Parenting From Behind Bars : The Incredible Story Of Lanre Onigbinde-Bey & His Daughter
When A Father’s Love Is Stronger Than Everything!
The Power Of A Father’s Love: The Story Of Lanre Onigbinde-Bey
Lanre Onigbinde-Bey was locked up at 24. Charged with 2nd degree murder. Building a relationship with your daughter. These were just a few things, Lanre Onigbinde-Bey, author of 27th Letters was dealing with at a young age.
His new book, 27th letters is a collection of letters he wrote to his daughters while he was incarcerated. I had the chance to speak with him and ask a few questions regarding his story and how he turned it all around and manifested the negative into positive.
A little about you
My background is (Moorish) and I manifested in a place commonly known as “Nigeria“.
In total, how long were you incarcerated and what were the charges?
I was charged with 2nd degree murder and I was sentenced to serve life without parole for 12 years. I ended up serving 8 before I won my appeal.
How old were you?
I was 24 when I got incarcerated and my daughter was 18 months old. I’m now 38 years old.
During your self-reflection in prison, what would you have done differently?
There is a Divine path our lives will take if we have the spirit to seek. I don’t think I would do anything differently plus hindsight is 20/20. I would have like to have trusted my instincts more as far as the people around me.
Why did you choose to write your daughter instead of vlog or voice record?
I did not have access to a computer while incarcerated but, I did take part in a voluntary reading program, which allowed me to record yourself, once a month, reading bedtime stories for my child and the recording is sent out to my family.
Why on the 27th?
The 27th is significant because the first letter I wrote my daughter (Tati) was on December 27, 2005, so I kept sending them on the same day monthly. Also, 2 and 7 makes 9 and the number 9 is the highest number. I also got incarcerated on the 27th of August…. you see the pattern?
Did you write separate letters to your wife/significant partner while in prison? Yes or no, and why?
After I got incarcerated my relationship with Tatiana’s mother ended. I did not pursue a new relationship with anyone while I was locked up. I think you’re better off not being involved with anyone, when you’re doing a long stretch. It takes a very special person to commit to a relationship, while their partner is in prison….Facts.
parenting at a distance experience?
Parenting from prison is all about desire. Not only did I write to her but, I made a picture frame, with a portrait of her done by my friend, “The Artist”. This amongst others, was how I maintained some level of connection to her. It was challenging but rewarding in the long run.
How often did they/she come see you while in prison?
I did not see her for a period of 5 years but, I got to see her a couple of times before I was released.
How did it make you feel?
It was amazing seeing her for the first time in 5 years. It really dawned on me how much time has passed and I needed to get out because the letters were not enough. I had to be present on a daily basis.
What made you introduce serious topics in your letters as opposed to face to face i.e. Religion, stranger danger, and self – love/acceptance?
I did not have the choice to talk to her face to face, so writing was really my last resort to speak on those topics….sort of my note in a bottle.
What were your thoughts as you saw your daughter growing in pictures and during visits, without you?
Seeing her grow through those pictures, got me to a point of making a vow to not put myself in a position where am forced to be away from her. Children are too precious to us to be far away from them without reason.
Why was it so important for you to maintain a connection with your daughter while locked up?
It was important to me because that was who I really was. The word family, like the word love has become watered down. However, for me, it’s the backbone of my existence.
Describe your up-bringing up the age of conviction? Trials, tribulations, triumphs?
Leading up to my incarceration, I had a lot on my plate. After dealing with physical abuse from my father through my early teens, I looked else where for that family structure I did not see at home. My mother had became ill and her mental state deteriorated over the years. In addition, my parents relationship ended, so it was myself, my mother and my 2 younger siblings I became responsible for at the age of 17, so my family was my priority. After high school, I just worked since I couldn’t go to college,
Explain the role both of your parents played in your life?
The role parents play in their children’s life is pivotal and it was no different in my case. My mother was my lighthouse early in life. She was all I knew till the age of 10 when we migrated to “Canada”. My father and I never got along even as a child because of the physical abuse. At one time, I ended up in Children’s Aid because a neighbour called the police when they heard him beating me.
Describe the role religion plays in your life?
Religion was introduced to me by my mother like most other children. But like most of our parents, modern religion had them way too passive and less reluctant to take charge, especially when things weren’t “going well”. What religion means to me has changed from what I’ve been taught…first the etymology of the word “Religion” is the study of the universe. I don’t go to church but, I do follow the zodiacs and I am civically engaged as a moor, which puts me into the constitutional fold which was set up by our ancestors. Being in- tuned with your ancestors, spiritually liberates you from the ways of the world. Aside from getting incarcerated by the time she was 18 months. Leading up to that point I thought that making “money” was the main priority and that mindset affected my approach to life. So I already had a lot to look after and now with the addition of Tati…..Ironically, I became distant from my family in those years, chasing the dollar which caused an imbalance to my whole cypher.
How and when did you explain to her about how and why you were in prison?
I did not have the chance to tell her myself. Someone told her so “the cat was out the bag”. It was a blessing in disguise, as it set the tone to always tell her the absolute truth. I am not sure how much of the conversation made sense to her though.
Describe your relationship with your wife/partner/significant other at the time of your incarceration and after?
We met in high school. We dated in our latter years in school. After high school, we worked at the same place and in 2000, she became pregnant. We never discussed moving in together, since I had a lot going on at home. Looking back, this was a big mistake and highlighted our insecurities about being in a bona fide relationship. After a year into my incarceration, we broke things off.. Over time. we have learned to respect each other regardless of our direction.
I see you have younger children now. What would you differently for them that you didn’t get a chance to do with Tatiana?
It’s bittersweet. I missed some very important years in Tatiana’s life so, I now cherish every moment with my son’s. I see what I’ve missed with Tati while I’m with my sons and I get upset knowing, she deserved so much more. Based on this I can say I have enough motivation to be a “good” parent for a few life times and I know not to chase anything, especially money.
What was the first
Daddy-Daughter thing you did with Tatiana when you came out?
Just being around her was amazing for me. Her mother got her own place and when I came out and I painted Tatiana’s room.
What is your current occupation and/or passion projects? And what`s next?
Once I came home, I understood how the stigma of being an “ex con” can hinder you. So that pushed me to be independent in my thinking plus, I know my true job is to serve the people and that can’t happen if I have a “boss”. I started my own film/photograpyh studio and I also became an author. 1206Studio is the name of my business and 27th Letters is the name of the book. 1206Studio has come a long way, most of the work that we did on the film side are mainly music videos and interviews. But in the coming year, look out for a variety of shows were producing. After publishing 27th Letters, I am currently working on my second book due next year. This one is about my oldest son Morocco.
Lesson From Lanre Onigbinde-Bey
What advice can you give to children with a parent in prison on building or maintaining a relationship?
Look at their character. If over time he/she does not show you what true love is, even behind bars, cut your loses and look for another role model to lead you. Trust your instincts. It’s your God given compass.
What advice can you give a parent in prison on maintaining or building a relationship with their kids?
Get busy by demonstrating your love for them. Nothing says I’m sorry like embodying that love we all crave. Do it with no strings attached.
What do you want the reader to take away from your book?
Through the book, I wanted to highlight what life was like for a parent that loves and misses his daughter while incarcerated and found a way, through writing, to maintain a relationship her.
Where can we buy a copy?
You can purchase the book at 27thletters.com and Amazon. It’s available on kindle as well.