Hasaan is two months into his Yoga Teacher Certification while he is incarcerated at State Correctional Institute - Phoenix in Pennsylvania. He’s one of the 25 men who are a part of our third 200-hour Yoga Trauma Sensitive Yoga Training offered in correctional institutions.
As part of our March Justice Month campaign to bring awareness, create connection and build community, Hasaan wanted to shared his own personal manifesto with you all. Hasaan’s been incarcerated since he was 23 and is serving a life sentence without parole. He views his time spent in the justice system as one of redemption — one in which he is actively pursuing positive, transformational experiences.
Here’s what he wrote -
Lewis Hassan Stern is the fifth born of seven children raised by his mother and stepfather. They both promoted a close knit family structure. He began pre-grade schooling at E.M. Stanton School in South Philadelphia, in the early 1970s. He dropped out of South Philadelphia High School in the 10th grade. His mother was a home body while his stepfather was the primary financial source for their family. His stepfather was a hard worker and an entrepreneur. He once owned a produce truck, a used furniture store, worked for the Philadelphia Housing Authority and he was a neighborhood numbers writer (Street Lottery).
The numbers game was never looked at as a crime in his neighborhood — it provided an avenue for hope for the economically deprived. By the age of 14, Hasaan had thoroughly learned the numbers game from his parents. Unbeknownst to them, he started a nickel and dime numbers book with those on his Philadelphia Tribune paper route.
In 1978, he was shot and robbed by some guys in the neighborhood. He had to wear a colostomy bag for almost two years before he recovered. Despite a promise that he made to himself that he was not going to return to the numbers game, a few years later he returned.
On May 16, 1987 approximately at 3:00 A.M. it was like deja vu he was accosted in gun-point robbery by three individuals in South Philadelphia. Overwhelmed by fear, he pulled his own weapon and shot one of the armed men to death. He surrendered to the authorities shortly after the incident. At trial he pleaded guilty by reason of self-defense. Unfortunately, he was convicted of 1st degree murder by a jury.
Upon arriving at Graterford in 1988 he was immature and believed that the world existed only through his limited perception. This all changed in 1997. His mother once asked him what was his political party affiliation. He could not answer the question because he lacked the knowledge to properly define the difference between political parties. It was at this point that he realized he lacked a world-view. His mother and his fellow peers convinced him that he should step forward and earn his G.E.D.
Between 1995-1998 he took the G.E.D. test 4 times and failed at each conjuncture. He became discouraged and contemplated many times abandoning the whole idea of obtaining a G.E.D. Nonetheless, despite feeling overwhelmed and dispirited he continued down what he considers to be an arduous road.
Here are Hasaan’s Accomplishments and Acknowledgments
1992 - 1995: Plumbing/Steam-pipe fitting at SCI-Western
1995: LIFER’S Membership (current)
1998 : Obtained G.E.D.
1999: Musical Achievements: Music Transposition/Bass Guitar
1999 - 2003: Pennsylvania Runathon Coordinator at SCI - Grat.
2000: Accepted into Villanova University/Part Time Studies
2001: Certificates in Sports Nutrition (37.7 hours), Essentials in Strength (37.7 hours) and Exercise & Arthritis (37.7 hours)
2003: Completed PADOC Citizenship Program
2005: Certificate: Temple University Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program (12 weeks)
2006: Member Villanova Alumni Association/SCI-Graterford
2013: Certificate: PADOC Violence Prevention Program
2016: Bachelor of Arts & Science Degree from Villanova University (17 year achievement)
2018: Yoga Instructor Certification (in progress) - 200 hour/Transformation Yoga Project
2018: NAACP Membership
2018: Villanova University Alumni Blk Rep./Graterford Chapter
2018: Certificate: Alternatives to Violence Project
2018: Certificate- Advanced Alternative to Violence Project
2019: Certificate - Alternative to Violence Project Facilitator
“I pray that my story of Redemption can encourage those who feel the world upon their backs and believe they are confined to surfing the waves of their past. Every individual can have a positive and rightful place in this world, it is up to us to sift through the good versus bad. Once we find that positive grounding we will know instinctively that this is our movement to shine and to move forward.” - Hasaan
Learn more about our Yoga Teacher Training on StartSomeGood. If you feel connected, or compelled, to support the individuals as they become certified yoga teachers, please make a pledge! A ripple effect of transformation happens when we realize were all connected and can share in healing.
Thank you for connecting and making our community stronger! - the TYP team