I was only eight years old in the photo. I am the fifth of seven children born to a lovely couple who moved to East Los Angele from Mexico in 1965 to give us better opportunities. Opportunities I squandered for many years. Blinded by trauma and a life lived unwell. I’d lost touch with that part of me that was loving, kind, trusting, compassionate and wise. From my teens until I turned 31 I became the opposite, causing nothing but harm to others and myself through gangs and drugs. I was given a life sentence for a drive-by shooting where I almost killed a man. Once in prison I continued ending up in the SHU (Segregated Housing Unit) several times. About ten years in, during my last and final SHU term I had an awakening. Realizing how far gone I was, with help from my father, sister and mother, all who never gave up on me, I began the long journey back to myself. Since then I have remained disciplinary free. I have earned an Associate of Arts Degree, a welding certification, and continue to participate in positive programs which have lifted my spirit and have opened opportunities which I never dreamed of happening in my life. If I ever earn my release I wish to live my life of living amends and service to others.
I wish to donate any proceeds to St. Jude’s Hospital in my victim’s name. St. Jude was a charity that my father Jose Ramiro Castro used to donate to, a tradition I would like to honor.