By: Tyler Carter
The story of black men growing up in the inner city is usually similar.
We begin to walk the streets, hang out with influences that mean us harm instead of good and end up getting caught up in situations we did not anticipate. Such is life for Antong Lucky. While Lucky has now turned his life around as a community advocate, philanthropist and author, and most importantly as a father, he took his lumps before he became the man he is today based on the path he decided to take.
“My journey has been about redemption and transformation and that has catapulted me into the man I am today– it’s what my life is essentially about,” Lucky said.
Lucky grew up in a single parent home in South Dallas; his mother was his rock and caregiver, but as an infant, he discovered his father was sentenced to serve 50 years in prison, serving a total of 37 of those years. “For me growing up, I didn’t have that father figure to give me that place in life and no one seemed to care,” he said. Without the direction of a father, he began to take a path that would eventually land him in the place he honestly felt he had no intentions of going.
That path included having to fight everyday coming home from school. Lucky said he and friends became tired of it and decided to create the Bloods, an Los Angeles based gang set here in Dallas. “From 1993-1995 was one of the deadliest years of gangbanging and all of my friends ended up being sent to federal prison,” Lucky said. “I barely missed that indictment but with them gone, it left the streets dry, so I began to sell drugs.” His lifestyle changed immediately from having exorbitant amounts of money, cars and everything that came with the life. Once he rose in status in the drug game he began to distance himself from the street business, no longer as a dealer, but as the boss. “I went to pick up money from one of my drug houses and the police raided it,” he said. “Because I was no longer touching the drugs, they placed the drugs on me and I ended up going to court. I knew I was in the wrong and even though those were not my drugs, the officers pinned them on me anyway,” he said.
Lucky eventually stood before a judge where he experienced something that changed his life. He was sentenced to 10 years and after receiving the ruling, Lucky said he began to have an epiphany. “I went numb,” he said, “and I was just standing there thinking to myself, ‘how in the hell did you go from a talented and gifted student, to being called a menace to society?’” As he continued the conversation inside of his head, he thought about how unfair the sentence was and how he believed what he was doing was simply being a product of his environment. “Judge, you don’t understand,” he said to himself. “That’s not really who I am; I’m really a good kid, but in the hood it’s a difference, you can’t be soft, you gotta be tough because it’s the culture.” As he was led to his holding cell, Lucky said he began to be introspective with himself. He began to track all the missteps he took that led him to that very moment; the lack of resources, mother working long hours and a missing father figure led him to a place he had no intention of ever being. Lucky’s strength from the streets followed him into prison; he heard men whispering about him and the respect he received on the outside led to prisoners following him and wanting to be around him.
Another prisoner saw the respect Lucky was given, approached him and eventually became his mentor. That prisoner was Willie Ray Fleming. Fleming told Lucky, “I see the way these men follow you so if you have the ability to lead brothers to do wrong, you have that same ability to lead them to do right.” After their introduction, his life changed drastically. Lucky denounced his gang in prison, decided to gain knowledge of self, learn more about himself and other black leaders and began to teach those who followed him there are different paths to life than a path with negative influences and consequences. Before exiting prison, Lucky learned of an eventual mentor in Bishop Omar Jahwar, who he would later connect with after his release. Their work began once Jahwar gave Lucky a task where he asked him to go to his enemies neighborhood to ask if he could work with the youth. Initially, he thought Jahwar was leading him into a suicide mission, reluctantly however, he did it.
When they found his enemies, he knocked on their door and vividly remembers the striking and loading of firearms.
“Put your hands up! Put your hands up! The men yelled at Lucky and Jahwar.” A conversation ensued, Lucky apologized for the role he played in the early dissension between the rival gangs and the leaders approved of the work Lucky and Jahwar intended to enact. We know the issues that are plaguing our communities and young people specifically. Lack of representation where black and brown faces do not reside outside of athletic and entertainment arenas does not provide much support and belief that we can be anything we are told we can be, which could result in lack of motivation and following the wrong path.
Lucky said one of the biggest misnomers about young kids who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances revolves around lack of care. “I think one of the biggest myths in urban culture is that these young people don’t want what we have to offer because we look at them and have allowed the media to judge these young people harshly based on their looks and behaviors,” Lucky said. Referring to the 1994 Crime Bill, Lucky said language such as “super predators” or today’s buzzword for black youth “thugs” is not only the terminology the crime bill created and termed, but said black people bought into those ideas the media helped to push onto the black community. How do we shift the culture of violence in our community among young people? Lucky says they have to be met with love.
“When you show these young people you care, you can change the trajectory of their lives,” Lucky said. “But you can’t be scared of them, you have to approach them with love. That is all they are missing.” Showing love, speaking it through action and compassion is the formula to not only improve the lives of kids in underserved communities, but also moving our community and others forward.
Lucky started as a young man who was searching for love, but eventually found that love in a path littered with pitfalls. Through redemption, however, along with mentors such as Jahwar and Deion Sanders, he was able to shift his focus to become a philanthropist, activist, mentor and author.
His book, “A Redemptive Path Forward” speaks of his life’s journey and bridging the gap where dissension exists between communities of color and law enforcement centrally focused on a term he coined; Redemptive Activism.
“As people, we have to challenge systems, but do it with love, justice, courage and compassion,” Lucky said. “Today, our country is about left and right and people are dug into their positions. If this continues, our country going to go to hell in a handbasket so we need to employ different strategies that says, ‘I respect you as a human being.’” Those who are experiencing trials and tribulations in their life currently, Lucky says embrace the tests. “Embrace the tests just like you embrace the blessings. You can’t have one without the other,” he said. “Knock life out, embrace the obstacles because at the end of the day, you are accountable for what you do for you,” he said.
“A Redemptive Path Forward” is set to be released in May.