By Arnie King
Sun of Mercy and Kindness, Barthesda was born in New York (Jamaica – Queens) 34 years ago to a Christian father and a Muslim mother. His mother died in a car accident five years later and his father departed two years after that. It’s quite difficult to imagine any degree of mercy and kindness bestowed on this young fella with the death of both parents at an early age. But he was blessed with unconditional love from his grandmother, a very humble woman, who provided a warm home, spiritual guidance, and an opportunity at life. Unlike many of his peers, he graduated at 18 in 1996 from Andrew Jackson High School and even considered college, before dropping out of Long Island University after the first semester. In search of a scenic change, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps. His tour began at Parris Island in South Carolina for basic training; then shipped to Okinawa, Japan; next stop Naval Air Station in Mississippi and finally Willow Grove in Philadelphia.
Free of elder supervision, Barthesda sought out drugs and alcohol for comfort and company. His first arrest was in 1998, when riding in New York City, during military leave, with a loaded firearm on his person. The penalty was a five-year probation term, which he viewed as trivial because of his Marine Corps commitment. But two years later, still in the Marine Corps, he was regularly using drugs and went AWOL for six months. The military sent him for treatment at a facility in Virginia. It’s recognized universally that treatment works for those who want recovery, not for those who simply need it.
In 2001, Barthesda was released from Rikers Island, a county prison/jail in New York City, and discharged from the military. What was the next move scheduled to be? He returned to the old neighborhood and, with some delay, went to his grandmother’s house. She met him on the steps and without even inviting him in for a meal, she said that “There is no room at the inn for you” because she had to service and save the younger kids in the family. With a nod toward a luggage bag and a few boxes in the corner, she returned to the house with tears flowing from her eyes.
In retrospect, he recognized the military experience afforded him some blessings, which he would not appreciate until years later. Instead, he left Rikers Island with a gangster attitude. He was selling drugs, dating various older women and willing to do anything for a dollar. A family friend suggested he relocate to Springfield, Massachusetts, and take his action on the road. How could he reject this invitation to travel towards a new place in the sun?
So he traveled through upstate New York and crossed over the Massachusetts border into Springfield. There was ample opportunity for him to shine the “Sun of Mercy and Kindness” into this new city. But the degree of preparation and readiness for change was deficient, and he continued the reckless walk through the Springfield community. Within a year, he was arrested for armed home invasion with a firearm. He served three years and was released with two years probation, which he violated last year.
In March 2012, an act of desperation brought him to South Station in Boston, where he approached a nearby police officer and announced that an arrest warrant with his name was outstanding. He was transferred to Cambridge for an appearance in Woburn court during the morning session. He was transported to Concord prison after the hearing: seventeen hundred souls are within the confines of Concord, as well as lots of drugs and alcohol, a high level of violence, gambling, and many other unhealthy acts. During the brief stay of 11 days at Concord, he went to church three times and visited the gym daily and never missed an opportunity to eat breakfast, lunch, and supper in the chow hall.
Upon transfer to Walpole, he continued the spiritual program and regular gym activity during the four-month stay, as well as employment in the kitchen. The next stop was actually down the hill and around the corner from the infamous “big house”. Bay State is a medium security prison with approximately 300 men, many of whom tend to be in transit after 12 months to less secure placement. He continues the church, gym and kitchen activity at this facility and is active in AA, Toastmasters, Fellowship and Prison Voices, which connects with high school students about choices in life.
He remembers the desperation, which prompted him to surrender to the Massachusetts warrant and inspires continued positive change. The challenge for him is to make personal investments profitable. For example, he reads books to acquire skills, rather than for simple leisure, and dialogues with people to acquire the wisdom of their experience. When asked about lessons learned during the last year, he recalled trying to contact the mother of his daughter and discovering the address and phone number had changed. Therefore, “If my action states that I don’t care about my future, I can’t expect them to support me and others to care about me. I need to love my daughter and respect those around her. How can I show love to another if I don’t love myself?”
Arnie King killed another human being in Boston as a teenager and has been in prison for over 40 years. He writes from a 6×8 cell as he seeks the governor’s approval for commutation of sentence. Website: www.arnoldking.org … email: firstname.lastname@example.org … online petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/akfree07/