“We are what we pretend to be… so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” — Kurt Vonnegut
Oak Park, IL — Omar Yamini is an author, business owner, motivator, public speaker, college graduate, husband, dad, and sibling who grew up in a two-parent middle-class suburban household and was raised with a religious foundation, yet he spent 15 years of his life in prison, from ages 20 to 35. How, and why, has to be the question. Many problems or misunderstandings arise because of confusion between facts and opinions. The perception of growing up within a two-parent household is a reality that many black youth do not get to experience. As a working definition, facts are statements of truth, whereas opinions are statements of beliefs or misinformation. Whether a statement is a fact or an opinion is only relevant based on a set of conditions. Case in point: Many from the state of Illinois have yet to be able to wrap their minds around how the former governor, Rod Blagojevich, ever ended up on trial, let alone received such a long prison sentence. The perception of many is that in a state as politically corrupt as Illinois, the governor had not done anything other than what politicians do day to day. However, the reality is that the laws in Illinois found that the governor was not only guilty, but went on to sentence him to an unprecedented prison term. What is important to note is that facts and opinions are relative, and usually the point of reference is not overtly mentioned and, as such, is not even realized in many instances; simply said, a fact or an opinion remains a fact or an opinion only within a given set of conditions.
This brings us back to the perception that an individual who has the fortune to be born and reared within the nucleus of a two-parent household fare far better than those reared within single-parent households—especially with a single mother. You have probably heard the trite leadership axiom “perception is reality.” It often comes as part of a message that you need to do a better job at something or alter your behavior in some way. The phrase “perception is reality” is usually frustrating and is often abused, but it contains important truths that are worth examining. The ability to get a handle on youth violence, black-on-black crime, and the tremendously high student dropout rates have reached a maximum that today’s society wrestles with daily. The perception is that a two-parent household would, in itself put, an end to the moral deterioration and daily death, decay, and violence that take place in this world in which we live. However, Yamini has written a book, What’s Wrong With You!” as the foundation to his grassroots organization. He has made it his life’s mission to put into reality the proper perception that good people, good kids, and those kids who are perceived to have been disadvantaged travel a very similar path, believing that their perceptions in life are in alignment with the world’s reality.
Yamini’s nonprofit organization, The Proper Perception, currently travels to conduct speaking engagements and workshops that address real outcomes of what happens when young people lose their sense of independence and forethought and end up attracting harmfully dangerous influences into their naïve lives. His book is a necessary read, as he painfully details what our society needs to understand about the reality of prison and how a young person might unwittingly end up there.
Because of the terrible choices that Yamini made as a teenager, he was forced to live with vicious, vulgar, and despicable men and was exposed to the harshness, degrading, and savagery of prison life. He makes a point to speak to young people to help deter them from making the same devastating decisions that landed him in prison through a method that enhances visual stimulation. His goal is to paint a visual picture in the minds of young people, their parents, and society as a whole that life in prison is miserable and dismal in hopes of helping youngsters realize that every bad decision puts them one-step closer to that jail cell door. The presentation is intended for all audiences: good and bad kids, and black, white, and all ethnic groups of kids. Any young person can be just one bad decision away from jail or the grave. The intended message is to urge the young mindset not to go against the established laws of society regardless of class, culture, level of education, executive position, religious affiliation or invested authority.
Young people have no clue that their perceptions are not necessarily a societal reality: The imagination is powerful. That is why Yamini is passionate about helping youngsters turn their thoughts in the right direction. His mission is to encourage them to use their imaginations to work toward a meaningful mission.