“Never give up. No matter what is going on. Never give up. Develop the heart.” -H.H. The XIVth Dalai Lama
Tawon Brown never gave up. When life got complicated, Tawon chose to develop his heart. Early in life Tawon knew what he wanted; he had a dream of joining the Carpenter’s Union. He started towards that dream in high school by joining Job Corps and things went well for him. He got married, had three beautiful children, and kept working towards that dream. He completed his Job Corps vocational training and continued to develop his heart.
Then things changed. Tawon had to choose to either provide for his family or finish his GED, so he did what he needed to do and went to work. Tawon and his wife had different dreams. They were married and had children at a young age, and life at home got rocky. Tawon also started to drink. He wanted to have fun and go out and do things and his wife didn’t agree. “We just stopped getting along” Tawon said. They started arguing, and those arguments led Tawon to a place he never dreamed he would be, in prison for three years. He went through a divorce and was faced with child support payments he couldn’t make while incarcerated. Tawon knew that was going to be an issue upon release.
Tawon never gave up though. He knew that if he was going to have a better life and accomplish his dream of joining the Carpenter's Union, he needed to finish his GED. He read a lot of books and expanded his mind. He knew that he was going to get out and that he needed to develop his heart if he wanted to do things differently when he was released. “I was training my brain to be focused on the outside world I didn’t want the inside world to affect me in any kind of way,” Tawon said.
Before his release, Tawon heard a lot of “chatter” about the Second Chance Program. At first, he wasn’t sure if the program would be a fit for him. He didn’t know what it was that Second Chance did for people, or how they could help him move forward. Then he heard that they were coming into the prison to talk about the program so he “followed his gut” and went and listened to the staff members doing the outreach. Tawon gave it a try and says it was the best thing he ever did in his life.
Upon release, armed with his GED and his Job Corps training, Tawon set out to join the union. He says it was hard at first because so many jobs require you to have tools to even apply, and with child support he struggled to afford a place to stay. Tawon worked with his resource specialist diligently to develop his heart. “Her teachings and the things she did for me kept me going," said Tawon.
He got his driver’s license and started getting tools together so he could make his dreams come true. Within four months, Tawon joined his first Union, Local 518, working on cement. But Tawon didn’t give up. He kept working and developing his heart. Two months later Tawon got the opportunity to join Local 315, the Carpenters Union.
Tawon has his own place now and talking about his new place makes him smile. “Me having my own space, that’s what I am most proud of," says Tawon. "Knowing I am not a second leg to anybody no more, I can do my own thing. I can leave here and open up my door with my key and be in my space with my dog.”
As for advice to others returning home from incarceration, Tawon has one thing to say:
"Don’t ever give up, I never gave up. I got close. I was living out of my car and my Resource Specialist kept telling me it would be ok, and not to give up. So I listened to her teachings, and she was right… I am living my dream right now. Whatever dream you have, push yourself and you are going to get to your dream. For people who don’t think it can happen: I am a felon, and it can happen.”