The Defining Moments of My Life

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All of us can probably point to one or two defining moments in our life. Mine came when I was running across a rooftop with a gun pointed at my back. Something inside me snapped and I just knew I didn't want this to be my life. I stopped running.

I grew up on the streets of the city. Each neighborhood has its culture and so did mine. Ours included playing skellie with your friends while your older brother is twenty feet away on the street corner selling crack or weed, or heroin.

Do you know what hustling is in the ghetto? It's simply the American Dream for us. You see we're not so different. We all want the same things. Everyone wants respect. Everyone wants a home for their family. Everyone wants to prove themselves; it's just that in New York's poor neighborhoods the only thing young people see that can get them ahead is hustling.

As a young boy I watched my older brother and his friends climb the ladder of ghetto success. First we saw them deal weed. Then we saw them move up to crack. We saw people treat them with respect. We saw their expensive clothes and hot cars. We saw them give people money when they needed it to survive. They were our heroes. This was our definition of a hero, and if you heard something else in school, it didn't matter. It mattered what you saw. What you experienced.

I started hustling at 16 and I started getting into trouble. It was around this time that I met Rob Geis from...

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...e street culture.

Antwone left five children. James left two. Seven children that I want to be a role model for. Seven children that represent tens of thousands more that need to see that there is life outside of this neighborhood prison.

An alienated person is a dangerous person. If they don't destroy themselves, they will destroy others. We have to stop the isolation that overwhelms young men and women, particularly young African-American boys and girls, in our worst neighborhoods, I ask you, the next time you find yourself in a bad area and you see a kid hanging out, maybe he's wearing a du-rag and baggy pants, please don't just be afraid for yourself, be afraid for him too. His chances are not good.

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