Alright, my name is Ann Hill-Bond. Today's date is Wednesday, March 2, 2023. Today we are doing an interview around South Dekalb reentry programs. It is for my residency with South DeKalb. During the South DeKalb listening session with Canopy Atlanta, a DeKalb County sanitation worker expressed concerns for his co-workers that are formerly incarcerated felons not receiving adequate pay based on their past convictions. That led me, a Canopy Atlanta Senior Fellow, to start exploring reentry programs in South DeKalb and how returning citizens navigate re socializing back into society. Help returning citizens successfully reenter society following their incarceration, therefore reducing recidivism and improving public safety and saving money. Today we have South DeKalb Fellow and South DeKalb resident Dominique Harris. Dominique, can you please state your full name for this oral history project?
Yes, my name is Dominique Harris.
And do I have your permission to record? Yes, Dominique, where were you born when and where were you born?
I was born February 13, 1990, in Atlanta, Georgia at Grady Hospital.
And where did you grow up?
I also grew up in Atlanta, like both sides. Like if anybody's from Atlanta, they understand that it's city of Atlanta and there's also the metro and outskirts of Atlanta. So I grew up in the city of Atlanta, as far as the west end, southeast Atlanta, and I also grew up in DeKalb County and Decatur and certain parts of College Park and East Point, so basically all over the surrounding counties.
Who is, who makes up your family?
Mainly it was me, my mom, my siblings. I'm the oldest of seven. So mainly, me, my mom, and my six siblings.
Okay, and what is your parents' name?
My mom's name is Katherine Harris. She is the youngest of three girls. My father's name is Dennis Banks. I can't say that I know him well, but I know him. I know where he is. You know, we know of each other. But you know how that goes but like I said my mom's Katherine, all my siblings are named similar. I'm Dominique, my brother's Divine. My other brother's Darius. My sister's Laneesha, my other sister's Labreesha, and I have another sister named Laneesha.
Nice, and are your parents from Atlanta or South Dekalb?
I can't say that they are, but my family history, my lineage, from what I understand, stretches to what we call the country. I have an uncle that's still alive. He's around 87 or 90 years old. He always talking about how they grew up as sharecroppers. So I'm not sure if my mom is from Atlanta. I think she was born in Baldwin County, because I know a lot of my family migrated from what we call the country to Atlanta to try to get a better life, and my granddad was kind of successful in that. He had a restaurant on the westside of Atlanta, so I know that they may be from Baldwin County.
You said your grandfather had a restaurant on the westside of Atlanta. What was the name of the restaurant?
It was Willie's Tavern.
And what side of the Westside?
Willie B? Is that Westside Grove Park?
No, no, not up as far as Grove Park, but he had a restaurant -- like not a restaurant, he had a tavern on Auburn Avenue back in the late '80s and early '90s. He also had a restaurant on like the cusp of Northside Drive, Simpson Road, and Bankhead right by down by the stadium by the Georgia Congress Center because the Congress, the Congress Center, bought him out and turned his restaurant into a parking lot. So it was right across from Simpson right there on Northside Drive, it was called like I think it was like Willie B's Burger Den but there's like a burger den, he had like a little little store there. Me and my mom lived there, so he kind of let his daughters live there. He had a residence there like anybody, kind of got down bad when we grew up, like we could always turn to my granddad. He was kind of the first entrepreneur in my family and like one of the first ones to kind of have a different vision. He's no longer with us, but you know, his thought process kind of impacts a lot of my family members.
So how did you end up in South DeKalb?
That's interesting because it is cultural I think. It is basically because my mom didn't want to live in Atlanta. She thought that Atlanta, the city of Atlanta was too crime-infested. I was born in Thomasville Heights Projects, it's one of the most notorious projects in Atlanta. Then we moved to Herndon Homes projects in the Bluff. It was just a lot of, you know, stereotypical projects I grew up in, and my mom's thought process was if we move to the eastside and we move to Decatur it'd be a better living, but she didn't understand that you can get in trouble anywhere you go. But that was the thought process she was trying to get us out of not necessarily just poverty, but like the culture of violence in the north, like the normalcy of crime and just seeing rundown neighborhoods, just seeing the drugs and stuff. The normalcy, she was just trying to get us away from that and that's how we ended up in South DeKalb. We ended up first in Kirkwood, then we migrated out to like Second Avenue, Gresham Park, Bouldercrest, stuff like that.
So you talked about the parts of Atlanta or the parts of your childhood that were challenging. Can you tell me about some of the things you did as a child growing up? What toys did you play with, what games, hobbies, interests before, you know, the challenging times rolled in?
Well, I did speak on a challenging time, but I didn't unpack it. Like it was kind of ... it kind of felt normal. So what I can remember doing as a child, like, you know, we rode our bikes. We didn't have much, but we did have bikes. We went on... We just had fun. We played in sewers, played in sewers. Whatever we could find ourselves in, as we found ourselves in, we went into abandoned houses. Just can't remember toys. I remember a couple of Christmases, that we wanted bikes because we wanted to be out. We wanted to kind of move around so the toy I can most remember from my childhood is like a bike. Maybe some rollerblades but mostly a bike.
So tell me about high school.
High school was different because it seemed like, you know, you're coming of age. I was involved in a lot of stuff I didn't supposed to be involved in because I was just young, making the best decisions I thought I was making based on what I had. As far as like hanging with the wrong crowds or I would never was like a dumb kid. I graduated from McNair High School. But I stayed in trouble, like as far as disciplinary. Getting caught with drugs or getting suspended for fighting, just gravitating to, I guess I want to say those same people my mom wanted to keep me away from instead of like, utilizing what she was trying to get me to understand, therefore a more positive environment. So in high school, I just gravitated to the types my mom didn't want me around. I got in a lot of trouble. I graduated but I was an underachiever. I look back on it, I know I was a slacker. I played sports, but I wasn't committed to it. I just allowed my talents to get me by. And like I said I look back, and it's like a sense of blank mindedness and just going through the motions like not motivated or inspired by anything, just going through the motions.
So did you have any interests? Like what, what was interesting about your school environment at McNair and what year did you graduate?
I graduated 2008. Can't say that I had interests. I was a pretty good wrestler in DeKalb County. But I did not like to wrestle. I played football for McNair, but I really didn't like to play football. My coaches kind of made me not want to play anymore, I'm not gonna lie. To be honest, I just came to school to see the girls and probably smoke with my boys, smoke weed with my homeboys, I'm not even gonna lie like I was well enough as far as my intelligence to pass because when people tell me like right like, bro, it's easy to graduate, that's what I tell everybody, it was pretty easy. But as far as being interested in anything, I can't recall me being interested in anything while I was in high school. I know that there's some decisions I made because if, you know, you don't got no plan, you don't got no direction, you just gonna end up going straight.
So tell me about your time in South DeKalb. What do you remember? What were the houses like? What was the street like? Like, just put me in DeKalb County at McNair, Second Avenue during 2008.
I can say that when we first moved to South DeKalb, people could feel that we weren't from DeKalb County. I could tell that I wasn't in the city of Atlanta anymore. What I can say about South DeKalb as far as the residency, the residency is I felt like it was a better environment, a better community. I saw houses, I saw apartments with grass instead of dirt. I seen people walking dogs. I seen a sense of community, I really did when I moved to South Dekalb, even though I found like the underbelly of South DeKalb, I found the criminal aspect of it. I still recognized, 'oh, this is a lot different.' I felt different. Like seeing the air just felt different, like just seeing people living but not looking like they're in poverty. They might not be well off, but not looking like they're impoverished not like not looking poor, like their apartments that were abandoned houses. Like that was one of the biggest changes I've seen in 2008 versus now. Back when I was living in South DeKalb between the years of 2005, no about the years 2003 to 2008, there weren't many abandoned houses. Now though, there are a few abandoned houses, but that was the biggest thing I can remember about my community like how the houses and how the environment look and how it just felt more — I felt more opportunity, like I felt I can do more it wasn't as dreary as being in the city of Atlanta, in the inner city. Because being in the inner city is like real dreary and you become accustomed to like get this negative mindset. So over here it was more like maybe I can get a job, maybe I can't. I'm not gonna lie, it was that I had a little more respect for where I was living.
So with this environment, coming into this environment, it felt more home, felt more community, felt like a place of belonging. What was your first job?
Um, I've only had one job my whole life. I'm working on my second one now. But my first job ever was in DeKalb. No, it was not in DeLalb. It was on the borderline between DeKalb and Atlanta. It was at the McDonald's on Moreland. I worked there for like three weeks. Then I quit. That was my first job.
That was your one. When did you work at the McDonald's on Moreland?
It was around, I can't exactly recall, but if I can give a rough estimate 2007, toward the end of 2007.
So did you attend? You said 2007. So you graduated in 2008. Did you attend college?
No I did not. I got incarcerated right after graduation. So that was my college: incarceration. I did have scholarships. I was recruited by Southern Miss, I was recruited by Appalachian State. There was a couple more scholarships I could have got with my wrestling or with my football but my grades were not high enough. And I also did not score high on the SAT. Like I was not paying attention to that, because like I said, it wasn't that I wasn't competent. It's just I wasn't inspired by it because I can recall in high school everyone failing the graduation test, but I put my mind to it and I'm one of the only ones I can remember in my high school that had like a pass placed in multiple areas. So me having to basically accept going to a junior college because my coaches tried to get me to go to the junior college, and I felt like I was better than that. Even though that's one of my biggest regrets, because during college they wanted me to go to Kansas, and I would have been out of this environment. But he helped me to go to junior college because my grades kind of turned me off from wanting to go to school, because I felt like I was better than the junior college. But when I look back at it, that was a bad mistake.
Got it. So you're in South DeKalb. It's 2008. You're graduating high school. You have potential, you have talent, and you choose something differently. So how do, let's talk about you know, because this this oral history is about the history of you being incarcerated. So let's, where do you want to start? How do you want to open this up that you're comfortable with?
Like the truth is something different, like in high school I can recall myself being blank minded, like a state of like not knowing, or not wanting, not desiring. So I felt like I just created trauma bonds with young me that was in the same limbo that I was in. And we just ended up just doing whatever came up, like it's just what it was. Like, I can't never say I was depressed, but I was suffering from very bad anxiety, of like wanting, just really wanting, you know, not... I was the oldest of seven, like my mom really couldn't do much for me, and I didn't expect her to. So my decision making it came from like, a sense of, even though I said DeKalb County was a great community, like as far as it looked, it wasn't a sense of community. Like we had elders to guide me to help me like direct my blank mind and it's like no, you really do like to wrestle, or you really do like football to play football, or you like to do journalism, I had nobody to kind of direct me so I just created trauma bonds with the people that I was around, and I can really say we just made — I can't say mistakes because we felt like we were doing what was right. We really did, whether it was breaking the law or not, but we was going off of our best knowledge. We thought we was grown. Most of us was the oldest, like most of it was most of us latchkey, I mean latchkey kids, like we didn't have parental guidance, assistance like our parents was working. So it was we were men in our own eyes and we was just trying to get some money. But that's not an excuse. That's not the way, but I would like if you would gauge a question because it is a difficult conversation to talk about, you know, think about it. It's difficult because you second guess your thinking, like why was I thinking like that. I know I'm smarter than that. But at the same time, you understand your your thinking you interpret it like, 'Oh, I know why I did that. Like it was stupid, but I know why I did that.' So as far as like, where would you want to start, it would be just I guess like my mom, seeing my mom just not being able to do stuff like we was in such a state like she couldn't — my reality check with my mom was she got a good job at Coca-Cola making a good wage, little bit over $20, but they made her lose her food stamps and having to pay a certain amount in rent. That money for that job was not enough to supplement all the kids without government assistance, so that was like a wake-up for me because she had to quit the job. Like I don't — her ignorance caused her to do that because she hadn't passed, you know she don't have a high school diploma, so that was also a turnoff. Like why am I going to school just to work a job that's not going to result in me being okay with me being stable? So that was weighing on my mind too, because I'm seeing all my people working a lot. Yeah they might have a house, but they're never able to enjoy money. They're complaining about work. So being a Black teenager I guess I decided well, I'm gonna just do what I want to do. When you got people around you the same age as you, y'all are smoking weed and just in the streets all night. Yeah, let's do something stupid.
So you had a job for three weeks at McDonald's, you quit the job and where do you go?
I was playing ball. I was playing football. I can say this, like when I look back at my life, I feel like me graduating, that was like a reality check. Like, it wasn't like my mom's putting me out the house or anything. I was already out the house or whatever, but it was more of like I gotta be a man. I gotta wake up because me quitting that job and deciding to play football, but not really putting my all in football, it's like one of the decisions I kind of regret because if I stayed at that job, I don't have time to be around all these negative people. So when I quit this job, I play football. The season's over with we're going into the playoffs. We'll do all that. School year goes on, I go onto wrestling, wrestling comes after football, my coach talks to me and everything is good. I can say — it's not it's not his fault —but one of my coaches did kind of lead me on to get us to perform. I guess he led me on because I can remember a conversation he had with my mom and it kind of made me sad. I can remember being sad, my mom is no longer with us but this is the happiest I've ever seen her when I graduated. And she asked my coach like she said, I thought you was gonna get my boys to school. And he deflected like I was supposed to get myself to school, to my wrestlers to wrestling, but he was my football coach. But he was the one that kind of got everyone in school and kind of turned me off, like we didn't talk about that. And I guess that kind of turned me off from like men in that type of stature. Because I felt let down. I really just felt let down. So I kind of stopped listening to men and just started being around my homeboys. So after McDonald's, I did continue to go through the school year, but after the school year, I feel like me graduating is what opened the door to everything because after I graduated, it was all for nothing. I don't have that to occupy my time anymore. I'm not in school. I'm not talking to girls, I'm out with my homeboys. It's just neat and you know the old saying, 'idle mind is the devil's workshop.'
So where did you go? What did you start doing?
Just um breaking in houses. The petty crimes like that, breaking into cars, because I still had to get money. Like I did try to get a job, believe me I did try. Me and my homeboy, we went on job hunt for like two weeks going. I went to Phillips Arena, I went to the old Georgia Dome. But at the time I, as I recognize now, I'm a 33-year-old man, I didn't have communication skills. I just didn't know how to talk. I didn't know how to present myself. And I didn't get a job because I didn't want to do stuff like cutting hair and stuff like that. So I still needed money because I had this vice of wanting to smoke weed and gambling, being with my homeboys and stuff. So we started doing little petty crimes, breaking into houses, racing cars, stuff like that, but it led to more severe crimes, and I started getting, basically we're career criminals. And it got me into a situation where an armed robbery was committed, and I was sentenced to over 10 years in prison. But something that started as like, 'Oh, I'm just gonna steal this and try to pawn it' turned into, 'Bro you want to ride with me' and me being like a leader type. I never just kind of like followed, even in that moment, I had become an aggressor and stuff like that. So it makes me understand like, Oh, you gotta fix your energy around some people. So when you say where did it lead, it just led to me committing crimes
So can we talk about the day you were sentenced to 10 years?
To be funny, I thought I got away. It's not funny, but it felt like I got away, but the day I was sentenced...
Where were you? What jail? Were you in... What were your... were you at South DeKalb Jail?
Okay. Um, it's a little bit of both. I committed my crime in Atlanta. But we came back to DeKalb County, and since we was in South Atlanta, almost the border of South DeKalb and south Atlanta, southeast Atlanta, I had a charge in two counties. I got arrested by Atlanta police. But since the bulk of my crime was committed in DeKalb, I got booked in DeKalb, so I was sentenced by DeKalb. The crime had happened between between DeKalb and Atlanta area, both areas like the borderline. It was a series of events basically. So yes, I was booked in DeKalb in 2008. I was sentenced — Well, I was booked July 7, 2008, and
That was two months after graduation?
Yes, I graduated and went straight to prison, right, I went to the penitentiary. Like I did like, that's around the same time people get ready to go to college. It was too much. I was still training. I was still doing stuff. I was doing training getting ready for school possibly, but it wasn't the case. It just was what I was into at the time. I just when I say why I do what I did, it just was I really can say trauma bond and like trying to fit in. I can't say that I'm trying to follow my — I don't wanna say fit in but like fit out, like find my group. Even if that was a bad group. I wanted to find my group of people, like they liked me. That's why I say it's a trauma bond. Because when you go searching you're going to find whatever you're looking for. It's a lot of devil worshipers in this world. So I knew I could find my, that's just real, so.
So you got sentenced in 2008, July, July 2008. So you got you got sentenced July 7, 2008. You were putting, you did to 12 years and this was at state level, county, federal?
Well the county as soon as you — I got sentenced by DeKalb County. But it was a state offense instead of a federal offense. So I was I did prison time in the Georgia State Prison, department of corrections, Georgia State Prison.
And how long? How long did you stay in the prison system?
Well, I stay in the jail since, I did do 12 years in all. I've recently got out July 7, 2020. I had to all of my time and was on probation.
Alright, well. Let's talk about how you when you when you can't when you were getting ready, you've done 12 years and you're getting ready to come out. Now you are entering into the returning citizen space. So what what were what were you going through? How did you how did you navigate this reentry program? Can you share that and...
To begin, I'm gonna give you a brief story. You know, like I said, I was sentenced in DeKalb County. I had a very serious charge. So that means my security's close, there's like high level security. So I went to a maximum security prison my first four or five years. I always even though I wasn't actually working on my reentry in the beginning, I do recognize that reentry did start in the beginning because I started changing my mind. Once I realized what was going on, because the way it goes, if you're ain't changing your act basically if you get if you get locked up in prison, and you're still displaying the same behavior, you want to stay in the same type of environment. So that means I would have stayed in this close prison. I didn't stay in the close prison. I went to a medium prison after a few years because I was concerned with and then I got to a minimum prison. When I got to Central State Prison around 2017, I had gotten into one more incident that almost cost me some more time. I had decided to riot and had got some gangs going, but it was my like my last straw I think toward myself. Then my reentry started. Because I started trying to think how to get out of that prison environment, to get away from the prison where like -- whether that's trying to figure out how to smoke weed, trying to figure out how to get a phone, or trying to figure out how to fraternize with a woman that's a guard, I started trying to get my mind out of that environment. And when I started trying to get my mind out of that environment, I had came across Metro Reentry Facility, and Metro Reentry is like the first-rate facility period like in the whole Southeast, I think so. It was hard for me to get there. But by me doing stuff, like I got a trade in prison, I got two trades in prison. I got my apprenticeship in heating and air, and my apprenticeship in carpentry. Even though I was, like some of the staff were still seeing me around these negative people, it wasn't like well Dominique, we need to get you away from them now. Like we see youre on different paths, so let's try to help you get away from them. So my reentry really started in prison before I came home, because if it didn't, I don't think I would have transitioned that well. Because I wouldn't have been looking for the resources because the resources are already scarce. So in 2017, I mean 2018, I was able to come home to announce a more constitutional role to the reentry facility. I went through the reentry program. The reentry program is a year, and by going through the reentry program, I was able to go to the transition center and get a job and make some money. From my understanding and from what I done seen, if I would have stayed in prison and not got to the reentry center, I would have never got to the transitional center because my charges was too severe. And they wanted me to go to a program even though it was proven that I had been changing my character. They still — charges on charges that was on paper. So Metro Reentry Facility, I can say it helped me really transition well because I was able to get in transitional center. And most people that was at Metro reentry as far as the staff had a relationship with the people at transitions and both of them was in Atlanta, and it was 'Oh yeah, Dominique's a good guy' I need this transitional. So I had a good good rapport with the transitional center. I had leniency, I had like first dibs on a good job. So my reentry really started when I realized like I have to change my paradigm. And when I got to Metro Reentry, like those programs out there, especially just like Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are trying to change the deprogram antisocial behavior. That was just like reinforcement. The mindset I had already made for myself. Now I'm really saying this because I really didn't have nobody in prison. My mom died the —— year of prison so had do a lot of self reflecting for a long time. I know that was a lot. I hope i answered it a little bit.
No, you did. So how did you at any point, being from South DeKalb being sentenced by DeKalb County, did you at any point in your 12 years in from from that from the time of you being Let out 2017, 2020... Did you discover any resources or did you know that you were coming back to South DeKalb? How, what was that for you and how did you navigate returning back to South DeKalb, the place where you lived, you grew up, but essentially essentially the also the place that you were you found, as you said the underbelly world and you were separated? So how did you feel about coming back to South DeKalb?
I did not come home to South DeKalb, I did not want to come home to South DeKalb, I've been in the South DeKalb area, still, because I have family. I don't live in th eSouth DeKalb area, I'm not that comfortable around seeing people that I went to school with. I'm not that comfortable around people that know what I used to do because I've had people think that I'm that same age and try to present me with opportunities that we know that are not opportunities so I don't deal in South DeKalb as much, and I'm an advocate for reentry. The only time I deal in South DeKalb is with my advocacy. I have an improvement in anger management class that I work on with DeKalb County Juvenile Court and I also work with a DeKalb Reentry Arts Connection basically, guys come out of prison. But besides that I don't have any dealings with South DeKalb, and I didn't really have any desire to come back to South DeKalb because it was traumatizing. Like just driving over here, I drove over here just seeing the jail and stuff like that. So and as far as like me understanding, not me understanding, but the reentry help or what I expect from reentry. Since I've been out and like I said I'm an advocate and I know a few programs, but there is nothing that I am aware of in South DeKalb. If I didn't go through Metro Reentry, I wouldn't have knew the people that I know and I wouldn't be able to. I don't think I would have found the resources that I found if I didn't go through Metro Reentry, because I don't know any reentry resources as far as the government or as far as like at the program that are in South DeKalb, maybe open issues. But that's about all.
So you get out, you go to transition. So let's talk about the reentry process. So currently do you have an active license?
Yes. I was fortunate because we all can easily end up in the same situation. In my opinion. Yes, the government should help. Yes, we should have housing support. Yes all this stuff like you shouldn't be stigmatized, but in my opinion, the first help comes from the family. And I was fortunate to have family support. I had somewhere to go. I had a couple places to live, people that was willing to sell. So I was very fortunate when even in the transitional center as far as have work clothes or as far as having me having people giving me bus fare to get back and forth instead of having to wait on a voucher from the transitional center. Also, the transition center also did, not Transition Center, but Metro Reentry did that. Like that's why they they helped us get our ID. That's why it's like one of the first of its kind of, like I got my ID at Metro Reentry while I was still technically incarcerated. So I don't know how long it took my, would've took me to get my driver's license, because I have my driver's license. But I don't know how long it would've took me to get those back if I wouldn't have went through the steps to get my ID and my social security, because I got all that at Metro Reentry. So the biggest thing of my reentry as far as like what I say, really determines, besides employment and besides housing, is your family support. Because that's what really helped me. I had a lot of support when I came home even though my family wasn't well off. They were able to get me where I needed to go. And they were able to support me on the little stuff I needed support with. Because you can be, you can be in a transition center and you need a phone, but you have no one to buy you one. So that's a situation.
So what currently you... Are you still with family, or were you to the Metro Center or did Metro Center help you with housing?
Oh I'm sorry you did say about the process. I transitioned and I stayed with my cousin in Lithonia for eight months. Then I moved into my apartment that was at East Point, I have another apartment down at Forest Park. So with the help of my cousin for them six months of me being my let me go out for people to try to rent and getting rejected because no one wants to really rent to a felon. So his help for those eight months allowed me to kind of go out and build relationships and get someone to take a chance on me. So I stayed with my cousin for eight months and I've been on my own since.
And so in those eight months, did you receive or did you apply for any or get information or resources around any social programs: food stamps, Medicaid, Section 8?
Yes, I did. I did look for Section 8. Only thing I can say that they was willing to deal with and that's because I said I was homeless. But um, as far as like housing, there was a couple food pantries I ran across, but I didn't necessarily need that, I needed housing. But as far as housing, the only help that they can help me with is say if I didn't have support and I would have to go like live in a shelter or live in a co-living situation, and I didn't want to do that because I had family support. So it seems from what I'm seeing like say like if okay you got all the money I need, I got all the credit I need, I just need someone to take a chance on me because I'm a felon to let you rent an apartment by myself or let me rent this house by myself. That's what's difficult. They will put you somewhere as far as like what a shelter or with a rooming house. But if you're trying to do something for yourself, they don't even want you to work with the government program, seems like lenders and stuff cause they don't — they're out there. I'm not gonna say they're not out there. But it's very scarce. And most of the time the people that will rent to you are the same communities that you come from like such as rundown communities and high violence areas. So I would rather just stay with my family. I can't say that they don't offer the resources, but with the level I was on in life, I didn't need that because I felt like I didn't need that, like that wasn't the need I needed. I needed help getting the landlord or property owner to give me a chance, and I didn't see any of that.
Right, so currently ... Where does South Dekalb stand in your lived experience and your lived history?
Where does it stand? Can you elaborate a little bit?
Or so where where do you see South DeKalb, when you think of South DeKalb, you you what are your feelings? What have your ... What are your objections? What are your ins and outs ups and downs, around South Dekalb, the community you grew up in, the community that you saw a brighter future in? However, it's also the community that you found trauma at the greatest extent. So where do you...?
That's very interesting because like you said it was a community I felt like I could have a brighter future in. But as far as where I see South DeKalb in my life, what could what could have been? Because it probably was my best potential in life, like my youth my my intelligence and stuff like that. What could have been, I can say that. I feel like I really wasted my potential I guess. I don't think about South DeKalb as much because I feel like I wasted my potential in that moment. And that just happened to be where I was living. So it's, it's kind of hard to it's interesting you said that, I don't think I even thought about that aspect of my life. Like as far as like where do I put the DeKalb County at? Because like I said I barely be over there like, it feels like everything is a lot of traumas over there. I have a grandma that stays at Kirkwood. And there's a fam -- well she she passed -- but there was a family house and there was a big fight over an the house got burned down. So it's like a lot of bad memories. in DeKalb County. It just is. But I also feel an obligation to like the youth because I do see in a lot of the young kids, young men that I'm involved with, they go to the same high school I go to, we talk the same language. I understand some of the stuff they're going through, I can finish their sentences. So it feels like I need to go back to South DeKalb at times. But it's still like being over there like kind of like damn, I kind of wasted my time over there, I wasted my potential.
Now is that the environment of South DeKalb, or is that...?
No like more me, I feel like what I just said, like I wasted like what could have been I mean, like there's like I used that phrase what could have been like, because like when I look at the surrounding counties of Atlanta, you have the west side of Atlanta. You have Cobb County, you have Gwinnett County. When it comes to South DeKalb, you have like a mixture of everything. It's not too urban or not too hood or Black, whatever you want to call it. But it's not too like excellent either like, like it's a good culture. It feels like a good culture. It really feels like a good culture, like in the middle. And I felt myself as I look back on it, I could have I could have been successful here like my mom wanted us to be like I think that's what plays in the back of my mind. Like why she was moving us over here and I really feel like I could have been better over there. But I just followed the wrong things.