In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • A Letter from South Central Correctional Center
  • Michael Johnson

Michael Lewis Johnson DOC#1285371
South Central Correctional Center
255 W Highway 32
Licking, MO 65542-9069
30 June 2016

Dear Ryan & Friends,

I am so happy to write this letter to you Ryan for the journal. I will do my best to tell you as much about my life prior to dealing with all this HIV criminalization. Right now I am appealing my thirty-year sentence in Missouri and I don’t want to say anything that will jeopardize my appeals process. Still, I will share what I believe will not do that as I tell you about my life prior to this situation. To hear more about my case, you can look up FreeMichaelJohnson.org. People from Gay Shame put it together for me.

Right now I am in administrative segregation so I will do the best I can with what I have at this time to tell you my life story.

I grew up in my family with a single mother and four older brothers. At first my oldest brother Brandon was staying with my grandmother until she passed away because at the time my mother was too young to raise him. So it was me, Derrick, Donavon, and Stephen living together with our mother Tracy.

I hope Brandon knew he has younger brothers because he grew up an only child. I say this because he doesn’t act like an older brother should to me. That is why it would have been better if he grew up in the same house as his younger brothers. [End Page 177]

When I was in Warren Central High School my first year it was hard for me because at the time I still could not read, write, or spell very well. I was put in special classes with others that had a hard time learning just like me. Most of them came from the same middle school so a lot of us knew each other very well.

I love school so much because of the friends, sports, and teachers I had to help me learn. My friends and coaches I had in sports made finding help easy for me to pass classes because if I needed help all I had to do was ask for it.

To help you understand more about me it was like this: When I got a new teacher I would make sure I told them I could not read at all hoping I didn’t get called on to read out loud in front of the whole class out of fear of being laughed at like I did in the past.

At times I did get called on to read out loud so I had the teacher or other students help me with words I couldn’t read or sound out. If I knew what I was going to have to read before I was asked I would try to go over it again and again to make sure I knew each word before I came to it. I started to get better every year up to college, just not on the grade level I was in at the time to keep up with everyone in my class.

For the school tests I did well on or the homework I did the best on, someone read it to me and helped me work through it with them as they read it to me.

Growing up, this was a part of me I did not want other people to know, just like I did not want it known that I had feelings for guys in high school. Going to college I told myself it was time to stop hiding who I really was, so I came out as an openly gay black man. It helped me feel free when I stopped thinking about others and focused on bettering myself.

As I was going through high school people talked about the fact that I was a black gay wrestler named Michael with the nickname “Tiger.” I got the nickname Tiger on the wrestling team who were like my family growing up. The name came from people who...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2327-1590
Print ISSN
2327-1574
Pages
pp. 177-181
Launched on MUSE
2017-02-06
Open Access
No
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