The Men Who Lifted Me Up In Prison
By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on May 1, 2022
I entered the federal prison system on August 28, 2019 at the Federal Prison Camp at Talladega. From the moment I entered the system, a series of remarkable and courageous men lifted me onto their shoulders and made it possible for me fight for the freedom of scores of deserving inmates, some of whom were actually innocent of the charges against them.
Over the past three years, I have written articles about a few of these men. Now is time to tell you how we became friends and comrades in the never-ending struggle for truth, justice, and respect for human dignity.
The Inspirational Men of FCI Talladega
As fate would have it, Mr. George Washington Dunn, Jr., was my first cellmate. He was the Head Orderly of T-Dorm, where I was housed. George and I were inseparable from August 28, 2019 to May 12, 2020. This courageous man stood tall in stature, in courage, and in his love for humanity. I featured George in a June 17, 2021 article titled, "George Washington Dunn, Jr.: Standing Tall in the Trenches."
Dr. Donatus MBanefo, MD, served as my "de facto" personal physician at FCI Talladega. His story is featured in my January 22, 2020 article titled, "God Wears a Robe-Part 4: Dr. Donatus O. Mbanefo: A Case Study in Xenophobia." This distinguished man was educated at the best British-run schools in Nigeria and colleges in London. Dr. Mbanefo has certifications in optometry, applied physics, electromagnetism, and motion, heat, light and sound. Dr. Mbanefo received medical licenses in Nigeria and the United States.
After FCI Talladega Warden Cheron Y. Nash allowed inmate Mack Smith to suffer and die a needless death in April of 2020 from what we believed was an early case of COVID-19, I knew that I needed a world-class physician to take care of my medical needs and to intubate me in my dorm, in the event I contracted COVID-19 at age 71. Not only was the healthcare at FCI Talladega woefully inadequate, but Warden Nash was simply too incompetent to implement, maintain, and oversee a healthcare service that met the needs of Talladega's inmates. Nash was a classic case of affirmative action gone wrong.
Mr. Johann Jordan, a former math instructor at South Carolina State University, was a prison camp inmate at Talladega. Johann is a math genius. We worked together as teachers at the prison camp. Johann also tutored GED students and advanced math students. Johann, whom I consider as one of my sons, left FCI Talladega in November of 2020. He is now a highly successful mainstream businessman in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
Eventually, Johann Jordan, Dr. Donatus MBanefo, Isaac Culver (who is featured in my January 20, 2020 article titled, "God Wear a Robe-Part 2: The Judicial Lynching of Isaac Culver"), and I formed a math and physics team to solve the Navier-Stokes Equation, one of the six unsolved math problems published by the Clay Mathematics Institute in Boston. We solved this decades-old complex math/physics problem in about four months. I was charged with: (a) writing up our team's formal Navier-Stokes solution, (b) validating our solution with my sister Marie (who holds a PhD degree in Math from the University of California at Berkley), (c) patenting our solution domestically and internationally, and (d) licensing our solution to NATO allies in Europe that use and deploy naval submarines.
Because U.S. prisoners are legally and technically "slaves" under the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, my team may not be able to own the proprietary intellectual property rights we developed while we are inmates. As a prophylactic measure, we will protect our intellectual property rights by registering them in a nation that prohibits all forms of slavery. Sweden offers us this protection.
Surviving Detention in the "Hole"
I spent eight months in the maximum security "Hole" in the medium security federal prison in Talladega. During my first stay in the "Hole" in April of 2020, my cellmate was Mr. Keith Barnhart from Charlotte, North Carolina. Keith was a former military intelligence officer and a God-send. Ironically, Keith's father was an outstanding student at Alabama State University while my father was president of the University. We bonded immediately.
From Keith, I learned survival techniques for when one is captured as a "POW" and subject to the most inhumane prison conditions. Interestingly, when I was booked into the "Hole," the SIS lieutenant who took me there referred to me as a "POW." When I exited the "Hole," the white guards who escorted me to the exit door chanted, "Dead man walking, dead man walking, Dead man walking!" They only stopped chanting this phrase when Lt. Sanders, a black supervisor, entered the intake area of the "Hole."
FCI Talladega's "Hole" is what one would find in a third-world country. It is old, filthy, and rat and rodent infected. It is engulfed in toxic black mold; it has drinking water that is contaminated with lead poisoning; and it's toxic air pollution is extremely dangerous for staff and inmates, alike.
When the air-conditioning went out during the summer of 2020 and temperatures in the closed-door cells soared to 110 degrees inside some of the cells in the "Hole," I asked Warden Nash to leave the food slat open in the solid metal door so that Keith and I could get some air circulating in the cell. She rudely said, "No," and huffed off.
Afterwards, I felt a heat stroke coming on. Keith laid me on the concrete floor and placed a wet towel over my back to cool down my body temperature. I slept on the concrete floor each night and breathed the small amount of circulating air that flowed through the half-inch gap at the bottom of the cell door until the air-conditioning was repaired several days later.
U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta
After arriving at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta on November 23, 2020, I was reunited with Keith Barnhart, who had arrived there before me. Keith was freed shortly thereafter. Then, Mr. Ralph Menard became my cellmate in Atlanta's Holdover Unit. Ralph, who is of Haitian descent, is a young and brilliant intellectual. He was a highly successful businessman in Miami and Atlanta before his imprisonment.
On December 28, 2020, Ralph helped me prepare my written objections to the Alabama Department of Revenue's time-barred effort to assess $2 million in taxes on $13.4 million in income that had been previously reported and taxed by state and federal authorities. On March 7, 2022, the Department's general counsel agreed with our legal position that the assessments were null and void.
As the first and only African-American since the 1940s to start and operate a successful full-service commerce bank in the United States, I taught Ralph how his immediate and extended family could start and operate a successful bank that focused on commercial customers in the United States and Haiti. Ralph's family is working on this project now.
Because of widespread graft and corruption among staff members and some inmates at the Atlanta Penitentiary, this prison facility was quietly closed in the summer of 2021.
The Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma
In February of 2021, I met Derrick Perkins at the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He became my cellmate. Derrick was in his early 30s and grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. Again, God placed me with a brilliant and well-mannered cellmate.
It was through Derrick that I met a young, gifted, and black female entrepreneur who I will prominently feature in an upcoming article after she closes a Wall Street capital funding deal for her international e-commerce business.
This woman is a former Bill Gates Millennial Scholar and Kentucky Governor's Scholar. She attended high school with Derrick. If there is a female entrepreneur in the U.S. who is smarter and harder working than this young woman, I have not met her. I enjoy mentoring business women immensely. She has exceeded all of the expectations that I had of her. Within the next 5-10 years, this woman's name, business, and brand will become a household word around the globe.
My only regret about Derrick and his female friend and classmate is that I did not meet them when they were in high school. Had I known them when I operated The Children's Bank, I would have funded their teenage business concepts. There is no doubt in my mind that both of these young entrepreneurs will become mega mainstream business icons.
Federal Prison Camp at La Tuna
When I arrived at the Federal Prison Camp at La Tuna, I saw that the predominant inmate population was Mexican-American. Again, God placed me with two great cellmates -- Benjamin Robles and Efren Cardenas-Jimenez. They welcomed me with open arms.
Efren is in training to become a Christian outreach minister for troubled youths. He is my spiritual adviser. Benjamin, who comes from a family of long-haul trucking owners and operators, has educated me on the operational aspects of the national and international integrated long-haul ground logistics business. Both men are intellectually gifted and have excellent people skills.
Efren has a peace and serenity about him that I have not seen since I was in my Sunday School class in the 1950s with a new young pastor named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Efren's impact on the world will be great. I am so glad that God allowed my life to intersect with Efren's.
Benjamin also educated me on the real-life impact of the U.S. Immigration Services Agency's 1954 "Operation Wetback" program that rounded up 1.3 million Mexican-Americans and Hispanic migrants living in America and deported them to Mexico. Sixty percent of those who were deported were American citizens. Some of Benjamin's relatives were among those who lost their homes and everything else they owned during "Operation Wetback."
Bridging Ethnic Divides
Through friends like Benjamin, Efren, Alphonso Woodley, Sr, and a host of others at La Tuna, I have been able to bridge the cultural divide between Hispanics, Asians, whites, Native-Americans, and blacks in the Camp. This successful bridging is readily adaptable to the diverse groups in the outside political world.
A major part of multiculturalism is education on: (a) the importance of bridging ethnic divides, (b) the impact of political activism, and (c) the necessity for strategic political alliances among historically disadvantaged groups. I have been able to greatly expand my political reach beyond the walls of FPC La Tuna through my association with Benjamin, Efren, Alphonso, and their friendship circles.
Whenever I leave La Tuna, my reach in the international business and U.S. domestic political arenas will be broader than it was before I entered prison. My goal is to positively impact the outcome of the 2024 presidential race through political activism.
As the founder and owner of an online news publication for Independent voters with a growing national and international base of readers, I have aligned myself with a new, California-based Super-PAC for Independent voters and a nationwide voter registration drive that targets new Independent voters of all races and backgrounds in six swing states. To me, the future of America and national politics rests with Independent voters.
To the men who lifted me up during my prison ordeal, I am indebted to you for life. Your friendship is genuine and enduring. You suffered greatly for what you did for me, but you lifted me up anyway. I will never forget you. We have forged a friendship for life.
As each one of us is released and begins his work assignments and pursues our collective political objectives, we will experience the bright futures that are waiting for us. No person or force can stop us from lifting up all of humanity, just as we lifted up each other.
George Dunn, you paid the highest price for standing up for me and telling the truth when FCI Talladega pressured and punished you because you would not tell a lie on me. I will never forget your bravery, suffering, and quiet dignity.
After I am released from prison, I will lift up all of you and show you that the world appreciates what you did for me, and for humanity. In spite of a concerted effort by my enemies to imprison and destroy me, God has continued to bless me with the ability to positively impact the lives of deserving men, women, and children around the world.
I never abandon a true friend, ever!
I love you guys!