Consider me a fan of Detroit community organizer and author Yusef Shakur, who is a candidate for this year’s Hoodie Awards, started in 2001 by comedian Steve Harvey to recognize the tremendous efforts community leaders are making in local neighborhoods across the country.
Between June 18, which is today, and June 21, you can cast your vote here. I just did. I urge you to do so also.
Yusef is the inspiration that is needed in the hard-pressed communities across our country to change them from “hoods” to “neighborhoods,” as he advocated last weekend at the community-wide Heal Detroit march and gathering that he helped organize and lead. He is a life-long resident of Detroit’s inner city who followed the expected gangsta path to prison. But his story only begins there.
Yusef’s book, The Window 2 My Soul: My Transformation from a Zone 8 Thug to a Father & Freedom Fighter, tells his story. It is powerful on any number of levels. It shows the power of education to change our youth and prepare them for the future. Add to that the power of redemption, and of faith in oneself to create a vision and strive to fulfill it no matter what obstacles you may face. It reminds us that the family is still the core unit in our society, however it is configured, and that it is never too late for an absentee parent to reach out to his or her wayward child. It devastates most arguments in favor of our current penal system.
During the Detroit inner city’s lost years of the eighties and nineties, bewildered outsiders observed and wondered how residents could accept hard drug use and violence on the scale it existed, and how young children could kill young children for the tennis shoes they wore. This book doesn’t condone that behavior but it explains it like no other insider history does. Yusef Shakur, a young thug busted and put away at the age of 20 for a crime he did not commit, meets his father while in prison. By this time his father already had undergone a major consciousness conversion. Under his father’s guidance, Yusef begins a course in revolutionary self-correction that gives him a new vision and a new direction that leads to a break from his past behavior as well as a commitment to work with young people in his former neighborhood. Since then he has used his past to change the present. Today he is a hero to hundreds in his role as a Head Start teacher, author, community activist, and inspirational public speaker.
Yusef Shakur’s story will one day appear on the big screen. It deserves to be there now. He is Detroit’s future. He is the new generation’s Malcolm X.
He certainly deserves anyone’s vote for this year’s Hoodie Awards.