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Hey everyone.  What’s good?

As always I love your letters.  And, no, I’m not going bald.  Hahaha!  Even though my haters say that they can see where it’s going thin.  I tell them not to put that evil on me!  Hahaha!  Nah, I keep my hair short because I don’t want to grow it out anymore.  Leo got fired from the barbershop, so he can’t take care of my hair anymore.  Besides, I’ve got the waves to make everyone seasick!  Hahaha!  As for getting fat an ounce – never happen.  Hahaha!  I work out, play ball, do yoga, and I have a really high metabolism.

“Hurt not others with that which pains you.” = Buddha.

I am working on that one.  Yeah.

As I am,

Prince

Fortune, Daniel

Daniel Fortune, Augusta, Charged with theft and Guerrette home invasion

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Mama Love would cll out to me as soon as I stepped through the door.  I never realized how much this acknowledgement meant until she died and nobody called out to me when I entered the house that used to be my  home.  I loved being noticed and welcomed when I came home.  I know now it was just another way of her telling me, “I love you, I see you, and I notice you are home.  Your presence matters to me.”  I would take my shoes off and make my way down the hallway (a.k.a. the “hall of fame,” named this because fromt he tops of the shoe racks to the ceiling on botrhe sides the walls were covered with pictures and accomplishments.  School pictures, family pictures, action pictures and any plaques that we had won were proudly displayed for any who cam into our house to see.

As I walked into the kitchen it was my habi to immediately go to Mama Love and give her a hug and kiss.  Mama Love was a big woman.  Her size was comforingly soldid.  You felt her when you hugged her or she hugged you.  Her love surrounded you.  She was warm, alive.  She would then pull back and looking into my eyes ask, “How are you?”  If I said I was good she would not respond, just continure to look into my eyes.  Then, if she was satisfied I was telling the truth, she would turn back to her cooking.

In my house, meals were made with love.  We were not rich, and with four or more boys at any given time eating, simple, less expensive meals were the norm.  Yet, in the years since her passing whenever I have eaten the same hamburger helper meals, they have never been able o compare.  The only thing I can attribure this to is the absense of Mama Love.  I think it was becauise of how much she loved us.  Her cooking was an expression of this love and wanting us to be happy and healthy.

The people that suffered the most from my learning how to cook were my brothers.  We didn’t waste a lot of food in our house so even if I messed up on the measuring of ingredients the meal was served, and in the beginning I messed up a lot.  Mama Love was not one for measurement utensils.  She was from the school of eyeballing it.  What she neglected to mention was that her skill at eyeballing was acquired through years of practice.  Needless to say, in the beginning as loath as she was to throwing food away, sometimes we had McDonald’s, or cereal, or take-out.  Like the first time I made one of my favorite meals, tacos (with soft taco shells of course, because who really likes hard taco shells which crumble or break, and generally are more frustrating than enjoyable) and I “eyeballed” the amount of seasoning, which resulted in taco meat that was inedible and identifiable as taco meat only to me, because I was the one who cooked it.

The next step after the measurements was the amount of time that the food cooked for.  Just as she was not a believer in actually measuring ingredients, she also did not believe in timers.  This was evidenced in her multi-taking abilities.  She would put the food on the stove or even the oven, then give baths, correct homework, coordinate rides to or from practices, dispense discipline and whatever else needed to be done.  No matter what she was doing she knew when the food needed to be stirred, when more or less heat was needed, and even when it was done.  I can’t tell you how many times she would be in other parts of the house and would call out: “Mark/Dan.Leo – stir the food, take it out of the over, turn the stove off.”  It took more time to learn this skill than it did to  measure-to-eyeball ingredients.  I would put food on, then get distracted by my phone or the t.v. or a book.  I would remember what I was supposed to be doing when I smelled the food burning.

This lead to a rule: “If you’re cooking, you’re cooking; everything else can wait.”  The implementation of this rule lead to a dramatic and immediate improvement in the meals I prepared, and my brothers were very appreciative of this.  As my skill increased I began to understand why my Mama Love liked cooking so much.  It felt good to feed my family, to know that they relied on me to provide for them and to make sure that not only it was filling but that it tasted good as well.  On nights that I had successfully made and served dinner I would sit and eat with a deep sense of satisfaction that I had never felt before.  I had accepted responsibility and was helping my family.

Later on, when Mama Love became sick, cooking turned from something I did because I wanted , to something I did because it was needed.  These were some of my first lessons in being a man.  I learned that responsibility meant doing the things that you needed to do instead of only doing things that you wanted to do.  Since Mama Love died, I cannot cook without thinking about her.  The times that we spent in the kitchen are some of the best memories of my life.l  In fact, I don’t like cooking if it is only for myself; for me, cooking is intertwined with family and love.

As I am,

Prince

danny.graduation

Mama Love insisted that if we were home that the boys would eat together.  Most nights she would eat with us, the exceptions being if we had pissed her off severely or if my father was home.  If he was home, then they would eat together in the living room or the study.  As a family we spent a lot of time around each other.  I can remember wondering why, when I went to my friend’s houses, why they didn’t eat together, or spend as much time around each other.  A big reason behind learning to cook was just wanting to be around Mama Love.  My younger brothers had no desire to learn; their interest in food began and ended with the placement of food on the table.  I selfishly wanted to,and got to, spend time with her that was ours alone.

When I first moved in with the Fortunes, there were already two older boys there, Nate and Mark.  Nate was long-term foster care – he had lived with the Fortunes for around eight years.  After I’d been there for a year, Nate graduated from high school and moved back with his biological family.  Mark was adopted by the Fortunes exactly a year before I was and was the oldest until he graduated and moved out (well, he stayed for a year after graduation, “finding his way” and all that.)  For about four years after I was the oldest son and with my father spending more time out of the house than in it, I was the de facto head of the household, with most if not all of the responsibilities that came with it.

Mama Love had over fifty foster kids during her time working with DHS, so I have spent more time wiping butts, giving baths and telling bed-time stories than some parents I know.  We used to get looks when we went out because of how many of us there were and the fact that some of us were lack and some of us were white.  My father is 6’6″, 280 pounds and black and Mama Love was a red-headed, short, white woman.  Mark was around 5’9″, stocky, almost pudgy white, with short, spiked hair.  I was and still am a 5’9″ dark, full-blooded Haitian, Leo (another adopted-brother) a 6’6″ light skinned half-Jamaican.  James, a biological Fortune, was young, white with bright red hair (think of the kid from “Jerry McGuire,”) glasses and freckles, while Tony (adopted brother) was young, half-black / half-white with green eyes.  I never looked at my upbringing as different.  It was just the way my family was.

My mother was the keeper of my secrets, hopes and dreams.  She was the one person in my life that has ever loved me unconditionally.  As my father and I were too similar to talk, share, or even like each other much, she was by default, my mother and father (him not being around much helped as well.)  While, in fairness, my adopted father did teach me some aspects of how to be a man, some lessons I needed (like to always take responsibility,)  other lessons that shaped me at an early age have left me wondering the cost, i.e. the ones about how men never show emotions like pain and hurt, or how men never cry and rarely apologize.  It was Mama Love who really taught me why it is important to be a man.  How it is your actions and not your age that make you a man, and that the two best things that I can do for my loved ones are as follows: firstly, if you really love someone then you are there for them at all times, not just when you’re needed, and secondly that it is more important to make sure loved ones have what they need rather than what they really want.

I remember walking into the house after school or practice (I played three sports: football, basketball and baseball, so almost every day after school I had practice or games and wouldn’t get home until four or five at the earliest) and being greeted by the smells of cooking food and the sounds of my brothers.  It was as if when I opened the door to my house I entered another world.  The sounds would hit me as soon as I opened the fake wooden-paneled door, depending on the time my brothers would be in the room on my right, “the library” (which is where we had desks and computers for homework or personal use) doing their homework quietly.  Well, it was supposed to be done quietly, but, when have boys ever been in a group and ever done anything quietly?  In fact, it was when we were quiet that we were up to something.  As soon as we stopped making noise you could count on Mama Love coming to investigate.

When I would shut the door the smell of cooking food would permeate my nostrils.  It was as if my house was a cocoon that opened itself up and embraced me with sounds and smells of love, like they were just waiting for me to come home and now my night, my family’s night and our house’s night was complete.

(More to follow.)

As I am,

Prince

danny.2014

Hey, ,readers.

This is all I got left to say about what one needs in order to be a philosopher.

E = Exploration.  So, what happens when we run into questions that we cannot answer, or if we are in a situation where it looks or feels hopeless?

For me, this is why Allah and hope are the most important things in my life.  Both my life and the history of the world are littered with mistakes and no-win situations, but this is only possible because we refuse to stay beaten and accept things the way they are.  Philosophy has taught me that I must continue to search for answers, yet understand that some questions cannot be answered, and a lot of situations are beyond my control.

That doesn’t mean that I must curl up and give up.  With hope and faith, I can and will not be broken by any circumstances that I face.  I have the tools to make any situation better, and to endure.  There is a reason why miracles are so special, it is because they are beyond human purview.  They are not meant to be understood or explained.  Yet are miracles possible without faith and hope?

In moments like this I think of the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The study of philosophy has reinforced my faith and hope by making me realize how much I don’t know, and by extension how much humanity doesn’t know.

It is because of how small my world and life is; I have to be reminded just how strong and powerful hope and faith can be.

As I am,

Prince

danny.2014

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T = Thinking.

After research and reflection, here are what my underlying thoughts on philosophy are: if philosophy is about how to live by learning how to die, then not having hope or faith is a serious problem.  For as Bertrand Russell says in the Value of Philosophy: “It is exclusively among the goods of the mind that the value of philosophy is to be found, and only those who are not indifferent to these goods can be persuaded that the study of philosophy is not a waste of time.”

Philosophy is valuable because it exposes us to questions that might not have answers.  I ascribe to the thought that a major part of the value of philosophy is in its very uncertainty.  The man who does no know philosophy will be imprisoned by prejudices formed by common sense.  To this man the world becomes definite, obvious, and finite.  Everyday objects which need no questions, and what is not familiar is not welcome.

When we begin to philosophize we find that even the simplest questions can lead to problems that may not be solved.  There cannot be a value on one asking questions in order to find one’s answers for oneself, not settling for what we are being told.

As I am,

Prince

danny-graduation.jpg

 

E + Empirical Recall.

It is the conversations that we have had in philosophy class here at M.S.P., that have shown me why hope and faith are so important to a philosopher.  The class that we have here is big, so there are a lot of diverse opinions.  We have several different religions represented as well as atheists. Surprisingly, it is the conversation with the atheists that has shown me the value of belief.

To a believer, God is all-powerful and the ultimate owner of the Heavens and Earth, yet, we Muslims believe that Allah has given us free will so that we can choose whether or not we want to follow His mandates (the Quran) or if we even believe in Him.  The firm foundation of this belief allows for the belief in miracles.

There are several conversations that stand out as reinforcement for my argument.  The first was that when we were talking about hope, several of my classmates have said that hope is a painful subject that they don’t believe in.  They referred to the myth of Pandora. opening the box and all of the greatest evils escaping except love.  They have used the fact that it was included as an “evil.” To them hope is a double edged sword, because as great as it is when it comes to fruition, it can be just as devastating when it fails.  To my classmates it is better not to have hope then to take the chance that you will be disappointed in this belief.

As a Muslim, I do no suffer from these views.  When talking about the future, I always add Insha’Allah, which means, “God willing.”  If my hope does “come true,” then it is not God’s will.  While I may be disappointed that what I wanted did not happen, I am not unduly emotional.  So, I look at hope as a vital important part of my life.  This does not mean that I still don’t strive to do the best of my ability to achieve whatever goal I have in mind, but if it is not in Allah’s plans for me, who am I to complain?

The second discussion was trees.  For example, were trees designed to give us oxygen, or was that just a useful by-product of their function?  Those that don’t believe a God believe it is just a coincidence.  I wonder if they are even aware of what they are missing.  Far be it for me to tell another person what to believe, but it strikes me as trying to explain colors to somebody who is blind.

As I am,

Prince

danny.graduation

Dear Circle:

On believing in either hope or God.

R = Responding instinct. To me they are one and the same because I believe that hope comes from Allah. This hope can be found in my favorite Surah (94): Bismallah Arakman Araheem.
1. Have we not expanded thee thy breast?
2. And removed from thee thy burden
3. That which did gall thy back?
4. And I reeaised hight the esteem in which thou art held?
5. So verily, with every difficulty there is relief.
5. Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.
7. Therefore, when thou aart free from thine immediate task, still labor hard,
8. And to thy Lord turn all thy attention.

I must admit to being shocked when I first realized the importance of hope and religion in philosophy. I thought that it was something that I brought to th3e equation, rather than a vital part. I feel a vast sense of relief that it goes hand in hand because I can’t not separate myself from my faith. As I have grown as a man my views and beliefs have simplified, which has allowed me to stop putting so much time and energy into things that I cannot control or sometimes even influence. Epicureanism preaches the deliberate, continually renewed choice of relaxation and serenity, combined with a profound gratitude toward nature and life, which constantly offers us joy and pleasure, if only we know how to find them.
As I am,
Prince

danny.graduationPrince and his date, Samantha, at the Gardiner High Senior Prom

“The Philosopher needed to be trained not only to know how to speak and debate, but also to know how to love.” – Piere Hadot

The philosophers of old were not concerned with ready-made knowledge, but with imparting that training and education that would allow their disciples to “orient themselves in thought, in the life of the city or the world.

When I first started this class I thought that I was ready to be a philosopher, that I would soon be philosophizing with the best of them. I was under the mistaken impression that Professor Bill would give me some magical key and that I would soon unlock the potential to reason and to think. Instead, Professor Bill made me stop and slow down. He showed me that the best thing I can do is to ask questions.

As Plato says, “The un-examined life is not worth living.” I have spent months and years in solitary confinement and have spent a lot of this time “examining” my life. I thought that this meant I was ready to be a philosopher, but I was wrong. The first day Professor Bill asked us two things that I will never forget. The first was that if we could not answer the question of why suicide was not a viable option for us then we were not ready for philosophy. [now, before you (the reader) ask what the hell kind of class is this? Relax. I will explain why that question is important in another letter, so stick with me.]

The second important thing he told us is that Philosophy is about learning how to die. As a Muslim, both of these statements immediately made me think about Allah and my relationship with Him. Suicide is not allowed in Islam and the vast majority of Muslims will automatically think about Allah when the subject of death is broached. For this last critical reflection I will, in my next letter, talk about one of the most important lessons I learned in class: my belief that in order to be a philosopher, you must either believe in either hope, or in God.

As I am,

Prince

Fortune, Daniel

What’s going on?  How is everyone?  I know that I told you that I would writ once a month just to let you know that I’m alright and give you guys an update on what’s been going on with me and I haven’t.  I don’t really have any good excuse.  things have been kind of hectic the last couple months and especially the last couple of weeks.  It’s finals time and I just finished writing all of my papers.  Whew – I’m glad that they'[re pretty much over.

So, I’m going to get right to the elephant in the room.  I can’t imagine that you guys are unaware of the court’s decision to deny my appeals and all the news coverage that I’ve been getting in the last couple of months.  Yes, I got shot down but no, it’s not my final appeal.  I don’t know why the DA said that it was my final appeal.  That is far from the truth.  In fact I was thinking about writing to the Kennebec Journal and talking about a lot of information that Betty Adams gave that was incorrect.  I wrote the letter, typed it up and everything and I just haven’t sent it out.  To be honest, I”m a little nervous, every time they put me in the papers or on the news I feel like shit, but at the same time I know that it is something that is needed.  I know, I know, you guys are probably like, “What are you talking about?”  WEll, let me explain.

Right now for all intents and purposes I am a political prisoner.  They, the State and everybody involved know that I should not be doing all this time.

[Editor’s note: Sentencing guidelines in Maine: Manslaughter 1–20 years, Felony Murder (killing someone while in the commission of a crime) 1-30 years, and for regular ol’ Murder, it’s Life without parole or no less than 25 years. Snax.]

They know that I should get re-sentenced at the very least and really should get a new trial, but as long as public opinion is on their side and there is nothing making them fix the situation, they won’t.  Look and what happened with my man Tony Sanbourn.  He did 27 years and they know that he didn’t do it.  It took his girl staying on them to make them admit that the witness had lied and look at the rest of the shit that is coming to light.  for me, I don’t have that right now; I don’t have a “someone.”.  They can trash me in the newspapers and on the news and it is what it is.  But, at the same time I know that I have people who believe in me out there and the more time that goes by and the more you see people getting way less time for murder and all that, people will start asking questions.  Like, why is Fortune swerving life sentences for accomplice liability?  Or, when the news reporter says that Leo admitted to the attacks but is doing fifty years.  anyways, though, yes, I am OK. Yes, I was hurt and upset when I heard about it.  Yes, I should have reached out to you guys and let you guys know what was going on , but sometimes it’s hard to explain what it is I’m going through when it is what I’ going through.  I still know that I am coming home but it is not going to be right now.  All I can do is to continue to grow and make the best of my time here.  That means concentrating on school and working every day to be the best me that I can be.

On that note, school is pretty much done for the semester.  Like I mentioned earlier, I just finished writing a sixteen page paper on genocide for my history class.  Genocide is a crazy subject; it’s hard to wrap my mind around wanting to annihilate and entire race, or group of people.  Yet, history is littered with genocides.  The two that I chose to wrote about were the ones in Armenia and Rwanda.  Did you guys know that in Rwanda almost a million people were killed in around 100 days?  That’s crazy and the US did nothing.  The movie “Hotel Rwanda” is base don what happened in 1994.  I have ti watch it again.  As for the Armenian genocide, while Roosevelt was the President, he said that the Armenian genocide was the worst crime of the whole war.

My other class was philosophy.  Yeah, that’s right – I’m now a philosopher.  Haha!  Nah, it was a really good class.  I learned just how much I don’t know.  The best thing I learned was the need to ask questions.  There cannot be a value on one asking questions in order to find ones answers for oneself, not settling for what we are being told.  So what happens when we run into questions that we cannot answer,m or if we are in a situation where it looks or feels hopeless?  For me this is why Allah and hope are the most important things in my life.  Both my life and the history of the world are littered with mistakes and “no-win” situations, but this is only possible because we refuse to stay beaten and accept things the way they are.

Philosophy has taught me that I must continue to search for my answers yet understand that some questions cannot be answered, and a lot of situations are beyond my control.  That does not mean that I must curl up and give up.  With hope and faith I can and will not be broken by any circumstances that I face.  I have the tools to make any situation better and endure.  There is a reason why miracles are so special.  It’s because they are beyond human purview.  They are not meant to be understood or explained.  Yet are miracles possible without faith and hope?

In moments like this I think on the Serenity Prayer: “Lord, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”  This class has reinforce my faith and hope by making me realize how much I don’t know by extension how much humanity doesn’t know.  It is because of how small my world and life is that I have been reminded just how strong and powerful hope and faith is.

Alright, I’m about to wrap this up.  Know that  you  guys stay on my mind.  If you ever need to vent on paper, or need advice, or if any of you are even considering making a bad choice, please drop me a line first:

M.S.P.                                                                                                                                                          Daniel Fortune, #86753                                                                                                                           807 Cushing Road                                                                                                                                    Warren, Maine 04864-4600

Remember – I believe in y’all.

As I am,

Prince

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Political Prisoners

Welcome to the blog from inmates of Maine's jails and prisons.

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