I SING MY BELLY SONG, MY BELLY SONG FOR YOU: MY TIME IN PRISON

“Hustler, baller, gangsta, cap peeler 
 Who I be? your neighborhood drug dealer…”
-Percy R. Miller

On May 15, I will join some 574k men arrested for marijuana possession as part of an amazing program with Defy Ventures for their Business Coaching Day, empowering underdog aspiring entrepreneurs in prison. To learn more about Defy’s work and meet some grads (who turn street hustle into legal startups), I suggest taking a look at their video. Venture Capitalists like Upfront Ventures’ Mark Suster and TechStars cofounder (and Defy Ventures board member) Brad Feld speak about their own experiences.

And perhaps, maybe the drugs that Percy “Master P.” Miller mentioned are not just marijuana, but rather the drug of a poorly designed definition of success. Perhaps, we have gotten high off of our own supply, fast addicted to this growing cult of entrepreneurship.

Speaking of marijuana, I hear that it is now called alternative agriculture. Alt Ag? wow.

Venture Capitalist Stephen DeBerry once posed an observation of how many brown and black men are serving time for weed. Now venture capitalists from other communities will serve to make millions from cannabis. There are at least 75 individuals serving life (or de facto life) for marijuana in America today and there are approximately 3,278 prisoners serving life sentences without parole for nonviolent drug crimes.

To put it in context, a few charts:

However, take note of the after effects:

These historical trends remain in my head as I gear up to volunteer with Defy Ventures — and I wonder if I can really speak about the power of the life changing aspect of entrepreneurship. I see the continued disparity behind the walls and the continued disparity outside of the walls for those in the startup community who face additional struggles, with some even choosing to leave this community altogether.

But perhaps there is hope — maybe it will change. Meanwhile, in my head, I am ending this missive with another one of my favorite poets:

Night Music Slanted 
Light strike the cave of sleep. I alone 
tread the red circle 
and twist the space with speech

Come now, etheridge, don’t 
be a savior; take your words and scrape 
the sky, shake rain

on the desert, sprinkle 
salt on the tail 
of a girl,

can there anything 
good come out of 
prison

-Etheridge Knight