Before I was born, the majority of my immediate family members migrated from Washington D.C. I was born in Greensboro N.C. on Sep. 23rd 1977. My grandparents had a total of eight kids, and at least seven of them, plus myself all lived in the same house together. When my mother (Mildred Haizlip) had me she was a sixteen years old high school dropout. She could hardly read or write. I am the only child that she ever had. My biological father was completely absent in my life. I grew up in between the Southside (Smith Homes, “Smitties”) and Eastside (Morningside Homes, “Grove”) housing project areas in Greensboro N.C. I was raised by my mother and grandmother (Juanita Haizlip). My grandmother was a very beautiful (light-skinned) woman. She was a small build half black and Indian lady. When I was little, both of her legs got amputated. My grandmother was the matriarch of our family because my grandfather, her husband, (Oscar Haizlip) was an alcoholics who was always in and out of prison for fraud. He committed these crimes to put food on the table for our family. My granddad was the total opposite of my grandmother. He was a medium build very dark-skinned man.
At least ten of us lived in one place together. The homes we inhabited were very small because we did not have much money. My family’s financial situation was so tough because not one of my family members was educated. Sad to say, but none of them as much as even had a high school diploma. Nor were they employed. The homes we occupied had no more than three rooms in them. I will admit, my family was poor, so it was hard. I say roughly because it constantly seemed like it was a tight squeeze in our household. Mainly because there were so many people in such a small area. For example, when I was a kid, the food situation in our household was so scarce that there were times where I was so hungry that all I could muster up to eat was some mustard spread between two slices of end bread. My mother and grandmother were both Welfare Recipients. The food provided through government assistance was always a luxury for us. Back in those days, Food Stamps were printed in paper form, then mailed to their beneficiaries (monthly). When our Food Stamps arrived in the mail, the whole family was happy. It was like a party in our house. We were happy to re-up on food.
Holidays were no better. My mother gathered up what she could. Christmas in the Haizlip’s household was slim. However, we always made the best out of it. I guess it’s fair to say that my family did the best we could with what we had. We did attend church on Easter Sunday’s though. My mother made sure that I always looked nice on that day.
There were some good times in our household. For instance, I recall my first day of elementary school. My mother was so excited. She took me out of school shopping and had me all prepared for this very special day. Everyone in the family was happy because my grandparent’s first grandson was going off to school. I was excited walking to the bus stop with my mother. This was the first time that I ever experienced being apart from my family members. I enjoyed school because I had the chance to meet new people and it was good to get away from my dysfunctional family members for a while. Plus, I enjoyed the free lunch in school.
Changing gears, my mother and her siblings were always at one another (verbal and physical). I can faintly recall some of those moments. The beef between them was always over something petty. For instance, they use to fuss over who was going to help my grandmother pay bills in the house. Now that I think about it, none of them contributed to help pay the bills. Furthermore, they use to argue about who was using the most drugs (marijuana and cocaine). It appeared that they were all using it at some point in time. As a kid, I had to watch and listen to all of this nonsense from them. I use to think that this was the norm. I was so wrong. As I grew older, I realized that I was in a dysfunctional family. Moreover, we were also living in marginalized communities. As they call it: The Hood!
When my grandfather was not in jail, he and my grandmother were always fighting one another. I guess that is why their kids grew up doing the same things to one another. My grandparent’s fights were mainly due to my grandfather’s alcoholism. When my grandfather got drunk, he morphed into another person—a mean and violent man. Nevertheless, my grandmother was not the type of woman to back down. Such as, when I was around seven or eight years old, my grandfather came home drunk one evening and began fighting with my grandmother. She picked up a big brown stick, cocked it back ready to strike him. Just so happen, I am sitting directly behind her on a plastic Big Wheel bike. She accidentally hit me on the top of my head with the stick. I began hollering and crying. A few minutes later, I had a big bruise on the top of my head. Ultimately, the ambulance was called and I was taken to the hospital for some treatment.
Another example of the detriment of my grandfather’s alcoholism happened before my family moved to N.C. They were involved in a house fire in Washington D.C. A kerosene heater that they were using to keep warn exploded. On one very cold evening, the fuel was running low in the heater. My grandfather decided that he would go to the store to fill up the kerosene can. However, he was drunk and he mistakenly put gas in the kerosene can. He then came home and mistakenly filled the kerosene tank with gas. Boom! The entire house caught on fire. Afterward, my family members were homeless. The government had to step in and help them find another place to stay. Both of my grandparents were severely burned in this fire trying to save their kids. My aunts: Felicia and Pamela Haizlip narrated this incident to me. This incident was a thorn in the flesh of my family members for a very long time.
Also, when I was around seven or eight years old, my mother and I moved in with her boyfriend (Darryl) to some apartments on the Westside of Greensboro called Overland Heights. These apartments were run down. Something was always breaking, but the maintenance worker did not want to fix it. Furthermore, it was straight chaos in this household—mostly because of their drinking and drug consumptions. I remember seeing this man physically abuse my mother. The weird thing about this situation is that this man knew that I use to watch him do this to my mother time and time again. The only conclusion that I could come up with was that he just did not care. But, my mother refused to leave him because he was paying all the bills. And, we did not have anywhere else to go. At times, Darryl would threaten to put me and my mother out of his place. Me my mother both had to endure and tolerate Darryl’s abuse.
My mother, Darryl, and I eventually moved into another apartment area called Hampton Village (The Village), on the Eastside of Greensboro. These apartments were worse than the previous ones. They were full of roaches and rats. This is around the same time (early 90’s) that my mother got hooked on crack cocaine, or so I think. My mother and Darryl use to have people over partying at all times of the night. My mother use to always say to me, “don’t come down the stairs.” I was a curious and mischievous kid. Granted, I did not come down the stairs; however, I use to peek down the stairs at them partying. One particular time when I was peeking, I saw them putting a plastic bottle up near their mouths. They inhaled and exhaled smoke. For the life of me, I could not understand what they were smoking. But as time went on, I heard them talking about smoking crack. My mother use to leave me in the house all by myself. I later found out that this was when they were going out to purchase more crack. One evening after they left, I went down the stairs to look around. I opened up the bottom cabinet that was below the kitchen sink. The first thing I saw was the plastic bottle that they were putting up to their mouths. Unknowingly at the time of what I was doing, I picked it up, the plastic bottle, and placed it in my mouth. I instantly froze in fear because I felt something rush through me that wasn’t right. I removed the pipe from my mouth real fast and put it back in the cabinet. I then ran upstairs, jumped in the bed, and pulled the covers over my head terrified. I was shaking like never before! This was the very last time I ever went snooping around when they left the house. My mother never knew about this. This is the first time that I have ever mentioned this part of my life to anybody. Simply put, I was ashamed to tell anybody this story. For the record, kids and drugs are not a good combination. From experience, one thing leads to another, which will be discussed below.
When I was in second grade at Hampton Elementary School. I realized that I could run fast. When we would have a field day at my school, I would always come in the first place. My teachers always said that I was fast. So it stuck with me. That’s when I found what I was good at and loved to do—play baseball. My skill and love for the game of baseball were shown by my level of play on the field. Coach James, who was like a father to me, taught me how to play the game of baseball. I was the best player on our team (Side Effects) for two years in a row. I was so good at baseball that I made the all-star team. When I was not pitching, I played third base. My family members use to come to some of our games and watch me play. Of course, this made me feel good.
My mother and Darryl broke up and we moved back in with my grandparents. They were now living on the south side of Greensboro. I was now enrolled at Peck Elementary School. I had to be around ten years old. One afternoon while I was in Mr. Lucas's third grade elementary class, a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officer came to visit our school to educate us on drug prevention. The DARE officer expressed to us that drug use was bad. I also remember him showing my class that frying egg commercial that said “This is your brain on drugs, any questions.” This was during the same time that President Ronald Regan launched the War on Drugs campaign. This campaign was based on finding and locking up drug dealers who sold crack cocaine. Before the DARE officer left our class that day he told us that crack cocaine was officially in the city of Greensboro N.C. Of course, I already knew this, and I was scared to death. Once I got older, I came to know who the very first person was to bring crack cocaine into Greensboro from N.Y. city. This is the point in my life when things began to change.
After my aunt Felicia had her first child (Tocarra Haizlip) she moved into the Smitties. A year later she became pregnant and had (Larry Haizlip). Two years later she had her final child (Crystal Haizlip). It was good that she got her place because her three kids would have ended up placing more strain on our already full household. Everybody in our household echoed this sentiment. So, when she got her place, it took some of the strain off of us. My aunt Felicia’s new apartment was the new hangout spot. This was around the same time I began playing football.
I started playing football for Glenwood Community Center. This community center was not in a good location. However, I still wanted to play the sport. My uncle (Tyrone Haizlip) showed me the ends and outs of the game of football. He knew the sport well. Under his tutelage, I fared ok. However, my football career did not last long because I was so small. Between playing football and hanging out over in my aunt Felicia’s neighborhood, I began seeing and experiencing some more things that were not good—older guys selling drugs in the neighborhood. I recall seeing these dudes running up to cars. I later came to find out that they were competing for weed and crack sales. The police would pull up and they would all take off running. This was a scary sight to see. One day I was riding in the car with my uncle (Tyrone). I told him that I wanted to play baseball for Clemson University. He said, “you can do whatever you set your mind on”. I told him that “I was afraid drugs were going to get hold of me.” I do not recall him saying anything to me to help combat what I feared the most. Again, as a kid, this further strengthened my fear of drugs.
Around the beginning of 1989, we were all living in this run-down house on Langley St. My grandmother started feeling bad. The ambulance was called and she had a heart attack. I was standing in front of her room door watching this whole ordeal transpire. When one of the medical technicians came out of my grandmother’s room, I saw this big tube in her mouth that another technician was squeezing. Simultaneously, another technician was pumping my grandmother’s chest. Eventually, she was taken to the hospital where she died. I thought that she was going to be ok because she had been in the hospital before. She always came back home; but not this time. After my grandmother passed away. Our entire family was torn apart. My grandmother was the glue that held us all together. She was the one that went to bat for us all. Now she was gone and the entire family was crushed. This was a very sad and dark time for our family. My grandfather was locked up. The whole family said that he was crushed. He and my grandmother had been together their entire lives. When we were at home getting ready to go to my grandmother’s funeral, my grandfather miraculously walked through the door. He got dressed and we all went together to my grandmother’s funeral. My grandmother’s death was the turning point in my life.
After the death of my grandmother, it seemed like my mother lost interest in me. She started leaving me at different people’s houses. They would always tell my mother to come and get me. Sometimes she would come to get me, sometimes she wouldn’t. As a result, different people kept kicking me out of their house. My mother had boyfriend after boyfriend, so we were jumping from house to house. These different men that my mother was involved with kept kicking us out of their houses also. We had no stability because my mother could not work. It wasn’t that she did not want to work. She could not keep a steady job because she could not read and write. It was hard for my mother to understand things. This use to grieve my heart and it still does to this day.
My grandfather moved into an apartment complex called English Village that was right across the street from our old stomping grounds—Hampton Village. Plus, my aunt Felicia was now living in these same apartments because she had gotten kicked out of the Smith Homes due to all the fighting she and her boyfriend Shawn Blackmon were doing. At times, my mother would drop me off at my grandfather’s apartment. Eventually, I moved in with him. I use to enjoy being in this neighborhood. My mother’s young brother, James Haizlip and I were like brothers growing up, so we had a chance to hang out together. Some older guys started a neighborhood gang called the Law Dogs. Of course, we joined in. I believe we were the youngest ones in this neighborhood gang. We use to terrorize the neighbor, and this is when I had my first run-in with the law. One Saturday afternoon, all the members of the Law Dogs were at the Hampton School park. Just so happen, this guy name Sharee came to the park. Days before this, Sharee was involved with some other gang members that jumped on one of our members. We surrounded Sharee and jumped on him. The next day, while in the sixth grade at Mendenhall Middle School, detectives came and spoke with the majority of us (Law Dogs). Shortly after, we were all charged with assault. My mother was furious. My grandfather told her I had to go before I became the reason he got evicted from his apartment. Once again I was homeless.
In the early part of 1990, right before I turned twelve years old, my mother and I got accepted into the Smith Homes Housing Projects. This was our first place having together. We were so happy because we now had a place to call our own. After about six months of living in the Smitties, a good female friend of my mother's name Pudding moved in with us. These two went way back. They were childhood friends. They had a lot in common. However, they had something in common that wasn’t so good—smoking crack. Pudding use to go out and boost clothes to support their crack habits. She use to take me with her on these stealing escapades. She would to go in different department stores and steal thousands of dollars of clothes at a time She showed me how to look out for her. She always hooked me up with the latest gear. I was in the sixth grade at Allen Middle School at this time. It was like I became popular overnight because of all the new clothes I use to wear. A few months later, Pudding and my mother fell out, and she moved out of our place. I then took it upon myself to start boosting my clothes. My boosting career did not last long because I was not good at it.
Shortly after Pudding moved out of our house, my mother and her ex-boyfriend Elmo rekindled their relationship. That’s when the thing that I feared the most finally caught up to me—my introduction to crack cocaine.
My first encounter with crack cocaine happened soon after I turned twelve years old (1990) while still living in the Smitties. The narrative goes: after arriving home from school from a long, hot sunny day, I was met at the back door of my mother’s kitchen by the good smell of her fried chicken. My mother entered the room and asked, “How are you doing?” “I am ok, I responded” She then asked, “how was school today?” “It was good, I replied.” She continued, “go upstairs and get ready because you are going over to your aunt's house for the weekend.” I proceeded up the stairs to my room and I was met at the top of the stairs by my mother’s boyfriend “Elmo.” Elmo was an old-school type of dude. He wore flashy dress clothes, and he even had his hair slicked to the back like he was a pimp, but he wasn’t. Elmo said, “what’s up ‘Lil’ homey.” “What’s up, I responded.” Elmo then looked at me and said, “I heard your mother saying that you are going over to your aunt’s house for the weekend.” “Yea, she did I replied excitedly because I was going back to my old stomping grounds.” I took his probing as a chance to ask him for some money, “can I have five dollars?” He answered by pulling out a little black bag. At first, I was wondering what was in it until he slowly unzipped the bag and pulled out a half gram of crack cocaine. Upon seeing this I was frozen in fear. The type of fear is when you know something is about to go wrong. The substance appeared to be off-white. He said, “take this,” and placed the drug in the palm of my right hand. I began to sweat profusely and my body began to shake. The feeling was unexplainable. I looked at him wide-eyed, indicating by my quizzical expression, what is this? His response was, “make your own money, and don’t tell your mother where you got this from.” Because I was a young kid and did not know any better, I could only respond by saying, “ok.” I placed the drug in the small right-hand side pocket of my black Levi jeans, and then went into my bedroom. I sat there thinking this could not be good and something bad was about to happen because I had crack cocaine in my possession. It could destroy the education and sports career that I had worked so hard at. It could destroy my life in general.
After much anticipation, the time finally arrived for me to go to my aunt’s house for the weekend. Hampton Village was one of the old neighborhoods I grew up in before we moved to the Smith Homes. The Village was one of those areas that were still called slum housing because most of the buildings were worse than before and there were now more rats than roaches living in these dwellings. The presence of that place was both fearful and exciting. Seeing my old stomping grounds brought a vivacious feeling back to my soul; moreover, it made me feel alive because it was the environment that I was raised in. Instantly, I met up with my old friend “Black.” Black was a really bad dude. He was a few years older than me, so I kind of looked up to him. At the age of fifteen, he had already shot one person that I knew of and had begun to indulge in selling crack. That was not surprising because Black came from a family of drug dealers. Selling drugs was nothing new to him; he lived for the fame and glory of illegal proceeds. After greeting one another with our usual “what ups,” the mood changed because at this particular time Black did not have any drugs to sell. A lot of people were coming to him to purchase drugs, and after he turned down a multitude of customers, I spoke up and said, “Black I got some drugs.” He responded by saying, “stop playing lil bro, this is serious business out here in the hood” I told him, “I’ll be right back.” I ran behind the unit where my aunt was living to retrieve the drugs I had stashed when I had first got out there. After retrieving the drugs, I went back to where Black was standing and spoke up like I was a veteran, “what are they trying to buy?” One guy spoke up and said, “give me twenty dollars’ worth.” I pulled the drugs out of my pocket, and Black looked at me in amazement saying, “you really do have something.” I broke off a preplaced a small portion of the drugs that Elmo gave me into the customer’s hand. This was the beginning of my life as a drug dealer. Honestly, I felt like I was Nino Brown in the movie New Jack City, played by the actor Wesley Snipes because we both began getting money and had a love for it while failing to realize the sobering truth that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10, NIV).
Throughout the years my lust for money grew into an addiction to gain financial royalty via the selfish and coldhearted drug industry. My adolescence led to my desire to sell large amounts of cocaine. However, what I did not know was that the police were out there to catch and put drug dealers in jail. My uncle tried to deter me from selling drugs but he was unsuccessful with the attempt because by now, I had my first taste of money. Plus, I was able to bring some money home to help my mother buy some food. Over the next few years, I started hanging out in the streets more and selling drugs with and for guys twice my age (Shawn and Danny). Smoking weed and drinking alcohol became the norm for me. I thought it was cool because I saw all the older guys doing it. By this time, I had spiraled completely out of control and was missing more and more of Middle School. An officer from Allen Middle School use to come to our house every day trying to get me to come back to school. The officer told my mother that “if she did not make me go to school, she would be charged.” Sometimes I went to school, most of the time I did not. My mother didn’t care because she was hooked out on crack.
I took drugs (crack cocaine) to school when I was thirteen years old. I thought it would be cool to show all my friends that I was selling drugs. While we were all sitting in class, I pulled the drugs out of my pocket and showed them to them. They were all shocked to see that I had drugs in my possession. When I went to put the drugs back in my pocket, I dropped some of them. I had to hurry up and pick it up before the teacher saw it. Thinking back on this episode, I was young, lost, and outright dumb. Shortly after this episode, I dropped completely out of school. All I wanted to do was sell drugs and run the streets. This is the moment in my life where I think I needed my father the most, but he was completely absent in my life.
One time, a family friend name Charles, my two uncles and I were in the Grove. Charles was an older guy who sold a lot of drugs. I remember him stepping off. My uncles stepped off with him, and I followed right behind them, being noisy. Charles pulled a bag of white powder substance out of his pocket—cocaine. He dipped his finger in it and snorted it. This was my first time seeing someone snort cocaine. Charles passed my uncle the bag. They also snorted it. Charles asked if I wanted some. One of my uncles spoke up and said “no.” Charles said: “a lil bit isn’t going to hurt him.’ He passed me the bag and I snorted some. Both of my uncles allowed their friend to influence their fourteen-year-old nephew to use cocaine. This was the first time I experienced using cocaine. Afterward, it turned into a habit that I later regretted.
At the tender age of fourteen years old, I was busted for the first time with possession of crack cocaine. This incident happened a few days before Thanksgiving of 1991. My mother was concerned because I would not come home. She called the police and found out that I was staying at the Super Eight Motel. She sent the police after me. After I was apprehended and searched, the officer took five pieces of cocaine out of my front pocket. My mother was very disappointed, and the expression of her frustration was voiced by one of the many conversations we had about drugs, but at that point, it was a little too late because I had already experienced the rush and thrust to make money. The first time I was busted with drugs kind of solidified my initiation into the drug business according to the age-old street adage at that time.
Right before I turned fifteen years old, I met this thirty-year-old guy from N.Y. name Guns. Guns was a drug trafficker. He took a liking to me and showed me how to traffic drugs from N.Y. City back into N.C. In the wee hours of the morning, we took off in a rental car headed to N.Y City. After we arrived in Manhattan, Guns went into a tall building. Moments later he came out with a box in his hand. We left the area we were in and pulled onto some dark alley. He got out, climbed under the front end of the car, and hid the drugs under the bumper of the car. While Guns was doing all of this he told me to watch him closely. We got some food and fuel and came back down south. We kept repeating the same episode until I felt ready to break out on my own. Eventually, I started trafficking my own drugs from N.Y. In the summer of 1993, I was busted on N.J. Turnpike with two hundred grams of cocaine. My mother had to get the money from my grandfather to come up to N.J. to get me out of their juvenile detention center. Because I was so young, the drugs charges were eventually dropped. Still, I kept on trafficking drugs from N.Y.
My cousin Santana was born and my aunt Pamela got a place in the Morningside Homes (Grove). I could not have been happier. It was more drugs being sold in this neighborhood than anywhere else in Greensboro. So, this was my new handout. I and a few of my friends turned my aunt’s back porch into a crack spot. Then, my aunt met this drug dealer from N.Y. name Supreme. This dude was ruthless. I and I did not get along well. Mainly because he started stepping on my toes. However, my aunt took his side. One day when they left the house, I went upstairs and took all the drugs and money he had. Supreme came looking for me and I tried to hide. Eventually, he caught up to me. He put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger. The gun did not go off. I don’t know if there were bullets in the gun or not. I count it as God sparring my life. Supreme ended up killing someone in my aunt’s house. They were all arrested and charged with murder. My cousin Santana came to stay with me and my mother in the Smith Homes. I enjoyed helping raise her. She was like the little sister that I never had. In the end, Supreme received the death sentence; the rest of his co-defendants all received lesser sentences because the government knew that Supreme was the mastermind behind the murder. Supreme conviction was later overturned and he was released from prison.
My mother and I got evicted from the Smith Homes because I shot someone in our house when I was fourteen years old. This incident happened due to my drug dealing ways. A guy tried to push down the backdoor of our place for drugs. I ran upstairs and got a gun that I had for some time. When the guy attempted to come up the steps, I pulled the gun out and shot him as he tried to run out of our house. The next day, police came asking questions about what happened. Of course, I denied it. However, they knew the truth. Plus, it was rumored that I was selling the majority of the drugs in our neighborhood. My mother received a letter of eviction. She blamed it all on me. I guess she had a right to. Afterward, we moved into an apartment on English Street. While living in this new area, I began influencing all of my family members and other young guys to sell drugs for me. This was a very bad time in my life.
My next encounter with the law came when I was sixteen years and almost murdered a rival drug dealer in my neighborhood over turf. I was convicted of that offense and sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence in 1994. My mother was so hurt; moreover, we were at a total disconnect. She lost the house and the car that I had bought for us. Family members told me that her crack habits were worse than ever. During my first prison stint, I converted to Muslim. This religion made me mean and radical for all the wrong reasons. After three years, I got out of it. During the duration of my time being incarcerated my mind was set on getting back out to sell drugs. After serving six years, in 2000, I was finally released on parole. I felt I had a lot of catching up to do, so it was not hard for me to find old friends and habits. Plus, my aunt Pamela was out of jail and now living back near the Grove.
After being home for about two months my life changed. I met Nakeya R. Dawkins. When I first met her she was different from all the other girls in our neighborhood. First of all, she was working for the federal government; while possessing this swagger about herself that said she knew she was a good female. She was cool and laid back. So, I had to make her my girl. I when I first began courting her, she was acting like she didn’t like me much. However, that changed after some time. Eventually, we started dating. We were doing things that any other couple would do. For instance, movies, dinners, and just having heart-to-heart conversations. She was the first real girlfriend I ever had. We were in love. After about six months, we decided to get a place and move in together. Nine months from the time we met, she became pregnant with my first and only child (Zy’Annah Haizlip). I felt great about becoming a dad; however, I had something hanging over my head. Some months back, I had violated my parole because of some drugs that a family member of mines had in their possession when my parole office did a home check on me. I was out on bail and the run. One day while riding in my car, something told me to go see a lawyer about the pending case I had. Attorney Walter Johnson went and worked out a sweet deal with the D.A. for me. The deal entailed that if I turn myself into the authorities and plead guilty to the new drug charges, the D.A.’s office would dismiss the prior parole time of five years that I had pending. The new drug case carried nine months. I thought this was a steal. I was highly mistaken. This deal added a new conviction to my record. This meant that if I was convicted of one more felony charge, I would be eligible for the habitual felon and a lengthy sentence. I didn’t realize this until years later.
I was ultimately apprehended by the police and sentenced to nine months in prison in 2001. While in prison on this nine-month stint, the very best day of my life happened. On May 10th, 2001 my daughter Zy’Annah Haizlip was born. She was so precious to me and still is. However, the moment was bitter-sweet. Although she was born, I was not there to see her come into this world. Nakeya and I now had two kids. She had a son, Zantwoin from a previous relationship, and I loved him like he was mining. After the nine months were up, I was released from prison once again.
When I hit the streets this time, I was so immersed in the drug game that I could barely sleep at night. It was like I was always thinking about all that drug money that I had accumulated, or that someone was going to kick my door in and try to rob and kill me. Then it finally happened, some guys from my neighborhood did rob me, and I ended up getting caught with a gun trying to retaliate against them. I couldn’t see it at the time, but again, the Lord spared me from being charged with murder. This gun charge coupled with a few other charges landed me right back in prison. This time for five years. Nakeya and the rest of my family members were crushed. I was the breadwinner in my family. I could no longer support them financially. After being incarcerated for about five months, the second-best day of my life happened. In January 2004, Nakeya and I got married while I was incarcerated. I was on work release during the time. The Superintendent at the minimum camp I was being housed at allowed me out on an eight-hour pass to go get married. We had a very beautiful wedding. Our marriage solidified our future or so I thought. A couple of weeks later, I was demoted from minimum custody because I came back into the prison drunk off of alcohol.
In 2005 the Federal Government indicted me on seven counts of money laundering for a multitude of luxury cars that I had purchased with drug money. I was sentenced to forty-eight months’ federal time. Once I completed these sentences, I was released once again. As before, the only thing that was on my mind during my incarceration was to get out and sell drugs. The drug business had a stronghold on me. Plus, I had lost everything that I had accumulated in a bad investment deal and by my and Nakeya’s divorce in 2008.
After being released, the same old things commenced—drugs. This happened time after time and led to more convictions on my record, which also led to me being incarcerated a total of four times over eighteen years.
In 2012 and 2013, I was convicted of drug trafficking, the habitual felon, and sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment (22-29 yrs.). Also, my bad decision-making was the cause of my aunt Pamela receiving a five-year prison sentence. Pamela left behind three kids that someone else had to take care of. It seemed like everything and everybody that was around me fell apart. Pamela’s son Jermaine was murdered by a rival gang member in 2015 while she was locked up. This incident hurt my family. It hurt me, even more, to hear their cry’s over the telephone. The bad part was that I could not be there to comfort them. I still bear some of the blame for his death because I feel in my heart that if she would have been home with her son, he would not have been murdered. Then it hit me: just like drugs destroyed Nino’s life in New Jack City, they had certainly done the same to me. I was tied up in chains, on the brink of destruction.
As a consequence of my bad decisions, in 2014 I was placed on maximum security lock-up. I tried to convince a Department of Public Safety “DPS” staff member to bring me contraband into a facility where I was being housed. I had also convinced my mother to package the contraband together and meet the man who was to bring me the contraband to sell inside the institution. Unbeknownst to me, my mother would be arrested and locked up because the DPS staff member set me and my mother up with the police. After being incarcerated for about two years on this lengthy sentence, the Lord began working in my heart. That’s where I found myself sitting back on lock up reading a letter that my mother had someone to write me for her and thinking to myself, “I cannot believe this is happening” this is all that kept running through my mind as I read my mother’s letter. It was a letter that broke my heart a little more each time I read it. My mother was locked up because of me, and I could not do anything about it, but I knew someone who could. Instantly the name “Jesus” came to mind. While on lock up (twenty-three to one) for ten months, I had the chance to get to know the man Jesus Christ through God’s divine providence. At the time I could not see what God was doing in the messy situation that I was participating in for so long. In relation to the proverbial memoir of the Apostle Paul’s experience, who claimed he was the “chief of all sinners,” Christ spoke directly to my heart and knocked me off the high horse that I had been riding on for so long (1 Tim. 1:15, NKJV). A seat that consisted of selfishness, arrogance, disrespect, and conceit. Being locked in that cell with the Lord humbled me. I learned to depend on Him as the source of my substance because it was nothing but the love of God that held me up while I was on lock up in that prison cell worrying about my mother. Just like Paul’s cell experience, God’s Word brought a new perspective on how I saw things. A view to see things through a clear and renewed lens. Furthermore, after rededicating my life to the Lord, I began to taste the goodness of His deliverance, glory, and peace; the peace of God that surpasses all human thoughts.
Today, it is still hard to believe, and imagine that God would have me at His Seminary at Southeastern Baptist (3.9. GPA), training to be a Pastor of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. A job that consists of leading God’s people and saving souls. The Word of the Lord holds to God’s people, “all things work together for their good” (Rm. 8:28). Amen! The things that I was once involved in are the cause of the ministry the Lord has now given me today. In other words, my mess has turned into a ministry. An office that I am so thankful for. God in His perfect planning fulfills His good purpose when He chooses to. God’s desire for humanity is for us to get to know who He is through His written Word—the Bible. The late great, and my mentor Dr. Edwin Cole once said, “real leaders are readers,” and this idea is essential to that which the Lord has called the Christians to do—learn and lead people in the right direction.1 This in itself, illustrates the purpose, grace, and goodness of God’s glory.
I truly understand how the aspect of “how it all begins does not determine how it ends.” We must not allow our past to bleed off into our futures. At the same time, God is not concerned with where we have been. The Lord is abundantly concerned with where we are going. When God is involved, anything is possible, which is shown by the testimony of our witness. After being incarcerated numerous times for drugs and other offenses, bad decisions that affected others, and experiencing God’s good grace, I can honestly say that I was once lost, but now I have been found (Lk. 15:24). Due to this fact, I give God all the glory for turning something that was so messed up into something He now blesses. Furthermore, God has turned someone who was once a fool into His tool. A device to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. Praise God!