The Streets - June 2010

a column by Paulette Lewis


Kudos to Jeff

It is sooooo refreshing to work with someone of such integrity and dedication as our editor Jeff. He has always been a passionate supporter of Urban Success and I will never be able to say enough good things about him. He is AWESOME and the real deal. He is truly a man of his word - on a mission, taking active steps in his work with formerly incarcerated individuals to pull out all his cards and help them not repeat the same mistakes of their past. To pave new roads for them to travel. He opens doors that are normally locked and the results he’s getting are absolutely remarkable.

Recently, I experienced just how connected Jeff is and how influential he is in his endeavours to stand by those who don’t stand a chance on their own. I want to share with you what happens when someone like Jeff takes an interest in someone - like Guns.

It changes lives.

It has completely changed Guns' life and literally saved him from going back to the streets. It has impacted Guns' whole family. He has a renewed spirit about himself, confidence and a hope for his future that I’ve NEVER seen in him before. He knows he can do this. He can blend into society and learn to live as the rest of us do.

I wish I could show you all a photo of Guns. If he ever gives me permission I will. He is tatted neck to toe, permanent diamond-studded 14-karat gold teeth in his mouth and a rap sheet that could wrap around Cincinnati - twice. He earned his GED in prison the 2nd to last time he went in. The last time he earned a carpentry and roofing certificate. But his passion is cooking. He can make anything in the kitchen, its crazy cool the kind of talent he has.

Guns was putting in applications to lots of different employers but who is going to hire somebody who looks like that with a lengthy prison record at 32 yrs old that has never had a job? The answer: NOBODY.

Guns was becoming increasingly frustrated. He had managed to stay off the block and not go back to his old vices but lately being broke was taking a serious toll on him. He used to run with tons of cash. Now he couldn’t afford a pack of diapers for his kids.

I don’t have my foot in the door with employers like Jeff does. He is out there every day pounding the pavement, talking to managers and owners around the city, encouraging them to give a group of individuals they could easily reject a chance.

It paid off. And not a moment too soon. He got Guns an interview at a downtown restaurant. Guns was burned out and discouraged because nothing else had worked out for him, but he really likes Jeff so he agreed to go put in one more application and do the interview. Surprisingly, HE GOT THE JOB!! We couldn’t believe it! It’s only part time, but wow what a start!

To think that this guy once commanded a goon squad inside a major criminal organization and that he was so moved to change his life and not die on the streets, not spend the rest of his days locked up, but to step it up and take care of his family the right way and be a man that he would even take a job - as a dishwasher - blows my mind. He is a totally different person. He went from someone I expected to bury the same summer I met him, to someone I wanted to see succeed, to a tax-paying, productive member of a society he once caused violence and chaos in. Wow…what a transformation.

Transformation is Jeff’s vision from God. It is the essence of why Jeff does all that he does, working to better our society through innovative programs and exhausting efforts to open minds and change a failing system.

What an honor it's been and a privilege I’ve had to be a part of this and to watch Guns transition into something no one believed he could become. Why did he change? Because he wanted to. How did he change? Support from Urban Success and Jeff and the love of a family he never dreamt of. Surrounding himself with people who wouldn’t give up on him or let him give up on himself.

Its been a long road but his real journey is just beginning.

Guns has so much appreciation and respect for Jeff, it’s immeasurable. Jeff definitely delivers on what he says he will do and doesn’t quit until he sees results. He brings employers out of their comfort zone, into faith that people can change if given a chance. That’s all Guns needed was someone to give him a chance. To give him a break. To let him try.

Jeff pulled off something I couldn’t. He threw a life line to a man who was drowning. Guns thanks me all the time for helping him, but in reality, I had nothing to do with this. Jeff took the time and put his own reputation on the line for an ex-gangsta that decided prison wasn’t for him anymore and the streets only lead to a dead end.

Jeff is what we call a “ril nigga”. In the world of gangs and the hood - your word is everything. Jeff said he would help and he did. He followed through. He literally performed a miracle that is going to change so many unspoken lives. What a blessing we have in Jeff.


For more information on columnist Paulette Lewis’ work, or to schedule her to speak, email her at Paulette is an innovative gang interventionist.