I felt so alone and rejected – until my prison cellmate taught me about belonging

Abandoned and neglected, I was close to a breakdown when I entered Wormwood Scrubs. Then Simeon introduced me to the black literature that inspired me to write

It was June 1981 and I was 18. I stood in the dock at Camberwell Green magistrates court in south London. I was just about to receive my sentence for my role in the Brixton uprising of that April, after being arrested for assaulting a police officer. Ignoring the summary of my case, I stared into the public gallery. Relatives of the other six accused sat there in quiet, hopeful silence. I imagined they were mums, dads, aunts, uncles, siblings and grandparents. But not one belonged to me.

I studied their faces, trying to comprehend what it might be like to have someone of your own blood supporting you. I tried to picture what my own parents looked like and what they might feel as I was handed down my sentence. If my mother were present, would she be weeping? I barely heard the 12‑month custodial term being given to me.

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