You can’t judge a book by its cover

March 4, 2019
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You can’t judge a book by its cover

You can’t judge a book by its cover

I started working for the city of Mobile two months ago and have a place for my drive and energy and can be successful every day. Right now, moving barricades for Mardi Gras is the one thing on my mind. I can pull eight of them at a time. Some say tell this kid to slow down. They gave me more and some days they have to tell me to stop. This is the best job I have ever had. It is like being on a football team and we push each other. There is some competition and a few have had to step up their game. Police officers have told me that I am the hardest working man in Mobile. I wake up with a smile on my face and work hard. I got a whistle yesterday. That was a big deal because now I am a leader. The crews have been loading barricades the same way for the last 20 years. I came up with a new way and we load three trailers within 30 minutes. That is the time it used to take to load one trailer. On the last two days of Mardi Gras, we will go in for our normal times from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Then we set up barricades before the parade and block off the roads. We close them up before the parade starts. We can mingle with crowds during the parades and I get to make people feel good.  This doesn’t feel like a job. After Mardi Gras is over, it will be back to asphalt and filling potholes. My grandad is 80 years old, has retired five times because he can’t quit working. I get my drive from him.

This job has been life-changing and given me something positive in my life.  In my world, if you aren’t doing the same as everyone else, you are strange. Every day I walk out of my door,  block out the negativity, and stay in my own zone.  I have learned about personalities and how to work with them. When I was in eighth grade, I did power washing and other jobs for a neighbor. I earned $40, and bought his lawnmower. I cut everyone’s grass in our neighborhood. I came home with money and my mom stopped paying for my haircuts. I wasn’t going to pay for them, so I bought clippers and learned how to cut hair. I also started cutting other people’s hair. Now I have customers and cut hair on the days I am not working. The dream is to have my own barber shop. I also rap and sing. I write songs about my life. You have to think about the worst so you can avoid the bad situations. Writing songs helps me do that. 

I have been told I am an old soul. I was born from young decisions from my parents. My grandmother stays in Spanish Fort and that has always been my escape. It is birds and woods and I ran free and drove my go-cart and shot my pellet gun. I was an energetic child and it gave me another option than the streets of Mobile. My dad went to jail when I was two. My mom always said I was my dad’s son and I was going to be just like him. My family thought I was a menace to society. My mother showed me tough love and kicked me out when I was 17 because she was zero tolerance. That made me grow up.  I can’t blame anything on my parents, but I want to break the cycle of prison and domestic violence. I didn’t have many male role models growing up. I needed people to ask, how do I go about life? I used to be a know it all but I learned a know it all doesn’t get anywhere. Be humble, pay attention, and learn. I try not to dwell on my past or use it as an excuse because many people grew up just like I did.

My first tattoo was my mother’s name, Charlotte. I was working at McDonald’s when I got it. She caught me in the middle of me getting it and I told her it was a rash.  The tattoo on my hand says OTF for Only The Family. I have MOB on the top of my arm because I love this city. My grandmother’s name, Pauline, is on my other arm.  I also have tattoos that say Jesus and Lord Forgive me. They all mean something about who I am and I am not ashamed of it. Family is important to me and one day I want to be a good father who can nurture and teach my kids. That is a long way off.  

I am learning financial responsibility. I wasn’t ready for college because I knew I was going to party. I needed to go to work and grow up.  I have been through ten mindsets in my adult life. The last nine didn’t work. This one is. Every day I wake up focused on doing something productive. Right now I am paying people gas money for rides, but I will have a car soon.  I have had cars, but they have all been pieces of crap. I bought them at buy here, pay here places, but they broke down and were worthless. I have pushed them down the road because I ran out of gas and couldn’t afford to put more in. Sometimes I had to walk to work, but I got there. I am paying cash for the next car so I don’t have to worry about a car note or paying for a ride. On Christmas, I didn’t have a job and spent my last $5 on a homeless guy to buy him a cup of coffee and hotdogs. I was stuck at the gas station with no gas. I want to be able to help other people and have money for gas.

You can’t judge a book by its cover. I know what people think of me because I am a young black man and I look the way I look. The attention I get is usually not good attention.  I recently got off work and started walking home. I was looking down at my phone trying to find a ride and stopped in front of a gas station. A cop pulled up and told me to get the hell out of the way. I was puzzled, but I have learned to be learn to be calm in situations like this. You make it worse or being defensive and overreacting. I asked him, ‘What am I doing?’ He drove off. 

When you started looking for me, I thought I was in trouble. The only phone calls I ever got like this were to send me to the office because I was going to be suspended. I made A/B honor roll once and that wasn’t enough for my mom. I have been a disappointment to my family, but they are starting to see me differently from watching me work at the parades. I don’t need a pat on the back, but someone caring about me is big in my life. Most people don’t pay attention to city workers or what we do. Thank you to the ones who care.”

33 comments on “You can’t judge a book by its cover”

  1. I learned many years ago “Don’t judge a book by its cover”…he is so right. I enjoyed every word of his story. Thank you so much for interviewing him and telling his story. It made my day!

  2. Sher Graham says:

    You have outdone yourself. This Story in my opinion is your best today. This young man is truly a role model for many young people coming behind him. The photo says it all before you read any of the words written. Yes, he is an old soul but the spirit of the old and the new are in his desire to do better and in the choices he is making. With the young kids and I’m working with, I want to be able to path this story onto them so they realize that The choices one chooses impacts wife everyday. God was at the helm of this story when The tribe help you find him. Congratulations.

    1. Twilla Burns says:

      Awesome testimony!!! Keep on your path. You are an inspiration!!!

  3. D. Smith says:

    I’m not crying. You’re crying! That was absolutely beautiful! His story is like that of so many young people, trying to find their way on thos crazy road called life. I applaud his tenacity and his choice to see life in a positive way. Young man, use your gifts! They will open doors for you. Do good and good will return to you. I was homeless when I moved to Mobile. I worked hard and embraced the Beauty of this City. I do have it tattooed on my body, but it’s definitely etched in my heart.

  4. Wonderful story from a young man who has already reached a level of maturity that many never reach. His family should be proud of him, and perhaps will be after hopefully, reading this article. A hardworking, kind hearted soul.

    1. Donnyell Reed says:

      What a wonderful story i’m so proud of him and do not know him. This is the kind of story all young men and women need to read. His family should be so proud of him. Keep up the good work young man. This made me cry.

  5. H.Normand says:

    As a high school teacher I see kids like you every day. There are so many kids just trying to make it from day to day. You are making a difference in yourself and others. You have the drive to be better and to work hard for what you want in life. This is what sets you apart. You should be very proud of yourself. You can be an inspiration to others leading by your example. Keep working hard and inspiring others to do the same!

  6. Camilla wayne says:

    I loved reading his story. He is an inspiration for all. That sm drive is going to take him to great places. He takes pride in what he does and it shows. Keep on keeping on young man and one day you will have that barber shop!

  7. Earby Markham says:

    Great story and kudos to him for his drive and accomplishments. I’d love to see a follow up in a year or two to see where he is by then and what kind of car he’s driving, because I believe he will reach those goals and more.
    Great job young man.

  8. Julie says:

    What a great story about an inspiring young man! I wish some of the younger people I work with could hear his story about the choices he has made and what he has learned.

  9. Peyton Harvill says:

    Great story! I would love to know this young mans name?

    1. Lynn Oldshue says:

      Derrick Tate

  10. J Lamont says:

    What a fabulous, inspirational young man. Thank you for all the work you do for the city & the extra generosity you show its people.

    1. Derrick tate says:

      Thank you all so very much for the support. I’ve always lacked that in life so I turned to myself to be my only support system my name is Derrick tate and my phone number is+12515252846 I’d love to meet and speak with all of you as well as young people. Sometimes the way parents present situations to growing teens is awkward to them bc it’s coming from their parent but trust and believe you guys are right and my mother was right. I could break it down to ppl in a way it will honestly make them think twice about their actions instead of being inpulsive like I once was. Thank you again you guys you are now all apart of my family. And big thanks to Lynn for being so persistent in meeting with me during all the Kaos that has been going on with these parades! THANK YOU ALL!

      1. K. Reeves says:

        You’re definitely an inspiration, to people young AND old. It is my sincere prayer that you find whatever it is you consider to be successful. You’re definitely on the right path! God bless!!

      2. Twillaburns3 Burns says:

        We want to hear from you again. My husband and I will be in touch soon

  11. Cindy Ritchie says:

    You are an inspiration, young man! Keep that positivity. You know the saying, “Do good things and good things will come to you.”

    1. Veevee says:

      May God continue to bless you in his arms of protection. Keep on doing what you doing, God has favor on your life . Beautiful testimony Mr. Tate.

  12. MicroBlueDot says:

    Keep your head high and your mind clear from the dark side of life and you will be what you intend to be…Thank You for all the hard work you do. You do not go un-noticed!!

  13. Soynika says:

    Wow, he makes me wanna have a passion for life and change, the way he sees it. What a great gem you found. Please let him know that we appreciate him, and we respect him as a man and as a person. Thanks

  14. Kendall says:

    Mr Tate you have an amazing spirit and soul. Your positive outlook, resourcefullness and hard work ethic is an example for all. Thank you and God bless!

  15. Pauline Anders says:

    What an inspiring story. Because of this article, many people care about this young man.

    I know there are good people doing good things every day, but we forget that because the news is all about people
    Who do bad things. We need more of these stories to balance our perspective of our world

  16. Heather says:

    With words like that, I bet the music you write is amazing. Keep going forward, keep giving, and keep being an inspiration for those who need it. I can’t imagine having to explain myself as I am just walking down the street. Good for you shaking it off, and moving on!

    1. S. Beasley says:

      Mr. Tate thank you for sharing your story. With so much going on in the world today with our kids we need role models like you with a positive mindset and outlook on life. I will definitely have my son read this. He’s eighteen and about to graduate high school soon. This is a happy occasion because he made it but also scary at the same time because he’s about to be in society where if you make the wrong decisions it could cost you your life. May God continue to bless you!!! Thank you for all your hard work.

  17. Ges says:

    I love this!!! Stay positive and keep on pushing young man.

  18. NW says:

    You are the definition of inspiration! Taking responsibility of your life, ignoring negative comments from those who skills be your biggest supporters, and understanding the importance of giving back to those less fortunate are all your gifts that demonstrate your success. I have no doubt you are going places. I think that barber shop should be a hobby since the city of Mobile needs you in leadership!! Thank you for sharing your story!

  19. Evelyn Moore says:

    I am so proud of you. Keep going after your dreams and staying positive. One
    day you will have your Barber shop.

  20. Chris Bosarge-Ghyll says:

    Young man, you just keep brushin’ those haters off! You’re awesome!

  21. Tammy says:

    I really enjoyed reading this story stay focused and keep on going in the right direction

  22. Danyale York says:

    This is a beautiful story keep your head up and continue to do positive your rewards will be greater in the end Hard work paid off in the long run. Never judge a book by it covenr you don’t know the story unless you read it. I want to let you know success is a choice! Very proud of you and remember God answer all prayer

  23. Chante says:

    I must say he is a.very respectful young man as well. He saw me unloading boxes out of my car that I was dropping off for someone at their home and he was just getting home from work and before he even went in he helped me unload the boxes and took them up the steps.
    Thanks you man!

    1. Lynn Oldshue says:

      Thank you for sharing this. I am not surprised.

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