“Once you’ve formed this tight bond, you end up doing whatever the other people in your environment are doing. Where there’s a high rate of poverty, where education isn’t valued, where you don’t have role models who’ve gone to college and gotten their degrees, and where there’s no real accountability, you’re going to find a lot of illegal things going on. If drug-selling is a norm, you’re going to get involved in it. If weed smoking is a norm, you’re going to get involved in it. Then, say, we’re smoking weed together and the police come, and you tell me that you have cocaine on you, then I’m with you. We have this bond, so we’re going to get through this together. I’m going to run with you. Or if you say, ‘I’ve got a gun on me, I think I’m going to go rob this store’, then even though I may not agree with that, I have this bond with you, so I say, ‘I’m not going to do it, but I’ll watch out for you.’ That’s how you find yourself in those situations. If we’re selling drugs together and we’re running from the police together, we have this shared experience, like you’re really down for me, and it brings us closer.
“I’m thankful I got out of the gang before things got too deep, before I saw or knew too much. I was in middle school when I got connected with Repairing the Breach, a program that reaches out to youth in the Alcy-Ball neighborhood. Because of God and because of RTB, I made permanent changes in my life. It was lonely at first and I had to be okay with that, but people respected my decision because I wasn’t wishy-washy about it. I began to realize that I didn’t have to be a product of my environment. I didn’t have to think that this was all there was to life. I began to explore questions like, ‘What can I do? Who am I? What are the gifts and talents God has placed in me?’ I brought my grades, up, graduated from high school, and I’m in my second year of law school now. I volunteer at RTB as much as time allows because I think it’s important to show young people that there’s another way to live. I love Memphis, but there’s a lot of work to be done. I definitely think there are things I can do to help this city, and I want to do that the best I can.”