When I was seriously considering pursuing a doctoral degree, I looked for valid reasons not to pursue it. I told myself “I am not good enough”, “I am not smart enough”.
The mentors and colleagues that I sought counsel from on this decision were consistent in their feedback. They asserted that I was smart enough, I was good enough, and that my testimony was needed to make a difference in the lives of others.
My tie to ex-offenders
Upon making the decision to pursue the doctorate, one of the many pearls of wisdom I received was to have my dissertation topic in mind and to have passion about the subject. Almost 20 years ago, I went through the unfortunate experience of being convicted of a non-violent felony. I spent six months of my sentence in prison before being granted work release, then parole. Ultimately, I completed my sentence.
During my time in the criminal justice system, I witnessed the disenfranchisement of many individuals, in particular minorities. A great deal of men did not have the educational level I had. Some didn’t even know how to read. Still, I did not look at myself as being better than them. After all, we were in the same predicament. When I came home, I went to work for The Fortune Society to assist ex-offenders to transition back to mainstream society. I then I re-located back to Florida, started working in higher education and pursued my second master’s degree.
Finding my dissertation
During this journey, I was not conscious of the seeds being planted in me regarding my future doctoral commitment and dissertation work. However, upon acceptance and matriculation into the doctoral program, I continually reflect on the disenfranchisement of the men I was incarcerated with, as well as those I served at The Fortune Society. I felt called to make my doctoral work the foundation to make the difference in the lives of ex-offenders looking for the opportunity to do better and to be better. I would conduct doctoral research to show the relationship between ex-offenders re-offending or not re-offending and obtaining sustainable employment. My work could be one of the many steps to creating a successful integration to mainstream society for ex-offenders, especially those that are disproportionately minorities.
Besides passion for my dissertation topic, I have seen thus far that commitment is key to be successful in a doctoral program. You must first have the commitment to work within the program and balance your life to make the program a priority. Also, you must have faith, as well as discipline and consistency in all your actions during the program.
In closing, at the beginning of summer term 2016, I received news that my 20-year-old son was murdered. As a parent, my son was very important to me and someone I loved very much. In addition, he was a firm supporter of my doctoral pursuit. I’ve transformed the hurt I continue to feel by his loss into the passion, fuel, discipline, and consistency. I strive to succeed for him, the ex-offenders I write for, and for myself. I am good enough, I am smart enough, and I belong here.
This post is part of our #SADocsofColor series for March. The journey towards obtaining a doctorate degree is long and arduous. This series highlights the stories of those on that journey that identify as men and women of color; stories which aren’t always told and stories that are important.