“I grew up in Prichard. I moved to Atlanta for a little bit and then to West Mobile. I wanted to get as far away from Prichard as I could. The crime, the low property values. I didn’t want to invest here long term, but it kept calling me home. I realized I was the problem and came back four years ago.
I was arrested a few times before I was 20. I wrote some bad checks because I wanted some Jordans. I opened an account to buy Jordans and didn’t take care of it. I straightened up, found a pretty wife, had some kids and started living.
My wife had a tumor on her thyroid in her mid-twenties. We had three boys and not the greatest insurance. I kept worrying about what I would do with the three boys and the rest of my life if anything happened to her. She made it through and life goes on. My boys are in college and my oldest is special needs living with us.
Working at Strickland Youth Center was also coming home. I have always been a football coach or mentor and the house where everyone hung out. They had an opening at Strickland and I thought I could do something there. Helping these kids is helping myself. Isn’t that selfish? Like it or not, these kids are our tomorrow. We can teach them how to be somebody and care for themselves today or we can let them be wild and deal with them tomorrow. We have enough basketball players and guys who do the norm. We need to show them they can be what they dream they can be. All of these are our kids. He may not be mine, but he is mine. That is why I love Strickland. You can catch one, or two. I am a dad, uncle, stepdad. I am an uncle to a lot of kids.
It is easy to make a difference. These kids want attention and they will take it how they can get it. It can be from their friends for stealing something or from someone saying I am proud of you for getting that GED, let me buy you lunch. It is that easy.
I want to help put people back in charge of their communities. We had people in a room a few weeks ago with about 50 ideas and we narrowed it down to 10. We will meet again and narrow it down to 2. We will do those two and start the process over again. People still care and we want to bring those people together and do something to make a difference. We don’t need to wait on the government to make our neighborhoods cleaner and safer, to make improvements to our city.
I want my kids to see me out working and making a difference to make it normal. I notice my kids do what I do after the fact. They see me hustling and cutting grass, they do the same. If they just see me laying around, they do that, too. It’s all about setting good examples and showing people a better way.”
(The next few stories will be from Prichard, Alabama, a once-thriving city on the edge of Mobile. Many people have moved away from Prichard and it struggles with difficult issues from violence, drugs, and education to city government, employment, transportation, and public water. But Prichard is also a reminder that communities are more than the stories of shootings and failures reported every night on the news. It is more than crime statistics and a proud past. There are good people who haven’t given up or are coming back home to Prichard. They have hope and are giving themselves to make a difference. I hope Prichard proves that positive change comes from people like this taking action. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.)