#DawudTaughtMe: Robert Dowell

#DawudTaughtMe that in order to create change, we must exemplify change.

My name is Robert Dowell, aka MJasiri (pronounced em-Jah-Seer-ree). I am an incarcerated human being from the city of Philadelphia. What I want to express in this statement is the significant impact and influence that my beloved mentor, comrade, and big broth David “Dawud” Lee has had on my life. I’m praying for him to receive commutation because I know how strong of an asset he’ll be not just to our community, but to society as a whole. Dawud has taught me a lot about manhood, patience, personality, character, discipline, dedication, determination, commitment, responsibility, accountability, friendship, and much more.

The most important thing Dawud instilled in me is to educate myself and to use education to find purpose/meaning in my life. Discovery of my purpose would manifest through the praxis of what I’ve learned about knowledge of self. To quote something he mentioned to me a while ago: “Education is the key to our freedom and survival as a community, as a people, as human beings.”

I know what life is like void of meaning because I grew up in a community where you look around and see nothing but hopelessness and despair. A community where the mode of survival was reduced to living in the moment, trying to make it past the day, due to the next one not being promised. I understand what lacking a sense of purpose and being disconnected from myself looks and feels like. And this is why I strive and search vigorously for meaning and making connections with others because I understand that we are a part of something greater than our individual single organism.

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to build with Dawud and for the times we get to spend in each other’s company. I’m certain that if I had someone like him in my life growing up, especially before my experience of incarceration, I wouldn’t be here now. If he helped me envisioned possibility and opportunity, as someone who is incarcerated, I know that people in our communities out there can and will benefit from his direct presence in their lives. Society is where Dawud belongs: with his family, with our community, with our people (all human beings).