This past weekend, Urban Specialist, Antong Lucky, held a 3-day mentoring workshop for young boys between the ages of 8 and 18 at the 16th Street Initiative in South Dallas, Texas. In order to qualify for the program, the children have to have at least one parent who is incarcerated or absent from the home. Mr. Lucky likes to refer to the experience as being a rites of passage.
On Friday, October 13, AFRAM News attended the workshop which started at 6:00 p.m. Thirteen young boys were were seated around a long table and listened intently as various men of all walks of life stressed the importance of obedience and responsibility and not allowing bad influences to ruin their lives.
Gary “DeVito” Walker was one of the presenters who looked sternly at the young boys as he said, “Don’t be a follower of the wrong things. I spent 16 years in the free world, and then the next 21 in prison. I made some wrong choices, but I have an opportunity to earn back some of the years I lost by making sure you stay on the right path.” In 1992, DeVito was convicted of a murder he did not commit. He was released in 2013 after a lie detector test proved his innocence. But as he later mentioned to the kids, he allowed himself to be enticed by the material items some of his drug dealing friends were able to purchase with their drug slinging earned money. DeVito felt pressured to help out his recently divorced mom who was working two jobs and his two younger siblings.
After DeVito spoke, Mr. Lucky looked at the children and said, “You really have to listen to what we’re saying to you to make the right connection. Right now, this room looks like a prison day room with one television. We don’t believe you can’t control yourself. Regardless of how bad things are, it’s on you.” He then cast a furtive glance at one of the teenagers who was following him with his eyes everytime he walked to another area of the room, addressing the youth. He briefly acknowledged the young man, and identified him to the group as someone who more than likely would benefit the most, from the teachings of the Kingdom Village Program.
None of the speakers lost a beat as they seemed to continuously pass the baton to each other in an imaginary relay race against time to capture the attention of the youth. The prize in this case was to leave an indelible impression upon the children’s minds, to serve as a reminder to stay focused in pursuing their dreams in life and avoid negative things and people.
A gentleman by the name of A.J. spoke shortly after Mr. Lucky and started out complimenting all of the boys on listening to each speaker. A.J. grew up in the West Dallas projects, better known as the “rough side of town”. When he left his house to hang out one evening, he decided to tote a gun in a brown paper bag. He knew he was going to be coming back late and didn’t want to be caught without a way to protect himself, if the wrong group or person cornered him. During the walk home, for some reason, he decided to run the rest of the way, again with the intention of avoiding a hostile encounter. But, the brown bag that held his gun was visible in the wee hours of the morning as he ran. A.J. was soon spotted by two female officers who thought he may have been running because he had just robbed someone. They stopped him in his tracks and took his gun, then removed the bullets. A.J. was lucky. He never had to appear before a judge or even so much received a fine for carrying the weapon. Instead, he received a stern warning. A.J. described his experience as being life changing. It was that day he decided he was never going to do anything that would put him on the wrong side of the law. Also, he realized he was going to have to be successful to improve his options in life. Today he is a film and television producer.
The first Kingdom Village was held on Friday, August 11, 2017, and culminated in a completion award ceremony which was held at the Kingdom War church in Downtown Dallas on Sunday, August 13, 2017. Antong Lucky has teamed up with Candice and Willie Fleming of the Civility Institute to make sure the Kingdom Village concept is replicated and improved with each subsequent wave of children.
Antong Lucky is a member of The Urban Specialists which is a non-profit organization that has been approved by Dallas Independent School District to enter some of the roughest schools with a high number of students with behavioral problems. The U.S. teach a program they designed called ‘Benefits and Consequences’ to assist with behavior modification. A majority of the Urban Specialists are men who are already members of the neighborhoods they serve, which makes it somewhat easier to reach the students. Their goal is the change the culture of our inner city youth and put a stop to senseless violence. Due to the success of their program, in a little over a year, they have been able to open satellite sites in Atlanta as well as Baton Rouge, and have plans to open sites in the near future in cities with large populations of Blacks and Hispanics experiencing high crime rates. .