11/07/08 — Stop the Funeral Initiative reaches out to offenders

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Stop the Funeral Initiative reaches out to offenders

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on November 7, 2008 1:46 PM


Archie Dekeyser, a mentor in the One to One with Youth Program and former felon who served 12 years in prison in three different states, talks about his experiences and how he turned his life around during the Stop the Funeral Initiative's 2nd annual Drug Dealer Member Redemption Conference at the Goldsboro Raleigh Assembly in Goldsboro on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008.

Edward Harris started selling cocaine at the age of 15.

"I had to go through a lot of road blocks and fences to get where I am," said Harris, an entrepreneur who eventually earned his GED and now serves as a minister with Deeper Life Ministries. "You will not realize the situation you're in until you're outside it."

Harris was one of three luncheon speakers Thursday who helped to kick off the Stop the Funeral Initiative's second annual Drug Dealer Gang Member Redemption Conference.

The conference offers presentations from inspirational speakers, opportunity fairs and evening worship services as part of the initiative's 12-point plan of engagement to address gang violence and drug abuse in the Goldsboro community.

Seventeen people registered for the first day's activities, which included the luncheon panel moderated by Glenda White of the Goldsboro Housing Authority. The panel emphasized the importance of education and the personal cost of crime.

The United States spent almost $50 billion incarcerating criminals in 2004, but every re-incarceration prevented by education saves the state about $20,000, Ms. White said.

"Crime doesn't pay, but a diploma does," she said.

Archie Dekeyser, once convicted for credit card fraud, today works as a mentor with the One to One With Youth program.

"Crime will take you places you never wanted to go, and keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay. If you do crime, your character will be defined by crime," he told the group.

Morning sessions featured workshops and small group breakout discussions designed to connect with young people and to inspire positive change in their lives. Representatives from Wayne Community College, Johnston Community College, the U.S. Army and local companies were on site after lunch to provide information about education and job opportunities.

Many of Thursday's attendees were referred from the Day Reporting Center, which provides support for people sentenced to community service. Nearly 50 people are expected to attend today's events, which will feature special guest Alexander Miller, a former death row inmate.

A worship gathering tonight at 7 will feature a spoken word presentation from the Durham-based music and step group Leviticus and a combined choir of musicians, singers and dancers from partner churches.

The conference will conclude Saturday with a graduation ceremony for participants at 10 a.m. and a community outreach service at 3 p.m. at Goldsboro High School, featuring the anti-drug, anti-gang play "Ridin' wit Joe Crack," presented by Otis Lyons and Campaign4Change.

The performance is co-sponsored by the Wayne County commissioners, the Goldsboro City Council and local churches and businesses. It is free and open to the public, but ticketholders get priority seating.

The Stop the Funeral Initiative is a collaboration of Rebuilding Broken Places CDC, the Goldsboro/Wayne County branch of the NAACP and area churches. For more information about Stop the Funeral Initiative, call 919-581-9178, ext. 104.