I should be already dead. By day, I was consumed with the normal worries of being a black boy living in the hood. By night, the echoes of 9-millimeters and 12-gauge shotguns rocked me to sleep. I grew up with front-row seats to an ugly but fascinating underworld of poverty, drugs, and violence. My childhood was stripped from me. My family was in turmoil. My future, according to the statistics, was bleak. By the time I was a teenager, I had lived more than a 40-year-old man could attest to.
How did you do it? This is the primary question that helped spawn this book. Typically, after I describe my background and life to people, the first thing they would like to know is “How?” How does a person from a combination of unfortunate circumstances make it to where you are today? But for me, the most important question has always been “Who?” And to answer that question I began to write these pages. I wanted an opportunity to share my perspective on growing up in East St. Louis, Illinois, to those who may be trapped in a similar environment. It is critical those young kids know there are exits embedded in their situations. More importantly, they need a first-hand account from someone who has stood in their shoes and walked their path.
I’ve been making the same choices every day of my life: Not to become another sad statistic but rather strive to be someone my family is proud of, a person of integrity, a successful man in every sense of the word. This was not always a simple task. Many people never knew the demons I fought growing up because I was able to mask it so well. I made the choice when I was younger that I did not want other people’s sympathy for my hardships, but instead I chose to endure. These choices have built my unconquerable character.
In this book, I will show you the pitfalls I saw all around me so you can avoid or strategically handle them. I will break the silence so that you will be able to make informed decisions about your future. I will take you behind the curtain of my family so you have the opportunity to save yours. I will show you how I stood toe-to-toe with poverty – and won!