Marcus was only a teen when he first met Marcedes in the early 2000s. When she thinks about the story of her and Marcus’s life together, her face lights up. “We’ve written a long book,” Marcedes says. “Actually, there are volumes.”
Marcedes holds a photo of her and Marcus. Photo by Naomieh Jovin.
Marcedes met Marcus when she was a student at Temple and she would see him in the neighborhood. “He would always ask me what I learned that day,” she remembers. “Initially, I thought it was small talk, but he continued to inquire and show true interest.”
A short time later, Marcus was incarcerated at just 17 years old. It was then that they really got to know each other. Marcedes heard that Marcus was locked up and would be facing significant time in prison. She reached out, and began to visit him when she could. Marcus learned that he would be receiving an automatic sentence of “juvenile” life without parole – essentially, he would die in a prison cell. It was devastating. He was just a teenager.
The next few years were truly difficult for Marcus as he adjusted to his new reality.
Undaunted, Marcedes kept in touch, modestly describing herself as a very loyal person. They had visits. Their friendship deepened.
And, the years passed.
Marcus took advantage of every opportunity he could inside – learning HVAC, drug and alcohol treatment, mentoring, and more. He was growing up, albeit inside of prison surrounded by grown men. He looked for the light where he could find it. For him, part of that light was with Marcedes. “When Marcedes came into my life,” he says, “she taught me things. It was okay to feel, to have emotions. And I became somebody who wanted better for myself.”
Marcedes and her young son, Johnny, continued to live their lives, too. Tragically, though, Johnny lost his father to gun violence when he was just six years old. Through some of the most difficult trials and tribulations in her life, Marcedes says her friendship with Marcus grounded her. “No matter what adversities he’s going through,” she says, “he is always cheering me on. He’s always been my #1 fan.”
Over time, Marcus and Marcedes’s friendship evolved into a relationship, their love transforming into light. Six years ago, they were married.
photo by Naomieh Jovin
Marcedes holds a photo of Marcus and Johnny. Photo by Naomieh Jovin.
And, with his natural gift for mentorship, Marcus became a father figure to Johnny. He says meeting Johnny changed him. Johnny considers Marcus his dad.
Another light soon emerged for Marcus, Marcedes and Johnny. Because of a series of US Supreme Court decisions, the most recent in 2016, Marcus would receive a chance to get a new sentence, and potentially come home after nearly twenty years of incarceration. Partnering with YSRP’s Senior Mitigation Specialist Annie Ruhnke, Marcus and his attorney created a comprehensive mitigation report that presented Marcus’ humanity, detailed his many achievements since entering prison at 17, and outlined a plan for his life once home – a life that would be anchored by Marcedes and Johnny.
The report was submitted to the judge, and Annie has continued to serve as a bridge between Marcus’s case and the legal system, and the life Marcus, Marcedes and Johnny are destined to have outside of prison walls.
As Marcus awaits his resentencing hearing, Marcedes and Johnny wait, too. They are not waiting for their lives to start, but rather continue – joyfully, and in freedom. Johnny wants Marcus back home.
He can’t wait to play basketball and football with his dad.
Marcedes, too, is radiant when she speaks about what their next chapter holds. It’s not just the love she will feel having Marcus home, and for her son to have a male figure in his life. She can’t wait to see the man that Marcus has grown into bring his power and purpose to the community, and to the mentorship work he will continue outside.
Marcus looks forward to “being able to breathe fresh air. Being able to walk. To wake up to people in my life and be able to tell them I love them everyday.”
Perhaps Johnny explained it best in a letter he wrote to the judge in support of Marcus’s resentencing. Johnny wrote, “My dad makes my mom smile like nobody can. That is enough for me. Please allow my dad to come home. I promise we will take care of each other.”
photo by Naomieh Jovin
Though they can’t yet be together physically, in their next chapter – or volume– when Marcus is finally free, they will take care of each other – just as they always have done.