Hello world, it's Toppnotch. I wanted to personally say thank you for subscribing to the newsletter, supporting my novels, and my fight for freedom. On a more serious note, I appreciate the love, prayers, and letters I received during my battle with Covid. The virus ain't no joke! While in the 21-day quarantine here at the Ironwood State prison in California, I was alone in a cell with symptoms of illness I've never felt before. Feelings of isolation and depression crept on me, but my determination to fight and overcome prevailed. Instead of lying on my bunk balled up with the chills and sweating, I put my pen to work. Dreams can become a reality with ambition under any circumstance.
Last month, I featured the first chapter of my upcoming novel, "Surviving the Game - On Tray Ball." This month is no different as I keep with the theme by providing chapter 2. "Surviving the Game - On Tray Ball" is a fictional coming of age story about a group of kids trying to make it out of their environment with the game of basketball while trying to figure out life in the early 90s. The summer before entering high school, for most of us, represented the last of useful innocence. I thought of the concept for the book for more than one reason.
First, I needed to tell a story loosely based on me and my Homies. Cabrini Green projects being the landmark on the lower north side of Chicago, Illinois, I chose it as the backdrop for the Blinded by the Lights trilogy series. Growing up, I perused some of those buildings, but I am from off Sedgwick, though!
The second and most important reason was to look at the world from a teenager's side for my son, nephew, niece, and little cousins. They're at the ages of the characters and will go through or have had. The experience is depicted in the book. Since I'm not there to coach them, I'm hoping to drop tools on them with this book. Whether the "Blinded by the Lights" trilogy series, "Surviving the Game," and future projects I plan to write, I write for my experiences in life. Not to glorify my existence but to provide game hope and inspiration.
If you would like to show your support, have any questions regarding my novels, or have an opportunity for the advancement of my plate, get at me.
There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.
What's the deal world? I'm sitting here on the 21st day of quarantine from Covid. How is it I'm locked in a cell most days the past year and get Covid? I'm maintaining. Standing tall through it all.
I wanted to share with y'all a few chapters of my next novel, "Surviving the Game - On Tray Ball!!!" I'm almost done with it. Slating a Summer release. I'm working on that while also writing the movie script for the "Blinded by the Lights" trilogy series along with taking college classes. Covid can interrupt my program but it won't stop the grind!
Before I go, I want to say Tray Ball in peace to my homie Kenny "Fu Fu" Williams. An original Tray Ball gone too soon… I'm a miss you Cuz but you live'll forever in this book like Big Doc, Stez O, Killa, Lil Relly, Ken, Parish and Ikey Boy.
I sit in the cell on quarantine, mad, frustrated, confused, scared, and fearful as fuck. Along with other brothers in the struggle here at Ironwood State prison, I have been on modified programming for about a year now. I have limited access to the yard, the room, Chapel, school, programs, vocational, and contact visits. For the latter part of the last year, I've been confining by myself. They even bring the food trays to the building, so we don't go to the chow hall. That's how restrained I've been. An outbreak occurred months ago in another yard. It was an "awe shit" moment but nothing to worry about because it was isolated. They locked us down and tested everybody. A negative result. Another situation happened on another yard weeks ago backspace after. They locked us down and tested everybody—a negative result.
Then the homie working in Canteen got sick in another building on my yard. They moved him and his celly off the yard. Then more started vanishing off the yard. On the daily, "inmate Twitter" was tripping about people getting sick. They locked us down and tested everybody. A negative result, again. That's when the unthinkable happened. They designated a building on my yard after already having facilities on the other yard for the infected to be the house for quarantine. Officers who usually worked our buildings would work there on one shift then would come work in our building on the next. Using the same gloves and mask they used around the contain contaminated.
After that, people in my building started getting sick. On February 5th, they locked us down and tested everybody—another negative result. I was in a cell by myself, with the only movement being phone calls and showers every three days. They came back with another test on February 8th. On February 9th, they came with the first dose of vaccines. The nurses filled needles with a substance from a bottle, laid the needles on the table, discarded the bottles, tried to assess the assembly line, and administer it to all who wanted it. They had me fucked up. I've been watching Dr. Fauci the last past year, and I know that the vaccine has to be a certain temperature, and I wanted to see the bottle to make sure it was Moderna. My logic was, how could you have a dose for me, but essential workers in the community couldn't get it? I asked questions, and they got frustrated with me. Safe to say, I didn't take it. I felt fine with no symptoms chilling in my cell doing my college homework and working on my next novel until I was greeted at the door on February 11 by an officer saying I'm moving to quarantine.
The minute I got to the building, it got all bad. I got fatigued, my nose started running, I got chills, I couldn't eat, and my blood pressure was high. I have yet to see a doctor—only a pair of nurses take care of vitals twice a day. I'm told I'll be in quarantine for 21 days then kicked back to the yard after. That's it. My mom has been calling the prison to check on me and has been told that they can't release any of my info or my condition. It's like they know they fucked up and are trying to cover it up. I refused to stay mute. And let the silent killer kill me!
I've adhered to the warnings of social distancing, Mask wearing, and washing my hands to prevent contacting Covid for the past year, and an environment where it's relatively impossible to stay 6 feet away from people when in most cases, you share a cell with someone. Who is the blame for this travesty? Who do I hold accountable when I've done everything in my power to stay safe? I feel as though the department of corrections here in California has an obligation to protect incarcerated. If I violate or harm an officer, I'll get penalized by the law. The same should apply in this case.
I want to file a case action of a lawsuit against CDCR and Ironwood State prison for exposing me to Covid and neglecting my care after the fact. My voice may be muffled, but I'm hopeful that sounding Rohr from the world can be the difference needed to shed light on this issue and provide the justice we in here seek.
I’m Damien “Toppnotch” Hodges, author of the “Blinded By The Lights: A Diamond In The Rough” trilogy series. I’m interested in networking to find innovative ways to gain exposure for my brand of Urban “Reality” writing as well as assistance with Post-conviction relief from this illegal sentence I’m confined to. It’s because of my position of incarceration that its relatively impossible to maintain an active marketing plan to maximize the potential of my novels or shed light on the injustice I’ve suffered and still endure.