I still talk to T almost every day but now it’s on a different platform and is always monitored. T wants to tell his story so that people know how he got where he is and why he made the choices that got him there. I told him that we would work together to get his story out there and hopefully it will have an impact on someone, someday. I hope that one day T comes back to me and helps motivate people to actually make that change in their life.
Here are some thoughts from T on his new normal...
It hurts being locked away and things are going on in your immediate family such as mom being sick, father being sick, your sisters or brothers being hurt and you can't be there to support nor help. The staff where you are locked away don't care because they are going home to their family, they can support from every angle meanwhile you in a cell praying for your out date to come quicker. Praying it can all be a dream hoping you don't call home and get bad news. Take a step back and ask yourself is it worth it? Are you ready to be locked behind a door or sleep on a thin mat on top of metal? A bunk with a thin blanket that doesn't stop the air so you are just cold and alone while your peers at home with a comfortable pillow top mattress and a thick blanket able to control the heat and air also can exit their room freely. IS ANYTHING WORTH BEING AWAY ANYTHING?
At this point I would see T once in a while. I was moving forward, trying to make my foundation a success, and I had other people to help. I loved T. He would always be a part of my life, but I was finding more and more that he needed to learn the hard way. One day T’s girlfriend called to tell me that the FBI had broken into her apartment and had taken T away. She had no idea why. I tried to find out what I could but this was the federal government now, not the county. I didn’t know what happened but it didn’t look good. This time he definitely was staying locked up.
It turns out that when T moved away from the west side to the south side he got himself involved in something new. Not too involved, but involved enough. He’d become entangled with people who were part of a big sting operation and had gotten caught up in it. He was going to have to take the fall for this one. Now he was on house arrest with the county and locked up in a federal prison. T found a lawyer that would assist him with the federal case and asked me if he could continue working for me because it would help him with the case. I told him that if I helped him he had to come to work, enough was enough. If he wanted to spend any time with his daughter, now would be the time to change. I told him, the rest is just noise, it’s time to get working. Of course, by now you know this wasn’t going to happen. I tried and I tried to help him, but he just couldn’t break away from the streets. Once again the judge let him out on house arrest. He sent me a picture of two bands on his legs, one on each foot and said he couldn’t believe this is what he had done to himself. He tried this time. He really did. But I think it was all too much for him to even make sense of. Eventually the county case got dismissed for lack of evidence but he was still in trouble with the federal government and they weren’t backing away. They had evidence and he was going to serve some time. Finally, he made a deal and set up a date to surrender himself. He was going to have to go away to face his crimes. In June of 2021 he surrendered and went to prison. This was hard for me to take. I talked to him almost daily and I missed him, but these are the choices that he had made and I cannot help him. I am here to help people that want to change, not support someone who decides to continue to break the law. There will never be another T. If someone comes along and won’t follow the rules then they can’t stay with my foundation. With T I wanted to see what would happen if I stayed by his side. There is still a chance that he will change and come back better than ever. That is my prayer for him. That he really does see what matters most is himself and his daughter.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I appreciate everyone who reads this and who supports our foundation. We are out there everyday trying to make a difference and change at least a few lives.
T says Happy Thanksgiving to all as well, he wrote to me to let me know how it feels to be locked up this Thanksgiving...
It's kind of a sad vibe that's going through my body to miss Thanksgiving. Due to the fact I never missed holidays and plus now I have a baby girl who is out there going through holidays without her dad. It is really a sad feeling but I’m thankful to not be in the graveyard and soon I will be able to enjoy the holidays and not miss anymore.
I learned that T had visited a phone store with his brothers, and on the way out was approached by an undercover police officer with his weapon drawn. T got in the car and took off. He’d fled the police before and this time they weren’t happy about it. Cook County Jail is where he ended up healing from his surgery.
I went to the jail to visit him. I wanted answers. You don’t just go from making changes in your life to being back in jail. When I got there I was surprised to see that he was still in pretty good spirits. Something he told me during the visit has stuck with me. He said that God was looking out for him, and that was why he was in jail. Remember I said the streets are a drug too? He had been back in his old neighborhood and had a feeling that he wanted to cause trouble that night. Before he could do anything the officer approached him. He didn’t know what he might have ended up doing, but if he had not gotten caught when he did, he might be locked up for a worse crime.
The odds of T getting bail were slim but I went to court with him in hopes that the judge would recognize he was not all bad. Maybe they would take mercy on him and let him out. He did get bail, but it was steep. It was going to be a challenge to come up with all $7000. I went to see him again while we were waiting to get it all together, but now Covid hit and things at the Cook County Jail were getting scary. It took some time but I helped T’s family collect the money. Once they had it all together I went with his mom to pay the bail and finally get him out again. This time T had to have learned his lesson. But now he was on house arrest and that brings a whole new set of issues. In order for T to work he had to get approval from the judge and this wasn’t so easy. Not only did he have to get approval to work, he had to get it every month, which was a struggle. Most of the time he only got movement about one week each month. The sheriff’s office makes it very difficult for inmates on house arrest to get movement and work. Not to mention, things at home were making it harder and harder for T to keep working. He was letting things get in the way of what was most important. Slowly, I felt he was slipping away and wasn’t sure that things were ever going to change for this kid.
Before I continue on with the next part of the story we will hear from T about that day that I gave him a drug test...
This day was the worst but also what I needed to get me back on track a little. Yes, I kinda was getting caught up in my thoughts to the point I saw that the drugs were the only way to help me forget things and get over things. The drugs helped for the moment but also made me do other things such as run the streets and be careless again. Not caring bout others but what made me feel happy and ok which was the stuff that got me here now.
And how the shooting changed him this time. He had been shot several times before, this wasn't the first but sure hope that it is the last.
Getting shot this time changed me in so many ways it made me start thinking a lil better. I had to grow up in so many ways, I had to let a lot of people go, and I had to start asking myself did I want to end up a memory? I had to at least move or at least try and change my ways so that I can still be here today. That last time getting shot told me exactly what I needed to know and that was nobody's your friend. If they don't want positive for you once they get what they need out of you, then you are useless. That made me want to come more and more closer to being at work. But the thought of having to come back into the environment after work, it hurt my heart to the point I would rather stay inside and try to stay safe from things. It traumatized me for a while but once I started to focus more with working I came out of that stage of shock but the streets called me again.
I asked T why it was easier to disappear than to tell me what was going on. Here is his answer.
Why? Because I had a lil problems going on, I was frustrated with a lot of things going on within myself to the point it was weighing me down. I knew if I came to you with it I would have to express more things that's going on and sometimes I just didn’t want to talk bout it. I just wanted to be alone to find myself and get over certain situations. Plus I felt like i had already put enough of my problems on you and also my worries on you so I had to find ways to get over things alone.
Slowly, he started disappearing again. This time, when he would come in, he complained a lot about the pain he was in. See, T hadn't been shot only one time, it had been 8 times. One of the bullets was still lodged in his leg and when he would sit in the wrong position it would bother him. It had been happening more and more lately. He finally went to the hospital and asked to have it removed. It was a risky procedure because of where it was located. T wanted it done anyway because he couldn’t stand the pain anymore. He had the procedure done and was healing fine. I was talking with him every day and thought we were on a good path again. Then I got a call late one night from another employee saying that T had been locked up again. I was floored! How could this be happening? He was barely able to walk after his surgery! And - I was in the middle of writing a speech for an event I would be speaking at the next day. It was focused on T and the progress he had made, and now, he was in jail. How could I talk about what an influence I had been when he was in jail? I just went forward with my speech and barely made it through it without crying. This one hurt. I didn’t want him to go backwards, I wanted forward motion.
Trouble Was Brewing
From there on out I still had trouble with T, through the holidays I didn’t see him much but we always talked. He was coming back and going to change his life and things were going to be okay. I always encouraged him to just come in and forget everything else. I would tell him all the time that everything else is just noise, you need to work and support yourself and your daughter needs you out here not in jail. It is time to let everything else go. T was still pretty much a target on the west side of Chicago and had to move away from the area so that he didn’t get himself in more trouble. One Saturday morning I was taking my daughter to practice and I got a FaceTime call from T. He had just been shot and was in the hospital. Not knowing what I was answering, I didn’t even think twice about answering in front of my daughter. As I was learning this is the way it is in Chicago, my kids hear about it on the news and all over the place but they had not experienced it first hand. My daughter was pretty upset and so was T, it really took me some time to evaluate what I had gotten myself into. Over the next couple of days while he was in the hospital I talked with T about what he should do upon leaving the hospital. We talked about going somewhere else, not staying where he was currently living, finding him a safer place to live even if it was in a hotel for a while. I think he really did want to leave but in the end he just couldn’t and went back to the life that he so desperately wanted to leave. This had to be a wake up call for him, right?
The shooting left me angrier than anything I've ever felt before. I started contacting different news agencies, trying to show people that I was trying to help make a change, but it is not easy! Finally CBS called me back and asked if they could do a story about T. I was ecstatic, this could work, people would listen to me! T came out and we disguised him while he did an interview with the reporter. It was a great interview. I hoped that this would make the difference. He would understand that the time really is now and he has to change. He started coming back to work then, a little bit at a time. Not regularly, but he was trying. It was always a struggle because he stayed on far south side and didn’t have transportation. I finally convinced him to give the Metra a chance. Most people think that if you want to work you will get up, go wait by the bus or the El stops, and get yourself to work. However, they don’t realize that for former gang members waiting on a street corner is extremely dangerous. The drive-by shootings are so out of control it's just not safe. I convinced him to let me Uber him to the train station so he could get on the train. The first time he did it he told me he couldn’t believe how easy it was! This time it would work, right?
The Beginning...For T
From time to time I will add in how this whole thing went down from T's perspective. I want people to understand how things are when you have no idea what it is like to work full time and support yourself. Working hard is a skill that many of us were taught from birth, what if nobody ever taught you that is how you survive in this world? Then what? Here is T's story
When I first started working with Ms. Brockie, I felt a relief from the streets and everybody who was against me. I was away from the bad, no goals, trouble making people and I also was in a different little environment. It wasn't what I was used to, such as out of a city where you see the worst everyday POVERTY. It was my PO who told me about the job but it was my choice to go on with working with a great person like Ms. Brockie instead of just being put to work and called to pick up a payment. I was being giving so muchhh lovee and respect and showed on the daily basis I was being cared about, something I was not used to. I was taught so many different things that I did not know were just so easy. If I had the choice to choose again to go work at a factory or to come work with a sweet respectful precious person such as Ms. Brockie I will choose Ms. Brockie again...
Getting To Know T...
We will call him “T”, as I don’t want to reveal his real name. Slowly it became a problem for T to show up on time or even at all. I generally kept in touch with him every day but then sometimes he would just disappear for days at a time with no communication at all. I am not used to this, and I didn’t know how to even deal with it. Did something happen? Is he hurt? Dead? I just wasn’t sure. Eventually he always checked back in and came back to work. This started to happen more and more frequently and I was getting frustrated with him. Did he want to change or was this all for his PO? Every time I would see him or talk to him he would tell me how much he appreciated me and that he was going to keep working on being a better person. By this time I was extremely invested in T and seeing him through to a new life. This went on for about a year on and off and I just began to not count on him for working but I still talked to him daily and tried to listen and guide him in the right direction.
It was near the end of the year and T was in a working mode. He was coming in fairly regularly but he wasn’t the same as was before. Then one day he accidentally sent me a text that was meant for someone else and I knew I had lost him. He was definitely using drugs and that explained a lot of the problems I had been having with him. I had been having an issue with another employee at that time who was a former heroin addict so I brought them both in and drug tested them both. They were both using and T was using pills so his drug test came up positive for every drug that it tested for except PCP. You have no idea what you are taking when you take those pills, it is beyond scary. I sent them both home and told them both it was time to clean up or don’t come back. A week later T called me and told me that he went home and he stopped using everything and was going to clean up his act. He had a court date that day and they had not been drug testing him anymore at his court dates but they decided today was the day they were going to do a surprise drop. When they did his drop he didn’t have anything in his system and he stayed out of jail, for now. T told me that he was so grateful to me and that he was changing this time for sure, he wasn’t going backwards anymore. T managed to stay off the drugs but that was about it, because the streets are a drug too and much harder to kick than anything else.
This blog is about what I have learned through my journey with helping people to live a better life through full time employment and taking responsibility for their lives instead of continuing the cycle of incarceration.
It has been over two years since I started this foundation. When I started it I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Sometimes I wished I could see into the future so I would have a better idea of what was needed and exactly what I was trying to do. I knew what I wanted to accomplish. I knew there were people who needed guidance, but I wasn’t always sure how I could help them. I wanted to know and I wanted to know right away so I could start helping as soon as possible. As time went on I began to realize that this is a long process and the answers can’t be found immediately. It takes time to discover what is needed and how to achieve it. Now, years later I feel like I have more answers but I still get very frustrated. I’ve found that I cannot do this on my own, that I need help from others and that together we can change a few lives. So many people have been in and out of my foundation over the years and I feel as though I have only helped a very few of them. But then again, I’m beginning to think that is the norm. A lot of people think they want help but not everyone wants to put the work into getting it. It’s a lot of effort not only on my part, but also on the part of every person who walks through my door looking for help. They have to understand, I cannot help you if you don’t want to help yourself. I’ve decided to share some of my experiences along with experiences of one of my participants in hope that it will inspire those who are looking for a real change in their lives to put that change before everything else. Although it isn’t easy, it is worth it. That is why I use the tagline “The Time to Change Is Now”. There will always be next week or next month or whatever excuse you can come up with, but there is no time like the present to make that change. In this blog I will be sharing a story of one of the individuals that I have been helping and I will also share some of his point of view on the story. I will continue to update this story in real time as it is happening and will also share some other perspectives of other participants.
When I first decided to hire previously incarcerated individuals I met a man who came to me because he was on probation. I asked him if he could pass a drug test and his answer was no but if I gave him one month he would pass it and come work for me. I said okay and didn’t give him another thought, he wasn’t calling me back. Sure enough, a month later he called me and said he would pass now and could he come in and try working. I gave him a 10 hour OSHA class to take before I let him come in, I wanted to see if he would complete this class and really take things seriously. He completed it rather quickly and was ready to work. Of course at the time, I thought this was a slam dunk, this kid wanted to work and already did everything I asked of him and he must really want to change, right? He started working and I was impressed, he learned quickly, he was so easy to get along with and to teach, I really was proud of myself, this is what I wanted to do and I was doing it. However things started to get a little off track and I realized that I had no idea what was coming and how I was ever going to fix this kid?