My First Real Job

One morning in the summer of 2003, I lounged in the cozy family room of my parents’ house. While my mother, stepfather, and older brother were all at work, I inherited my parents’ Church Hill residence until after 4 pm. Smoking marijuana, listening to loud hip hop music, and watching BET videos on the big screen TV, I was enjoying school break the best way a 15-year-old boy knew how: irresponsibly, immaturely, and recklessly.

As I sat back in my father’s Lazyboy rolling up a J, the cordless house phone rang. I checked the caller ID, but the name and number was unfamiliar.

“Hello!” I said after I lowered the music. “Hey Teef, are you trying to make some money?” my brother Dante asked.

One Moment When Love Won Over Fear

Alone, in fear, I hid under the kitchen table in my mother’s Mosby Court project in Richmond, Virginia. It’s a memorable event that I’ll never forget.

I was 2-years-old sitting shirtless on the cold tile floor in a diaper. I don’t remember how I got there, but I was under the table because I was scared. There was no one insight, not my mother, nobody.

Then suddenly, I saw two police officers appear in the living room. They were snooping around looking for something or someone. Already petrified, I kept quiet and hoped they wouldn’t find me.

God Knows the Truth

In the final hours of January 26, 2020, the lights were dim in a triangular unit at State Correctional Center. The mood was relatively normal despite the abnormalities of confinement. From smacking cards on cold steel to making 20-minute collect calls, incarcerated men were passing time the best way they knew how.

As a pair of gang members walked past striking me with mean grits, my back was pressed against the wall with my arms crossed. Like most nights during unit (pod) recreation, I was chilling, listening to music, and minding my own business.

Latif vs. Covid-19

On December 25, 2020, I woke up on my top bunk drenched in sweat. “Chow time!” the corrections officer shouted. He stood outside the opened cell door with two breakfast trays in his hands. Listening to my institutionalized instinct, I rose halfway before I quickly realized that my achy body wasn’t going to comply. I felt miserable and extremely weak. I rolled over to look down at my cell partner. “The trays, brah,” I said with a low scratchy voice. As he got up to get the cold meals, the vibration of the steel bunk had aggravated my severe headache. Oblivious to my discomfort, my cell partner thought I was either too tired or just being lazy. He placed the Styrofoam tray on top of my wall locker. Disgruntled and delirious, I closed my eyes in hope I would feel better in a couple of hours.

Stay Focused. Stay Free

“The messages are quite simple:  if you are consistently productive with a positive attitude, you’ll have a healthy mind, body, spirit, and lifestyle. And if you disassociate with negativity and illegal activity, you’ll avoid jail or prison,” Latif explained when asked what “Stay Focused. Stay Free” means.

Ex-criminal turned children’s author Latif Torres-Robinson walks what he talks. From striving to become a contributing citizen to dedicating his heart to children, the 33-year old God-fearing man has reinvented himself.

“In better words, being at liberty physically and mentally is the key to absolute freedom,” he added.