becoming a self in history, becoming a self in my street
When Leroy was a young man he was imprisoned twice for exporting and
supplying huge amounts of cannabis. The first time he was imprisoned he was living in Germany which had an
enlightened prison system that helped the prisoners a great deal. The second time was in a high security unit
in Britain where the aim was nothing more than containment. The ethos of this prison was that in order to
survive, it was essential to be seen as invulnerable. Leroy was able to act out this role.
role there was another Leroy. For the first fourteen years of his life he had lived in Jamaica in a rural and
largely matriarchal community. Leroy’s grandmother was very important to him and after she died she
remained a part of his inner world. This experience led him to believe there were other dimensions to human
existence than those that we experience through our five senses. At the height of his career as a criminal, a
friend had given him a book about the spiritual ideas of Rudolf Steiner. His friend had found this book in his
grandfather’s council house in London, and he thought that it would help Leroy to understand his inner
experience of the presence of his grandmother. In his first stay in prison Leroy decided to use his time to
explore these questions. He asked his partner to send him more books by Rudolf Steiner. He read them all.
Stuck in prison for a second time and still inspired by the search for a spiritual dimension, he set up a study
group with his fellow prisoners.
Three events then came together which changed everything for
him. First, a young man in the study group committed suicide. Second, listening on an illegally rigged radio,
Leroy heard about the riots of black youths in Birmingham. Third, he heard Nelson Mandela speaking soon
after his release. He felt deep pain when confronted with the wasteful death of his young friend. He also felt
despair, empathy and responsibility for those disenfranchised youths rioting in his home town. This, combined
with the image of a black man who had once been demonised as a terrorist now being credited with authority
and wisdom, acted like a catalyst in his interior world. He felt a new sense of what was possible for him, a new
sense of what he could become for the people around him. He decided to be what was needed in that tough
world where no one dared show any weakness. He agitated to set up a counselling service in the prison. In this
he succeeded. The prisoners were trained by the Samaritans and were available to help each other day and
night. The work was so successful that the model was taken up in other prisons. His work in the prison meant
that he was released early. Leroy now works full time within his community where he combines many roles, the
most important of which is mentoring the young.