It was a tragedy to lose the best days of your life, but you learned a lot. You had time to think—to stand away from yourself, to look at yourself from a distance, to see the contradictions in yourself.
Dear Governor Roy Cooper,
Greetings in the mighty name of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Up until the Lord reclaimed me; I will admit, I was blind. Not blind in the physical sense, but blind in the spiritual sense. I could not see the hand of the Lord working in my life, nor could I see the Lord’s plan and purpose He was placing me in. That impulsive behavior was due to the infamous sin of pride and selfishness. Pride and ego always desire to be something, as opposed to seeing something. It was hard to see who I really was while having a skewed mind state that was beamed in on destruction and mayhem in my community of Greensboro, which grieves my heart daily. Let me expound on that mind state: I use to think I was created to be this big time drug hustler—boy was I wrong! It had gotten so out of hand, that I morph into a drug gang leader. Over a twenty-five-year time span, I was completely lost and confused. However, things started to change during the span of 2014-15. I was confronted by the man Jesus Christ; and was shown some things through His Word. Now I know and understand that God created me to be part of His Kingdom, plan, and purpose in lieu of evangelism, which equates to fulfilling The Great Commission—leading and telling other people about the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, we (Christians), have been commanded by the Lord Jesus to share the Gospel with other people. For example, people trapped and smeared in a life of drugs and gangs. Only through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that occurred over 2000 years ago can a person with a seared conscious transform from an illicit lifestyle to a lawful way of life. I can personally attest to this. This feat is accomplished through discipleship—being led and then leading others in a positive manner as worshippers of Christ.
My past experience, culture, and education are essential in sharing a message of redemption with people who embody characteristics of the old me. Prior occurrences correlate best when ministering to broken people. My former handling with drugs and gangs has made me more adept at being an effective tool in the quest to help others see the atrocities that drugs and gangs bring about on families and communities. However, if I had never experienced the lifestyle of being in the streets—selling drugs, it would literally be impossible for me to speak on it in a context that others can relate to. Furthermore, people currently trapped in the streets are more prone to talk with and listen to others whom they empathize with; those like myself who have become the exes of what they are currently involved in.
I come from a culture and demographic area that promotes the rise of drugs and gangs. At the same time, I speak the language of that culture and can relate to them on a familiar level. While in the streets, I had the gift of gab. For example, when I was tangled up with drugs, I could convince a person to purchase the drugs I was peddling over anyone else. All the while I was blessed with a superb gift of communication and did not realize it. Nevertheless, this gift that God has bestowed on me transfers over to the ministry the Lord has called me into (exhorting people to come to the Him while simultaneously practicing ethics). After I recommitted my life to Christ in 2015, the Lord began to use my gift of communication for the advancement of His Kingdom here on earth. What’s funny is that the people I seem to reach the most are those who reflect the OLD me.
Unbeknown to me, God was behind the scene the whole time working out His plan in and through the NEW me. It was not until I was told by elders in our church community at Piedmont Correctional Institution that I had a gift to reach young men like no other. This is because people attach themselves to others whom they can identify with. Of course those words came after some brothers witnessed me win a multitude of drug dealers and gang members to the Lord, which helped bring about change in their lives. Then it hit me, the Lord had called me into this particular vocation. This scope of this endeavor consists of mentoring and counseling in order to facilitate drug and gang prevention for the likes of young and older men. Particularly the youth, because I was influenced into the drug industry by an older guy when I was at the tender age of 12 years old. This is why I hate to see other young men endure the things I have experienced. It is important that we get hold of our “At Risk Youth”—juveniles trapped in toxic environments who may be on the verge of being introduced to the drug trade and/or gangs. It is pivotal that we help lead them in the right direction before they are led in the wrong direction. This is my primary aim as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. People must be taught the proper way to live once morality is discovered. 1 Through strong leadership, people can only be shown the right way to live their lives. J. Oswald Sanders notes, “President Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) said cogently: ‘A leader is a person who has the ability to get others to do what they don’t want to do, and like it.’”2 This is a task that I believe I can help accomplish in our communities that are afflicted by drug dealers and gang members.
Education is one of the essential elements that we must use in the quandary to combat drug and gang related problems. Education is also one of the most powerful resources that the Bible teaches humanity to acquire. It also echoes the sentiment, “study to shew thyself approved” (2 Tim. 2: 15 NKJV). In saying that, it is important while ministering to individuals who are at risk or need encouraging, that we promote the significance of higher education to them. Statistics show that people who seek higher education have a better chance of success than people who do not pursue education. Moreover, higher education has been paramount in my transformation, which affirms the fact that it works. Being schooled in one of North Carolinas higher learning institutions—Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary “SEBTS”, has taught, encouraged, and shown me a different way to view life and a better way to live my life. SEBTS’ four prong approach has also taught me to read well, write well, think well, and speak well. In other words, education has encouraged me to take a step back and view my life for what it was. My lens was obscured and it was time to change my worldview and rewrite the narrative. Furthermore, education helped reset my mental trajectory; subsequently catapulting my life in a positive direction from the many trials and tribulations I once endured that had been going on far too long.
Change comes through the application of God’s word, and transformation comes after brokenness. I now view the world with a biblical frame of reference, meshed in Christlike character, and it is now by biblical precedents that I measure my life in terms of moral living. As a result, I would like to share these same principles by counseling others who have fallen victim to the heinous system of drugs and gangs, which is a passion I have come to love. Through the hard work and educational training at SEBTS, I am now qualified and empowered with a zeal to be the best person I can be. Once released, I know I can live a lifestyle pleasing to the Lord, while at the same time being a positive role model and helping others in our communities. These are a few of the primary reasons I seek relief (a reduced sentence) in my case. Not just me and my family, but other people lives are dependent on it. Furthermore, I owe it to our communities due to my past behaviors. Muhammad Ali once said that service to God, and others is the rent we pay for occupying the land (Emphasis added).3 In light of the preceding quote, I am ready to help fix what I previously broke (communities).
Additionally, the SEBTS curriculum that I am about to complete in December 2022—a BA of Liberal Arts in Pastoral Ministry (3.9. GPA), adds value to the work I will be doing in the communities, and will be beneficial to others once I am released through the numerous programs that I plan on implementing such as: Creating initiatives with the Greensboro City Council and the Greensboro Police Department for drug and gang prevention, back to school giveaways, creating a massive street revival in some Greensboro’s most violent communities in conjunction with Game Plan for Life Ministries “GPL,” the Southern Baptist Convention “SBC,” and local churches with aims of combatting nefarious behavior in our communities. These events will be accomplished through love and will promote good relationships in our communities where trust is an issue. I plan to schedule speaking engagements with all elementary, middle, high schools, and Universities in Guilford County; informing them on the detriments of drugs and gangs. I plan to provide volunteer youth counseling for drug and gang prevention in the Guilford County Courts, and teach a curriculum on Christian Manhood per Christian Men Network “CMN.” Most importantly, there is a great need for us to just get out into our communities to talk with people and see what the problems are. Whatever the problems are, let’s try to find a solution to fix it. Majority of the time, people just want to be heard. This is called conflict resolution; and I have been trained in this area.
In summation, our condition is not our conclusion. The state of our youth is germane to our community success. Our calling does not allow us to just sit back and watch a group of people continue in destruction when we have the power and ability to affect their lives. We are responsible for one another. Admittedly, in the past I was irresponsible and part of the problem—I was a habitual drug dealer; now in stark contrast, I am a habitual worshipper of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this case, the Old Man loses the mêlée against the New Man. Additionally, in contemporary times via the reclamation process, I can be a greater part of the solution if I am used as a tool in the fight of helping to change the culture in our environments that are constantly under siege by drugs and gangs. God equips those whom He calls, and this battle takes a collective effort from all of us. It is time for a positive culture shock in our communities—a complete paradigm shift. As NFL/NASCAR savant Joe Gibbs once said, “change begins with us” (Nash Seminary Convocation, 2018)—Insightful wisdom that we all can heed. This challenges begins today.
Governor Cooper, as I respectfully submit this request for sentence commutation, I am reminded of former Democratic Governor of North Carolina, The Honorable Thomas Bickett, who in 1917-21, “considered, and granted, a number of clemency, pardon, and reprieves from prisoners whose appeals he had handled while serving as Attorney General [of our NCDOJ] .”4 Most notably, Governor Bickett “paroled or pardon some four hundred black prisoners.”5 Similarly, Governor Cooper, commuting my sentence would be analogous to an acknowledgment you made in your 2020 N.C. Executive Order 145 that “members of communities of color are significantly more likely than the white population to . . . be jailed and imprisoned at a higher rate; and to be sentenced to longer terms of imprisonment.” 6 In 2012-13, I received a harsh sentence(s) for a nonviolent offense(s). Moreover, you created the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity In Criminal Justice (TREC) to help combat issues like harsh sentences levied against African Americans by this state’s judicial branch of government. Governor Cooper, my case presents a prime opportunity to implement the ideals that the N.C. Task Force for Racial Equity should stand for.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration in this very important matter.