Dashaun "Jiwe" Morris, Peace Advocate
Dashaun "Jiwe" Morris, an advocate of peace and full-time gang expert, is co-founder, with partner Kyle "Jay" Dant, of TODAY-To Overcome Discrimination Against Youth, an organization which seeks to end the cycle of gangs and violence through community service work. A sought-after lecturer, Jiwe speaks around the country as a spokesperson for The Stay Strong Foundation sharing his experiences with kids and parents in an effort to inspire them to make better life decisions. Jiwe's forthcoming memoir, War of the BLOODS in my Veins, will be published in late 2007.
With his movie star good looks, Jiwe greeted me with the charm of someone from another time.
We sat and had coffee while he shared stories with me about his past; painful stories that are regrettably not so unique. It is because his story is the story of so many other young men, that Jiwe is doing what he does - spreading his message of peace.
As I listened to him share about the things that he has been through, the things that he has done, the things that he regrets and the things that keep hope alive in his heart, I predicted silently that Dashaun "Jiwe" Morris is destined to build a legacy of -
THE ROAD TO REDEMPTION
Standing at a Crossroads of Serving Life, Death, and Violence - I Chose to Live
By Dashaun "Jiwe" Morris, Reformed Bloods Gang Leader
When I think back on my life and all the mistakes I've made, ironically, I feel blessed. The fact that I even survived the horrors I committed and experienced in my past only feeds my guilty conscience. But I realize now that part of the reason I suffered and inflicted suffering on others was because of my blind acceptance of false beliefs. Now, my eyes are open and I am on a mission to wake others up to the truth about the culture of violence and possibilities for life beyond the 'hood.
My journey began as a young boy traumatized by the emotional pain of abandonment and in need of family connection. Feeling alone and as if no one had my back, I sold my soul for the acceptance of people in the streets who I thought cared about me. I later learned that they only cared about the service I provided. To survive the dangers of my environment I created a persona, a thug character who bears no resemblance to the genuine content of my heart, while my authentic self was kept hidden. Losing myself and my sense of identity was the price I paid to be a part of "the family" known as the Bloods gang.
Life in the streets was a fast track to prison. Before being incarcerated, I made my share of unwise choices including selling drugs, gang bangin' with the Bloods, and many others. For a majority of boys who've grown up in the midst of ghetto life like I did, these are the main activities of their ongoing deviant behavior. But my criminal deeds finally caught up with me and I was arrested. Sitting in a jail cell, facing a possible 25-year sentence gave me the break I needed to evaluate my life. During this time I also had a baby girl on the way and the responsibility forced me to take a good long look at the reality of my life, imagine the potential for her life, and make decisions about where we could be both headed.
Eventually, I had a breakthrough. I became personally dissatisfied with gang life and my frustration inspired me to meditate on the sufferings of Bloods everywhere. I wondered if anything could be done to improve our predicaments because I realized that the road we traveled led to only two places: death or prison, and I was beginning to believe that I could lead the way toward a better destination. This time of contemplation and reformation has, by no means, been easy or fun. I didn't receive pounds, and hugs from my homies for wanting to live. Instead, I received chilled vibes for resigning from the attitude of wanting to die.
Before I decided to stop the senseless destruction I asked myself two questions:
First: Who would I hurt the most-my kids or my homees? The day my child was born, life stopped being about me. What kind of guidance and positive values could I possibly teach her if I'm entrenched in a realm of destruction and hatred for life? I now understand that there is no glory in self-destruction. My second question was: Who has been hurt throughout the years of all this mindless chaos? The answer is the families of gang members who've been killed or locked away as a consequence to serving groups whose only purpose was to encourage what would eventually be their down fall-war. What reward comes from bangin'? Death; the ultimate reward for bangin' is death. I hope that my experiences will challenge any gang aspirant to ask themselves the following question: If, after I join the gang, I determine that the experiences and activities are not in synch with my present or future values and beliefs, can I resign or withdraw from the gang and its negative activities?
Today, I clearly see how distorted my thinking was. The euphoria of guns, drugs, alcohol, and my misguided views twisted my logic and warped my ability to make sensible decisions. I've learned a lot about controlling rage and how to eliminate my anger, in my thoughts and in everyday actions. Over the past year, I have worked hard to manage my anger by refining the good inside me so that I have power over any tendency to do evil. From this perspective, I can prevent myself from becoming annoyed or provoked by negative acts directed at me.
Since my enlightenment, I've been given the opportunity to live out a dream. I have the privilege of sharing my experiences as a lesson to the world and have done so by speaking at a variety of events around the country through my friends and mentors at The Stay Strong Foundation. The foundation is a positive circle of people committed to helping and supporting me in my endeavors. I'm also writing my memoir entitled War of the BLOODS in my Veins. It tells the true, no holds barred account of my life as a young boy reared in a family without positive values, who reaches out to a gang to find a support system and surrogate family. Along with this new street family came a new lifestyle that would seduce any new member to witness, take part in, and then ultimately regret many of the actions committed for the sake of that family. In addition to the book, my goal is to further educate and advise single mothers on the complexities of raising young males who may feel neglected.
Bottom line: I'm crying for help. I'm hoping that someone, anyone, will hear me and care enough to get involved in healing our kids' pain. We've got to roll up our sleeves and succeed in ending the pain that fuels gangs and perpetuates violent behavior. Thus, my hurting will have some value and do some good. If not, then gangs will always pick up where America has failed.
Ultimately, I challenge all youth and those connected to a gang lifestyle, to open your eyes. Choose to live, and be a better person-starting today. It's not too late. You have the power to live out your dreams. If I can change my life, you can, too.
by Dashaun "Jiwe" Morris as told to Dana Roc
I don't want to die now.
I have nightmares three or four times a week because I don't want to die. I am trying to do as many things right as I can now because I do believe in heaven and hell.
I believe that I was put on this earth to do something great. I believe that now. I didn't used to think that. I really used to think that I was a piece of shit. That is what I used to think about myself.
I used to wake up every day when I was little and think that what I had was all that life was about. In a world that was no bigger than my corner or my block or my neighborhood, my life, as a child, was spent in chaos. I used to watch my mother do drugs. I have seen her overdose. I know that none of the things that I have witnessed, none of the things that have happened to me has been an accident. I even believe that there is a reason that I haven't been killed yet. I have a message. What I am doing now with my life is -
spreading my message.
I have an opportunity to influence young lives - NOW.
Don't fall in love with something that won't love you back!!!
The streets won't love you. They don't and they won't. When you are out there, you will believe that this is what life is about. The sad thing is that when you go to jail you will realize that those fools don't love you.
I know the ins and outs of this lifestyle. I know it well and -
I have grown up.
Now I want my homeboys to understand that there is more to life than gang banging.
When I met decent people? That was foreign to me.
I was relieved to realize that my world could be bigger than where I was from. I appreciated living somewhere where I didn't have to always come out strapped with a gun. For the first time I had genuine conversations with people and I enjoyed it.
I just came back from a book club conference in Atlanta. I spoke in front of about 700 people and what I said had an effect on them.
"So many young men are being led astray."
If I could wave a magic wand and have anything I want, it would be to have more powerful men stand up and provide direction. These young men in gangs do not want to do what they are doing! They don't! They are some of the most intelligent individuals; their motivation is just targeted in the wrong direction.
I could just go knock somebody over the head to feed my kid but that is a suckers way out; a punk way out. I hope that more men will avoid taking the easy way out. I want more men of influence to set some good examples.
I know that it's not easy...
I used to write about the way that I was living my life and then I would write about the way that I hoped that I would live my life one day. Because of my status, everything "ran through me".
I wanted to pull away from the negative and embrace the positive so I had to physically move out of Newark and move to Pennsylvania.
I think that because of all the people that I am working with, people like Terrie Williams, Terrie McMillan, Susan Taylor and trauma specialist, David Grand, I am able to do what I am doing. These people have invested well in me and that has allowed me to see that I can have a positive effect on others.
I feel cleansed.
I have gotten a lot of garbage out of me. I just lost a homeboy a month and a half ago - fifteen years old. That is what I do not want to deal with anymore. Losing people when you have slept in their house and they have slept in your house; losing them after their mother went grocery shopping for you...Now I want peace.
Peace should always come before war. Peace is power.
My OG, T. Rodgers, he is like my dictionary for life. I was telling him that one of the hardest things for me to do in changing my lifestyle is learning humility. I have to be more passive and more humble. He said to me that:
"Peace is power".
"It's not always the things that you do that give you power. Sometimes it's the things that you don't do."
I mean, I have been told quite a few things but telling that to somebody in the hood -- they won't comprehend. Letting somebody say something slick out their mouth to you and you allowing that to slide -- really empowers you more than knocking this fool out. That empowers you.
Now I say "Excuse me". I keep myself free and alive because by controlling my mind. I control my actions and I have peace of mind.
I care what people think about me.
If you believe that I am an asshole, I care about spending time with you so that you will know that I am not a damn asshole. I do care what people think about me because I don't want to be written off as a Blood who wasted his damn life when I know how I am living now. I have changed and I am trying to create change by inspiring these little young bloods to want to do better for themselves. I want to help them understand that they can have more.
I wasn't born to be this way.
We all make mistakes and we all have experienced our own trials and tribulations. I may have lived a life of crime and gang banging which was not beneficial to society but you have the CEO's of some of the nation's largest corporations running scams on everybody in their own damn companies. We all have baggage, but I want to be judged on the life that I am creating NOW. I read a quote by Booker T. Washington that "A person should be judged by the journey in trying to achieve success"
I didn't get a big inheritance from my father. I grew up section 8 and I was poor and I had to work three jobs to get through college. I have been through something and my will to want to change has to be commended.
I want to be remembered...
Remember me as a person who helped tear down some houses and built some better ones in their place.
Words from A Blood in Transition
The Chronicles of Jiwe
3/20/06, 11:47 p.m.
You wanna know whatís funny? i feel this way now. i have felt this way even when i was in the Pen facing 25 yrs of my life. i go thru this now. i have changed my path from all the old shit i used to do to all the new things i do. in this journey, its hard to find those that want to walk that fine line with me. although i know every person must find their own time, but they say its lonely at the bottom, true indeed, but itís also lonely at times. i am going to once again give you a piece of my soul. in what youíre about to read, i ask that you devour the words that i use. for this is my life as an OG and the life i must continue to live.....
* many times i invision my life being taken at the hands of a young crip seeking stripes. with his alpha and my omega, a G will be buried and one born.
i often find myself drinking to relieve myself of the reality of the life i've led, homies i've lost, and the conclusion to my life. when my mental feels like its going to burst from the stress, frustration, regrets, and reality of things that have transpired in my life, i buss open a 40 oz of olde english. with every sip that quenches my soul, i allow my nerves to settle, and my mind to wonder. this is how i escape my daily fears. this is my private airplane that takes me out of the state i no longer wish to be in. for this, do i get judged? well, i say don't judge me for wanting to stop the pain i feel for those lost during the war, but judge me for the pain i choose not to cause.
by no means has my transcendence been easy or for that matter fun. i did't receive pounds, and shout outs for wanting to live. lack of a better word, i received more chilled vibes for my resignation of wanting to die.
i hope you can appreciate me sharing this with you. its very personal to me and its what i deal with day in and day out. i am still workin on my behavior and attitude daily and know that i must have faith in doing so. i have learned that having faith is believing in the unseen. thanks for ya time.