07/19/12 — Ex-gang member tells students about choices

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Ex-gang member tells students about choices

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 19, 2012 1:46 PM

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Reginald "Reggie" Brown speaks to a group of summer school students at Dillard Middle School as a part of the Communities in Schools' Summer Outreach. Brown, who joined a gang at 15 and is now a public speaker, shared his experiences with students.

Reggie Brown wishes somebody had sat down and talked to him about the "hard choices" when he was 12.

Before he joined a gang at 15.

Before he held a gun.

Before he did drugs and wound up in prison.

Instead, he felt he had something to prove.

"Because I was the smallest guy, I always had to walk around mad all the time -- fist balled up, putting on this front like I was mad at the world when I wasn't," he said of his formative years, first in San Diego, then in Raleigh.

He had a family who cared about him, he said, but even that wasn't enough to deter him from a string of bad decisions.

"I didn't take what somebody was telling me seriously until my life was almost taken," he said. "Sometimes you don't get it until you run into that wall, until you burn that finger."

Like many youths who feel immortal, Brown admitted he lacked an appreciation for the value of life.

"I didn't plan on living past 21," he said. "I did a lot of stuff at a young age because I thought I was going to die before I was 21."

Speaking to two groups of summer school students Tuesday at Dillard Middle School, he rattled off other faulty missteps he made along the way -- selling drugs for "fast money," picking the wrong friends, getting shot at.

He recalled the first time someone robbed him.

"It's always different when you're on the other side of the gun, when you have somebody pointing a gun in your face," he said. "That's scary. That makes you stop because you don't know if that's going to be the end of your life or not."

The 27-year-old is fortunate, though.

He's still here.

"I made a choice," he told his audience. "I spent a lot of time going the other direction and doing a lot of bad stuff."

Now, his life is about making the most of every day, he said, gesturing to a screen where his birth date was written, followed by a dash and question marks, representing the unknown date he will one day die.

"Everything that I have done with my life up until this point is this little dash right here -- every good thing, every bad thing, is that dash right here," he said. "And I told myself, my last prison, adult prison, before I die, I want to make my life count for something. I want to do something with my life.

"This is why I come here and talk to y'all because I did enough bad things with my life and I wanted to do something different."

One thing he now aspires to do is become a champion boxer.

"And I'm good at it," he pointed out. "You're fighting in the street, might as well make some money at it. That's what I learned and that's what I teach ... that (boxing) ring has taught me a lot."

These days, he not only participates as an amateur boxer himself, but works at Second Round in Raleigh as a trainer and coach.

His story is also being filmed for an upcoming documentary, so that others might learn from his experiences. Just as he was hoping that might happen for the students he spoke with this week, at the appearance hosted by Communities in Schools of Wayne County.