Throwing the Mask Away
I started working at Greyston Bakery in 2016. I had spent a lot of time in prison—twelve and half years. I wasn’t sure that I was mentally ready to go out into society, but the only way to find out was to do it. A lot of my life involved selling and using drugs, carrying guns, and violence. I was hurting myself, my mom, and my grandmother who mostly raised me.
After my release, I first lived with my mom in Manhattan but then moved out to Yonkers to be with my sister. Finding Greyston was a blessing given my history. I have always liked working, and I didn’t want that whole welfare lifestyle. I wanted more. All the same, it was hard at first. I felt I needed to wear the same protective mask I wore when I was behind bars—I wasn’t comfortable with anyone seeing my true identity—I kept people away from me. That’s come off over time. My supervisor, Dion, has been a role model because we share the same background more or less. He’s been really encouraging and looking to him I think maybe someday I can be a supervisor, too. I’m working hard towards that.
One of the highlights of working here was getting the chance to visit the Ben & Jerry’s plant in Vermont to see how they use our brownies. I had never been outside of New York before that. I put that protective mask back on not knowing what people would be like, but as soon as I got there, I threw it in the garbage. Everyone had a smile on their face and was respectful. I had nothing to be ashamed of. I was there for four days and didn’t want to come back.
One of the best things about my life now is having some money in the bank, going to the ATM and not feeling like the police are behind me watching. It makes me smile. My hope is to one day have enough money to buy a house, maybe move to Texas where my other sister lives. For now, I’m happy that before my grandmother died, she knew I was turning my life around. Before she closed her eyes, she told me she was proud of me and to keep doing what I was doing.