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Hi there, mouth family. The moth has always been dedicated to creating safe environments that foster empathy and we build community with stories. The moth's live shows are canceled through August 31st, 2020, but we're producing virtual mothe main stages and stories slams each month. We'll also be bringing you new episodes of The Moth Radio Hour and our new weekly podcast All Together Now Fridays with The Moth. Check out all of our social media platforms and our website, The Moth Dog and our YouTube channel for more details and all sorts of content.
During this time of social distancing and self quarantine, we hope that listening to personal stories can help us feel more connected to each other. From all of us here at The Moth, we hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. This is a moth radio hour from Paris, and I'm Suzanne Rust, the curatorial producer at The Moth.
This time we'll hear stories about changes of heart, those moments when something shifts and alters your perspective.
We'll be hearing from a writer whose sense of self has changed in a flash, a story about a man who made it across the finish line despite the obstacles and a mother who realized that sometimes it's more than OK when your life goes off script, which is exactly what happened with our first storyteller, Andrea King Collier.
She shared her story at the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston, West Virginia, where the theme of the night was a more perfect union. Here's Andrea live at the mall. I got married in 1982 and we were so cute, but we couldn't have been more different. That was a privilege, little only child, a princess, so quite a lot.
And my husband was one of six when I first met his parents, I said. How do you remember six names and that did not go over well, but we did have something in common.
We were kids of the 60s. And. We did civil rights marches, we helped register people to vote. We knew about segregation. And we knew that our folks expected a whole bunch of us, we were their legacy. And they had a script for us that we passed on to our two kids when we got married.
Our whole family unit was the Huxtables before they were Huxtables.
In fact, our motto was, I brought you into this world and I will take you out. And the kids knew it, my daughter. Follow the script. She got her dream job after going to her dream school, mirrored her dream man and had a dream baby. And then quit her dream job to take care of the dream baby, my son, on the other hand, had a script of his own.
What he did, though, was his script involved, living in the basement and never coming out.
And no matter how much we tried to get him out of the basement, it wasn't happening. We threw money at it.
We threw exterminator's at it, still in the basement, except for one day he just left. And he stayed gone for a couple of weeks now, a young man goes off and does his thing and you wouldn't think anything about it without any notice, no text, no phone calls.
I his mother got worried because it's not a good thing for a black man to go disappearing. It worried me. And just as when I was about to call the police, he called me. And he says, Mom, I need to come over because I have something to tell you.
Now, if you have a kid who's of a certain age and they say, I have something to tell you, what you know is nothing good is going to come out of that conversation when these conversations come up.
They do not say, mom, I hit the lotto and I have enough money to move out.
Mom, I got a new job and I have enough money to move out. You see where I'm going with this move out there?
Mom, I have met Beyonce, say she has fallen in love with me. She's leaving Jay-Z and I'm moving out. None of that is happening.
I started thinking about all the things that it could be, and I get really worried. I go tell my husband that he's on his way over and he says, well, it won't be that long.
I'm looking out the window and he's pacing up and down the driveway and he's rehearsing. It's it can't be a doozy.
So he comes upstairs and he says. Mom, we're going to have a baby. We're going to have a baby.
He has a girlfriend, but I have only seen her from the waist up in the car.
Now, under ordinary circumstances, because this is not the script. Got a simple script to go to college to get a good job. Don't go to jail, don't get anybody pregnant. And they said. We're going to have a baby, so my head could have popped off my shoulders, but something happened was either the dad voice.
Good voice or the kind voice, which is the crazy voice said, ask him to say it again and I say, Well, you say that again for me.
And he says, we had a baby yesterday.
You know, that could have gone all kind of wrong instead, because I'm in shock, I say, how nice for you.
I'm thinking in my head, calm down, ask these basic questions, our momma and baby five.
Are they home from the hospital and then the thing that I want to know for some reason is what's the baby's name? Because millennials can come up with some help names.
And black millennials can really come up with same.
You know, they could be Jack Daniels, Wauconda, Apple, what's the baby's name?
The baby's name is Miles. OK, that's good.
That was the best thing about the whole damn thing.
And as I was trying to explain to him that we have colds so we can't go that day to see the baby, he gets the hell up out of there before I figure out he's gone. He is gone. And so what do you do when you are a new grandmother? There is no baby to see. And you don't have a nine month gestation period. I get in the car and I go to Target.
Let me tell you something about Target, you can work out a whole lot of shit in the hours and hours. So I get there and I don't go to the baby section, I'm everywhere else. But the God boy, so the college boy says to me, call Gussie. Now, Gussie is my mother's oldest friend, and when my mother died, she and several of her other friends stood in the gap for me and when I need to figure out something, I call.
So I call and I'm fine until I hear her voice and I am hysterical.
I am like having a fit in the store. He had a baby I didn't know, just saw from the head up.
This is awful. He didn't follow the script. I'm just going and people are watching by me a target trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
Lady, are you OK? My mother, Frances. Let me get this straight. Christopher has a baby. Yes, he had it yesterday. Yes, you didn't know? Yes. Is the baby going to live with you? No.
OK, did. Let's start with that then, she says. OK, this is what you going do, you stop crying, you put on your big girl pants and you are going to be the best damn grandma you know how to be because that's what you had. OK, and then I had questions, but she hung up the phone. She said everything she needed to say she was going to get out of there.
So what do I do? I start buying up everything in the baby section. I bought so much stuff that my husband had to go back and get the rest of the crap. But on the way home, I got really upset, so I come in and my husband is there and my daughter is visiting and I said, why the hell did anybody not tell me? And my daughter says. Well, you are really scary. You mean I'm scared, you are Oprah scared and I'm thinking Opala, that's not bad.
This is no, no, no, not you get a car, you get a car, you get a car.
Oprah, you are Miss Sophia. Oprah.
You don't have to beat me, Oprah. And I had a problem with that, but she goes on to explain, this is, you know, the wers. Yeah. You know Evelin who says, don't bring me no bad news. Yeah.
You Evelin, you are Claire Huxtable from the day we were born.
You got the Claire Huxtable side before she did that one. And I could say about it, sometimes you just got to give it up.
So I waited and waited a few days so we could actually see the baby. We go to see the baby. And I had never met her folks before in I'd never had a conversation with her. So we get there. They bring the baby out. Put the baby in my arms and my heart break. Broke wide open.
I've never experienced anything like that, not even my own kids, this beautiful baby and I looked at him and I saw my husband and I saw my daughter, I saw me, but I also saw my son, the baby's father, and I saw all the people in my life who had ever loved me in this baby's face.
So I started looking at my purse and I started looking at the baby and I think the purse again, how long do you think it would be before I put the baby in the purse left?
Then they would figure out he was going.
So my daughter had been texting me the whole time to tell me not to do anything crazy, and just as I was about to try to bust that move, I heard the text noises, so I can't do that.
But it was weird, so I'm looking at the baby and I'm thinking about Toni Morrison when my kids were teenagers. I heard Toni Morrison say. When the child walks into the room, does your face light up? OK, they were teenagers, nobody's face was lighting up for them.
But with Miles, my face was all lit up and I remembered the rest of it, which is when your child walks into the room, does your face light up because that's how they know how you feel about them.
And I was determined at that moment for the rest of my life, whenever he walked into the room, my face was going to light up because I want him to know he is just that loved. Thank you.
Yeah. That was Andrea King Collier, Andrea is a journalist, photographer and author based in Lansing, Michigan. She and her husband Dani have been married for almost four decades. In addition to Miles, Andrew's daughter has given her another grandson, Bryce. But Andrea talks about her grandchildren. She says, I look at them in wonder. They take my breath away. So here's a fun fact, András, two grandsons call her Go, go, and once you get to know Andrea, go, go seems very appropriate.
She's a true force of nature.
I was lucky enough to spend some time with Andrea when she did our main stage show in New Orleans. And we had a great time hanging out and buying way too many bottles of hot sauce.
So I was happy to catch up with her again recently.
So, Andrea, this is so great to talk to you, my friend. So much has changed since the two of us were frolicking in New Orleans a few months ago. Yeah. So I just want to ask you honestly, how are you doing and what are your thoughts on this moment we're living in?
It's it's crazy. So I was born in 1956, and so I lived through the first big wave of the civil rights movement. And this is different. This feels totally different. So I'm really interested to see what comes out of this. Yeah, that's just me sitting there waiting. It does feel different, though.
I hope we're going to make progress here. I really do. I want to ask you something you mentioned in your story. You talk about being raised to be a positive reflection on your race and passing that along to your kids. You talk in your story about following a script. And like we all know that all parents have a script in mind for their kids. But as black people, the stakes are higher.
I really think that it was probably a bigger burden for my kids than it was for me. I don't know that I really had any choice. I followed the script. I was the first one in my family to get a college degree. And there was no I mean, we never had any conversation about, hey, when you get out of high school, what are you going to do? I already knew what I was going to do.
And my friends sometimes when we were sitting around talking about how we were as kids, somebody said the other day, oh, no, nobody was going to get close to you and tell your focus group for you, everybody that, oh, OK.
The most militant thing that I did that was off script was I did not go into politics.
Oh, is that expected of you? I think so. Well, there's still time, my friend, I think I think the world will Andrea right now and no, but you can make your announcement here for the month here.
No, but I think that my grandparents would have loved that. That would have been the American dream for them.
Yeah, but storytelling's pretty great. Yeah, they wouldn't look quite understood that they like no, what is it? Because I know my grandfather used to say no. What is it? The two?
That was Andrea King Collier, a.k.a. Go, Go. You can hear more of our conversation at the morgue. Coming up, what's in a word, a writer from Pittsburgh reflects on a life altering experience he had with one of the most toxic words in our history.
That's when the Moth Radio Hour continues.
The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and presented by PRICK'S.
This is the Moth Radio Hour from Prick's, I'm Suzanne Rust. In this show, we're talking about changes of heart. Now we're going to hear from writer Damon Young. I want to give you all a heads up. This story contains multiple uses of an historically heavy, controversial word that stirs up a lot of pain and emotion. It always has and always will. But we'll let Damon speak for himself. And another heads up, Damon told the story of our Moth mainstage of the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, an outdoor venue.
Obviously, the evening was filled with Firefly Light and the sound of crickets, but also and you'll hear this, the sound of jets flying overhead. Here's Damon Young live at the mall. So before I begin, like I have to say that between the setting the ambulance and the audience, this kind of feels like a deleted scene from get out like.
Like, I don't know if I'm up here to tell a story or get auctioned off, so. All right, so I'm from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, born and raised, and I still live there now. And for people who haven't been there is a city that is so.
Spiritually, culturally, politically, atmospherically white. That Rick James once tried to snort it like it gets it's a city that gets these these national lords for being like the most livable city in the next Brooklyn or the new Seattle or the 21st century is Austin.
But what it really is, is Wauconda for white people.
And again, that that provides necessary context for a very quick story about my parents who love to tell stories.
OK, so it's 1985, I'm six years old, I'm actually being babysat by my sister and my mom and my grandmother, who I call it Nana, they were post Sunday brunch browsing at this deli in Pittsburgh and this neighborhood called Squirrel Hill. So there's some sort of altercation or disagreement with the cashier who was a white boy who was maybe about 18, 19 years old.
And it ends with him calling my mom and my nana black nigger bitches. Furious, my mom and my nana leave the store, go up the street to the supermarket, John Nagl, to get my dad and my dad is doing what dads do, you know, and produce probably, you know, tasting steak or doing what he's doing in supermarkets and get him.
So they all go back to the store. And my dad very calmly approaches the cashier. My wife and my mother in law said that you insulted them. And I would like for you to apologize to Tom. Kasher refusers. So then my dad says, OK, well, I'm going to count to 10. And by the time I reach 10, if you don't apologize, I'm going to come behind that counter and kick your ass with this baseball bat.
I forgot to mention that, that my dad had a baseball bat with him because my dad is apparently black beatnik John Wick. And so my dad counts, literally starts counting cash, doesn't apologize. My dad swings the bat at him, Kasher picks up a knife, swings it at my dad, so the knife fighting and bat fighting and this is happening over to over to register.
In the meantime, my mom and my nana and again, my mom. Big fan of Pat Metheny, Steely Dan, Tina Turner, she was a bank teller at this time. My grandmother, my grandmother, my nana wasn't just white gloves on Sunday. She was white gloves like a Burger King on Wednesday, like white gloves, you know, to, I don't know, to wash her hair like this was who she was. And there and and again, there in the store, throwing throwing jars of Eminem's and and bigoted pickles and and racist, you know, greasy cups and, you know, just making this huge mess in the store.
After about four or five minutes, you know, it spills out into the sidewalk and the police come and my parents, my dad are arrested and then are taken to, you know, the police station or whatever, and they're approached by some black woman, some sort of authority, a sergeant or lieutenant or something like that, who takes one look at them.
And it's like, OK, you brush attending Barnesville Drive and black people are not supposed to be here to tell me what happened. So they say what happens? And the sergeant says, OK, well, you're free to go. What your racially arrests, you're free to go. So what about the store, if you black people won't get the fuck out of here before these white people figure out I'm letting you go?
So, again, my parents love to tell stories and they repeat this story. At barbecues, at funerals. Carpool taken me to a few basketball games while sitting in the living room during commercial breaks and while this happened.
I realize that being called a nigger was like this terrible, awful thing. But a part of me kind of wanted to be called one by a white person just so I could fight them and beat them up and then have a cool story like my parents had.
Even my sister, who's nine years older, to be, you know, had this cool, I'll call it fight story about a time when she was in high school choir practice and this white girl in the band called her nigger. And then my sister kicked her ass and then got suspended from school. And she was terrified, you know, that once my parents found out she got to you to get suspended or she would get in trouble. But once my parents found out why she got suspended, she didn't get around it.
She got butter pecan ice cream.
And I wanted I wanted my own, you know, post nigger fight story, ice cream party with Polaroids, you know, clowns, a pinata, the whole shebang. But I didn't get it. So I moved to adolescence. Nine years old, 10 years old, 11 years old, 12 years old. Still doesn't happen. I'm a teenager now, 13, 14, 15, 16, still doesn't happen, and this induced this really deep anxiety.
And self-consciousness and even like a neurosis in me where I started to doubt my own environment. Like, why had it not been called this before in a city that is so white, you know, am I am I not black enough for a white person to call me and like, what the fuck is wrong with me? You know, it was I like when, you know, when white people are called on to racism and then they say, you know, well, you know, I have the one black friend, you know, Bob, you know who, you know, I carpool with, not fight over, you know, to watch NBA games.
Was I was I Bob was I like that one black was I like that you know that one black friend like basically the character Rashida Jones plays in every movie was that was at me and and again I, I realize helps.
I heard it was to have this anxiety, to have this neuroses about something that is so violent.
But it was my reality and then what, I'm 17 that finally happens. And waiting for a bus, I mean, I'm saying it's nighttime, like seven o'clock, it's a September, so it's dark. I'm waiting for a bus by myself. I was going to go downtown to go play basketball for rest of the night. And as I'm waiting there. This Ford F 150 comes speeding past. In a person driving a car leaves out the passenger side window, screams Negara.
Keep speeding away. And so when it happens, I even kind of do a double take like. I guess he's talking to me, I'm the only person I'm the only person standing here. And adding to the I guess the surreal nature of the whole experience is that he looked exactly like Ricky Schroder, if you remember him from Silver Spoons and NYPD Blue like I, I am not convinced it wasn't Ricky Schroder even 25 years later, like Ricky Schroeder.
If you're out there listening, I remember what you did that fall. I'm waiting for you. And so this thing that I've been building up, you know, this this experience I've been wanting to have, you know, is finally here and this guy is in a car and he's speeding away. And I almost I was tempted to scream at him to come back because this is this is it. This is this is this is what I've been waiting for.
This is like the black bar mitzvah. This is him, you know, this is him calling me this. I get a chance to fight him. I finally have a story, you know, when it's time to share the story. But he's he's past he's past, like, two lights, two intersections. He's gone.
So it's not going to happen. Then something happened to me. I felt like something broke inside of me. But not something bad, it was I started laughing. And not even like a like a chuckle or like a nervous laugh, but like, oh, my God, like like tears. Not the ugly face, like like the ugly, like the Steve Bannon face of laughs. Like that's how ugly this laugh was. And I just realized in that moment how how ridiculous it had been for me to want this to happen.
Then went this terrible, awful thing to happen and to assign any level of my racial identity or my blackness to how white people treated me. And that's the last time I did it. Damon Young is the author of What Doesn't Kill You, Makes You Blacker and co-founder of a cultural blog, Very Smart Brothers.
Last year, I was moved by Damon's writing, so I reached out to him to tell the story for The Moth when he came back with the idea for this story.
I'm not going to lie as an African-American woman who has a deep problem with the word.
I was a little shaken up. I love the story, but should we do this?
Several discussions took place in the office and feelings were mixed among black and white staffers alike.
But Damon's story speaks truth about race, identity and power in this country.
It felt right.
What does it say about us as a country that an intelligent young man places the value and definition of his identity on this word I look at it is one of the many complicated pieces of the uncomfortable conversations that Americans need to be having in order to grow and move forward.
That night of the show, as I sat in a primarily white audience, I could sense that many people weren't sure how to react.
There was some awkward laughter, people shifting in their seats.
And I wish that in that crowd there had been more people who could have related to Damon's story, lifted him up and made him feel seen. He was so exposed. I was grateful that C.J. Hunt was our host that night and was able to give Damon's story the loving and supportive landing that it deserved. Here's what C.J. said after Dayman story. I can also tell by the applause who is a person of color also because my my klap, it was hard for me not to clap for you while you were telling the story of just I feel so seen by that story.
I've waited my whole life to be called the same. I just loved your story because the way you capture the absurdity. Of having violence be part of your identity and a rite of passage, I think is resonant to anyone who is black and I imagine partly resonant to any of those who have an oppressed identity. This wild way, where were you need a confrontation as a to see yourself. And I also love the story because it makes me think about a theme that has been running through the stories tonight about what it means to know who you are without depending on seeing a reflection of yourself and other people.
So I just want to say thank you again.
That was one that was more post. C.J. Hunt for more on Damon Young. Check out my interview with him on our blog and to see a picture of a young Damon go to the moth, dawg.
Coming up, a man finds a path to freedom. That's when the Moth Radio Hour continues.
The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and presented by PRICK'S. This is the Moth Radio Hour from Parke's, I'm Suzanne Rust. We're hearing stories about changes of heart. Our next story is from Hugh Burton. We first met Hugh in our annual workshop with the Innocence Network conference back in twenty eighteen.
He told the story at our first virtual mainstage, which reproduced over Zoom right as the pandemic took hold.
And while the covid-19 lockdown wouldn't allow us to have our usual live shows, there was something raw and intimate about having tellers like you sharing their stories from their homes directly to our screens.
The audio is imperfect, but the emotions come through all the same.
We call the show altogether now the moth in your living room, here's your Bertan live from his home. Oh, are you in 1989, at the age of 16, I was wrongfully arrested and charged with second degree murder, ostracised by, many believe, by a few. I still had one person who had an unwavering belief in my innocence and would dedicate everything to prove that he was innocent. And that was my father. We fought a great fight, but we lost a trial and I was sentenced to 15 years to life as I was shuttled from facility to facility.
My father was there every visit, every week. The visits were filled with us strategizing how we were going to reverse what had happened. We would also talk a lot about him playing a saxophone and me playing piano and how great it would be. One day I would be free and we could sit down and we could play together as time would go on.
Devices for less and less. His health started to become an issue in the normal seven and eight hour journeys, that it took them to come upstate New York and visit me will be becoming a little bit harder to do. In 2000, my father had to sell the house and he moved back to his native Jamaica, although we kept in contact through writing and we still did our strategizing about proving my innocence. We were on the visit. We weren't invisible.
It wasn't like the visible nothing could replace those visits. One day I had gotten a letter and it said that my father was coming back to the country. I was excited the guy who had been in every visit room with me, had been in every court room, was finally coming back. The day came. That Saturday morning, I was up early. And the cell door opens and you can hear the metal on metal. But I heard this one thing that I had long hair, Burton, you have a visit.
I made my way out of the cell and out into the hallway, the hallways normally have this gray battleship kind of color that's very depressing. But today they didn't feel they didn't look the same. They looked like they had a lot of life. I had an extra pop in my step. I knew what it was. I was going to see my guy. I finally get to visit one where I get frisked and there are two doors. And I went through the first door and then there was like a vacuum before we got to the second door, because once the second door opens, it's just a flush of noise.
Their wives talking to husbands, mothers talking to sons and children running around. It was all great, it was a sound that I hadn't heard in a while. Finally, I saw my father and I made a beeline to him. As I'm drawing closer to him, I notice, wow, he he's aged considerably since I had last seen him. Wow, and his hair is completely white now, and he's a bit hunched over and he uses the assistance of a cane, but none of that matters.
I know what time does. My guy was here to see me. He traveled all of this way and his first stop was here to see me. I embraced them. And when I held him, he felt much, much more frail than I remember, but it was OK. I embraced my cousin who came within. And we spoke and I thanked her for bringing him up, so we all sat down as the business started, my mind was raised and there was so many things I wanted to ask him, how is the transition?
How is everything going? When exactly did he get a chance to do any practicing while he was there? And I wanted to tell him how good I had gotten play the piano. I kind of felt I was a little bit better than him, but, you know, so I was excited. So as we're talking, I'm doing most of the talking. I'm noticing that he's not really as engaging as I remember our visits to be in the past.
And I'm thinking maybe he's just overwhelmed with being here. So, you know, it doesn't matter. So I said, well, let me ask something that is that he has to give me a more definitive answer, a more explained answer. So we began to talk about music. And I know with music that could usually take us maybe two or three hours on a visit. When I asked him about music, his responses were still yes no. And I turned to my cousin and I.
I asked, I said, is everything OK? What's going on with. And she said, well, you know, as of late, his memory has been been beginning to slip and fade. I knew he had dementia before he left, but this was a bit different. This felt different, but I didn't want to I didn't want to let the baby down, but I continued to keep talking and talking and I noticed he asked me for a cigarette.
But at first, I didn't really pay any mind because I thought he just maybe he just wanted a smoke. And. We continue to visit and he asked again. But I knew I said my father knows the policy with cigarettes, if you leave, you cannot come back in because the visit is terminated. He knows this. I know this. He has been in these visit rooms for 13 years, back and forth. But still, I said, OK, well, we'll just continue with the visit.
And then everything kind of came full circle is when we still talk, and he referred to me as Wayne. Wayne is my brother's name. And I knew in that moment that the guy who was championing my cause from the age of 16 who was in every courtroom, in every room. Didn't know who I was. Crushed. Because this is the only one that I knew who was believing in me and would never stop. So as we went on when he asked for a cigarette again, I told my cousin, I said, you know.
Allow them to have the cigarette, and she said, Are you sure? And I said, Yes, I'm sure. I said with all of the service, I said to myself, with all that he has done, with all he has sacrificed. Just allow him to have the cigarette is not much. I couldn't be so selfish as to just want to keep him here in the visit, even though that's what I wanted to do. I told allow me to have a cigarette, so we ended the visit and as we got up, I embraced him and I just held him.
And it was so much I was wanting to convey that words just couldn't express. How much I just thanked them and appreciated for him just being a rock fully, I hope my cousin and I told them to take care of them and watch over him. And I'm watching them leave and I'm supposed to leave to visit them first. But today, I didn't want to leave. First, I needed to watch him leave. Because it was something in me saying that when he leaves this visible, you may not see him again.
And I could hear the officers in the background calling to me, Burton, Burton, but I just needed to see him leave.
So as he left and I went through the other doors and I made my way back down the hallway, the hallways returned back to their normal drab color. And I got back to the cell and a door close. And in that moment when it shut. I knew I was alone, I knew I was by myself, but I knew I had to do something because we started out in a fight together and it was it was yet to be finish. It was yet to be completed.
I laid that whole evening just to name just kind of quiet. My dad died 16 months later. I got paroled four years after, but when I got home, I knew again that only half of this fight was done. Yes, we wanted me home, but it remained. We needed to prove my innocence. I went about trying everything that I could to prove my innocence. And finally, one day, a little over a year ago. I've gotten a phone call about nine 30 at night.
And it was my attorneys and he told me that the Bronx court's. I have decided to overturn the conviction. You've been exonerated. The truth had finally come out. I was happy. I was relieved. I was sad, happy because I had finally won. Relieved because I could take a burden off that was not mine to bear. But sad because my guy wasn't here to see through to the end. Finally. In 2019, January 24th. I was exonerated at Bryn Brox courts.
And the first thing they ask me, what is it that I wanted to do, I said I wanted to run in New York City Marathon and I wanted to run for a few reasons. One, because the marathon always represented from the staying of the course.
And two, because I wanted to take a victory lap around a city that had taken everything from me. And finally today, the marathon came. And I ran and when I got about 17, maybe 18 miles an. I was looking across the Willis Avenue Bridge and I saw the Bronx courts. The same building that had taken everything, my freedoms and everything I've read pass it on a victory lap and then back down through Central Park. And as I cross the finish line.
I knew I said I didn't just cross this myself across this with me and my father and for my father. Thank you. That was Hugh Burton at the end of his story. Hugh stood looking at the camera on his computer while thousands were watching from their homes.
Hugh Burton is an exonerated marathon runner.
Writer, producer, public speaker and advocate for the innocent who was actually falsely accused and convicted of killing his mother.
This happened when he was only 16 years old.
The Moth's Jody Powell, who directed his story, sat down to talk with him. I think especially for those who listen to your story, are we listen to your story? I think maybe we should just address it is about what happened to your mother, right?
Well, you know, my dad was in Jamaica visiting his mom, so I left for school that morning and I ended up coming back early that afternoon. And I noticed that the master bedroom was ajar. And when I went in is when I made the discovery did. And that's when everything kind of started to just snowball. I was numb from that point on, you know, they questioned me and maybe two days later, after they had taken me to my grandmother's house, they picked me up again and said, you know, they wanted to ask me the same questions again.
And I hadn't eaten. I hadn't really slept. And because I can only keep seeing in my head what I came in the room to discover. And they were saying that they had evidence that that I committed the crime.
And I mean, this goes on for hours until they finally convinced me that this was the best option for me would be to say that I did this. If not, it was going to be much worse, knowing nothing about law, never being in any type of police interrogation or custody or anything like that. I didn't know. And they got me to sign a confession and that set off everything. I tried to speak to people who are around the age that I was when this happened to me, because I know what I know what those officers did, I know what they played on.
And I never want to see anyone have to go through that again. So I speak to let people try to let people know who may not know what their rights are, what they don't have to do, what they should ask for. The other reason I speak whenever I get a chance to is to let people know what the adults, what the responsible adults did to a 16 year old child and that they they still need to be held accountable for what they did.
Holding people accountable is me giving my parents what they deserve. So that's why I speak. And I remember times when I would be hollering at the top of my lungs that I didn't commit this, but no one was listening.
That was Hugh Burton, we at The Moth wish you all strength and resilience during challenging times.
That's it for this episode. We hope you'll join us next time for The Moth Radio Hour.
Your host this hour was The Moth's senior curatorial producer, Suzanne Ross. The stories were directed by Katherine Burns, Sara Austin Ginés and Jody Powell.
The rest of the most directorial staff includes Sara Habermann, Jennifer Hickson and Meg Bowles Productions apart from Emily Couch. More stories are true, is remembered and affirmed by the storytellers. Our theme music is by the drift. Other music in this hour from when they see Christian McBride and Sonny Rollins. The Moth is produced for radio by me, Jay Allison with Viki Merrick at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. We get support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Moth Radio Hour is presented by PRICK'S for more about our podcast. For information on pitching us your own story and everything else, go to our Web site, The Moth Dog.