The Real Gang Life: Money, Power and Prison
By Tim Smith
The 700 Club
CBN.com -Growing up in the projects of Norfolk, Virginia, Michael Taylor knew only one way of life, and he learned it all from his family and friends.
“I wanted to be a drug dealer because I heard my father was one,” says Michael. “I know most of my uncles had been in the streets. The only example I had of what a man is, or should be, was the drug dealers that were out on the block. They were like my bigger brothers, so of course I wanted to be like them. They had all the money, all the cars, all the women, all the nice big guns, and whatever else came with that lifestyle. They were basically able to do whatever they wanted to do, and it took away a struggle from your mother, or your sister, or whoever needed help.”
His father was a career criminal, and Michael went into the family business to help his mother, who was working three jobs to support Michael and his sister.
“I wanted a name in the streets. I wanted respect. And of course, I wanted to give my mom a little comfort, from her having to struggle.”
Michael sold pot, and soon started selling harder drugs – crack cocaine and heroine.
“That’s when things really got out of control. You went from a kid’s game to a grown man’s game. So now, you’re a kid, in a grown man’s world, and everyone is treating you like you’re grown so what you got to do is act grown yourself and protect yourself. That’s where all the violence and that stuff comes in. Because, in my neighborhood, if one person can take something from you, then you’re going to have problems for a long time, until you start getting it straight, until you start protecting yourself.”
Now deep into the drug world, Michael always carried a gun. He was soon a big time dealer protecting his turf, and making a name for himself on the streets of Norfolk. He also got addicted to alcohol and marijuana.
“The alcohol and the marijuana became an ecape. But also, the violence was too. It was an escape for me letting out my frustrations and my aggression. I was frustrated about not having a father, my mom always being at work, never being at my games, my banquets, not knowing what true love is.”
Michael joined the infamous gang known as the Bloods – but he felt trapped.
“I always thought about getting out of that life. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to grow up in the projects. I didn’t want to have to sell drugs forever, keep getting locked up. Keep ducking the robbers, keep ducking the police. There was so much that came with it. I always wanted out of that, but this is like ‘I don’t know anything else This is all I’ve ever known.’”
Michael was in and out of jail for three years, for selling drugs, for drug-related robberies, and for violating his probation. In 2006, when it seemed Michael’s life couldn’t get any worse – it did.
“A close friend, Cornelius Jones, we called him Fresh, I consider him a brother, he called me, “Yo, my car broke. I need a ride.” He was supposed to go see a girl, but I believe it was a set-up.”
Someone from a rival gang shot and killed Fresh. Michael was holding him in his arms when he died.
“I’ve seen people before die before, seen people hurt, but that was just too close for home, and that was like my little brother, for real. He died in my arms on the way to the hospital. He was dead on arrival. There ain’t no coming back from that. That was the icing on the cake for me, as far as that lifestyle. After that, I didn’t want to hurt anybody else. I didn’t want to do nothing. I wanted to get my life right.”
After the death of Fresh, Michael turned himself in. He was wanted for multiple robberies and several parole violations. He spent eight years in prison – a long time to think about his past, yet an opportunity to consider his future.
“I was searching for self-fulfillment. I was searching for peace. (I was searching for) something to ease the pain, and something I could be proud of.”
While in prison, Michael read the Bible daily and attended church services. He accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour.
“Just learning the fact, that no matter what I did, He paid a price for that redemption. That’s deep to me. I compared Fresh to Jesus for a little while because I feel like he died for me. His death is what brought about life in me, new life. It was a sacrifice. I hate that I had to lose so much to get it, but I got it now, and hopefully and I can spread the Gospel, and save some lives, and hopefully before they get to the point that I was at.”
And that’s exactly what Michael is doing. He volunteers his time with Mothers Rebuilding Atlanta, a non-profit in Atlanta, Georgia, that reaches out to kids in the inner city.
Cheree Newsom Pace, the founder and CEO of Mothers Rebuilding Atlanta, is very appreciative of Michael’s work for the group. “When Mike talks to the kids, he’s usually doing certain things like helping them appreciate how important it is to take advantage of their high school years, and their youth, and understanding what they want to do in life early,” says Cheree. “They just want to belong, so it’s important they have that mentor to look up to, and to be able to ask those questions, and not be afraid.”
Michael married Houston last year, and has recently started his own non-profit group, Young Believers Making a Divine Difference.
“I can influence someone not to join a gang, but to join Christ. And trust me, it’s like the military when you’re gangbanging. You’re doing military operations, and fighting for nothing. You are just steadily losing. But when you become a soldier for God, the rewards are plentiful.”
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