many places.  I believe in the sacrifices of Jesus Christ, though spirituality can be found in any number of faiths (Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, etc.)  The important thing is to connect with the essence of the universe and, from there, to find the means to move through life both healthily and with purpose.

Thanks for talking with us, Christopher. How can our readers find out more information about you?

Thank you all for allowing me to share my work and thoughts.  I can be found on Facebook, Twitter (ChrisLPrice), and my website:  www.christopherlakeithprice.com

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