WHERE THERE IS HOPELESS IN THE HOOD TO HALLWAYS OF HIGHER LEARNING, YOUNG PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW, YOU CAN DO IT!
“Hey Larry, Sho’s dead.” These were the chilling words uttered over the phone from my
good friend Aaron regarding our childhood friend, Shomari Lewis, who was murdered on February 28, 2017. Many who knew us, knew that we all were inseparable throughout middle and high school. His death was inconceivable because, despite our seemingly incorrigible and illicit behavior during our teenage years, we survived the age threshold when most Black men are murdered. Even though I have lost several friends throughout my life through the senseless, yet perpetual violence in my community, Shomari’s untimely death crystallized my purpose to live: To give hope to others who grew up poor, Black, and with a mission to serve. My purpose is to illustrate how locating your purpose, developing an action plan, and persisting through the process, will solidify your desired success no matter the impediments.
Every year while in middle school, I would rotate schools between my mother’s home in Charlotte, NC to my father’s home in San Antonio, TX. This situation would take an abrupt halt during my 8th grade year, when several students were shot during a gang shootout at my feeder high school. My mom decided that she wanted me to attend a school called Victory Christian Center in Charlotte that focused on discipline, leadership, spirituality, and academics. This decision would be a lifesaver as my father sold drugs out of the home and eventually became addicted to crack cocaine. This school helped me understand my purpose in life, which was far beyond my current lifestyle of drinking 40oz bottles and selling drugs. My purpose became a mission to provide equitable opportunities of success for those who grew up like me.
We lived in a duplex surrounded by drug dealers. It took me no time to start walking the streets, and playing basketball with the neighborhood drug dealers. The major difference was that I was going to a predominately African American church school that taught leadership through spirituality. While there was a sparse amount of Black male mentors in San Antonio, at this school, half the staff were strong, family-oriented, mission-minded, Godly Black men whose goal was to reach young men like me. This exposure provided a counterbalance to ubiquitous archetypes of disreputable Black men I would see in my neighborhoods in San Antonio and Charlotte.
I always knew that there was a greater purpose for living and I wanted to live out the legacy of those who sacrificed for me. Living by the purpose, plan, and process principles helped me give back in ways unimaginable. As an assistant professor in Educational Leadership at a 4-year University, and an executive director over a non-profit which has given over half a million dollars in scholarships since its inception, I can now be a role model and conduit to others who grew up like me. To start your journey of finding your purpose, you must ask this basic, but complex question: “Why are you here?”. God created you for a reason! Once you have established your “Why,” create a plan that is measurable, dated, specific, and feasible. For instance, a statement in my plan said, “By Fall of 2001, I will secure a job as a teacher in San Antonio ISD, and began my Master’s degree in Counseling.”
Lastly, you have to understand that achieving your goals is a process. You will experience many hardships, but take solace in knowing that this is all a part of the process. Build momentum by celebrating the small victories with those who helped you succeed. A series of small victories lead to a victorious life. Also, find a mentor or mentors who have already achieved your desired goals, and make them a significant part of your social network and cadre of counselors. Mentors will help you stay cognizant that trials are temporal, and will only improve your story of resilience. Furthermore, to win in life, put yourself in uncomfortable situations that will force you to grow (disequilibrium). For me, that was vying for leadership positions throughout high school and college. Finally, and most importantly, to win in this life, never give up! I vividly recall asking my girlfriend to marry me on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and her saying no. She said yes 7 months later and we have been married for over 14 years. Plans may change, but your purpose will remain the same, despite incessant rejection. My dad has assumed his role of my father and he is an amazing grandfather to our children. Living with these principles of finding my purpose, creating a plan of action, and going through the process helped me transition from being hopeless in the hood, to navigating the hallways of higher learning and allowing me to give back in ways I could have never imagined. Now, Shomari’s death created my passion to help build a better life for others.
Article excerpts "From Hopelessness, to the Hallways of Higher Education". Lawrence Scott is an assistant professor in Educational Leadership in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Email him your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.