If there is one phrase you want someone from your community to receive, what would that be? If there was one phrase that you would want to be said from a person of a younger generation that will excite him or her to make a change, what would that be? What statement gives realization to a younger driven individual that makes them see that you are just like them; you just made different decision than those who are from the same place. What MAJOR statement is that? It’s simple: I CAN DO THAT, TOO!
I am unashamed and abundantly proud to say that I was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago (Roseland Community). Granted there is a lot of negativity anyone can point out from living there: crime, gangs, malnutrition, poverty, etc. However, there are more roses in the concrete in that area than you can ever imagine. I grew up in a single-parent home; Grandma, Mom, my brother and I. No dad, just a grandfather who I saw grew up in a single-parent home; Grandma, Mom, my brother and I. No dad, just a grandfather who I saw occasionally on the weekends, but who instilled in me what a man represents. I had family members that were a part of the life that everyone hates and yet still gets into because they’re fighting to live and their just living to die (the drug game).People can see so much of this where I am from. I remember encountering a Hispanic brother and understanding what it means to be on the wrong side of the tracks because I am not the same color as him. I vividly picture seeing guns drawn and shots fired in the home next to mine which was a drug house. I remember driving and associating with people to “fit in,” unknowing they are about to do a drop off and a drive by. I have been there. Many can look at these experiences and say “that’s horrible, how can you live in something like that?” Or better yet, look down on a community who is yearning for more people to be role models.
The one thing my God and my mom gave me is a positive mental attitude on where I came from. My mother was my greatest support system in everything I ever did; from basketball to dancing to the multiple businesses I currently run. She planted the seed that you can do whatever you put your mind to. I understand every-one might not have that from family, but someone out there is willing to give that to you (a True Mentor). People can say, “I will never grow in a place like that.” And I would say to them, “YOU’RE RIGHT, with that attitude.” Although the society I was in taught a lot of people the wrong way to live, it also instilled in me a character and desire to not to be that way. It taught me street smarts, and honestly common sense. Because of the pain of where I came from, I realized the purpose of why I am here. I am no one special, I am just a person who analyzed and observed my environment and decided that I will be one from it, but not one of it. I made the decision to change my environment, change my network, but most of all change the way I think. I wanted to be an example from my community and give people who are tired of the pain hope to change the cards that were dealt to them.
A great man said, “It’s not your conditions but your decisions that determine the quality of your life.” That statement is foreign to the average person. Well, I am not average. With a positive mental attitude, the decision to change my associations, a change in my way of thinking, and a support system, I was able to gain more traction to-wards my purpose. As a driven leader from a poverty stricken community I am here to inform you I am just like you. And hopefully you are saying to yourself, “I CAN DO THAT, TOO!”