11/09/08 — Campaign4Change message targets youth

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Campaign4Change message targets youth

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 9, 2008 9:27 AM


Former gang leader Otis Lyons, aka Vegas Don, president and founder of Campaign4Change, a theatrical production that is anti-everything that he used to embody: gangs, drugs and crime, performs Saturday at Goldsboro High School.

Tyrel Alvarado didn't ask to become part of a skit on Goldsboro High School's stage on Saturday.

But his uncle and his younger cousin, Marquis Colebrook, wanted him up there.

"We were screaming and pointing," Marquis said, which prompted the "Campaign4Change" performers to ask Alvarado to get on stage.

Once he was there, Alvarado said, it was remarkable how some of the illustrations in performances such as "Ridin' wit Joe Crack" reminded him of his own life.

"I went through the same thing," Alvarado said. "I used to hang out with a lot of gang members and wanted to be in (gangs) with them."

But people reached out to him, and Alvarado took a local food service job instead of donning a gang bandanna, he said.

Alvarado said he hoped the message delivered during the Saturday stage show got through to others, in the last day of the Corner- 2-Corner Drug Dealer and Gang Member Redemption Conference.

"It could teach a lot of kids not to do the things ... like not be in a gang," Alvarado said. "You can make a name for yourself anywhere. Anywhere you try."

That message was echoed by the stage show, written by Campaign4Change founder Otis R. Lyons, who also goes by the nickname "Vegas Don."

With audience members participating, the humor- and drama-based skits used visual aids to show the pitfalls of drug dealing.

The drug avoidance-based program may have hit close to home for some participants, as some were there from Wayne County's Day Reporting Center.

People sentenced with lesser "intermediate sanctions" under new structured sentencing law can be ordered to report to Day Reporting as a "one-stop point of entry," and an alternative to jail.

The Rev. William Barber helped forge a connection between some intermediate drug offenders and his Corner-2-Corner conference. Barber got a local judge to use the program as credit for some convictions.

The Corner-2-Corner Drug Dealer and Gang Member Redemption Conference had its graduation on Friday, and organizer Barber called it "powerful."

"They're all committing to a new way of life," Barber said, referring to graduates of the Corner-2-Corner conference.

"Some of them are committed to getting their GEDs, to help them know how to get jobs," Barber said.

But Campaign4Change organizers said they also wanted to affect young children who perhaps had not yet been exposed to temptations that draw some people into gangs.

Lyons also said he saw too many adults and not enough children in the Goldsboro High School audience.

"This show really is not for you (adults)," he said, adding that he wished the adults present had brought more children with them.

But there were some younger people who had family members encourage them to attend the show on Saturday, like Sean Stallings, a Spring Creek High School student.

Sean said his aunt asked him to come to the Campaign4Change performance on Saturday, and he brought his friend Stephen Worrell.

"It's a good show," Stallings said. "I think a lot of kids from Goldsboro should go watch it. There's a lot of gang violence in Goldsboro."

Barber said he agreed with messages provided by the program, like "Use your mind, not your nine (9mm handgun)" and "It's never too late to be who you might have been."

The reverend, also affiliated with the Goldsboro branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said everyone he knows has made mistakes.

He says he believes everyone should have a chance to atone for those mistakes.

"The message this morning is life is not a snapshot. We all have bad snapshots. Life is a video. The snapshot is real, but you don't stay stuck in that snapshot."