Sidney Duberry was hospitalized at age 14 after he was hit in the head with a baseball bat. Over the years, his difficulties with reading and writing have been attributed to that injury. He quit school as a teenager when he was called on to read aloud and didn't want the class to see he couldn't. But his willingness to try and try and keep trying brought him to the writing workshop. It wasn't easy for him, but he wrote a little. He read aloud a little. But his life-story comes through best when he speaks. This account is compiled from his tape-recorded statement during the workshop and from earlier transcripts.
My name is Sidney Duberry and the date is the 15th. Where do I start? My life has been turned upside-down. I was a kid always happy go-lucky. Never smoked, never drank, never used drugs, and always tried to be kind. But my world come crashing down the day my mother was tooken from me. I must have been about seven years old and I'll never forget her. She was murdered, raped, thrown in Lake Michigan. The fishes ate her up. They closed the casket and some gentleman came to the funeral and said he was sorry, big disaster at the funeral. They rushed me out of there. And I never seen her face no more.
My father disappeared. I didn't see him until years later.
I've been on downfall for so many years, I don't know how to get up half the time. Maybe it's my reading and writing. It's all "You can do this! You can do that!" and I always try but no, I can't. If I could, do you think I'd be in this position? I spent probably 40 years behind bars. I went to every classroom that I thought I could go into to get the help but to no avail and never broke the barrier. I get headaches trying to figure out words and throw a sentence together. People are always telling me, "Oh, you can do it." But you're not in my position. You're not in my mind. It's something up there, I don't know what. I don't like being this way, but I am. And I know that I've tried and always asked the Lord for help and He gives me help, just enough to keep me going. I thank Him for that.
I'm 72 years old and I'll say it again: Where do I start? I try to do what's right in my life because my life is inches coming to
an end. What day I don't know. I try to do what's right as I said but somewhere along the line I keep slipping up and I feel bad.
I went to Stateville for stealing a car and then camp after that. I come out here and messed up out here in California. When I
got out here, I wanted to do what's right and I ended up doing something stupid. When I run out of money. That was my downfall. I lost sight of who I were as a human being because a mother do not raise a child to go out there and take stuff
and kill people.
I took that young man's life and now he's part of mine for the rest of my life. He's a part of my collective. It's like my mother, and that's not what I wanted to do. I think of her. I think of him, her, all a part of me. I do this for him because I know he tells me to do what's right. People look at me and say why would you say that? Because it's true. I took this young man's life. I can't, I don't sleep well at night. It's not enough sorry, enough remorse in this galaxy that can undo what I did to that man's mother. I got to carry him around me all the time, all the time.
Every time something come up for me to do something wrong, who steps in front of me? He does. Don't do it. Don't do it. I
see him. I hear his voice, strange as it seem. I see his mother, the pain I caused her.
I'm tired. I'm tired. I lost too much. A human being's life was tooken because of my hands, my life. I can't undo that. I
can't. I'm truly, truly sorry. He was a victim to all this and his mother, dear mother, i wish I could see her in the face and let her know how I feel of what I've done. He's in me every day. It's a virus that's never going to go away from me. You can't cure it. It's no cure for it.
People say you should take it a day at a time. I take a half-step at a time. 'Cause tomorrow's not promised me, only now. I don't know what tomorrow's gonna bring but I hope to get to see it because it's a beautiful world out here. I enjoy every moment of it. 72 years old. I got a smile on now. For the first time, I see flowers, beautiful blue skies, birds, beautiful people but I know beyond the beautiful people there's some dark characters out there so I'm always on my guard. But I always have a sense of humor on my face.
I'm looking at this thing, this thing recording my voice.
I just hope tomorrow comes and I'll be around to see it. Here I stand, I'm sad in my heart. My family's all gone. I walk the street and I see people happy, you know, enjoying life and I like to enjoy too but there's nobody there in my life that I can really care about. That I can hold onto and say I really truly love you. I miss my family. I miss my mother, my son, and I messed up my life being behind bars all these years. I'm just heartbroken and I'm trying to do what's right, you know.
I look at people and they have houses, wives, kids, cars, and things and they're happy. But I know there's good people out there that care about me but I'm scared to open my heart because I lash out. There's grief come from my lashing out, so I try to refrain from that. That's what I don't do no more. Someone could get hurt so I stay in a shell. What do you call it? A cocoon. Keep everything bottled up inside.
I have a friend that I met a couple days ago. She's gonna take me to my first Black Rodeo and I'm quite shocked she did offer
me that but, see, there are good people out there and I put it on a pedestal, and I'm looking forward to this weekend. I don't know what to expect but I'm going to enjoy. 72 years, signing off for now. I hope I give you some insight into this individual. Now how do I turn this thing off?
To read about Sidney's weekend and the Black Rodeo, please click here.