By: Cameron Posey
For the Urban Sentinel
It has been a year since Joshua Proby shared his amazing journey and works with the Urban Sentinel. This multi-dimensional entrepreneur is a man who has found a way to use his adversity and struggle to show others that it’s never too late to save yourself and be greater. Through faith and resiliency, Joshua educated himself while in prison for twelves years, with the first two years in solitary confinement. While there, he wrote nineteen different books exploring the pain and abused that stemmed from his childhood and has published one of them last year. Now, he has made groundbreaking strides not just in publishing but also in advocating, and business. His mission: to help his community by sharing his life-changing testimony and process of healing. He shares with the Urban Sentinel once more his updates over the past year.
CP: It’s been over a year now since we’ve last interviewed you. At that time back in February 2019, you had only been out of jail for ten months, adjusting to a new normal. At the same time, you were writing, you were speaking at events about your experience, you were in the process of publishing “30-day Journey From Prison to Spiritual Peace”, and you were creating a Non-profit organization, Peace4Proverty. How has all of those endeavors been going since then? The breakthroughs and the hiccups?
JP: All of the endeavors have been good. It’s been a blessing. Peace4Proverty is still getting its foot off the ground. There are some logistics we’re working out to get it establish and out to in community. I published “30-day Journey from Prison to Spiritual Peace” back on March 2019. Over the past year, my trucking company has been doing very good. Some of the hiccups were just when I first started, things were getting off the ground very quick and I was used to it. There’ve been some moments where things slow down, which has been a challenge for me, but it’s helped me understand the process better. Right now, I’m doing a couple of speaking events. One event is going to be a fashion show based and inspired from my next book coming out in October, “Cancer of Our Lives”.
CP: Back in your first interview, you talked about purpose and how your purpose is to fulfill the needs of others. With all the wonderful and creative things you’ve done, you were able to focus your purpose on specific groups of people with a specific message, redemption, acceptance, adaptability. How did your pursuit of those endeavors, over the year, focus your purpose? What was the process like as a writer and an advocate?
JP: My endeavors in my work has really opened my eyes. God, for one, has shown me that not everybody I want to help is meant for me to help or at least help at that time. After I was released, all I wanted to do was help people, anybody really. For instance, in my trucking company, I hired guys who had felonies and while I was providing that opportunity for them, there were guys who didn’t want that opportunity. Some of them I had to let go as a result because it was weighing me down and affecting my goals for myself. God really taught me a valuable lesson. He made me realize that he blessed me with an opportunity to change and I shouldn’t just give it away so willingly to anyone I come across. He’s shown me that I can’t be God and try to give to everyone because not everybody wants what you have to give. God was telling me “Hey. I bless you. Not them. I didn’t give you this blessing to help them at this time. I want you to get back on your feet. Let me do what needs to be done in them. Enjoy what I gave you.” That realization really helped me mature my process. I still help people but I’m much more selective in who I help because I want people to grab my hand and lift themselves up to bigger and better things, not hang off me trying to drag and make me fall. He’s really taught me to be more careful and discerning in my purpose.
CP: Your writing and your messages were inspired from not just your experiences being in imprison, but it also stems from your experience being abuse. You talk about forgiveness and how it’s not just an act but a way of life. On a daily basis, what does that look like for you, especially when you were writing “30-day Journey From Prison to Spiritual Peace?” Has it evolved as you’re establishing Peace4Change and writing other books? And if so, what does that look like now?
JP: Yes, it has evolved, indeed. I am a true believer in that forgiveness is a lifestyle especially in what I do now. I’ve learned that because of what I went through in jail and even as a child, I tend to switch to those experience I went through in my past when I face those daily issues. When I notice that mind set, I have to step back, focus, and reason with myself on situations and what they were really about. A lot of times, I realize the daily challenges have nothing to do with who I am personally. It’s just whatever was going on outside of my control. For me, it’s about perspective. I can acknowledge what others go through. Though it doesn’t excuse them for what they’ve done, I, at least, know where they’re coming from and see how it played a factor in situations involving me. Forgiveness is a constant practice and in order to be who I am and to be greater, I have to learn to let go, reflect on how far I’ve come, and focus on the good I’m doing now.
CP: In your last interview but your accounts overall, you emphasis about being honest with not just others but yourself, even when it comes to how you feel. You even talk about mental health as someone who dealt with anxiety when you transition into society and depression as a man who was abused and mistreated as a child. How important is it to you the mental health initiative in the black community, especially mental health in black boys? What do/are you thinking of doing to strengthen this initiative?
JP: There are a couple of things, I’m getting into. One is a seminar event, “Let’s Build”, that I’m planning in Charlotte, North Carolina. I want to make it a weekly event where we come in and we just talk about day-to-day things that bother us and go from there. You see the thing about mental health illness and processing it is it takes time, patience, and it’s relational. You know the Berlin Wall didn’t come down instantly, people broke it down piece-by-piece. Once you understand people and where they come from, through conversation and connection, you’ll see what they go through; the habits they have, assumptions they fall back on, how they cope with difficulty, etc. It always comes out regardless. From there because you built that trust and respect for each other, we can process, together, what’s going on with our minds and emotions. Many times what we suspect and assume isn’t really what’s true. We see it from a place of insecurity and hurt we haven’t addressed. It’s very important that we start advocating for our mental health. We see the problems in our community all the time that perpetuate mental illness: single mothers having to take care their kids all alone, boys growing up without their fathers, kids get molested, raped, mistreated and abuse, low self-esteem, bullying, etc. We, as black people, have learned to brush it under the rug because we’re told we’re strong and to keep going. And a lot of times it’s damaging because they don’t understand that we bottle up that pain and those emotions. That’s where the attitudes, the explosive anger, and the skewed thinking comes from. And once people outside our race, our community sees that, they’re incline to expect it from us. And because they expect it from us, we do it. It’s a cycle. We end up creating a reality for ourselves that’s not true.
CP: Writing played a big part in your life, your survival, and your redemption. It gave you hope when you felt you didn’t have any. It set you on this path to address issues that a lot of times people don’t want to face but tend to ignore. What would you say to kids, young boys, who are in similar situations as you were as a child? What would you encourage them to do for themselves?
JP: I would tell them to reach out and be honest about how they feel. They don’t have to go through it alone. A lot of times, we have to learn to reach out and be honest about how we feel and who we are. The most important thing in my life now, that I wish I had learned when I was a kid, is to be my authentic self. The whole purpose of what I’ve been through isn’t to show it as a lesson. It’s to also show them what they can be for themselves without going through what I’ve been through. But also, it gives them a message that it’s never over even when they mess up. They can change, they can find out who they are, what they want to be, and how they’re going to live. I want them to be encourage by my story. They don’t have to live by a narrative that tells them who they are and how they have to live. Systems are put in place but there put in place because some people found them to be the best practices. That’s the emphasis “some”. It doesn’t work for everybody. Everything is a system and new systems created every day and they’re created from people, who found new ways of handling things. You can always build a new system for yourself, something that works best for you, for who you are, and how you want to grow. Once you get that down, others will see the benefits and try to implement it. But the whole point that I’m emphasizing is don’t let a system or a way of life that doesn’t work for you be the say-all-end-all. I technically shouldn’t be where I’m at because I’m a felon, but I am and it’s because I created a new way of life for myself. If you’re given something that doesn’t work for you, try to create something new for yourself that you can work with.
CP: With your first book published last year in March, your nonprofit organization being launched, do you have any other plans in the future?
JP: My next book “Cancer of Our Lives” is coming out in October. While I was in incarnation, I found out my mom had cancer and there was no way for me to talk to her. I was really afraid that she was going to pass away while I was in prison, and I had to really process that possibility while I was in solitary confinement. That news really hit me and had me seeing how much of a cancer I had been in our relationship, and so it had me exploring all the times I had hurt her. In a lot of ways, we carry cancer in our hearts that damage and eat way at us and who we are, and it can be deadly. “Cancer of Our Lives” was a devotional I wrote to address those problems, those fears, hatreds, and loathing we carry in ourselves.