Thank you for praying these past months and reading these letters from a man many of you have never met, one of thousands of men and women warehoused in prison cells across our land. This is special--you praying for a guy from another world and race and background, reading his thoughts from that cell. Catholics used to use a term more often, The Mystical Body of Christ. When that body, our body, grows, we might not feel it immediately, but the new member grafted into feels the whooooosh of new life flooding in, the sense of connectedness to something bigger.
Neaners (José Israel Garcia) has helped me understand better what that feels like. And what it demands. Of both him and us. For him, it means letting himself fully belong to a new body, not the Sureño gang identity (though it's hard to technically shed, like one of us shredding up our passports). That said, Neaners has recently written that he no longer wants to use that street name he's worn for years.
I was thinking of my name Neaners and I wanna go by Nini instead.
I usually hear people close to me call me Nini, like when I was a little boy.
But I wanna let “Neaners” rest.
It challenges me to consider what parts of my identity I might "let rest," that I no longer need as I belong to something greater.
Below is a reflection of Nini's on what it is to belong to a new Body.
Cut Off: the Land and the Body
The other day I was reading Deuteronomy 11:13-23 and it was talking about the rain and the land. God giving rain so the harvest will be good, et. But reading of this reminded me of when Paul starts talking about the body—saying how’s the hand gonna tell the ear “we don’t need you.” How we gonna hear? Or the eye…something like that. Me entiendes? Which verse am I talking about? Well, anyway, that verse about the body somehow got me thinking about Alex, the one they call “Dirty” on the streets, and Nick Silva, in and out of hospitals and drug treatment centers.
We’re all a body, you, me and Nick y Alex. I know that this desire to help—or these homies helping me—has been in my heart for months.
So as I was reading Deut, it came to me: like, you guys are God showering us with rain to grow. By showering us love, writing, answering phone calls and so on, and most importantly, by believing in us. We’re like the scums of this world, rotten roots, dried out plants. That’s why homies love you all, dogg. Because you’re not even caring what people in society say—judges, lawyers, parole officers or juras [police].
I know you’ve had people tell you que I wasn’t ready or that I was playing you because I’m just doing jail talk or that Alex is a junkie, that Nick is a fuckup. And you’ve also heard us give up on ourselves over and over again, not knowing what to do. But you’ve always given us hope, even if we fall back, you’ll tell us something that’ll bring us together.
We may be sick, but you refuse to let us get “cut off.” That’s what the verse about the land, and then the body made me think of.
Oh, homie, I found it. 1 Corinthians 12:14-26. That’s tight, bud.