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Education reform activist on the decision that changed his life | Roadtrip Nation: Beating the Odds

I think it’s really special starting off
the trip in New York for me, and the fact that the people we’re interviewing are
just a few miles away from me. A train ride away from me.
It’s crazy to know that. I remember growing up in a place that was violent
and dangerous, and I knew that at a very early age.
I’m 65. I was just telling a group of folks there– all of my friends are dead. None
of them survived. Uh, you know, you are relatively young at 65 in lots of places,
but not in these places, right? They’re not. Some things about these places… we
all learn to smoke. We all learn to drink. We all smoking weed before we were 14, 15 years old. Everybody thought drinking was getting
drunk. You had to fight, that was just… you had to know how to
fight, that was just part of growing up. You learned all of these behaviors as
kids and all of that stuff kills you. How how did you cope living in this
environment? What did you learn? How did you adapt, and how did you get out of it? The way I started accepting that I had to change myself was: there was new gangs had come out. A bunch of kids. They were like 14, 15. I’m 19. I’ve grown up in the
toughest part of the Bronx. I know how to fight. I think I’m a tough guy, but
they’re like these 25 kids, they’re kids! And they’re controlling everything.
My mom says, “oh look, when you go to the store, don’t go up 103rd street, because
that’s where those gang kids hang out.” So the first time I went home I was going
around a corner… I said to myself, “It’s crazy. I can’t live like this.”
So I legally bought me a gun. Solved that problem. Now I come back home, have my gun, put in my pocket. But that gun began to talk to me. It started saying, “Yeah, you’re
in America. Why you have to walk up another side of the street? Why don’t you walk up the side of the street you want to? Store’s on that side. Walk up!” So now I’m walking past the
kids. Well in in the Bronx you know you don’t look people in the eye. I’m walking
past the kids but I’m not looking at them. That gun was like you look at anybody
you want. So now I’m looking at those kids, so the
kids see me. I’m looking at them. “He’s looking at me? Who does he think he is bopping through our neighborhood?” I realized that I was gonna end up
shooting those kids, because they were gonna attack me and I was gonna shoot
them, and I didn’t really want to kill anybody. And, I took that gun to the dump
and threw it away. And I realized I had to deal with this thing another way. You’ve talked about getting out and I relate to that so much, because I grew up
in Appalachia and, um, our community really deals with a lot of prescription
pills and a lot of opioids, and both of my parents were were addicts all through…all throughout my life. But I have this desire and this… this
need to go back and, and to change… because that’s where I come from, that’s…
that’s… that’s my home. And I see that you… you’ve done… that you’ve went back and
you took all that passion and, and, everything that you went through growing
up. What made you decide that yeah I may not fit in but I’m still gonna go back
and I’m still gonna work at it? I really wanted to go back like you do. I really
wanted to go back to my community and make a difference. I wanted to prove that
there were answers and you could go in and save those folks that people had
just, they had written off. They said all these terrible things about them. That they can’t go… they had names for them and all that stuff.
I wanted to eliminate all of that stuff. And by the way, people know about it now,
but I told you I’ve been here 34 years. The first ten years I was here, no one
knew anything about anything. I was working hard just trying to figure out a
way to save my kids in my community. I took all of that stuff that happened and
tried to use it for something good. And when I say I wouldn’t be who I am and
where I am had that stuff not happened to me, I really mean that.
Your life may not make sense to you right now. What you’re going through. What the experiences you’ve had, but I’ve learned… I believe this deeply. If you’re
a righteous person, you do the right thing, if you’re really using your gifts
for good and not for evil, I believe that these experiences you’re having… that
they’ll become clear why that’s important in making you who you want to
be. But at some point in your life you’ll be like, “Oh, that’s why.” As long as you’re
open for the experience. Thank you guys so
much for watching. I hope you enjoyed that. Make sure to subscribe for more
videos like this, and click the link to keep watching because next up the team
goes to Washington DC where they got to meet the one and only Michelle Obama, and she had some awesome advice for getting to and through college. So be sure to
check that out. Thank you.

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