Released: The Discovery of the Ultimate Key

By Sidney “Quan” Butler

Born into the land of the sleep and the home of the slave; I mean land of the free and the home of the brave. All of my senses are operable and well, but the most important function imprisoned me. No one looked and saw the chains inside the baby’s mouth binding both the brain and tongue. At the first glance, the bronze skin, wild wavy jet-black hair and majestic features would not lead one to consider this sighting a sentencing for me, a boy with a tormenting stutter that stagnated the expression of the creative depths of my mind. Stuck on my shoulders in thought, not being able to effectively speak is like a substantial amount of time in solitary confinement, forced to resiliently dwell in the confinement of the mind. My tongue is the guard who has the power to unlock the flow of my expression. Throughout adolescence agency was gained through silence and writing. The power of words and their universality was understood. Different letters, origins, meanings and sounds. Fearful of embracing them, I just silently acknowledge their presence in conversation with myself. Observational learning built my courage but not my fluency.

Being poor and ignorant, no one knew what was wrong with me or how to cure me of this dis-ease. Growing up in a maternal family of generations of powerful, outspoken original femininity made my swimming in emotional whirlpools of verbal waves a daily failure. My earth (mother) gave birth to me when she was seventeen, so we truly matured together, similar to siblings both raised by my grandmother with her sixth-grade education. Drowning in the depths of the parenthood ocean caused literacy to literally not be alive in that house. Holding books was not part of the rhetorical ambiance. 

Silence becomes my relative rhetoric in encounters with others. Understanding each other like yin and yang, my mother and I communicated through facial expressions for ours were the visuals of our thoughts. I became the pack on the back of my mother as she ventured through hallways of community colleges and universities pursuing degrees in education to become a teacher. I always wondered if she wanted to educate me on the cause and cure of my speech impediment or just to progress from the lower class to the middle class. The latter became manifested as time evolved and I still couldn’t shake the stutter. Traveling to educational institutions throughout the city, yet my mother didn’t understand that classrooms are placed between the ears of those who can’t readily and effectively express themselves. The walls are covered, floor to ceiling, with images, formulas, and conversations. Any useful information is higher education for the voiceless.

Close-mouthed I learned the dual capacity of words: to create and destroy. Not being able to pronounce words not only limited my vocabulary but my development from a male to a boy into a man. The way people can be captivated and inspired by words made me want to be better. The day came when I began to push past the guard as I took back control of my rudder (tongue) and steered myself towards the freedom of expression. I read more in school and became intrigued with the attention I received when I spoke out. Because I comprehend well, writing and drawing was the rhetorical agency that I became strengthened through.

Cruising through life not being able to speak the truth was not taken seriously until the truth had to be defended to free me from a cage filled with societal outcasts and “superpredators.” Seeing how Ebonics stood no chance against legalese in the courtroom awakened the realness of speech to me. It was not until I encountered the judicial system that I had seen how words were used to take lives. In physical confinement, I saw how many people actually struggled with speech impediments, articulation, and comprehension. The sight of men and women losing the greatest possession of existence because they did not understand a law that consisted of a language that no one on the planet no longer spoke will either motivate you to learn or die a slow death of ignorance.

It was in the Cook County jail where I met an older brother named Terry Bond, who was illiterate his whole life until his mid-thirties. He gave me a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and told me that reading is fundamental to survival and livelihood. Learning from both him and Malcolm, I found a dictionary and studied words that had the same meaning so I could use words that allowed me to flow in my delivery without triggering a stutter. Taking heed to the advice, I began to read different books for educational purposes, changing what I considered to be entertainment. I was astounded to learn that Malcolm X, one of the most articulate and powerful leaders of Black America in the 1960s, became educated through prison studies. I stopped being a part of and listening to frivolous conversations, for no one has been compensated from those meaningless and baseless statements. My granny mailed me a book called The Secret about the law of attraction. It was then that I was introduced to the magnetic consciousness. I understood how the thoughts that I focused on became a part of my reality. I see words as being divine tools when properly placed in clauses: superpowers for common folk.

Being the first-born male out of the last three generations maternally, I feel obligated to guide and protect my loved ones. The plight of my people being bound by the misunderstanding of words drives my elevation. The scripture was right when it said that my people suffer from a lack of knowledge. I am a firm believer in Proper Education Always Corrects Errors. For me words are the vehicles that transport my thoughts and ideas into the plane of manifest allowing me to be heard, felt and understood. Words are the keys forged to unlock my destiny. Keys to free me from all forms of bondage. Words are like herbs used to heal torn souls and confused minds. Words are the relief after adversity. When I have been in my lowest states naked and afraid in the view of the world, words have royally and righteously clothed me.

Those years my tongue was wrapped in silence like a cocoon cultivated an inner transformation within my reflection and myself. As a man, mature and evolved, I am like the owl on the oak tree. The more he saw the less he spoke. The less he spoke the more he heard. Listening to different life forms has given me strength when I was vulnerable and quiet. Every time I open my mouth my creative expression takes flight to voice the reality of the many who can’t speak for themselves. At the end of the day, can I really be ok if my neighbor is not? Prison is an oppressive voiceless place. In the workshop of the mind, the voices of the ridicules are cut out as rhetorical agency creates meaningful lives from within. Finding comfortability in my understanding of complex concepts calms the stutter as I patiently strive towards my education and enlightenment. I speak freely when I am at peace. 

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