Keeping It Real

By Robert Lilly | July 1, 2009

I just finished watching the film Cover by Bill Duke, famed for A Rage in Harlem. It was the story of a flawed man in an imperfect marriage living what he thought to be the perfect lie. The story centers around the lead character Valerie Maas, the devoted wife, in love with her rich doctor husband Dutch. He, despite his lucrative medical practice, is living a lie, a lie that will lead to betrayal, intrigue and murder. It was an extremely difficult story to watch because at the heart of the story was the issue many men are afraid to admit and even more afraid to confront – infidelity. IIt is a secret hidden right in front of our eyes – in the movie Dutch’s unfaithfulness, however, wasn’t with a woman, but with a man. There is a scene where Dutch enters the church, after having been bonded out of jail by his father, he’d been arrested for assaulting his lover who disclosed that he had given him HIV, this was said to Dutch in front of his wife to whom he was pleading for forgiveness. He is on the front pew and the minister addresses him and they exchange words. “What would have happened if I’d been honest? I’d be called a sinner, a homo, a fag. We both know that if I’d been honest I would have lost everything”, Dutch said. The minister retorts, “I am used to people lying to me son, but you are lying to yourself. Dutch then says, “We both know that if I’d have been honest I would’ve lost everything.” “I hate to break the news to you son, you have lost everything, except…” said the minister with a pause. “Except what..?” he asks. “Redemption”, responds the minister; “God don’t hold grudges. His hands are always stretched out to us whether we are riding the chariots of grace or crushed beneath the wheels. He’s there, He’s there waiting for you, the longer you wait the harder it’s going to be. But you have to call Him, just call Him son, and call Him now.” I am reminded of what Paul said, “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” {Romans 2:1-4}.For an ex-offender, this is a shameful subject to address, verbally or in writing. There are certain issues that someone who comes out of prison learns to avoid because even a casual approach of the topic can engender in others minds the lingering question that most want to ask but dare not form the words with their mouths to utter, “Have you ever been with a man, sexually?” The media has persuaded the public that ‘all’ men who go to prison either get raped or rape others. And although there is numerous cases of both in prison not every man who enters prison has experienced such acts.Despite the existence of forced sex in prison there are also consensual sexual relationships that take place. This is true and for many unacceptable. However, as long as you have prisons you will have this fact – a world void of women or men for that matter does not equal asexuality. Quite the opposite sexual deviance is even riper to occur. With all this behavior abounding it is a wonder that two men can have any semblance of a decent platonic relationship. Yet that is not impossible. I want to tell you about a man I had the good fortune to meet whilst in prison, there were many over the years, all in some way were flawed, including myself, however we were able to see something in each other and when possible we sought to develop that aspect of each other’s personalities. The man of who I speak is very much a flawed man, a man with a history and a man who is definitely imperfect, still he is a man. His name is Erick Hopkins, inmate # 590512; he is 38 years of age and has spent some 18 years of his life in prison for the commission of a murder and two attempted murders. He is from Dallas, Texas and despite my knowledge of his history he is still a hero to me. He is a significant factor in my success today. It was his inspirational leadership and guidance that encouraged me at a time in my life when I was at an impasse, I could very well have given up, instead I chose to take the higher road, a road that has lead to my current successes and for that I am truly indebted to him. Recently, his mother passed away from brain cancer, and he told me how difficult it is for him to continue on, he may never see the outside of a prison again. He is serving 45 years. Nevertheless, we are friends and as friends I am obligated to do all I can to provide him now with what he gave me then –hope. We spent 3 years, at the Wallace Unit in Colorado City, Texas, together, where he still resides, and in those years many a night was spent walking the recreation yard. We’d talk and dream and he would impart to me his vision for the future and I realize now that he was seeing the world through my eyes because he knew there was a chance he would never see it as I was destined to see it, because I was a short-timer. He would discuss history, science, religion, politics, metaphysics, relationships and community building, all in one breath with me. Keep in mind this was not a college graduate, he was a self-taught man.From him I learned to envision the possibilities of this great life I’d been given by God; all this from a man who had taken another man’s life. I am inclined to believe that it is for that very reason he has been gifted, at 19 years of age he made a decision that changed the course of his life, and ended the life of someone else. Through that horrible experience he has learned of the frailty of life, the irrevocability of decisions and the swiftness of consequences.He cannot go back and undo what has been done, so he lives his days instilling in other men the wisdom that prison has afforded him the chance to gain. Countless men have left all the better for having sat at his feet, yet few reach back in to bless him in return. I vowed, before I left the prison cell that I would be the son of his mother and he would be the son of my mother, therefore, we are brothers and we will forever be bound through our firm resolve to stand in the gap for others like ourselves who had lost their way and needed someone to point them in the right direction back to the path – a path that would lead them to their destiny. He is truly a friend and for all he has done for me and untold others, I must continue to keep it real.