20 Years Straight Incarceration
Death Row Inmate: Dennis Mayfield Brewer C-93626
Arrested: March 3rd, 1986 - Age 26
To Date: March 3rd, 2006 - Age 46
As the sun has set on this day, March 3rd, 2006, I have thought long about my last 20 years of incarceration, from the county jail to these walls of San Quentin State Prison that are always cold and emotionless. I have had many ups and downs, changes and turn-arounds. I have dealt with adversity on many levels, and some have been truly life changing. As human beings we often try to put the hard times behind us and forget about them, but they have made me stronger.
On death row, everyday I'm fully reminded that this place is designed for short-comings and pain, as I haven't had a visit from any of my old friends. Any good times, joy or pleasures I hang onto like a security blanket for dear life, as I refuse to let Satan rob me of my joy. I'm well-known for my smile that brightens up the day for many around me. My beloved mother prayed with my father and I during our very first visit at San Quentin, that this place would never take away my smile. I love you, Mama!
With a light morning workout, I was grateful for my health, spiritually, mentally and physically. Standing 6 foot, 3 inches tall, and weighing a nice, healthy 225 lbs with all of my faculties in check. My body cried a pretty happy sweat, as it is love to be alive and in good shape. I respect this temple of the Lord, God!
As the minutes went by and San Quentin once again came to life, as other awoke and I could hear the morning shift of officers coming into the building. I automatically power up to meet adversity head on, as the one always in control of self usually dictates the actions of those before him.
Please know that I will never "sugarcoat" about this place, San Quentin as I deal with it all, always face to face, as every moment is reality.
The good, the bad, and the ugly are always in effect around me. Thus, I have to be at my best, at all times "on my toes" so as to move forward with intelligence to maintain my peace and serenity.
Here inside this cell, I'm in my own little world (my lab) and all is good as I'm always at work in one fashion or another to help others or myself. The bad isn't always the misconduct of others, but rather the ugly San Quentin itself. Yes, this place that is all rock and steel with no appeal.
Looking at this cell, I have to look beyond it and focus on myself and my personal projects of life, as this cell has an ugly floor that was painted tan at some point. I have put a wool blanket on the floor like carpet to change the look. There are cracks in the floor and it slopes to the rear of the cell. Along the base of the walls the paint is chipping off and some spots are just concrete rock.
I wash every part of this cell down every day, as I had to deal with those little black "piss-ants" a few days ago.I woke up in the middle of the night, as I felt something moving on my skin. I saw something moving on the wall just beside my head. I flicked it off and got up to turn on the light to check to see what it was, and ants were everywhere. They were even on me, and I can't stand that feeling. I started drenching all the walls with water, until I handled the ants. I then drenched myself with water and soap until I couldn't feel the ants moving on my skin anymore. All it takes is one ant to get on me and only a bath will free me of that feeling that one is still on me.
Everywhere that I can look, even right outside this cell, is filth. Dirt, grime and boot heel marks on the walls that pre-date my arrival at San Quentin, as this part of the hole is designed for inmates who are out of control and they have to be handled.
I was lying in bed looking at the air vent that is just outside this cell on the tier-wall. The dirt build-up inside of it looks like the inside of a used vacuum cleaner bag. I had to just close my eyes and think of something else. Often singing settles my soul.
I grew up in a home where my mother played the stereo often, and I would sing in the morning while we got ready for school. Also, being a choir-boy for a number of my youth years, I learned how to sing and love to do so often.
But more than anything like on March 3rd, 1986, the day of my arrest, being taken away from my son, my one and only child, rocked my world (mind) so tough until I was devastated and stayed in shock for a number of days. But just like with today, I acutely understood even then, that nobody could love my son more than I. I'm his father and as long as I breathe life, I have a responsibility to help my son grow into a productive person, and wonderful responsible man and father.
That required of me to do some serious growing up myself, and no time for a pity party. Although I took care of my son prior to my arrest, dealing with him from a death row cell I knew was going to take some ingenuity. Therefore, I had to overcome all the obstacles, and find my center within me. My beloved brother, Stanely "Tookie" Williams encouraged me to read, and to this day I do read a lot daily. Prior to coming to death row I only read two books from cover to cover in my whole life. My reading was very poor, as a result of being left behind in 3rd grade English. I became a visual learner. One with a photographic memory, as I only needed to see things done once, as I paid extra attention to compensate for my reading disability.
As I got into reading many books, I noticed a whole world opening up to me of things I did not know. Spirituality and Psychology I have always had a strong interest in, as they have become my selective choice for most of my reading adn studying today. I find this quality of subjects to help me with understanding people and life.
In 1994, after studying two long years here in the hole (that was more like 2 years of college, as I read well over 100 plus books during these years. The hole was then and education center for those close to me, as brother Stanley Tookie Williams was our professor), a guy I respected who was a few years older than I asked me , "What are you going to do now that you're out of the hole?" I looked him right in the eyes with a smile of love and said, "my son needs me, and I have to be in the best possible position I can be in "out of the hole" so I can see him, call him often, and be an active part of his life". He responded, "I'm glad to hear that."
That same year, one day while in the visiting room, a female pastor spoke with me. She told me softly that I needed to put my "ego and pride" aside. After all the studying I had done in the hole, I knew just what she meant, as I was profoundly buffed from lifting serious weights. With 21 3/4 inch arms, and my hair lying relaxed on my shoulders, and my nickname is "Herk" short for "Hercules". I always admired him growing up as he was so big (muscular), and always protected the people, and pretty ladies like a true knight and a gentleman. The Pastor shared with me something a few weeks later that changed my life forever. She told me that God Almighty told her to tell me to get ready for the work He has called me to do - Spread the Good News About His Son Jesus Christ!
As a believer of Jesus Christ, I did humble myself before the Lord. I took the glide out of my stride to steady my gait. I cut my hair, and believe me, that was a Samson like moment for me, as I had always put a lot of pride and time into grooming my hair. But this came with a reward as I was filled with the Holy Spirit of The Lord God who took full control of my life.
My beloved brother, Stanley "Tookie" Williams was released from the hole after doing many years there in the AC. We soon were housed next door to each other, and indeed, school was back in session as he always took time to teach me something I didn't know or didn't know all about. He allowed me to read his drafts and final writing of his highly acclaimed children's books and "Life in Prison". I had also gotten into working with At-Risk Youth at that time with Stan. As he loved me beautifully as a Big Brother, and often encouraged me to pray. I did and do much still today.
In 1996 my state level appeal was denied. I first received this news during a phone call with my son who was about 13 years old at that time. He didn't really understand at that time what the death penalty was all about, as I was banking on a reversal and felt no need to fill his young mind with anything other than encouragement to do well in school. But 9the news he gave me left me speechless for a few moments. I knew I had to be strong for him, and my two nieces, and mother who were all spending the Christmas holidays together. I spoke with my nieces and it was our first phone call ever that we shared. I held myself together. Then I spoke with my mother and it took all the strength I had to answer her repeated question, "Baby, are you alright?" Without breaking down or allowing her to detect it (weakness) inn my voice, as I replied, "I'm cool I'll be alright Mama. We still have the Federal Courts to hopefully get some action (relief) from." I told her that I had to go as I was about to lose it and cry. I told her to give everyone my love and we said our good-byes.
Once off the phone, I called next door to apprise Stan. He did his best to comfort me, but my silence and low tone of voice spoke volumes to him of my state of mind and heart. His last words at that time were, "Pray my brother, and keep praying."
I turn the lights and TV off and laid down and let the tears roll down my face. For three days I laid in darkness as I didn't eat, didn't go out of the cell. I would only greet my brother in the morning and that was it.
During the late night hours of the third night, this matter I could not deal with anymore. I wanted to just holler, "Nooooo...." but my discipline wouldn't allow it - such an outburst. I only had one source who knew and trust with my life. I got on my knees with my face to the ground. I prayed and told God that of my heart, and I prayed Psalms 55:22 and instantly I felt totally new. I sang my favorite Gospel song to The Lord in appreciation title: "I'm so Grateful". It's also my prayer song that goes as follows:
I'm so grateful,
I'm mighty grateful,
The Lord has spared me,
He's been my joy,
My joy in sorrow,
He's been my hope,
Hope for tomorrow.
He's been my shelter,
In times of storms,
He's been my strength,
When I'm weak and worn,
And that's why I'm grateful,
I'm mighty grateful.
Talk about me just as much as you please,
The more you talk I'm gonna stay on my knees,
The Lord has been mighty good to me,
And that's why I'm grateful -
So grateful to Thee.
I'm mighty grateful...
(You sing it just like you read it)
As I sang this song, chills covered my whole body, as I know it was the anointing power of God, The Holy Spirit full within me. Praise Jesus!
Since that time I have come from being a low convict to a "man" who is responsible for his own action, and that's how I stayed out of the hole for 11 years.
For many young guys who are coming into this place, San Quentin's California Death Row, I hope I get to speak with them. It is imperative that I let them know just where they are and that they need to spend their time wisely bettering themselves, working on their cases, and by all means reaching out to help their kids, family members, and any other youth they can encourage to excel in school and life, and not get into any trouble, but respect self and others at all times.
Ain't no time easy in this little city. One has to get a grip on the reality of just what he has been sent to death row for, "to be executed". The sooner one understands this, the better, as we all, even from death row, need to speak out against the death penalty along with all of you who are adamantly working toward an end to the death penalty. After all, it is the lives of those of us (men and women) on death row who you are campaigning for, and I know that my voice counts and helps to some degree. Even if it's just to be one of motivation, I can't sit by silently and expect a change.
The fight against the death penalty requires a great united front, and that requires every voice to ring, and no silent partners.
It takes a strong person to do time on death row, as I have known many who have gave up and committed suicide. I personally can't fathom doing such a thing as I'm super Pro-Life!
Thus, I make it my daily way of life to give of myself to help others. This is how we all come to love one another, and it is highly important that each of us understand that to help one is to love one, and teach that one to love another.
As 20 years have come and gone by, I have indeed overcome many odds and obstacles, but I press on strongly forward as a freedom-fighter. One who is fighting the good fight for peace, love, harmony and life.
I know and understand that if a person, no matter where you are, learns to love oneself, you will always find yourself being loved by others, as to love yourself is to give of yourself to help others be and do better.
To know the aspects of love is to understand the flow of nature. Going always with it in perfect harmony, as the purpose that should drive everyone's life.
In conclusion, I'd like to state that as this place, San Quentin's California Death Row, is hideous, it is the power of my infinite subconscious mind that is one with my spirit, that is connected to The Lord God Almightyn that has allowed me to grow productively over these last 20 years.
As I have stated in the yore, "Everyone on San Quentin's Death Row does his time the way he wants, but for me, it's about helping others." As we go from this point forward, let's all extend loving kindness to one another at every possible opportunity. That we may do away with all anger, bitterness, wickedness, unforgiveness and hate and give the death penalty an execution date!
Written by Dennis Mayfield Brewer
If you have any comments or would care to support me in my quest to fight for my life and work toward putting an end to the death penalty, please write to me at:
Dennis Mayfield Brewer
P.O. Box C-93626, 1-AC-65
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, California
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