Where do you go after 31 years in prison? He went to Walmart and brought his subscribers
amon Reid is 51. He spent 31 years of his life in prison. There’s a lot he hasn’t experienced.
“For instance, I had never been to Walmart or on a motorcycle or on a boat. Never been to the ocean,” Reid offered. “When new guys would come in prison they’d say, ‘You’ve never done that? Where have you been all your life, in a cave?’”
When Reid got out of prison in May and returned home to Alliance, Ohio, in the northeastern part of the state, he started documenting his life to show people what it’s like to return to a community after years of being locked up. He shares these small moments with the nearly 7,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, Modern Day Caveman.
Viewers can witness his astonishment on his first visit to Walmart, see the meticulous cornrows he braids into his mother’s hair — a skill he learned in prison — and feel his frustration when he looks into the camera and explains how he learned job applications are now largely submitted online, which doesn’t offer him the chance to explain why he does not have a work history or to influence a potential boss with his personality and sincerity.
Reid’s first trouble with the judicial system was in 1988, shortly after he graduated from high school, where he was a star wrestler. Reid was attacked by a group of men, and he, in turn, shot one of the men in the group. He said he was beaten badly and stunned to wake up in a hospital, handcuffed to a bed and charged with felonious assault.
He and his mother both say the lawyer assured them Reid would be cleared. But on the day of his trial, Reid said, “The lawyer says, ‘Face it, you are a Black man who shot a white man in a white town. … You are not getting a jury of your peers.’”
“I took a plea deal, not knowing it would make me a second-class citizen,” Reid said.
He served 89 days but was left with years of probation and discovered no one would hire him.
Of the years that followed, Reid admitted he made poor decisions and committed crimes. He began selling crack. His probation was revoked after police found a gun in the glove compartment of his car during a stop. He was sent back to prison. When he was released, he was home just a few months before he got into a fight and was sent back to prison again.
The next time he was a free man, he robbed a bank. The sentence: 199 months, or about 16 1/2 years.
Reid said he had a lot of anger — a mixture of regrets, anger at himself, anger at the way he was being treated — as an inmate.
“I was always fighting,” he said. The prison environment bred violence by crowding young, angry men together, he added. “You were predator or prey, and I was not going to be prey.”
But one day, his mother said he called to tell her he had been “saved.”
“I knew who he used to be, so when he told me he was saved I asked, ‘By who and what from?’” Marion Holly said. “He said, ‘By God, the blood of Jesus Christ.’ I heard it in his voice. That’s when I realized he had changed.”
Reid began preparing for a new life, taking on leadership roles and learning new skills in prison.
“I realized guys were leaving and going back to the same neighborhood, dealing with the same people, doing the same thing,” he said. “My plan was to go to a new environment and meet new people and do new things. I armed myself with knowledge.”
This time, he arrived in Alliance with a plan to do something different. In August, he will begin culinary school in Cleveland. He hopes to get a food truck one day and later own a restaurant.
In the meantime, though, he said he started his YouTube channel “to show guys who come out from prison and have to learn how to navigate this world, how I did it.”
His most popular video thus far is his first trip to a Walmart. Just inside the door, he stops to chat with the greeter. “How do I get to the cereal aisle?” he asks.
At the aisle, while his son videotaped him, Reid exclaims, “Dude, look at all this cereal!”
He steps up to the aisle, then steps back as if to get a better view of the expanse of shelves. His son begs to buy his first box of cereal, and Reid picks the heart-shaped Honey Nut Cheerios. Then he asks to see the chip aisle.
“I can buy a wallet in here too?” he asks, incredulously, in the video.
What viewers do not see is the panic attack he had in Walmart, overcome by the sheer magnitude of the place and choices and all the bustling activity.
“It was just overwhelming, all the activity. It was just too much,” Reid explained in an interview. “God did not give me a spirit of fear. I got dressed and went to Walmart in the middle of the day and stayed until I felt acclimated.”
Viewers learn about some of the serious challenges faced by a person who’s been kept out of society for years. Reid talks about a guy bumping into him at a Chipotle without saying anything.
“I’m trained to respond in some ways,” he said, referring to how a bump might turn into a violent altercation in prison. “That accident showed me [life outside] is going to be an adjustment,” Reid said, adding that he still harbors some trauma from being attacked in his sleep.
In another video, he sits outside his mother’s house one quiet morning, talking about the peace he feels in that neighborhood.
“A hummingbird flew right by me and hovered,” he says, fluttering his fingers by one ear. “I was afraid to move. I need this peace.”
During this video, Reid somberly shares he is “having issues. In prison, I was very useful. Out here, there are a million of me. I’m trying to adjust. I need a job. I need something to do.”