In many ways, it was a grey day in Atlanta. It was foggy and dark. People were visibly tired of the intermittent rain that stopped just enough to fool you into walking your dog.
It was also a grey day in Atlanta because one of its native sons, TI (a/k/a TIP a/k/a Clifford Harris, Jr.) was sentenced in federal court to a year and one day in jail. There was more to his sentence – a great deal more (DNA testing, forfeiture of property, a $100,000 fine, community service, drug testing, financial audits, three years probation, drug testing) - but that one year and one day is what had many of the folks on the street in Atlanta a little bit depressed. In addition to the Grady Memorial Ambulance blasting “Dead and Gone” (his cut with Justin Timberlake), I saw that the people most affected by the news of the sentence were black working class folks. Some were saying that a year and a day sentence for federal weapons charges is damn near nothing. Others were saying that any time in jail is too much time. Everyone I overheard talking about it seemed to feel this particular pain well. Whether it’s because they’ve been in the shoes of T.I.’s partner, Tameka Cottle, or his six children, or they know first hand what lies ahead for T.I. when he begins his 366 day journey into darkness - I can’t be sure. My guess is that being a working class black person in America, especially in the south, means you know a little something about jail.
There is an upside to all this. It seems as thought T.I. has remained the ‘stand up’ guy with the sweet smile and mischievous twinkle we have come to love. He seems to have sobered and blossomed over the year and a half since his bodyguard (turned informant) tried to sell him weapons in a Walgreens parking lot. He does not seem to be the same implosive/explosive young man accused or capable of assaulting a female security guard at a mall in Tampa. He seems to genuinely care about the community service activities he is forced to do by the court.
We will have to wait to see what happens once Atlanta’s native son hits the bricks next year sometime. Will he still have that smile and twinkle when he returns from jail hell? Will he return to the world as whole as one can be after prison and continue his good works not solely because the court told him he had to? Or .... I’m not even gonna speak it. Let’s just wait and watch and keep the brother in our hearts.
- Pamela D. Bridgewater
(Photo by Reuters)