- What matters is the dignity of one’s heart and the honor of one’s word.
- Piri’s imprisonment, subsequent release, and clemency.
Piri Thomas, many of us lived through the desperate years of the Great Depression and struggled to survive life in the ghettos, where the invasions of hot and cold-running cockroaches and king-size rats always seemed to come from other apartments but never from your own. There was always the pain from the pressure of fear brought about by racism: although many black and brown lives were snuffed out at the end of a rope, any means would do, including baseball bats. We all went through the exploitation that came from greed and listened to politicians wearing smiles on their faces that were wasted because they did not match what was in their hearts, making promises that never came to be.”
Poet, Writer …A Voice for Unity
Born Juan Pedro Tomás, of Puerto Rican and Cuban parents in New York City’s Spanish Harlem in 1928, Piri Thomas began his struggle for survival, identity, and recognition at an early age. The vicious street environment of poverty, racism, and street crime took its toll and he served seven years of nightmarish incarceration at hard labor. But, with the knowledge that he had not been born a criminal, he rose above his violent background of drugs and gang warfare, and he vowed to use his street and prison know-how to reach hard core youth and turn them away from a life of crime.